by Michael J. Bennett ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 1, 1996
A rarely told story: how the GI Bill loosed great unseen forces that helped to transform America from the working-class, largely agricultural society of the Great Depression and the New Deal into a largely middle-class society. Bennett, a former reporter for the Boston Herald and the Detroit News, begins by tracing the origins of the bill and the fight to make it law in 1944. The American Legion was particularly influential: Members who had fought in WW I remembered the shabby treatment they had received when they came home. The heart of the book, though, is Bennett's study of the ways in which the law helped transform postwar American life. It provided opportunities for education unavailable to previous generations, as well as low-priced home mortgages that helped fuel new suburbs and emptied ethnic ghettos. Mature, world-traveled GIs, most of them from the urban and rural working class, stormed college campuses in record numbers, filled honor rolls and deans' lists, raised student performance levels, and shook up the old, gentlemanly college culture. Millions of erstwhile blue-collar, rent-paying workers turned into professionals of every calling, as well as prosperous, skilled entrepreneurs and home-owners. This silent army, Bennett suggests, created a revolution in American life; GIs used the money they got to do vital if seemingly ordinary things and in the process created a more abundant and egalitarian society. The total postwar cost of $14.5 billion was an investment that returned manyfold more in revenue as veterans earned more and paid more taxes. Bennett believes that the GI Bill was the most successful government program since the Homestead Act. A refreshing look at a time of optimism, sacrifice, hard work, and achievement (despite the Cold War) when the American dream finally became a reality for millions.
Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996
Page Count: 448
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996
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