Why We Need History Education

Yesterday I spent the day in Virginia Beach working with a group of 4th and 5th grade teachers on how to teach the Civil War.  I was joined by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, who lectured during the morning session on the war through emancipation and I followed up with an overview of how to use Civil War monuments in the classroom.  The workshop was funded by the Teaching American History program, which as many of you know was recently cut by the federal government.  We spend so much time in this country focusing on bad teachers and other problems with public education that we completely ignore the incredible wealth of talent that we have in the classroom.  Here was a program that directly benefited thousands of history teachers throughout the country and it cost next to nothing.  We constantly complain about how little our kids know about American history, but when push comes to shove we do so little to combat it by supporting the very people who are working on the front lines in your neighborhood classrooms.

Well, this is what that gets you.

15 comments… add one

  • Eric A. Jacobson Feb 1, 2012

    Very sad, in my opinion. I addressed this on the SHPG site, where I first saw the video. Needless to say, I put myself on an island. :) Anyway, here is what I wrote:

    Sorry folks, I’m sure I’ll get ripped, but this is no history lesson. The Drunk History title is completely unncessary, yet the presentation is about as flawed.

    1) I hear all the time that Lincoln didn’t want to free slaves because, of course, the war wasn’t about slavery, right? So why does the young lady in this video immediately talk about if Lincoln wanted to free the slaves he should have gone to Congress. What?? Huh?? Seven states seceded before Lincoln was even President so I guess that effort via Congress, even had he wanted to make it, would’ve been futile.

    2) I might also add that this country was not started as a result of “succession,” but rather revolution. I hear folks on this very site tell me all the time that what we did in the American Revolution was different than the efforts at secession in 1860 and 1861. We had to revolt against King George to gain our freedom, but the Southern states had every right to secede. Right? Am I missing something?

    3) Also the term “the South” isn’t really the right terminology for this conversation. It is Confederacy, or Confederate States, etc. I might also add that the word “secede” isn’t “succeed.” Seriously, words matter.

    4) The end part is factually accurate, but I think I detect a little anti-Lincoln tone rather than just a simple history lesson.

    Anyway, this video might make some feel good, but there is nothing here that advances the cause, if you will. If anything, it hurts it. That I can assure you.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2012

      The most disturbing part is the claim that these “truth” have been intentionally left out of the history books. The problem is that there is no evidence that these people have ever opened up a history book or thought critically about the past beyond the standard short list of grievances that are cut and pasted from one website to another. In contrast, I spent the entire day with an incredibly thoughtful group of teachers who are passionate about what they do, but still have to take on a second job to supplement their income.

    • Brooks Simpson Feb 1, 2012

      Different groups serve different purposes. Eric also put up an article about how folks in Minnesota are struggling over how to remember the US-Dakota War (I’m friends with one of the Lakota involved and quoted). The discussion on my blog was much different from the responses where Eric posted the article.

  • Andy Hall Feb 1, 2012

    The more interesting part to me is the second protestor who, without prompting, starts off in a different direction about Lincoln’s bigotry toward African Americans, which proves, um. . . um. . . DEO VINDICE!, that’s why!

    • Lyle Smith Feb 1, 2012

      I enjoyed the postscript… “even racism is getting confusing”. That may be a good thing actually.

    • Ray O'Hara Feb 2, 2012

      The misdirection play is standard fare. —– — recently tried to show the ACW wasn’t about slavery by pointing out that their is still slavery in Africa so how could the War have been about slavery when it still exists?
      And then there is the Slavery was the North Fault as Slave ships from New England would bring Africans to America to be sold to {forced upon} the planters.

      Another brought up cannibalism in Africa as a justification for enslavement.
      when one tries to get them to explain how any of that justifies secession they just turn to insults.

      There was a youtube video of Tom Dilorenzo{since removed} where in tow sentences he brought up unwittingly the contradictions of the Lost Cause, first the War wasn’t about slavery but then said Lincoln started the war to free the slaves. which would seem to imply that it was about slavery.
      And then in his next statement he claims the South was no longer part of the USA and no longer bound by the CONUS and that Lincoln by making war on the states was committing treason.

      They lack any internal logic in their attempts to demonize Lincoln and they make and accept these arguments repeatedly without a hint of irony or embarrassment.
      Also of one doesn’t accept these arguments on is accused of bashing and hating the South.

  • Michael Lynch Feb 1, 2012

    My favorite is the part about how you won’t find Lincoln’s views on the social status of blacks in the history books. Indeed you won’t, unless of course it’s a decent biography of Lincoln, in which case it’s likely in there somewhere.

    –ML

    • Ken Noe Feb 1, 2012

      Seeking to test this, I just grabbed a basic American history textbook off my shelf at random–turned out to be Tindall and Shi, America, 7th ed., vol. 1–and found just such a discussion on pages 596-97, including Lincoln’s prewar belief that black and whites could not coexist as equals, and his often-quoted comments about blacks during the 1858 debates. Thinking this might be a fluke, I took another book at random, Unger’s These United States, 4th ed., concise vol. 1. On page 295 there’s a similar discussion of the debates and Lincoln’s comments that also criticizes Lincoln for pandering to anti-black prejudice. Perhaps others would like to keep looking for such passages in history textbooks, I have a basketball game to get to.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2012

        Foner also comments on Lincoln’s racial outlook in Give Me Liberty!

  • David Woodbury Feb 1, 2012

    She’s right about one thing. . . there’s nothing in the constitution that says you can’t “succeed.”

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Feb 2, 2012

    So sad to see how brainwashed this young girl and those with her are. Even sadder to know there are many others like her who buy into what she believes, at least in part. I just had a discussion yesterday with a Black man on my job who believed the Civil War was fought over money, not slavery. As I told him, if it was not about Black slavery, then why was it that everyone who was a slave by 1860 was Black? And if it was about money, then why did many reject the idea of a buyout to free their slaves?

    Anyway, I suspect this woman has been fed this line by the man in the cargo pants. I imagine they are romantically involved- note that he criticized Lincoln’s opposition to interracial marriage. Being in an interracial marriage myself, I certainly applaud their relationship but it brings a new level to understanding Lost Cause devotees. I think many of us have believed the motivation of Confederate apologists has been resistance to the post-Civil Rights Era, African-American progress world where Blacks can be your supervisors, neighbors, in-laws and political leaders; and where there are daily too many reminders of a seemingly growing Black presence, racism and inequality. But here we might be seeing one of these people actually embracing a Black person. I would hope for his sake he’s not a racist but even a racist person can accept Blacks as long as they make them feel comfortable.

    • Lindsay Feb 2, 2012

      Wow, this is hard to watch. One must remember that if you are trying to make a point and bring others around to see said point, you must be educated about it and present it in a sensible manner.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2012

        It is incredibly painful and sad to watch.

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