Are teachers discussing Charlottesville, Confederate monuments in class? Should they be?

Stone Mountain, which is adorned with a huge carving depicting Confederate heroes, is classified as a Confederate memorial by state statute. KENT D. JOHNSON/AJC

I’ve been talking to high school students about the violence and turmoil in Charlottesville and its aftermath, including the rising call in Georgia to take down monuments that celebrate the Confederacy and its leaders.

For the most part, the teens said these issues aren’t coming up in their classes. The kids weren’t sure why the topics would be off-limits, although a few said anything around race seems taboo. A teacher suggested to me that classrooms are now tethered to daily lesson plans and there isn’t a lot of flexibility to break away and dig into the news.

Are any teachers in Georgia throwing out their planned lessons to discuss Charlottesville and its ramifications?

Are you?

If so, how are you approaching it? I have found schools to be very careful – sometimes too much so – about controversial news. And these events have particular relevance to the South where Civil War monuments abound.

A view of the historic courthouse in downtown Decatur and the Confederate memorial now under fire.

For example, I live in Decatur, which maintains one of the most liberal voting records in Georgia. Yet, outside the old DeKalb courthouse on the Decatur Square is the Lost Cause Confederate Memorial.

A new petition to remove the statue garnered more than 1,200 signatures in less than 24 hours. (Current count Thursday: 1,875.)

The authors of the petition wrote:

“We have also heard from several city, county, and state leaders. From Decatur officials, we have heard DeKalb County owns and maintains the monument, and thus the City cannot remove it. From DeKalb County officials, we have heard that state law OCGA 50-3-1(b)(2) prohibits the removal of such monuments, and thus the County cannot remove it. From State Representative Howard Mosby and State Senator Elena Parent, we have heard that there is little prospect for amending or repealing this law in the state Legislature, and thus there is no foreseeable way for removing the monument.

These responses are not acceptable. The monument can and must be removed. Why should we remove the Confederate monument?

The Confederate monument opposes the values of Decatur and DeKalb citizens. We are a diverse and inclusive community, but this monument reveres white supremacy and the enslavement of African-Americans. Children of color look up at this monument daily, seeing a symbol of an ideology that stripped their rights as citizens and dignity as humans. The monument was erected 42 years after the Civil War in order to celebrate the atrocities of the Jim Crow South. It has no place in our square today.

Among the inscriptions on the Decatur monument: “Erected by the men and women and children of DeKalb County, to the memory of the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy, of whose virtues in peace and in war we are witnesses, to the end that justice may be done and that the truth perish not.”

There is ample news this week to spur Georgia-based classroom discussions around Civil War tributes and whether they should go. Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador, said the fights over symbols, including the 2001 campaign that eliminated the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, waste time and political capital better directed to matters that change lives.

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together,” said Young.

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said the massive carving on Stone Mountain of three Confederate war leaders “remains a blight on our state and should be removed…We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” she said in a series of tweets.

Writing in Education Week, blogger and English teacher Christina Torres said:

As many of us prepare to return to our classrooms, we don’t just need to buy flowers and make bulletin boards. We need to prepare and read resources (like #CharlottesvilleCurriculum from Melinda Anderson) that help us make space in our classrooms to discuss these events. We need to ensure that we treat our students’ stories and the stories happening right now as a very real, living thing that our kids have the ability to change. They deserve that knowledge. They deserve that power.

Do you agree the issue, despite its volatility, ought to be addressed in classrooms? If so, how?

Reader Comments 0

82 comments
bicami
bicami

 Do you have a pay~pal account.. because if you do you can add an extra 1700 /week in your check working on the internet for a few hours every week. go here★═════════════★☆★www.decksky.com


JK1951
JK1951

It should be made plain to the students that the white supremacists scoured the whole country for attendees with some even coming from Canada and only managed around 250 supporters. Out of a nation of 327 million that ain't many. You could find more nuts that think they're vampires.

Jennifer
Jennifer

As a social studies teacher, I find it incredibly important to have these discussions in class. I do agree that standards leave us hamstrung in the classroom, but brief discussions about current controversial topics can still be squeezed in.

Christie Ware Bryan
Christie Ware Bryan

I teach Georgia Studies and take time each Friday to discuss a local, state, or national current event. I choose a song that will "introduce" the discussion. We talked about Charlottesville yesterday and how we should respect and love everyone.

