A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How do we remember ...?

I've been thinking a lot about how we remember history in America in the 21st Century. I'm sure it has partly to do with Memorial Day and partly because my brother and I were born into a career military family on Memorial Day and partly because the first book I chose to read for the Presidential Academy is Dr. Gallagher's Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War. I'm almost done with the book and I would recommend it to anyone who is curious how popular culture affects the lens by which we look at history. His argument is that there are four lenses by which we look at the Civil War in our media:

  • Lost Cause lens--the South as noble victim of an 'experiment in nation building'. The war wasn't about slavery or unification but cast Lee as a latter-day Washington fighting an un-winnable war.
  • Union Cause lens--the war was about keeping the union together. Slavery might be a secondary issue but the main point of the war is to honor the Founders and their vision of America and ensure a Union for future generations.
  • Emancipation Cause lens--the war's focus was the liberation of millions of slaves and cleanse the 'cancerous influence' slavery had on the United States. 
  • Reconciliation Cause lens-The war was an evidence of our 'American-ness'-both North and South. It is almost exclusively a 'white' focus and celebrated the noble and valiant white leaders on both sides. 

Dr. Gallagher then looks at a number of films, from Birth of A Nation and Gone With the Wind to Gettysburg and Cold Mountain and CSA: Confederate State of America. e also looks at popular art in the 21st Century as well with the same focus.
I have to say I've been wrestling with this book and my role as a history teacher. I have a huge movie poster of Gettysburg on my door. I've used clips of Glory and Gods and General and and several of the images in my instruction. I have to admit, I spend a lot of time asking kids to look at the paintings and writing from the Founding Era to determine what the artist or writer wanted us to see and take away from their work. I don't think I've done due diligence for the Civil War. I'm not sure how this'll all play out but it is part of what I like about these summer programs and the flexibility that summer brings. It is difficult to do this kind of reflection during the school year but an important part of what a teacher does.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. It is one of the 'must-stop at' sites for me in DC. I go there every trip I make to the city. If I'm there, I'll be the doughy bald guy openly weeping. Get over it.

This flag was left at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial last summer. You can't go there an not be moved. I was and I wanted to remember that moment.

A lot of people on tours skip the Korean War Memorial when they tour the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials. That is their loss. I think it is one of the most well-conceived of the monuments. The confusion and fear of war is palpable. 

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