Civil War Reenactment Gone Too Far?

This past weekend in St. Louis a special Civil War Reenactment took place on the steps of the Old State House, only it was not your typical gun smoking affair. This time a group of historians and local residents reenacted what they called a “last slave sale.”

From the article:

The site of the “auction,” the Old Court House, has a long history related to the slave trade. It was the site of public auctions of all kinds of property at sheriff’s sales, usually in the course of settling estates or enforcing court orders for damages stemming from lawsuits. The Old Court House was also the site of the first hearing of the infamous Dred Scott case.

The auction, as expected” drew some criticism. If you’re interested here it is:

I think the intentions were good and the presentation effective.


The Tea Party and the Founding Fathers

Gordon S. Wood wrote a scathing review of Jill Lepore’s The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, a book which I heard about last year but have yet to read (I have it on my Kindle and will read, when I can!). Gordon S. Wood starts his analysis by making the observations:

It is very easy for academic historians to mock this special need, and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, as a staff writer for The New Yorker, is an expert at mocking. Her new book, which mingles discussions of the present-day Tea Party movement with scattershot accounts of the Revolution, makes fun of the Tea Party people who are trying to use the history of the Revolution to promote their political cause. From her point of view, “What would the founders do?” is an “ill-considered” and “pointless” question.

As Wood notes, for Lepore the ideas behind these movements are a kind of historical “fundamentalism” that wishes to look back and to somehow teleport or transport today to yesterday, or in this sense to the great past. To conjure up the past in this way means, for Lepore, that it is the ultimate in the simplification and dumbing down of history so as to accept that women could not vote and blacks were slaves (as was the case in 1776). That to look back and ask what the Founder’s would do is an obtuse act. Therefore as Wood observes, throughout her book Lepore’s implicitly asks “Don’t these Tea Party people realize how silly they are?”

So, perhaps, for Academic snobs such as Lepore the only good movement is a Liberal movement? Anyway, a very interesting review of what looks like an interesting, though probably flawed, book that I can’t wait to read.


Very Proud of My President

Don’t agree with President Obama on pretty much all of his political views, but tonight’s speech in Arizona was, in my humble opinion, his best. Very proud of the President and First Lady. Very proud, they had an opportunity to rise above the political rhetoric, unlike the media, and they did indeed and did so brilliantly. For though some out there strangely mention this shooting while also mentioning political discourse when the horrific event of last Saturday had noting to do with politics, our President was able to rise above those on the Left that could not. Those senseless shootings were the work of a madman bent on mayhem and nothing else, and as someone who knew him stated, he was not political and was not of the Left or the Right, yet so many in the media wished to identify and call out others they disagree with. Rise above, they could not, but President Obama did…

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Rethinking Advanced Placement United States History

Apparently not just my school district is rethinking how to use and present A.P.U.S.H, but the college board has as well. As some of you know I was told recently that “scores do not matter,” that the goal now is to make it more inclusive and get as many kids taking the class. I’m all for more kids taking AP classes, but from the beginning was told to “teach to the text,” “weed out the weak,” and “improve the scores.”

According to this interesting New York Times article the focus of the exam will be less on the massive amount of information and memorization, and instead to “to clear students’ minds to focus on bigger concepts and stimulate more analytic thinking.” This should lead to a far better classroom environment where it seems “history becomes a blur” to most students. This whole new approach, it is hoped, will be more conducive to “critical thinking” and see the “themes” of history. It will also provide more leeway for instructors to delve into a topic and really explore it. I applaud these changes!

Final note, according to the data the number of students taking the U.S. History exam (which is the most popular topic with the most students) have gone up while scores have gone down. This seems to support the new direction that the College Board is taking.

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Constitutional Whitewash?

Yesterday the United States House of Representatives kicked off the year with a reading of the Constitution. I thought it a nice gestured, but wondered how many of them have actually read it (you know as much as they read their own bills!) and/or understood what they read? Come to find out they didn’t even read the whole thing! Instead they read an abridged version. The reasoning? To read it in its most modern form. What a mistake. I agree with those who called the Congress out. The Representatives left out the bit about the 3/5 clause and the 18th Amendment! They had an opportunity to offer educators like myself a teachable moment, but missed the opportunity. But then again, by not reading it they brought even more attention to it.

I have seen teachers butcher the meaning and reasoning behind the 3/5 Clause by holding it up as an example of American Injustice and racism. You know, Slaves were not even human, they were only 3/5′s of one! Forgetting that it were the Slave Owners who wanted slaves counted equally and the Abolitionists who thought otherwise. The whole debate, of course, centered around representation and by limiting the South’s ability to count slaves and thus limiting their power in Congress.

And as for the 18th (Prohibition) Amendment, not sure what the big deal was there?


How Much do our College Students Know about the World?

Not a lot apparently… SO TIRED of college elites talking down to high school teachers. They need to get their act together! I wonder how many of these students know about “social justice”?


Publishers Weekly & NewSouth Books To Censor Mark Twain

According to this news story, Publishers Weekly NewSouth Books will be censoring their upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by removing all instances of the N-word and replace it with “slave.” According to this search result, that would be 90 times the N-word would be replaced. Is this whitewashing history? I think so, as literature it needs to be regarded as an historical document as well and understood within the proper context. Removing what is today an offensive word removes some of the historical and literary importance of the document.


How Do We View The Confederate Soldier

Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf has been doing off and on Video Blogs addressing numerous topics, his latest is an interesting editorial concerning how we remember the Confederate Soldier:

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Civil War Letter: One Man’s Reflection on the War, 1868

The letter is written and signed by R. G. Smith of Kokomo, Indiana. R.G. Smith who was born in Virginia in 1820. His wife, Elisabeth was born in Kentucky. Census records in 1850 reference that R.G. Smith was a Farmer and lived in Union, Indiana. Census records for 1880 reflect that he lived in Kokomo, Indiana and had four children living with him, Clarence, Carrie, Abram and Henry. He also had a traveling salesman living with him by the name of Milo Barns.

Mike a great many things have happened since you left this country. A great and bloody war has been waged. Thousands and thousands of lives have been lost, and millions and millions of money spent on carrying the said war. The Southern people have laid down their arms having lost their property in slaves, the great bone of contention of the war. It must be acknowledged that taking everything in consideration, the Southern people fought nobly, and bravely, but the Northern armies were too numerous for them to ever gain their Southern Independence.

But be the causes of the war as they may, we do know one thing and that is this. That the rebellion did exist, that many bloody battles were fought and that Lee surrendered to General Grant with the understanding that the Union should be restored and hence, once more reign supreme in the land.

About that time Mr. Lincoln was assassinated and Andy Johnson became President and the extreme radicals thought he would be very severe on the South, but he being a Southern man and already knowing that those people had suffered in lift and property enough, could not and did not inflict such penalties on them as ultras of the North desired, and Congress became divided and the breach became more and more widened as things transpired and to cap the climax they got up the impeachment bill and then they failed to impeach. Poor old Thad Stephens did all that human being could do, and afterwards have up the ghost and is dead. — R.G. Smith, September 12, 1868

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“If You’re Not doing Education for Liberation, Then You’re Not doing Education…”

I have not done a lot with the Teaching For Social Justice (and Teaching for Liberation) movement that is growing rapidly in our public schools across America, but I can assure you I am not done with this. I promise numerous stories this year on the movement that is infecting our schools. To kick off the New Year, I’ll leave you with this message from the fine folks over at the Education for Liberation Network.

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