Getting the Civil War right

Getting the Civil War Right:

There are doubtless many who would say that we shouldn't spend a lot of time on the American Civil War at all, it being ancient history and all that. Nevertheless, it was one of the most crucial moments in the American story, and we need to know how to think about it.

This story about the Virginia textbook shows one wrong way of handling the matter.

The author, Joy Masoff, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research....
Excuse me.

[Bangs head on wall for a few minutes.]

WHY do we have people who are not trained historians writing history textbooks? Is there some shortage of people with degrees in history? The last I heard there was such a glut of Ph.D.'s in history that few could find jobs.

OK. So, one bad approach: quoting Wikipedia and the Sons of Confederate Veterans' website, uncited, in a textbook.

The inclusion of alternative claims is not bad, if they are properly sourced and the controversy around them is explained. The Civil War remains highly controversial in terms of our understanding of it, even among professional historians -- a fact the article plays down to an unhappy degree. There is not general agreement about any of the basic questions of the war. There are probably more books written about it than any other topic in American history.

We went down to Stone Mountain for the Highland Games this weekend, as recently mentioned. I had occasion to point out the relief sculpture on the mountain to a child. I told him the three riders were important men from the war's history, Confederate generals. Could he guess which ones?

"Fredrick Douglass?" he guessed. On examination, this proved to be the only name he knew to be associated with the war.

There are two further errors in that approach: not teaching the controversies, yes, but apparently not even teaching the allegedly 'settled' history. All that the schools appear to convey is the politically correct narrative.

That's not to say that children shouldn't learn about Frederick Douglass, who was a wise and interesting man -- Eric was citing him in an email he sent me just the other day. Absolutely they should know who he was, and what he had to say. I just want them to know a little more, too.

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