Students Debate the Confederate Flag

It’s nice to see students talking to one another in the safety of a classroom about the Confederate flag. I am not sure where this debate took place. What I don’t get the sense of, however, is that students have been prepped in any way by their teacher about the history of the flag, though it is clear that a few students have done a little research. Click here for a recent post in which I outline one way that a middle or high school teacher can teach the controversy surrounding the memory of the Confederate flag.

I am available to visit schools and work with students and teachers on this complicated subject.

[Uploaded to YouTube on October 6, 2015]

8 comments… add one
  • Sandi Saunders Oct 18, 2015

    Excellent discussion, except for the gargantuan information gap and the distortions of the flag supporter being unchallenged for the most part. Most of those kids give me real hope for a better nation.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 18, 2015

      Reinforces the importance of engaging in a discussion about history, memory and politics by first grounding students in the relevant history. I applaud the teacher for addressing the issue in a way that reinforced careful listening and respect.

  • Al Mackey Oct 18, 2015

    One student seems to have done all his “research” with the SCV. He was wrong about everything he said. I find it interesting only one student referred to an actual document from the 19th Century–the confederate constitution–and did so in opposition to the flag. They could really use some time with primary sources.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 18, 2015

      I agree on all counts. Teachers and students need to understand that this subject has a history that they need to engage.

      • M.D. Blough Oct 18, 2015

        Kevin-I thoroughly agree and I think that any teacher (in general; I’m not specifically referencing anyone) who sets up such a debate and doesn’t make sure that students understand that there is a considerable and very complex history involved is guilty of sloppy and lazy teaching (I come from a family of teachers (parents, oldest sister, and my older nephew’s wife) and hold the profession in profound respect). In particular, John Coski’s book on the flag’s history should be required reading. Most importantly, it has to be made clear to both the teachers and students that, while the history of the so-called Confederate flag BEGAN in the 1860s, it didn’t stop there and, in fact, is still a work in progress. There’s a reason that this flag, of all the flags used by the Confederacy, generates such strong feelings when others, such as the First National Flag of the Confederacy and the Palmetto flag (which is extremely close to the design of the long-standing official state flag of South Carolina), do not.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 18, 2015

          In particular, John Coski’s book on the flag’s history should be required reading.

          It should be required reading for the teacher, but I don’t know too many high school history classes that have the time to read an entire book on the Confederate flag. In the post that I link to I include a couple of very manageable readings that students can use to prep them for just such a debate. I suspect that this instructor may not know where to look for reliable information. It’s a problem, but I can’t help but feel encouraged by the attempt given how little I’ve heard coming out of schools.

  • Sandi Saunders Oct 18, 2015

    I wish we had more information about this “class”. If this was a history or social studies class then I think the least the teacher could have done would have been to challenge the students to read actual documented history and certainly as it pertains to the flag, just in case something said turned out not to be true or documented or pertinent. It is good when people discuss but it often just shows the lack of information based opinions and therefore the gaps and division will remain. Thanks to people like Kevin Levin, the information is available, searchable and readable. Thanks to the internet, you are seconds away from actual, factual, documented truth.

  • Patrick Jennings Oct 20, 2015

    A healthy and interesting debate. The school is Shawnee Mission East in Kansas and the class is likely part of a broader social studies course involving healthy debate over a difficult issue. It appears the debate was sparked by a group of students flying the flag from their car as a kind of a lark – as seen in their student paper – and to make a point.

    I will say that the article (found here: http://smeharbinger.net/news/heritage-vs-hate) is well written for a high school paper and very balanced. If you look carefully there is a neat comparison chart between this school and one in Virginia where students were disciplined for wearing confederate flag shirts.

    I found the debate itself little more than a roundup for the typical talking points but found the background of the video far more fascinating. I had to chuckle at the poster of Che Guevara who has more in common with NB Forest than any other figure on the walls (MLK, Gandhi, Mandela). Mr. Muhammad, an able teacher if judged from this balanced and honest debate, pulls no punches on his political views and this is a good thing in a school that is primarily white (only 1.2% black according to the little chart in the article). He is there to make them think and as far as I can see, they were thinking.

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