When a Reader Contacts My School

This morning I was informed that a reader of this blog had written a letter addressed to the headmaster of of my school. The reader took issue with my decision to strongly discourage students from purchasing Confederate flags at Civil War gift shops during our March trip. The letter correctly notes that I stipulated that “if [students] did buy the flags he would require that they keep them out of sight.” According to this individual, this constitutes nothing less than “censorship.”

Let me say a few words about this so there is no confusion. I have been very clear on this blog over the years that I believe the Confederate flag to be a controversial symbol. Its meaning goes beyond the soldiers who marched with it and the Civil War entirely. I do not use flags on my battlefield walks given my pedagogical goals and I strongly believe that the flag’s presence must have a purpose for fear of it being misinterpreted. Continue reading “When a Reader Contacts My School”

East Chapel Hill High School’s Confederate Flag Problem

Over the past few days additional information has come to light surrounding the recent school trip to Gettysburg in which two students from East Chapel Hill High School were photographed waving Confederate flags on the battlefield. Much of the public discussion has focused on the two girls, but there has been little discussion about the tour itself. While I don’t claim to have all of the relevant information, enough has surfaced to give us a clearer understanding of the goals of the trip and the photograph.

This is a trip that takes place annually and is an extension of an Honors Civil War/American West course.

This is an honors course for students interested in two of the most crucial and romanticized periods of American history:  the Civil War and the exploration and settlement of the American West in the 1800s.  The course provides an in-depth look at the major causes of each; the events that took place; the people and groups that participated; the influence of personalities; and the lasting impact and legacy that the Civil War and American West have on the history of the US.  In this honors course, the materials are taught with greater complexity, novelty and acceleration.

As part of their tour of Pickett’s Charge students stage a reenactment of the attack. It’s unclear where exactly this lesson takes place. I suspect that the organizers of this lesson believe that they are providing their students with a deeper understanding of the battlefield.  At the outset students are given numbers, which instruct them on a specific action such as falling on the ground wounded or dead. Two students are handed school-owned Confederate battle flags. In the event that they fall during the charge two additional students are assigned the task of pickup up the flags and continuing the mock attack. The two students features in the controversial photograph were the final flag bearers. Continue reading “East Chapel Hill High School’s Confederate Flag Problem”

Father of Confederate Flag Waving Daughter Responds

Over the weekend I was contacted by Ronald Creatore, whose child was photographed waving a Confederate flag on the Gettysburg battlefield as part of a school trip. After exchanging a few blog comments and emails I decided to extend an invitation to write a guest post. Below you will find his response to a post I wrote that explores what I believe is the correct context of the photograph in question.

First, in your online reply to me you make the point that your www.cwmemory.com website is “not a newspaper, (but) a blog.” I understand the distinction. Your blog gives you the right to post whatever opinion you wish to convey. I respect your right to do that, however, you impress me as a serious academician, and as you are a PhD MA graduate of the University of Richmond with an impressive list of publications, I would anticipate that you would want to engage in the type of ethics and integrity in research and publication that is expected of a serious academician. To ensure this integrity, in my opinion, requires a more in-depth understanding of both sides of a particular issue before you can contribute something of value to the public discourse, and given that you hadn’t attempted to reach out to me to understand my point-of-view on the “context” issue, I felt that this failure fell short of the standard that you would set for yourself as an academician. This point is moot now that you have graciously offered to engage in this dialogue, and given that you have extended the opportunity for me to provide a guest posting. Continue reading “Father of Confederate Flag Waving Daughter Responds”

When It Comes to Confederate Flags, The History is the Context

It should come as no surprise that the two stories involving high school students waving and posing next to Confederate flags have become national news. It’s also painfully clear that the parties involved have no historical understanding of how to think through some of the important issues involved, namely the history. Last night the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board met to discuss the Instagram photo of two female students waving Confederate flags on the Gettysburg battlefield. A sizable crowd turned out to share their thoughts.

I am much more interested in the Chapel Hill situation precisely because it involves a school trip to Gettysburg. One comment that continues to surface, especially from those defending the girls, is that the photograph was taken out of context. What I take this to mean is that the girls did not intend to offend anyone in their school group or anyone who happened to see it online. It is unclear as to how the students came into possession of the flags, but regardless we can assume that the organizers of the event did not intend to offend anyone by sanctioning it. The father of one of the girls has repeatedly stated that the photograph was taken out of context. Continue reading “When It Comes to Confederate Flags, The History is the Context”

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Neo-Confederates

You can’t make up these stories. The other day I told you about two students who posed waving Confederate flags on the Gettysburg battlefield, along with a comment about purchasing slaves.

Yesterday a news story out of Colorado showed a group of students posing with guns and a Confederate flag as part of their prom celebrations.

Finally, we have the Maclay School in Florida, which decided to take their students deeper into the history of the Civil War with a reenactment that included the Confederate flag. Following a parent complaint about the flag, the school’s headmaster offered the following.

Maclay’s teachers are constantly seeking ways to deepen our students’ understanding of history. Project based simulations or hands on exercises are one way we help the students understand what history was truly like through experience and discussion. Our Civil War class this semester involved a reenactment of a battle complete with uniforms, flags, Nerf guns and in-depth discussions.

I do hope you weren’t drinking anything when reading that passage. Continue reading “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Neo-Confederates”