Virginia’s Lincoln

On Tuesday I will be working with a group of k-12 history teachers in Virginia on how they can introduce the subject of historical memory in their classrooms.  The news that Virginia may set aside a day to honor Abraham Lincoln could not have come at a better time and I plan on offering some suggestions on how teachers and students can get involved.

This morning I came across the state’s Lincoln bicentennial commission website and it includes some very helpful links on their work as well as sources on Lincoln’s deep Virginia roots.  There is a section for teachers, students as well as other helpful resources that can be used in the classroom.  My suggestion to history teachers in Virginia is to find a way to integrate this issue into their classrooms as a culminating activity.  The sesquicentennial is a unique opportunity to involve students in the act of commemoration based on their understanding of this crucial period.

Have students debate the resolution in its present form.  Should Virginia commemorate President Abraham Lincoln with his own day?  Present the results to the rest of the student body.  Better yet, contact your local state representative and have him/her visit the class to receive the results.  Have students write their own resolutions as individuals or in small groups to reflect the challenges of committee work.  Students who disagree with the resolution can offer a counter-resolution that supports their preferred candidate.

Don’t just study history, shape it!

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38 comments… add one
  • Lindsay Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:07

    In my opinion our kids should be taught about ALL historical figures (it is irrelevant whether or not I care for them.) That is what education is all about. As long as they are presented fairly and not according to a specific person’s biases, I have no problem with it. I do like your idea of having students engage with their local representatives, that is something that can really make them feel connected with their political world which for the most part they are very detached from (as are many parents.)

    But as I have been outspoken in my opposition to a Lincoln Day in Virginia, to me educating is one thing and commemorating is another.

    • Lindsay Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:08

      And let me add, they need to be presented fairly AND truthfully.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:14

      But as I have been outspoken in my opposition to a Lincoln Day in Virginia, to me educating is one thing and commemorating is another.

      Thanks for the comment, Lindsay. One of the things that I always tried to impress upon my students is that the study of history reminds us that we are part of larger communities. I think this sort of exercise allows students to take what they’ve learned and apply it to important questions of how their community chooses to commemorate and remember the past. I want students to be able to step back and ask questions about what they see around them and to get involved. What good is the study of history if all we ask students to do is act like a sponge that simply soaks everything up without asking questions? Encouraging thoughtful and civic-minded young adults has always been at the center of my teaching.

      • Lindsay Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:46

        Totally agree…and that is what our educational system as a whole has moved away from. Instead of asking questions that require thoughtful, well-constructed critically thought out answers, the main focus is on a student’s ability to answer a multiple choice question. My students are taking semester exams today and as part of my instructions I tell them that while their multiple choice questions will be graded, it is in their essay and short answers that I am looking for the real “gold.” That is where they can take the information, make it their own and teach it back to me. Discussions, debate, and critical reading are integral to preparing students the be able to do that.

        Students cannot truly understand the history from which they come unless they are challenged to actually think about things. Real education takes place when the questions are asked, discussed and analyzed and students are able to “get their hands dirty.”

        • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:56

          I didn’t know you were in the classroom. Awesome!

          • Lindsay Jan 27, 2012 @ 6:30

            Yes indeed…and middle school teaching U.S. History I 🙂 I love every minute of it and would never trade this for anything.

            • Roger E Watson Jan 27, 2012 @ 12:20

              And from the sound of it, Lindsay, you do an excellent job !!

              • Lindsay Jan 28, 2012 @ 5:11

                Thank you Roger, that is kind 🙂

    • Gregg Jones Jan 27, 2012 @ 7:10

      I agree with Lindsay. However, I believe the saying that history is written by the ones that hanged the heroes. Or the saying that goes “History is written by the winners”.

      I was in Vietnam. I remember how the military after action reports usually told anything but the truth. I just finished about 5 years in Iraq as a contractor (2003-2008). What was told to the public and what happened was like apples compared to nuts.

      Remember when Bush, 2002, was asked how was the war with Iraq was going to be paid for? He assured us that the oil revenues from Iraq would pay for this venture. Can you imagine when they write the history of the wars of Vietnam and Iraq how convoluted it will be?

      I wish history could be unbiased but I just don’t thing that us flawed human beings can do that. Sometimes when I read the bible, I just cringe.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012 @ 7:44

        No one is asking you to be unbiased, but the old saw of the winners writing the history simply does not apply in the case of the Civil War. If anything, the very opposite is true.

  • Neil Hamilton Jan 26, 2012 @ 23:33

    Mr. Bearden,

    As I am sure you know you do not speak for all Virginians, how can you make such a sweeping statement about what they want and don’t want about Lincoln? Nothing stands still and the attitudes and feelings of 150 years ago simply do not equate to an equal such attitude and feeling today, not in my view.

    If you have some sort of poll or source that shows you speak for the majority of the people of Virginia, I would be interested in seeing such. If not, then I can only assume that the view you express is merely your own, personal opinion.

    Myself, I am content to wait and see what the people of Virginia will ultimately decide. If they are upset over their legislature approving of such, I am sure they will make it known. They have done such in the past so why wouldn’t they do so in the future?