Starik
Starik

The old Decatur courthouse is a historical museum. Leave that one. 

cameo1
cameo1

The mistake we make is not teaching our children the entire history.  Yes, the civil war was fought, and yes there was slavery.  We should encourage our children to learn about history with open minds.  Many people have the wrong idea about the war.  Slavery is wrong, but children should be taught that during that time, many people accepted this fact without looking into it fully.  Now we should teach our children that the war is over.  We should respect all people no matter what color their skin is or ethnicity.  All blood is red.  We all have the same basic needs.  I think is is foolish to erase all of history.  If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  The issue is education, and parents should teach their children respect, and compassion for all authority. Teachers should be objective in their instruction.  Tearing down statues and changing names of streets will not change minds.  Let us work on building bridges of understanding and love, forgiveness and respect for all.  There are  no superior races.  We all need each other.  The same goes for immigrants.  They have contributed to this country, and should be allowed to have proper paperwork and stay especially if they have not disrespected the laws of this country.  God bless this country.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@cameo1 

I agree with your sentiments except for the fact that I believe these monuments - which do not simply present history but glorify the unjust cause of white supremacy - should be removed because the world is evolving continuously into higher consciousness, as I see it.  Now in this 21st century, we must remove visual glorification of the unjust cause of the Civil War and slavery and a Jim Crow social system based on inequality of human beings.  Teaching is one thing; glorification is another.  We are now preparing our children and grandchildren to enter the 22nd century's human consciousness in which America will have evolved to pointing the way to the world that people of all races and cultures can view each other as equals and work together to bring peace, love, and even survival to this planet.  Please see my next post which will share the words of the editorial written in the Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Journal on July 4, 1966, which embrace some of the thoughts that I have here shared.  Publisher and editor Ralph McGill was still working at the Atlanta Constitution that time.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@cameo1 

Words closing the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution editorial on July 4, 1966:

“The American mind, on this Independence Day, is being made up.  Undertaken at last is the great, neglected task of proving ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable right, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

Each coming day now yields to each American the privilege of carrying that task forward to a final vindication of the ideal for which the Revolution was fought.

Jefferson could not call a stop to the ‘execrable commerce’ (slavery) in his day.  But the American people whose wisdom he trusted may now honor his faith in theirs.”

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @cameo1  The monuments were in addition of the commemoration of the Confederate soldiers, were erected as a symbol of the end of Reconstruction and the establishment of Jim Crow laws and chain gangs to stay as close as possible to slavery. That said, they're monuments to a period of history that needs to be remembered... in appropriate settings. Battlefields, cemeteries, and museums are appropriate places. 

quickdigits
quickdigits

86% of Americans want the Civil War monuments to remain.......the majority who want them Gone live in the northeastern states. The remainder of that minority who want them gone are commenting on this article right now...?

Starik
Starik

@quickdigits  I wonder how many folks consider the statues a non-issue, not worth arguing about. 

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

Maureen the topic is so raw right now....I think that the safest questions to ask are......for what reason are we being so divided ?....Why is it that these symbols invoke such different  emotions ?


Glad I am not in the classroom today.....too many folks involved to allow teachable moments.

Chris Knowles
Chris Knowles

Discussing it fairly, with no liberal bias, sure. Given the revisionist history that is taught it would be good for kids to understand what real struggle was. Also good constitutional lesson on free speech and why, although repulsive, people like that need to maintain the right. However violent protest or counter protest in any form is not okay regardless of the public perception of either side.

David K Wilson
David K Wilson

Depends on the class..  but for the most part schools have no business indoctrinating students in any ideology or political agenda.  If the class is about history there may be good reasons to discuss the topic. 


dahreese
dahreese

"Children of color look up at this monument daily, seeing a symbol of an ideology that stripped their rights as citizens and dignity as humans."

Only if you let it, and only if you teach that view to all children. It is as big a deal as the KKK burning a cross; who cares? Whatever that stands for is only fear if you let it be fear. The confederate statues are no different.


What we need to offset the confederate statues is more statues of great African-Americans or great Americans WHATEVER their backgrounds; doctors, scientist, astronauts, inventors...more "works of art." 


There is not a single race that has not contributed to the greatness of this country.


A lot of this "I'm defending my heritage" or 'clinging to the past of slavery days' and some of the behavior of both the right and the left is just so much misinformed, ignorant hooey.

 

class80olddog
class80olddog

So someone set me straight - if the Southern states try to leave the Union, the US fights a major war to bring them "back into the fold".  Then the Ukraine leaves Russia and they try to take it back, and we say What?

Wings9
Wings9

@class80olddog I believe when the Soviet Union dissolved ,Russia and the Ukraine became separate  as did Latvia, Georgia  and other former Soviet controlled territories.  Now 30 years later they are trying to take it back.  From the beginning of Lincoln's administration in March 1861 he denied the deep south's belief they had the right to leave the Union.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Starik @DrProudBlackMan  Ahh yes, Bull Connor, George Wallace, SIBLEY COMMISSION, Lester 'ax handle' Maddox and Eyes on the Prize , provides plenty of primary sources.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

They should definitely discuss it in schools. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Yes, appropriate teachers (relative to individual disciplines) should be engaging students in debate concerning both sides of this issue. Here is one position offered for reasoning on one side of that debate, with a special thank you to Georgia's state Senator Stacey Abrams for holding firm to the point of view that I am expressing below:

I had thought that the images of the Southern leaders during the Civil War should remain engraved into Stone Mountain. My reason was, primarily, that blasting their images from Stone Mountain might create more racial hatred than now exists.

