I know it’s only January, but I know some of you out there are already thinking about professional development workshops for this coming summer. I strongly encourage you to consider the Civil War Trust’s (formerly known as the Civil War Preservation Trust) annual Teachers Institute. This year the gathering will take place in Nashville, Tennessee from July 14-17. I attended and thoroughly enjoyed last year’s meeting in Hagerstown, Maryland, where I took part in a roundtable discussion on how to use social media in the classroom.
I will be leading two sessions this year. The first one will be made available to all participants, though it will cost a bit extra. The title of the talk is, “Cutting and Pasting Black Confederates On the Internet and In Our Classrooms”. We are going to discuss the textbook debacle here in Virginia, but my overall goal is to use this incident as a case study for how to both search and assess Online information. Participants will have the opportunity to evaluate some of the most popular black Confederate websites currently available. Instructors need to be committed to teaching their students how to intelligently access digital information; unfortunately, this has been almost entirely ignored by the media and other commentators in the wake of this scandal. [Tomorrow the New York Times will publish my Op-ed piece on just this issue on their Disunion blog. I will post the text and a link when it becomes available.]
The second session is titled, “Separating Fact From Fiction: Teaching Glory”. I love showing this movie to my students, but all too often teachers fail to introduce it as a popular interpretation of the 54th Massachusetts and the experiences of black Civil War soldiers. While the movie does function as a useful entry point to numerous issues concerning slavery and race there are factual and interpretive problems. More importantly, however, the script offers a highly selective understanding of the unit’s importance to the Civil War that, in the end, may more closely reflect our collective need for a certain view of the legacy of the Civil War. I explored this in a previous post on the movie and how I use it in the classroom. Participants will discuss the roles of individual characters and we will examine specific scenes from the movie. I also plan on distributing a collection of primary sources that challenge some of the interpretive decisions made in the movie and that can hopefully be used in the classroom.
I am looking forward to this trip. I’ve only been to Nashville once and I have never had the opportunity to explore the many Civil War sites in the area. Information about individuals sessions and presenters will be added in the near future so check back.