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If You Would Like Kids to Know One Thing about the CW (Question from Pam C.) - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 01:56 pm
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pamc153PA
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Hi folks!

Many of you already know that I'm a teacher. Next week, my district returns to a new school year. I've been thinking about the year coming up, and I have a question for those of you who care deeply about the Civil War (I think that's pretty much everybody here!):

What one thing (or more, if you're so inclined) would you like kids to know about the CW?

I teach 8th and 9th grade students and also run the Civil War club (surprise, surprise!). I know you are mostly NOT teachers, but in a way, you know, we ALL are teachers because we love the subject, and will talk about it whenever and to whomever we can, and go out of our way to help those who have shown even a glimmer of interest. I have managed to work a lot of Civil War into my English curriculum, but I'd be interested in finding out your ideas--the "experts!"

I'd appreciate hearing from any and all, especially those of you who are inclined to Southern perspectives (I'll admit, as a Northerner, I'm woefully inadequate in that, but willing to accept help!), and those of you who are still students. If you're like me, what I learned about the CW in school was pretty thin, and there are so many bigger issues kids can take away from the study of it.

Thanks in advance!

Pam



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 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 08:29 pm
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TimK
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I think Ed is right. Before starting an endeavor of such magnitude, I think it is important to teach that we can't place sins of today on historical figures. To learn about this subject correctly, it is important to see the whole picture with objectivity.



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 12:29 am
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44th VA INF
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I would tell that the confedrates had the right to seccede  and that was is in the school books is not all true

Last edited on Sun Aug 31st, 2008 12:31 am by 44th VA INF



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:10 am
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Wrap10
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Great question, Pam. I've always felt that we're all "students" when it comes to learning about the war, no matter our age or experience level. We go back and forth between being 'students' and being 'teachers,' as you suggest.

Not sure your question is something I could answer with just one thing. I'd have to think about it some. I'm inclined to answer, that the war was caused by slavery, which I absolutely believe. But the subject of slavery, and the way it brought about the war, is so involved, that just saying "slavery did it" doesn't adequately explain things. You really need to delve into the details, and that's a twisty-turny maze if ever there was one.

I guess that's not really a southern perspective though. :) But if I can think of an answer that I like better, I'll post it. Best of luck with your class.

Perry




 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:36 am
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Crazy Delawares
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Pam,

I teach that slavery & union were equal parts of the of a braid of rope that had many strands. Just as a rope is weakened when one strand is removed, so is the argument over which is more important for fighting the war. You cannot argue one over the other without weakening the "rope" (or argument).
As for the constitutionality of secession, we look at the Constitution (we've already studied it as a unit earlier in the school year) then, hold a debate. Sometimes it gets a little "squirrelly."
After that, we concentrate on the famous persons, battles and the regiment(s) that recruited from our area. Much of what is done concerning battles is done via reports by the students. Some draw up battle maps on bed sheets so they can make a BIG map. Some sing battle songs. A few have come in to deliver soliliquoys(sp) by famous folks. One time a student dressed up as Jeff Davis and delivered a small part of his inaugural address. He did quite well!
I always come in dressed, talk about the regular soldier, and shoot my .69 cal. outside for them every year. Sometimes I organize an encampment when I can get my hands on some extra $$$ for a few units and surgeons, zouaves, etc..
The idea is to do less talking (by the teacher) and more research and talking by the students. The war presented as a lecture is really dry and boring. Bringing in artifacts helps.
Sometimes starting the whole unit off by doing something different and getting the kids out of their chairs is the best way of teaching.
Find your passion in presenting and the students will follow you! And without knowing it, they will learn!!! Psst-just don't tell them that they're learning. :-)



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:36 am
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The Iron Duke
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I would tell them that the ACW, like any period of history, isn't always what it appears to be at first glance. Much of it can't really be understood or appreciated until you are older. Much of it is shrouded in simplicity and romanticism. It is an extremely complex event of American History.

If you want to get a true understanding of history you need to read multiple sources even if you don't agree with a particular thesis.

Finally, teachers need to start adding flesh and bones to historical figures.  For example, most people don't care about the campaigns of George Washington.  To them these are just dry dates and facts.  Teach them what kind of man he was.  Tell them that he was a reserved man who possessed incredible bravery, loved to play cards, and could curse like a sailor if need be.  This is why people love fictional characters from books and movies.  They seem real and can identify with them.  There's a reason why biographies are the most popular form of historical text.

Last edited on Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:43 am by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:36 am
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Crazy Delawares
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If you are close enough, visit a battlefield and do a/the tour!



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 02:43 am
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CleburneFan
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44th VA INF wrote: I would tell that the confedrates had the right to seccede  and that was is in the school books is not all true
Are you a scholar of the United States Constitution?



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 02:50 am
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Bighouse
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I think it's important for them to learn that the idea of secession was not a new one. From the beginning, the states felt that each had a right to secede from the Union at any time they chose. Delaware was a hold out at the Constitutional Convention. South Carolina threatened it in Jackson's time and the issue was National Banks and not slavery. California considered becoming an independent Republic, and we all know, or should, the history of Texas. So many seem to point to the idea of the southern states choosing to leave the union as something unheard of at the time,when in actuality all of the above events took place before the Civil War.



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 04:00 am
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susansweet
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Interesting ideas from all.  Pam since I have retired I work at a Civil War site as a docent one day a week.  One of the things we do is go to one of the middle schools in the Los Angeles area where a history teacher has put together a Civil War day.  He invites reenactors to come to the school for the day.  Some times they are the Sons of Union Veterans, the Civilians from a local reenactment group, a doctor , a surgeon who sets up camp with all his tools, Sons of Confederate Vets, a member of the Cal 100 band who brings his instruments.  We go as the Drum Barracks with displays of some of the thing we have in our museum that relate to things that happened first during the Civil War. 

