The story of the fourth grade Norfolk teacher who used a mock slave auction in demonstrating the Civil War has spread like wildfire. It seems nearly everyone is outraged about it. But a question remains: just how do you teach about slavery, the Civil War and race?
In an editorial today, The Virginian-Pilot discusses the difficulty of the topic:
The legacy of slavery is with us always in America. It is the durable bequest of the Founders, who, for all their idealism, managed to institutionalize one of history’s great inhumanities.
The historical freight of that injustice doesn’t disappear because people want it to, or because time passes. Slavery is as integral to American identity as the Revolution, as Manifest Destiny, as the world wars.
But the board whiffs when coming up with a solution on how to teach it, only saying that the way the teacher did it was wrong.
I’ll admit it: I have no solution. I know that the lesson needs to be taught. I just don’t know how you do it. My niece, who teaches first grade, told me about how her kids didn’t realize there were different races until she pointed it out to them. Part of me wants to live in a utopian society where judgements are not made based on the way people look, so I cringe at the thought of pointing out the racial differences.
At the same time, it is the legacy of slavery that most black people deal with on a regular basis. So it is important that we teach that history – to understand the context in which the U.S. operates today.
The “how” is the hard part.
So, dear reader, how do you suggest we teach slavery?