    Neil Hamilton

    • Billy Bearden Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:49

      Mr Hamilton,

      I do not speak for all Virginians, noone does.
      As for polls… 2 polls were taken on the McDonnell Confederate History Month issue, and both were over 60% in FAVOR of the proclamation, but both were ignored.
      The placement of the Lincoln statue in Tredegar was from underhanded lying efforts. Those at the unveiling were Tim Kaine, Bobby Scott, Doug Wilder, the SUVCW and about 75 others. The media said over 400 were present, but as I was inside that day I have the pictures. It was all lies to get it there, no public outcry for it to be placed there. Then it was more lies to cover the fact only a handful of people were responsible for it and give it a ‘positive’ spin.

      Again, “The People” have no say, it is a Senate resolution. It is eerily quiet. On my google search of media stories on the Lincoln Day, no media are picking it up. If it is a great thing and Senator Marsh believes it is desired by the public, then why not a full court press? Press Conferences, Press Releases, websites, flyers, the works? Why not draw up a referendum on it for the ballot box?

      Just another Tredegar Lincoln event

      • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012 @ 5:54

        So, do you make the same objections when state governments pass resolutions that you support or that are not backed up by every poll? Always whining and playing the victim.

      • Jeffry Burden Jan 27, 2012 @ 19:35

        Billy –

        I’m not aware of those polls. Do you have cites for those?

        Also, I was there at the Tredegar statue dedication too. To say that there were 75 people there, outside of politicians and SUVCW members, is baffling. The open area to the east of the statue was full of people. The 30 or so protestors outside the gate, with their “Lincoln = Hitler” signs, added a nice pungent touch. I assume you aren’t counting them.

  • Neil Hamilton Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:36

    Mr. Bearden,

    Is that what the Virgina Legislature is about to do?

    “Pull a Steven Stoll?”


    • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 16:33

      Mr. Hamilton,

      There is no great outcry for anything Lincoln in Virginia. Never has been. The ‘legislature’ of which you reference , Mr Marsh, is just an old hack, decidedly biased towards a certain black constituency -an individual seeking to impose his own biases on an unknowing populace like was done with the illegal statue of Lincoln in Tredegar.

      150 years ago Virginians didnt want Lincoln, 150 years later they still do not want him. He has to be forced on the citizens of Virginia – like Tredegar. Perhaps in another 150 years things might be different, but not today.

      You well know that such things would never be to a vote of the citizens, and until it is, it is just yet more forcing of 1 man’s will on the majority.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 16:57

        150 years ago Virginians didnt want Lincoln, 150 years later they still do not want him. He has to be forced on the citizens of Virginia – like Tredegar. Perhaps in another 150 years things might be different, but not today.

        You may be right, but this is for Virginians to debate and decide.

        • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 17:36

          Being as I was born in Newport News, Raised in Hampton and married in Williamsburg, I feel my input is worthy for this discussion 🙂

          • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 17:54

            What input have you offered beyond making assumptions about my teaching?

      • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 17:10

        The ‘legislature’ of which you reference , Mr Marsh, is just an old hack, decidedly biased towards a certain black constituency

        I assume you make the same reference to race when referring to a white constituency or is it only relevant when African Americans are involved?

        • Jim Dick Jan 26, 2012 @ 18:42

          The neo-Confederates are just upset their mythistory is being challenged with facts. They want to ignore things that conflict with their opinions which they then feel are factually based when a few facts are all they have. The overwhelming evidence against those few factoids is disregarded because it doesn’t fit into their mythistory.
          Keep on teaching, Kevin. This blog is outstanding for the conversation and the information presented. There are some very nice conversations between opposite views which are rather illuminating.

  • Grayson Jennings Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:51

    Lincolns deep roots in Virginia? He sent 30,000 Virginians to a grave,and most were not even a respectable 6′ deep with his invasion South.Keep your history in Boston if you please. We know history just fine here…it’s well documented.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:57

      Keep your history in Boston if you please.

      Thanks for the advice, but I was invited to give this talk. 🙂

    • John Maass Jan 27, 2012 @ 3:38

      Didn’t Jeff Davis send them? Or Lee?

  • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:12

    Gonna pull a Steven Stoll?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 14:24

      Only if you failed to read the post or the rest of what I’ve written about how I approach history and my students in the classroom. I don’t expect you to believe anything that doesn’t reinforce what you need to believe about me.

      • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:02

        I feel the discussions presented might be a little… one sided.
        Of course if you would share the location, I’ll try and get a representative fronm the other side to… balance things out.

        I know you are doing what you believe to be right, just as I do. On that I do salute you.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:57

          I feel the discussions presented might be a little… one sided.

          What did I write in this post that would give you that idea? Since when is encouraging students to get involved with how their state commemorates the past “one sided”?

          • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 16:43

            I just feel that certain topics will not be covered in your talk to the students. I feel it will be more akin to a Lincoln pep rally. I sat thru those as a kid going thru public school. The real learning doesnt occur until after graduation, which is not fair to the youth.

            • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 16:54

              I am sure you do believe it, but I am asking you to support your claim with some evidence. Here is your chance. What did I say in this post or anywhere else for that matter that convinces you that this will be a “Lincoln pep rally.” You sound incredibly foolish.

              • Billy Bearden Jan 26, 2012 @ 17:57

                The last 2 blog entries, a huge chunk of your site is Lincoln defending, Lincoln promotion. Just the nature of the beast on CWMemory. Just what Kevin is all about.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012 @ 18:04

                  That’s the best you can do? Like I said, whatever gets you through the night.

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