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What Do They Teach About The Civil War In Schools Today?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by unionblue, May 7, 2011.

  1. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    To All,

    I know that all of us, at one time or another, express concern about what and how history is taught in our public schools nowdays.

    Well, just recently, I was contacted by my grandson's 8th grade teacher who asked if I would be interested in giving a Civil War presentation to her students, to supplement her own history program on the war.

    I agreed and asked her what I could present to support her program. She sent me the following list of "learning targets" that she would be teaching the 8th graders during this unit of instruction. They are:

    -Deep look into the life of Abe Lincoln - personal life, political life, war hero.
    -Strengths and weaknesses of the Union and the Confederacy.
    -Deep look into the life of Jefferson Davis & analyzing the Confederate Constitution.
    -Analyzing war songs of the North and South.
    -The Battle of Bull Run.
    -The South's plan to defeat the North.
    -The North's plan to defeat the South.
    -The Emancipation Proclamation/Antietam - Motives and timing, and the lasting impact.
    -The life of a soldier.
    -African American contributions.
    -War hospitals.
    -Problems each side faced at home.
    -The fall of Vicksburg and the Union victory at Gettysburg.
    -The Gettysburg Address.
    -Lincoln's reelection and the end of the civil war.

    Frankly, I was QUITE amazed at all the items and subjects this teacher is going to cover (or attempt to cover) during this "unit."

    I don't know about your own past experience in history class during your time in school, but I know for a fact that I had nothing like this during my time in 8th grade, or in all of my time in high school!

    Gives me great hope for the future and a VERY deep appreciation of ALL teachers in our public schools, as I know how hard it is to just teach in today's world.

    Thanks to each and every one of you who do so. Your courage and determination are indeed, truely awesome.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue.

    PS, I will be giving my presentation on Monday, May 9, starting at 8 AM, to five classes of 230 8th graders in the school auditorium. Wish me luck!
     

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  3. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    This is my unit on the war.

    The Deep South, the Border States, the North(map exercise)
    The crisis of Fort Sumter. What motivated Lincoln, what motivated Davis.

    What do you need to fight a war? Strengths and Weaknesses of the North and South.

    The Anaconda Plan(using map)

    Private Life of a Civil War private. Weapons, basic tactics, clothing, food, camp life, discipline, volunteer regiments, communications, disease.

    Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel. Close map of the Virginia theater. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Seven Days, 2nd Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Emphasis on Lee's strategy without a close analysis of each battle.

    Never Forget What They Did Here. Battle of Gettysburg. Only battle I cover in detail.

    Western theatre. Close map of the West. New Orleans, Shiloh to Vicksburg, Chickamagua to Chattanooga. Character of US Grant.

    Homefront. Economic changes and stressers North and South. The War at Sea, Virginia and the Monitor, commerce raiders.

    Overland Campaign. March to the Sea. Appommatox.

    Emancipation. The politics around the Emancipation Proclamation. United States Colored Troops(usually we see Glory). 13th Amendment.

    Important documents: Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural Address.

    Project: Either I assign individual projects for the students, or we do a class project, like the civil war game.
     
  4. max

    max Corporal

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    Unionblue, wish you the best with your presentation. Glad this teacher is going into some detail with the war. The teacher I had back in US History just barely touched on the war with no detail. Not sure if it was the history book at that time or just the preference of the teacher.
     
  5. Bomac

    Bomac Sergeant

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    Unionblue, I have no doubt you'll do an excellent job.

    The teacher made an excellent choice in asking you to make the presentation.

    And all that in just the 8th grade! Nice!
     
  6. Savez

    Savez Sergeant Major

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    I like the idea of analyzing the war songs. That would be interesting. Good chance for a project for the students.
     
  7. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Silver Patron Forum Host

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    In Texas, we have TEKS--Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. This is an overview I pulled up from a school district's list. As I tell my principal, you can relate ANYTHING to the Civil War :smile:

    ° Major eras in U.S. History through 1877 and defining characteristics
    ° Sequencing of significant individuals, events, time periods
    ° 1607, 1776, 1787, 1803, and 1861-1865
    ° Issues of Mexican War
    ° Tariff policies and sectionalism
    ° Political economic, and social factors on slaves and free blacks
    ° Impact of slavery on sections of U.S.
    ° Congressional conflicts and compromises prior to Civil War – John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster
    ° Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln
    ° Significant events of Civil War – Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Emancipation Proclamation, Assassination of Lincoln and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House
    ° Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses and Gettysburg Address
    Geographic distributions and patterns on maps, graphs, and charts
    ° Places and regions of importance in 18th and 19th Century
    ° Compare regions – physical and human characteristics
    ° Effects of physical and human geography on events in U.S. History
    ° Population distribution, settlement patterns and economic activities
    ° Protective tariffs and taxation
    ° Economic differences among regions of the U.S.
    ° Development of plantation system, slave trade and spread of slavery
    ° Contributions of various racial, ethnic and religious groups
    ° Political, social and economic contributions of women
    ° Historical development of abolitionist movement
    ° Reform movements – public education, temperance, and women’s rights
    ° Steamboat, Cotton Gin
    ° Transportation systems and growth, development and urbanization
    ° 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments
    ° States’ rights – Nullification Crisis and Civil War
    ° Supreme Court cases – Dred Scott v. Sanford
    Free speech and free press
    ° Frederick Douglass James Monroe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    ° Primary and secondary sources
    ° Sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause and effect, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing,making generalizations, drawing inferences and conclusions
    ° Interpreting graphs, charts, timelines and maps

    I usually throw in Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville just because the Civil War Trust animated maps are so good and those are interesting for the kids. We don't spend as much time and detail, of course. Like Matthew, I try to teach them through primary sources or (this year) someone who does living history--especially about the life of a soldier and what he wore, ate, etc. I also keep my one bulletin board up most of the year with major events, etc. (especially thanks to Blessmag, who provided me with lots of materials).
     
