Do Confederate Flags Belong in the Classroom?
This morning I received the following email:
I’m sure you’ll have an opinion on this. As you probably know, public schools are notorious for decorating the walls of classrooms. Naturally, I have a good bit of Civil War ‘swag.’ In the past, I’ve used the Confederate Flag in those decorations. It’s always in context with other battle flags of the Civil War, North and South. But given the recent events of the Summer, I’m going to scale it back a bit in display and visual interpretation. I was wondering what your thoughts were on it’s display in the classroom.
It’s a great question and one that I suspect others are considering or at least should be considering. I will make this short and sweet. Teachers have a responsibility to create safe classroom environments that are conducive to learning. Right now the Confederate flag is a toxic symbol. That means that it should not be visible in the corner of the classroom alone or even as part of a collection of flags. Beyond that it’s the teacher’s call, but I certainly would not want to risk making students unnecessarily uncomfortable or even intimidated.
I would think very carefully about displaying it apart from a carefully designed lesson plan, especially in a public school classroom. We’ve seen too many examples of lesson plans go wrong resulting in miscommunication between teachers and students and teachers and parents. It is certainly appropriate to utilize it for a lesson on some aspect of the history of the Confederate flag. I just finished an essay on how teachers can introduce the recent controversy surrounding the history and memory of the flag, which will be available in a few weeks on Heinemann publisher’s website. Of course, I will provide a link once it goes live.
Trust your instincts. If you are worried that a display that includes the Confederate flag might be problematic or misinterpreted than don’t do it.
What do you think?