Sorry for the headline, I am working on my blog headlines in an attempt to draw more readers to the blog! Below is a blog that stemmed from a short talk I gave in Morning Meeting today.
Last week, Director of Enrollment Management Jill Hutchins and I traveled to the beautiful city of Austin, Texas to attend the International Educational Consultants Association Annual Meeting. We spent two days meeting with EC’s to thank them for the great students they are recommending to us and to talk about new developments at Dublin School. Jill and I also had time to walk through the great city and experience their walking paths, food scene, and fascinating history. I snapped the following picture of people setting up for a barbecue and concert that evening. Notice every table has a grill!
As a history teacher I have always been fascinated by historical memory and how our memory of events is shaped by the time period during which we grew up and the locations where we live. Growing up in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1970’s and 1980’s I developed a place and time based view of history and culture. So, while walking through downtown Austin I was drawn to their historical monuments, and particularly to a monument to Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The post-Reconstruction 1903 monument was part of a larger regional effort to recast the Civil War as a conflict over states rights rather than as a war over slavery, with the North as the aggressor and the South as the outnumbered defending party fighting for the Spirt of 1776. The wording of the monument in the photograph below speaks to the pride the supporters of the monument had for their veterans.
A day after returning from Austin I went for a ride through the town of Nelson, NH, which is just eight miles from Dublin and two feet higher in elevation ever since the rock in the traffic circle in downtown Dublin was lowered eight years ago to make it safer for drivers to see oncoming traffic through the circle (at least this is what someone in Nelson told me). I stopped by the local church to look at a Civil War monument erected in 1876 to honor the twenty-nine Nelson men who died in the war. Once again you will see that slavery is not mentioned overtly as a cause, and the war is cast as a “rebellion” with the North fighting to protect liberty and preserve the Union.
History is not something that most students are drawn to naturally. I find that people become interested in history as their parents age and they start looking to the past for assurance and guidance. However, I discovered that young people love it when they see that people and historians disagree about the past and see that they can have opinions and arguments grounded in their own research. Concepts like “causation” in history truly capture students’ attention. What caused the Civil War? What caused the Civil Rights Movement? What caused the Revolutionary War (one historian argued it was the invention of Calculus…)? Try asking a student a question about causation and I think you will be surprised how eagerly and enthusiastically they will tackle the question!
The importance of engaging students in a study of history and in the events through which we are living today cannot be overstated. The events in Korea, Parkland, Ferguson, Russia, Hollywood and just about anywhere one looks have roots in our collective history. We need to give students the tools and the critical thinking abilities to find the truth in these events. And we need to look at our own biases, backgrounds, town monuments and upbringing to fully understand how we view the world. History is alive, you just have to look around.