Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Cares About the Civil War?

Yesterday I was appalled to read that a recent survey discovered that a majority of American high school students did not know when the American Civil War occurred.

To me this spoke not to the sad state of our students, but instead to the sad state of our teachers. The college I graduated from was a big teacher's college. As in it is one where many grade and high school teachers got their credentials.

I remember a very telling incident. It was in a 300 level U.S. History class. The professor was passing out the graded results of our first test. Before he did so he said something like "I'm going to show you how well I read minds."

Before he'd handed a person their test results he'd say, "You're a future teacher, aren't you? And the person would answer yes. He'd give another their test and say, "You're not future teacher, are you?" And the answer would be no, I'm not.

I answered "no" when it was my turn.

When the professor was done he asked does anyone know how I knew the future teachers from those who aren't going to be teachers? I meekly raised by hand and suggested that "Since I got an A and I'm not a future teacher, I'm gonna guess that those you guessed were future teachers did not get A's."

"Not only did they not get A's, they did not get B's. All the future teachers got C's, D's and F's."

So, you've got C and D students teaching kids the essentials. But these are people who don't really have all that great a grasp on the essentials themselves. So, something as essential to understanding America as the Civil War is somehow not taught in a memorable way to a majority of students. That is appalling. If you don't understand what happened between 1861 and 1865 how can you understand the Civil Rights Movement that came along a century or so later?

More on this later, as in yesterday I asked several adults if they knew when the Civil War occurred. I was not universally appalled at the answers, but appalled nonetheless.


Gar said...

Maybe you should mention that people can go to Fort Worth's very own "Texas Civil War Museum". They even have "education programs".

Durango said...

Geez, must you constantly shill for that little museum you run??

Will Howard said...

I'm retired so I don't shill or an organized institution. But I do care that, as the ignorance of the Civil War suggests, the emerging generation will be in sharp decline on their own self-awareness. So I started 2 blogs to offer another option for self-exploration to occur.