  8. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    matthew and Nathanb1,

    All I can say is, Wow!

    Thanks for sharing your Civil War units. It is a real eye-opener for me.

    Only wish I had this when I was in school.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  9. Tar Heel Blue

    Tar Heel Blue Private

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    I'm jealous, UnionBlue. I would love to have the opportunity to be considered to help educate young students about the Civil War.

    Like yourself, I had nothing anywhere close to what it seems like your grandson and his 8th grade class is getting. I'm sure you will do a fantastic job.

    Let us know how it goes and, if it's possible, set up a camera and record the presentations and share.
     
  10. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Tar Heel Blue,

    I have to admit, I'm sweating bullets on this one! :smile:

    I used to give these presentations all the time a few years ago, before I had some serious health issues. My basic presentation is the life of a Union soldier from Ohio. I talk about the soldiers equipment, clothing. food, personal items, weapons, etc., and stay away from the political side of things. I dress up as a Union private, pass out some items for the kids to keep and take with them. Things like currency, enlistment forms, loyalty oaths, letterheads, telegraph forms, and other items. I set up a display of weapons, letters, period newspapers, leg irons, manacles, tin plates and cups, Union greenbacks and fractional currency, knapsack, a chuck-o'-luck game and playing cards, I pass out samples of hardtack and raw peanuts, show them uncooked saltpork and unrefined cane sugar. Lots of other stuff I won't bore you with now.

    I try to involve the kids as much as possible, asking them to come forward and help me display or show some of the items I display.

    I was a military instructor for years, teaching other soldiers how to give classes of instruction and how to write and present their lesson plans, so I am not totally unprepared. But teaching soldiers and teaching 8th graders is a world of difference. My hat is off to EVERY teacher in the schools of our kids. Its no easy job, and that's a fact!

    I've researched and rehearsed over and over again, but the butterflys are still there, even after all this time.

    Wish you were here to help with the presentation, Tar Heel Blue, I honestly do.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  11. kansas

    kansas Corporal

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    I would like to see much more made of what the Southern states accomplished before, during, and after the war rather than what they failed to accomplish and what impact this had on the Southern population during and after the war. I would also like to see a great deal more about Southern towns with their government buildings, industry, employment etc. One last thing is a comparison to the Northern states of something more than the number of slaves, railroad miles, and Southern Belles. More focus is needed on what the South had instead of what they did not have.
     
  12. wags6817

    wags6817 Private

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    Unionblue, I'll tell you what I tell my daughter's softball team before a game. "Being nervous means you care!!!"
     
  13. jenkingish

    jenkingish Corporal

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    Unionblue,

    Good luck and enjoy!! It should be much fun and I'm sure the students will enjoy themselves. My son is also in the eighth grade and his class is currently studing the CW. Letting the students touch and feel history is a priceless gift.
     
  14. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Thank you all for your good wishes for my presentation.

    It is sincerely appreciated.

    Unionblue
     
  15. Tar Heel Blue

    Tar Heel Blue Private

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    It sure does sound like you are ready to go. That is a pretty elaborate presentation you have set up. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

    Being nervous is natural, but I'm sure once you get going the nerves will subside. With everything you are going to present, I wish I could sit-in on it, that's for sure. Those students sure are lucky to have someone with your dedication, knowledge and materials to learn from.

    Goodluck, my friend.
     
  16. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    At least, the teacher has the good sense to ask for the help of someone who lives to demonstrate that which she knows nothing of.

    Anyone can read the words of Abe Lincoln or Jefferson Davis. Getting to hold a Minie ball or eat a piece of hard tack is something else. Or learning how to live for a week or so out of the haversack, or march 50 miles with that weight. Priceless! Your shelter-half when the temp is freezing and how mommy isn't there with another blanket.

    We have members who do that. (It's really unfortunate that the kids can't touch an actual rifle.) It is, however, exceptional to have people who can and do presentations. Unionblue and Johan Steele have been doing this for years. Others will have to excuse me for forgetting their names. Those of you who do reenact might consider bringing a true-to-life, half-hour demonstration to the kinders. Your haversack is worth 15 minutes. Your kids know about all that. Someone elses' don't.
     
  17. Groovster

    Groovster Cadet

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    Unionblue, I can understand the butterflies, but I wouldn't worry too much about the kids. Even if there's a few in the class who aren't that interested, your presentation will be a nice break in the normal day-to-day and they'll appreciate that very much! I like Tar Heel Blue's idea, see if you can record it and share with the rest of us. :D
     
  18. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Silver Patron Forum Host

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    WHAT???!!!!??? Oops.

    Some nice person who shall be nameless made me a set of cartridges and ammo for the classroom. No gunpowder involved. First thing they noticed...."That's the one Stonewall Jackson was shot with!" Hehehe.
     
  19. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Don't know about Texas. So many schools will not allow a long-arm in the school. But it is good to see what it was like.
     
  20. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    ole,

    I always ask the school to get permission to bring my Springfield musket to the classroom and I did so this time and received permission to bring it.

    One of my favorite methods is to have the kids come up and try to hold the 9 1/2 pound musket in the correct firing position. Its really neat to see the kids reactions when you take your supporting hand away from the barrel and how they desperately struggle to hold the full weight of the weapon correctly! A real eye-opener for some when you tell them that they would have to carry the thing on 10 to 20 mile marches everyday.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  21. sf46

    sf46 Corporal

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    Wow, if the teacher is going to try to cover all of that, that's great. I've participated in a couple of Civil War living histories at a local 5th grade class, and at a 7th grade class at two different schools. It's a lot of fun to teach the kids and field some of their questions.
     

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