I’ve had some time to reflect on the story out of East Chapel Hill High School and I want to say what I hope will be some final thoughts. Thanks to Matt Gallman for his comment on an earlier post in which I expressed some criticism of the organizers of the field trip. Matt noted just how difficult it is for public school teachers to organize field trips to places like Gettysburg given how restrictive the curriculum is in which many teachers must operate. It’s an important point. I applaud these teachers for bringing their students to Gettysburg. As I’ve said many times before, there is no substitute for visits to actual historic sites.
Matt made a number of additional points that are worth considering, along with the rest of you who pushed back at me in response to the content of the post. As always, I appreciate the constructive criticism. Looking back, however, I wish I had been more reserved in some of my critique. While I may disagree about the place of the Confederate flag on a battlefield and the appropriateness of certain kinds of reenactments, there is a good deal that I just don’t know about what these teachers planned for the lesson that led to the controversial photograph as well as the rest of the trip. I owe my history teaching colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
More importantly, the last thing I want to do is to sound as if I am condemning anyone, especially fellow teachers. Our teaching practices are always evolving and we are always learning from our mistakes. Lord knows my own teaching has evolved over the years. I’ve posted numerous stories of lessons gone hopelessly wrong and it is fair to say that this was my response when I first came across the photograph. As many of you know, I care a great deal about history education.
I do hope the school and the social studies department in particular at East Chapel Hill has the opportunity before the next school year begins to reflect on these recent events in a constructive manner. No doubt, it can only improve next year’s trip to Gettysburg.