View single post by pamc153PA
 Posted: Fri Sep 19th, 2008 12:48 am
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Joined: Sat Jun 14th, 2008
Location: Boyertown, Pennsylvania USA
Posts: 407

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Okay, Tim, fair enough question. But I'm going to start my answer by talking about the kids who AREN'T in my Civil War club, because that'll give you a better idea of what the students above the Mason Dixon line know about the Civil War.

Which is (I'm sad to say) not much. At least in my district, kids don't study the CW in any depth until 9th grade, and by depth I mean perhaps a month to cover all the major battles, maybe another week on either end for pre- and post-CW. It's not a decision the teachers make; it's a district curriculum thing, and I suspect most districts are about the same, at least in Pennsylvania.

I teach The Miracle Worker, about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, and I do a pretty extensive background to set it up, part of which is the feelings of the South about the North in the 1880s, the time of the play. Helen's father is "Captain" Keller, and there are passages in the play about Grant at Vicksburg, Pemberton, etc., all of them in some way paralleling the character of Annie Sullivan, from Boston. Since there's a definite distrust of the "inexperienced, half-blind Yankee school girl" from  Captain Keller, we talk about why he'd feel that way even 20 years after the war, etc. Honestly, when I give the kids my Civil War-in-a-nutshell speech (try doing that in about 5 minutes), most of them have no idea about it, except that it was between the North and South, it was about slavery (but WHAT about it, and what else, they don't know), and oh, the North won. Each year I have a few kids that have travelled to the South, or know someone who lives there, and they mention that depending on where you go, those feelings of maybe distrust and holding a grudge might still be around. One student last year actually said, "My uncle lives in North Carolina, and he said the war isn't REALLY over yet." So most of my students know little, and often what they think they know is hearsay and opinion.

My CW club kids actually know relatively more about the war, comparatively. They're the ones interested in it, after all, either because someone they know is, or they saw the movie Gettysburg or something like that. But, as 7th and 8th graders mostly, they're the real newbies, so their information is mostly the guns-generals-and-gore stuff, which, if it gets them hooked, is just fine. But they want to know EVERYTHING, so it's fun to help them along.

Someone somewhere on this board mentioned something like what is taught depends on who wrote the book. I think, rather than deliberately trying to mislead the students up North, curriculums/books almost treat it as "for awhile it was an issue that might split the country, by then we (the North) won, and everything was alright again. Next topic." Lack of time in class, lack of space in books. You can believe that, while I am not an expert on the Southern perspective (I lack that "its in my blood" thing that some of the Southern folks on our board have the luxury of having), I take every opportunity to present both sides the best I can. It's a challenge I enjoy.

Hope that answered your question, Tim, and gave you a little meat to chew on, Ole!


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