Blogging Etiquette 101

Update #2: As a point of clarification, I have no issue whatsoever with the fact that Chris Wehner referred to me by my first name.  What I take issue with is that he did not provide a link to my post.  Unfortunately, he has still not provided a link, though one of his readers did include it in a comment.  This is the same individual who deleted my site from his blogroll after I moved mine to a page on the navigation menu.

Update: You can read Chris Wehner’s comment below and his response on his own blog here.  He says he never received my comment (it is possible), though according to my computer it is still cued up and awaiting moderation.  The comment below as well as the response are incredibly confusing.  I fail to see what it has to do with my comments about American Exceptionalism and the steps being taken by the Texas Board of Education to revise the curriculum.  Still no link to the post in question.

I welcome responses to my posts from other bloggers and, for the most part, I usually learn a great deal.  There is something strange, however, about Chris Wehner’s response to my recent post on American Exceptionalism.  Strangely, he refers to me by using my first name, but fails to provide a link to the post in question.  I left a comment on his post early this morning, but as of 7pm it has yet to be approved.  Worse yet, Wehner completely misses the point of my post.

To many educators teaching something that is positive about American history is considered to be intellectually dishonest. Today Kevin suggest that to teach our history in any way that is “positive” is to teach in a vacuum free of “critical thinking.” Whatever. His idea of “critical thinking” is hard to imagine, but I can guess. To teach the American Revolution intellectually and to challenge students students to “think critically” Kevin probably thinks that the emphasis would be on Women, Blacks, and Indians. Are they to be left out? Of course not, but the spirit and heart of the Revolution was unique and dare I say… um, “Exceptional.” No few women, blacks or  Indians participated (voting, taking part), true, but the fact that so many white males were at a time when Monarchies and Aristocracies dominated the globe, it was radical, revolutionary and “Exceptional.” I contend that Kevin and others simply cannot crawl out of that “Presentism: box they exist in.

I think this is a wonderful example of reading what you will into the text.  The point I made was a simple one.  I am not interested in presenting American history as divinely inspired/exceptional or as a cause of all that is wrong with the world.  In short, my job as a teacher is not to impose my own moral/intellectual view on my students.  I want my students to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions.  To be honest, I have no idea how to respond to this since it has almost nothing to do with the point I was trying to make.  I can only imagine how Chris ended up with this specific interpretation.

Most importantly, it seems dishonest, not to mention cowardly, to respond to and criticize another blogger and not provide a link so as the reader can judge for herself.

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Remembering Arlington House

I am just beginning the writing stage of my project on Southern Tourism and Arlington House for a book of essays that is being edited by Karen Cox.  The research is fascinating and I am learning quite a bit about the history of how both the home and the surrounding landscape have been interpreted.  I am interested specifically in the evolution and challenges associated with interpreting Lee’s decision to resign his commission in the United States Army within a broader “sacred” landscape that is dedicated to remembering those who gave their lives for this country.  The essay also touches on the challenges associated with Lee, slavery, and the Lost Cause.  Here is an interesting postcard of Arlington House that I came across, which dates to the 1960s.

Postcard of Arlington House

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In Defense of Our Freedom?

Answers from left to right: No / Yes / Perhaps

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A Black Confederate Bonanza

It looks like the local chapters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy in Pulaski, Tennessee have struck a gold mine of black Confederates.  How many, you ask?  Well, would you believe that 18 were discovered in one cemetery.  This weekend they are planning a fundraising event in preparation for a marker dedication on November 8 at Maplewood Cemetery.  As for the research that determined the status of these men we must turn to the educational forums at Dixie Outfitters.  Scroll down for the letter by UDC Chapter President, Cathy Wood (though she claims not to be working on this project as a member of the UDC) for the following:

I found where there were 11 Black Confederate soldiers from Giles County that applied for a pension. I also found 5 that died before the pension was in place or just didn’t apply. Since then I have found 2 more that didn’t apply, making a total so far 18. I went to the archives and got the application for pension for the 11. Then I filled out the form for the markers and faxed them in. I faxed these late one afternoon and by 8:30 the next morning a lady from Nashville VA called and said that these men were NOT soldiers they were slaves. Well tell me how could they receive a pension? Now are you going to stand there and let someone shoot at you and not defend yourself or someome near you? I don’t think so. These men were defending their country and other soldiers. [my emphasis]

Don’t you just love Ms. Wood’s rhetorical questions?  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that successful pension applications did not imply status as a soldier in the ranks.

Ms. Wood concludes her letter with the following: “In my opinion VA is discriminating against the Black Confederate soldier. I know that there are Black Union markers in Maplewood Cemetery here in Pulaski.”  The reason that Ms. Wood can know that there are black Union soldiers buried in the cemetery is because black Americans did serve as soldiers in the United States Army.

Stay tuned for updates.  Perhaps Earl Ijames will give the keynote address and the women will show up in traditional mourning dress.

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Teaching History Without the Negative Stuff

As many of you know the state of Texas in the process of redefining its social studies/history standards.  [See here and here]  This will impact the rest of the nation since the textbooks that will be ordered to meet the agenda of this curriculum will likely be distributed throughout much of the rest of the country.  The ongoing debate about what to teach has little to do with understanding the past or training students to think critically about historical studies.  Rather, the debate is being driven by political hacks who know next to nothing about what it means to study the past.  Consider the following short video.

It’s hard to take seriously the notion that what should drive our study of the American past is the overarching assumption of its “exceptionalism” and “how unique it is”.  According to this Texas Board of Education member, the solution is to simply delete those aspects of our history that detract from this exceptional image.  It’s certainly one way of going about it, but than what are we to make of her call to get rid of the word “propaganda” from the curriculum/textbooks?  What else should we call this approach to history?

I don’t mind admitting that I am an enemy of the notion of ‘American Exceptionalism.’  It’s not simply that I fail to see how it applies to American history, but that it has nothing to do with my role as an instructor of history.  I’ve said before that I do not consider it my responsibility to influence students in how they judge the collective moral status of the United States through its history and current policies.  In addition to the concept of exceptionalism I also steer clear of any notion of America as “God’s Chosen People” or the notion of an inherent “Evil Imperial Empire” that is espoused by some on the extreme Left.  That said, I do deal with the historical roots of the idea of American Exceptionalism going back to the Puritans’ notion of a “City Upon a Hill” through Manifest Destiny as well as its later manifestation in the form of the “White Man’s Burden.”

Can someone please tell me what is gained by teaching American history this way?  How does it help our students to engage with the rest of the world on a level of cooperation and mutual respect?  All I see is a curriculum that promotes arrogance along with the biases of a cultural exclusivist.

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