However, I have reconsidered, and I now support removing those images from the mountain's side, through blasting, in order to keep Stone Mountain politically free from worldly hatred and anger and in order to restore it to its natural, pristine beauty. One, sometimes, has to excise some cancers in order to cure the body politic from its own destruction. Georgia, and the South, need to move on.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings  Interesting NYTimes article; the gist is that race relations were in good shape (70% positive) regardless of the state of the economy.  That figure dropped to 47% in 2015... with Ferguson and the BLM demonstrations. Trump owes a lot to Black Lives Matters. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings


That is because many in the white race continue to perceive a black organization such as BLM as a threat to themselves, and therefore as a "racist" group, NOT because BLM actually is a "racist" group.  It is not that.  Your percentage drop simply indicates that the cancer of racial prejudice has not been cut out of white American consciousness, and remains dormant, though alive, but the white racism does not raise its ugly head until black people form groups to demonstrate that they still are not accepted as genuinely equal to the white race, even today. 


There is no moral equivalency whatsoever between the Nazi-type white supremacists and BLM.  BLM simply want human beings to see black people as truly equal to all other human beings, but the white supremacists want to see themselves as superior to people of color.  Huge difference spiritually in the perceptions of these two groups. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings


P.S.  Here is an entry I posted on my personal blog on November 23, 2010, which describes how I have viewed the various demarcations between various human beings (race, religion, gender and sexual identification, nationality, etc.), since I was a preteen, 60+ years ago.  I have never veered from this innate consciousness, into which I believe I was born, as a part of my DNA: namely, that "We are all One."


https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/essential-premise-in-finding-ones-true-spirit/

class80olddog
class80olddog

So what if the Japanese-Americans want all the monuments removed to the people who fought in WWII, on the basis that we were morally wrong to drop two nuclear bombs on Japan? 

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@class80olddog  What if Italian-Americans or German-Americans want all the monuments removed of the people who fought in WWII?

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@class80olddog Were Japanese ever slaves in America and subjected to over 100 years of Jim Crow? Where are the monuments to the slaves? Your false analogy is deplorable and telling about your mindset.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Starik @DrProudBlackMan @class80olddog  You're pretty quick with your ad hominem attack. White people are perfectly welcome to move into my neighborhood. Attend my church. And school. You seemed to have missed the history lesson of 'white flight' when you were in school. If it was taught at all. You trying to equate me with white separatists is nothing more then projection.

quickdigits
quickdigits

@DrProudBlackMan @Starik @class80olddog if I moved into your neighborhood,  i would be hated, despised, ridiculed, singled out, robbed and maybe murdered. But if you moved into my neighborhood, you would be welcomed with open arms. And you think there is No such thing as black people who hate white people?

class80olddog
class80olddog

I don't know if the History curriculum was slanted when I went to school or I was just such a poor History student at that time, but I have learned a LOT more about the Civil War in the past few years than I learned then.  I remember being taught that the Civil War was solely about slavery, that the North declared war on the South to eliminate slavery.  I had never heard of the Tariff of Abominations and South Carolina's threat to secede over something that had nothing to do with slavery.  I had never heard Lincoln's quote that if he could preserve the Union and keep slavery intact, he would.  I never knew that the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to slaves in the Southern States.  What if the Southern states had not seceded?  What would have happened with slavery then?  Would the North still have gone to war with the South?  England finally got rid of slavery without a war, but they also paid the slave owners compensation for their freed slaves.  And their slaves were still required to work for six years for their owners.  All that I missed in History classes when I was young.

Wings9
Wings9

@class80olddog You should have been taught most of those in US history.  Maybe not the details about the British and slavery.

dahreese
dahreese

@class80olddog I recall a test question on an American history test in the 7th grade; "Why did the pioneers fight the Indians for the land?"


The 'correct' answer was, "Because the Indians refused to share it."

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog @Wings9  That depends on how old you are. My American History teacher was an old lady who was a former leader in the United Daughters of the Confederacy. I learned a lot about the Lost Cause. 

altAJC2
altAJC2

A major part of the problem, alas, are half-truths in newspaper columns and the one-sided agenda they typically strive to promote.

Wings9
Wings9

@altAJC2 The problem is the reader in many cases has no idea that columns are opinion with enough facts sprinkled in to woo the reader to the writers's point of view.  Same with shows on talk radio, MSNBC, Fox, etc..

bu22
bu22

@Wings9 @altAJC2  More and more journalists are turning news articles into editorial articles without noting that.  Some teachers are that way as well.  Some textbooks are that way, particularly in history.

Wings9
Wings9

@bu22 @Wings9 @altAJC2 Depending on the news outlet , that 's a possibility.  Also true with some teachers, both conservative and liberal.  Textbooks now are written to try to not offend anyone, which is hard to do.They have a hard enough time getting all the facts right.  Also the bias my be in the eyes of the reader, viewer... People don't like to hear that their party messed up.  Thus now we have "validative journalism"  You can watch listen or read just what you want to be true.  And there it is right before your eyes.

My position is right! I just saw it on MSNBC or Fox depending on your personal opinion or ideology.