ERIC Number: EJ1225334
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019
Close Enough to Touch: The Civil War in Living Memory
Graham, M. R.; Burlbaw, Lynn M.
American Educational History Journal, v46 n1 p91-105 2019
The Civil War was concluded over 150 years ago but recently, monuments erected to commemorate the Civil War and its participants have been the site of civil unrest (e.g., Charlottesville, VA in 2018) and calls for removal of such monuments. The Confederate monuments debate has been going strong for decades, and it seems to have been picking up steam in recent years. In 2015, the student government of the University of Texas at Austin voted almost unanimously to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis, erected after World War I, from the campus's South Mall (Brandeis 2015). It was relocated to an educational exhibit at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History ("Jefferson Davis statue" 2015). San Antonio removed a Confederate monument from Travis Park in the same month, and has had to respond to a lawsuit from the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Conger 2018). In 2019, the Texas State Preservation Board removed the "Children of the Confederacy Plaque" from the Texas Capitol. The plaque, installed in 1959, "claimed slavery was not the underlying cause of the Civil War" (McGaughy 2019). Thus, even 150 years after an event, passions run high. Other evidence of the shifting perception is not as physical, thus not as evident. In the State of Texas, the Civil War is introduced in the curriculum in the fourth grade with a very brief mention in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS): "(4) History. The student understands the political, economic, and social changes in Texas during the last half of the 19th century. The student is expected to: (A) describe the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on Texas." In the fifth grade, students are asked to "(E) identify the causes of the Civil War, including sectionalism, states' rights, and slavery, and the effects of the Civil War, including Reconstruction and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution" (TEA 2010). However, those standards will be changing in 2019, as the Texas State Board of Education has approved an update to the TEKS that will promote slavery from the last of three named causes to the "central" cause. It is a subtle change on paper, simply the rearrangement of a list, but the connotative implication of placing slavery first dramatically alters the interpretation of the secessionists' motivations. The "Texas School Journal" was published from 1883 to 1929 as a medium for articles, editorials, state news, and school news for Texas public schools (Etienne-Gray 2010). Prior to their discontinuance in 1915, teachers used the "Journal" as a source to be consulted in preparing for the certification exam. The purpose of this examination was to determine the number and types of questions asked on the certification exams which were related to the American Civil War. In 6 of the extant volumes of the "Texas School Journal" volumes, 16, 17, 21-25 (March 1898-June 1908), the authors found 240 history exam questions (each exam had 10 questions and 4 examinations were given a year). The authors identified thirty exam questions with connections to the Civil War. They also found seventeen sample answers, as well as longer essays, editorials, and news articles. Their goal was not to determine if knowledge of the Civil War was a major portion of the exams but to understand how the Civil War was portrayed in the exams.
Descriptors: History Instruction, United States History, War, Controversial Issues (Course Content), Student Educational Objectives, Tests, State History, Test Items, Test Content
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Texas
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills