I recently saw a piece on CBS Sunday Morning about a teacher in North Carolina, Eric Marshall, who for the past 15 years has held a Civil War Camp at the school he teaches at. After watching this, I realized that THIS is what history is about.
I have been in contact with Mr Marshall and should note that this project is not a one-man show. He has a LOT of volunteers, support from his school, local history groups and those willing to help fund the project.
In my emails with him, he said something that I believe is spot on – “The Civil War needs to be examined more closely, in my opinion and we are all losing much to cover it lightly.” How right he is. The Civil War is a hard subject to cover and when done properly and historically, forces the student to look at the government, the citizens and the laws that bind them with serious concern both then and now. It’s a hard thing to do, and unfortunately, as Marshall pointed out to me, “most people just want the war packaged neatly and almost forgotten.” It’s easier, convenient and fits into the modern, politically correct viewpoint. It is sanitized and doesn’t require any hard looks at our past. We don’t learn anything other than an event took place.
There is no excitement from the educators. They are regurgitating prepackaged, dull history and the kids could care less. Eric Marshall is shifting the paradigm. Younger kids WANT to be in his class. Older kids remember his classes and what was taught. Not just because of the camp, but because of his belief in the kids and that they need to understand and get intimate with their historical roots.
When you watch the video, there is a section where one of the participants, a little girl named Kloe Tucker, who after a mock battle of Gettysburg (where students are picked to lay down as the fallen soldiers) looks back at her classmates laying on the ground, and with a reflective look says, “It hit me. If it was real, I’d see my best friend fall on the ground and not get back up.”
The CBS piece goes on to state that “Most history teachers work a lifetime hoping for a fraction of that connection.” We should ALL strive for that type of connection. That little girl is not only going to understand the Civil War, she is going to understand the sacrifice that soldiers make, then and now, the importance of this crossroads in the life of America and maybe ways to not repeat it in the future, and what real patriotism is.
After viewing the CBS piece and another piece at Our State North Carolina, I have realized how important teaching our kids about the Civil War and getting them involved in history, is one of the main reasons I am involved in the SUVCW, Kansas Civil War Society, and other Civil War historical organizations.
Many believe that history is just that – history. It belongs in the past and that is it. I disagree. The past is where we learn who and what we are and where we get lessons i n life that we should take stock of and not forget, lest they are repeated.
Links to the two pieces I mentioned are below: