150 years later, Civil War still a delicate subject for schools
The American Civil War is a touchy subject for educators, who must help children understand issues that continue to divide Americans 150 years after the war's outset.
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He sees little evidence of regional variations in the thrust of Civil War content in states that do get more specific, though he said Southern states are generally more apt to talk about the Civil War in state-history courses, given its impact there.Skip to next paragraph
He added: “There are a number of Southern states that are notably honest in dealing with the realities of slavery and ... the coming of the Civil War.” He cited Alabama, South Carolina, and Virginia as examples.
But Mr. Stern singled out another former Confederate state for criticism.
“In Texas, it’s not just a question of omission, but ideological distortion,” he contends. “Slavery is clearly, deliberately downplayed.”
He notes, for example, that sectionalism and states’ rights are listed as causes of the war before slavery, the third item in a list in the Texas standards, which were revised last year.
But Patricia Hardy, a member of the Texas state school board, insists there was no intention to downplay slavery. “If we put it first, we get criticized; if we put it last, we get criticized,” she said. “You can imagine how many people pick and parse what we say.”
The Texas board, led by a block of staunch conservatives, stirred national controversy with its extensive set of changes to the state’s social studies standards. Another Civil War issue that arose concerned Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Coverage of “deeper learning” that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at www.hewlett.org.
- “Primary Sources Breathe Life Into Civil War,” April 15, 2011.
- "150 Years Later: Primary Sources, Technology Bring Civil War to Life," (Curriculum Matters Blog) April 12, 2011.
- "Civil War Trust Unveils Curriculum Pegged to Conflict's Anniversary," (Curriculum Matters Blog) March 24, 2011.