How Your School Can Address the Confederate Monument Controversy

For this former resident of Charlottesville, Virginia the events of this past weekend hit close to home. My wife and I are still coming to terms with the violence and scenes of bloodshed on streets that we used to walk. The educator in me has been thinking about ways that I can put my skills to use for those of you who are now either beginning the new school year or are just now heading back into the classroom.

Many of you would like to address what happened in Charlottesville and the broader debate about Confederate monuments with your students. Earlier today I Skyped withe the Social Studies Department at Monticello High School in Charlottesville on just this issue. I am encouraged and not surprised one bit that a school in this community wants to address this directly with their students.

Over the past ten years I have worked with students and teachers on how they can best practices related to teaching difficult subjects like the American Civil War and controversial symbols like the Confederate battle flag and monuments. Among the organizations that I have worked with include the National Park Service, Civil War Trust, Ford’s Theatre, Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, National Humanities Center, and the American Association for State and Local History.

The best way I know how to respond to hatred like this is to teach. Here is what I can offer your school:

School-wide Lecture and Q&A: Will explore the broad history of Civil War monuments as a foundation to better understand why they remain so controversial in 2017.

Professional Development for Teachers: Includes an overview of the history of Civil War monuments and relevant primary sources that can be introduced into the classroom. Strategies will be shared for how to most effectively engage students about the history and memory of Confederate monuments and other issues related to the war.

Classroom Workshop: Will lead students in a discussion about how best to respond to the current debate surrounding monuments.

Monument Tour: Will introduce students to how to interpret historical monuments and what they tell us about how Americans have chosen to remember and commemorate their history.

Community Lecture and Q&A: This talk will focus on the history of Civil War monuments for school alumni and the broader community.

I am more than happy to do more than one activity during my visit to your school and I can certainly customize a program that suits your school’s specific needs.

Can’t bring me to your school in person?

Skype Discussion: The next best thing to visiting your school is Skyping with your students. I am more than happy to spend some time leading a discussion or answering student questions if our schedules permit. I am also happy to talk with teachers and staff.

Communities across the country have debated this issue, yet there has been very little attempt to engage the views of students – the very people who will have to live with the decisions that are made today. We owe them the opportunity to share their voice.

Although my focus here is on schools, I am always available to deliver a talk or lead a workshop on this important subject for a wide range of audiences.

You can contact me at:

Click here for my CV.

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4 comments… add one
  • Patrick Jennings Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:23

    I was in Charlottesville during this tragic day. The first act of hatred I saw was a disgusting sign carried by a white supremacist. The first act of violence I saw was an anti-fa marcher striking some pretty quiet people with a bamboo pole. From there reason and logic were lost and red, thoughtless anger drove many toward madness.

    There is a lesson here, but crafting it will be difficult.

  • Neil Hamilton Aug 15, 2017 @ 6:55


    It means we should try harder than ever to bring that history to our students so they can understand today’s controversy over these monuments. No good solutions can be found in a historical vacuum.

    Neil Hamilton

  • Artie Schwartz Aug 14, 2017 @ 17:36

    Most students these days know little or next to nothing about the Civil War. IF you ask half of them who fought in the Civil War they couldn’t tell you. We are a nation of dummies.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 14, 2017 @ 17:41

      Our president knows even less so what exactly is your point?

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