The kids come out to visit us in classes with a questionaire.  We all chat with them and explain what they are seeing .  It is a very successful day.  Maybe you can get some local reenactors to come to your school and put something like this together?

I think what Bama said is true,  The kids need to know that there are two sides and both were Americans that thought they were doing what for them was right.  We can't judge them with 21st century values.  Or as they are doing at some Visitors centers presenting the Civil War from four sides.  North, South, Slave , and Civilian.

Hope our suggestions help.

Susan



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 12:57 pm
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Johan Steele
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The finest compliment I have ever received, and I have now refceived three almost identical ones, came from a combat veteran. To paraphrase: Most of these presentations glorify war, it is ugly to those of us who have experianced it, you presented it as it was.

I hate the "Rambo" mentality, I highlight just how ugly it really was. Let the students know about how the soldiers and civilians suffered. Explain the horror of the hospitals and the battlefield and then explain how those men kept going back in knowing full well the horror of it. THings haven't changed that much in the scheme of things when it comes to warfare. Understanding a little about what those men faced and soldiers have always faced can go a long way in planting an interest. And an interest in more than just the CW, but in human chrachter.



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 01:45 pm
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susansweet
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Good post Johan but then you KNOW the common sodier well.  You see things from his viewpoint .  I think you post is a good one for us all to read and remember when we talk about the Civil War .  It was not a picnic in the park.  It was Hell. 

Thanks for spelling that out . 

Susan



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 09:44 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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I can't really follow Johan's excellent reply, as I agree with it entirely.

I like Crazy's description of the rope, and might steal it for my own purposes as it sums up how I think about the issue of slavery.

In reply to Pam's question, I think one topic that needs to be discussed is why the Civil War matters to today's society. It's always useful to place events into context, otherwise one becomes merely a historical tourist.



 Posted: Tue Sep 2nd, 2008 11:29 pm
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pamc153PA
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Thanks, everyone, for your ideas. Again, you've been a terrific help, especially since you gave me a lot of different angles to view this from--as always!

I like the "rope" analogy a lot. I may have to "borrow" that one, Crazy.

Susan, you are doing exactly what I'd like to be doing when I retire from teaching, so I'm jealous. But the idea of having local reenactors (military and civilian) come out to school, suggested by you and hinted at by others is one I've toyed with for years now--I'm just not sure where to start, or if my district would foot the bill. I guess it can't hurt to ask! But I too think that that chance to immerse the kids, even for a day, in soldier/civilian life would be priceless.

I am a true believer in less talking by the teacher, more research and doing by the students, and have been for all my teaching life, so that was a suggestion that I actually do on an everyday basis. There's nothing like seeing the lightbulb come on for a student of mine when he/she has turned it on him/herself--way better than if I did it for them. To see that happen in relation to the CW would be the absolute best!

Pam



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 04:53 am
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susansweet
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Pam the Civil War day we do at the middle school I would think is not too expensive.  All of us that take part do it as volunteers .  We are not paid.  One of the teachers is a member of the Cal 100 so he gets others who reenact to join him.  We come out from the Drum for free .  The only cost that I know of to the school is they buy subway sandwiches for all of us at lunch time and provide cold drinks. 

I am sure there are some other expenses that I don't know about as I just show up in period clothing and help at the Drum booth explaining about things that happened first in the Civil War. 

Contact reenactment groups and Round Tables in your area and see what they have to offer .  We adults all say we had such fun seeing the kids who are mostly first generation US citizens get excited about the things we show them.  One year the Sons of  Union Vets basically had the kids enlist !!!!  They signed up . 

Good luck.

Susan



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 11:01 am
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Strangley enoguh the place I go to school at I am supposedly the only current reenactor going there. I have offered so many times to do something for the civil war and I dont just go in there empty handed ethier I go whith a letter of recconmendation , etc. But every time they turn me down. if the wanna pay me fine buit if not I have no problem with that I evn said to one of the teachers. They said the no. I dont no why they wouldnt tell me. They had a medevile reenactor come in before that and they still wouldnt let, in the end one teacher wanted me to and they let me do for one period. I walked the halls in my Confederate Uniform while people thoguht I was stupid, only a handful of students knew what it was, to think maybe if I had been aloud to do it I could have tought them so they werent so ignorant about the subject.



 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 02:13 pm
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j harold 587
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Prior to retiring as a State Trooper I did school programs (grade school) through our tropers organization. I did it on my own time as a volunter. It delt primarilly with traffic, bike, and home safety type training. I frequently did joint presentations with DARE.  I was also invited back to do early Ohio history where my wife and I wore appropriate costume and explained the garments and tools (including weapons) and how early settlers lived in an understandable and hands on way. Most teachers and students enjoyed my employment presentation and then my hobby of studying history and re-enactment.

However I was also questioned why I came to school with a weapon. I was there off duty as a representative of the Highway patrol and a weapon was part of my uniform. When I traveled to and from the school I was in uniform and would have responded to any emergency as if on duty. I also eventully was not allowed to bring weapons (flintlock rifle, knife, tomahawk) to show how tools were used.  I also brought draw knifes, froes, mallets, and other hand tools.  All that could be used as a weapon. So I eventually just stopped doing the living history in schools. Shotgun has a good example of the causes of the ACW compared to a wagon wheel. The spookes are the many regional differences ( tarriffs, urban vs. rural, industrial vs. agricultural,states rights vs. central government) held togeather by a wheel rim of slavery.     

 



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 Posted: Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 03:45 pm
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David White
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Political passions can get out of control and create a greater nightmare than any percieved harm could have ever caused.



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