Archive for the ‘civil war’ Category

Carona: Reject the Plate, Read a Book

October 7, 2011

The controversy over the proposed Texas Confederate license plate we told you about earlier this year is back in the news. And one Republican state legislator has penned an open letter to Gov. Rick Perry, asking him to quash the controversy.

The letter by state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, reminds us what the Confederate flag represents — as if we needed reminding, but apparently some people do — and offers a solution to the controversy: You want to study the historical significance of the flag? Fine, pick up a book.

We felt Sen. Carona’s letter is simple, yet so reasonable, that it should be shared with our readers. Here it is:

A Message to the Governor

As a friend of Governor Perry, fellow conservative, and former Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, I offer our Governor the following advice: Soundly reject the proposal before the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to approve a new license plate depicting the Confederate flag.

Those who are advancing such a plan do not reflect the sentiments of most Texans.

No one wishes to deny our history as a state. But we as leaders should take every opportunity to support that which unites our citizenry. Reminding those among us of their painful past has no place in celebrating our great state.

License plates are designed to promote tourism and commerce, to create positive identity and awareness, and to showcase those riches that make our state unique. The Confederate flag, long recognized in our generation as a symbol of slavery, racism, and defeat, accomplishes none of those purposes. Those wishing to study the historical significance of this flag and our Confederate past should instead turn to a book.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles license board will have the final say on the plate, perhaps as soon as November.


Honk if You Love the Confederacy

June 29, 2011

Texas may be getting ready to honor the red, white and blue flag. No, not that one. No, not that one either.

The Houston Chronicle reports the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles license board is one vote shy of giving its blessing to a state license plate adorned with the Confederate flag.

Texas is often referred to as a Petri dish for bad ideas (see State Board of Education) but this time, while we’re no less embarrassed — we’re actually a little bit late to the party. Texas would be the tenth, and by far the biggest state to slap a symbol of slave ownership on a license plate (or a symbol of “states’ rights,” if you want to accept the arguments of some SBOE members and others who downplay the role of slavery in causing the Civil War).

The license board took a vote on the plate earlier this month, but the result was a tie. The potential tie-breaking vote will come from the person appointed to fill a vacancy created on the board when one of its members died. Guess who gets to make the appointment? C’mon, guess. Yep, Gov. Rick Perry, who has flirted with secessionists.

The Chronicle mentions the appointment will likely happen in the fall. We’ll find out then if Texas once again joins the Confederacy.

Did Slavery Cause the Civil War?

April 2, 2011

Who would even ask such a ridiculous question in the 21st century? Apparently lots of people. From a recent story in the Washington Post entitled “Five myths about why the South seceded”:

One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it — or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes?

Now why on earth would people believe that “states’ rights” was a more significant causal factor than slavery? Um, maybe because they went to school in Texas. According to the new social studies standards adopted by the State Board of Education last year, Texas 8th graders will be expected to:

explain the issues surrounding causes of the Civil War, including sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery…

And lest you think that the order of this list is not intended to connote importance, this was was actually an amendment made by politicians on the board to the original draft standards prepared by teachers and scholars. Conservatives on the SBOE proactively voted to insert this phrase during the May 20, 2010 meeting, and the discussion before the vote made perfectly clear that they believed sectionalism and states’ rights superseded slavery in terms of importance. In other words, the order of this list is no accident.


Coming Soon to Texas Classrooms?

July 1, 2010

We continue to marvel at the nostalgia some — such as certain members of the Texas State Board of Education — seem to have for the Confederacy of the American Civil War. This is 2010, after all. Isn’t it about time to let go of the misguided notion of the  “Lost Cause”? This nostalgia, after all, is the product of a political perspective that sees southern history in some glorified way that grossly distorts reality.

For example, in new social studies curriculum standards adopted in May, the Texas state board deliberately downplayed the central role that slavery played in causing the Civil War. The new standards also require students to study the ideas in Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address. That address is full of excuses for southern secession but includes not one word about slavery despite the abundance of historical evidence showing that the bitter divide over slavery led to secession and war. State board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, even won approval for a standard requiring that Texas history students learn about the state’s Confederate war heroes and Civil War battles.

Now we see the conservative magazine Human Events is promoting what it bills as a “myth-busting” book — The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. According to the magazine, the book offers “a rousing guide to the great war that shaped America — and to the spirit of the Old South that we need so much today.”


The Whole Truth about the Confederacy

June 7, 2010

One of the more interesting — if not enlightening — debates about social studies curriculum standards at the May State Board of Education meeting in Austin focused on the avowed importance of including a study of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address alongside the first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address of Abraham Lincoln. Eventually the board’s far-right faction succeeded in adding the Davis address.

We count on Texas classroom teachers to provide their students with a candid and complete insight into the basic beliefs of the leaders of the Confederacy. With slavery downgraded by the board from its status as the primary cause of the Civil War (with slavery now listed behind sectionalism and states’ rights elsewhere in the new standards), this insight is particularly important. Davis’ inaugural address, after all, doesn’t even mention the word “slavery.” Excerpts from several other documents, however, go a long way in telling the real story.


Barbara Cargill Is Whitewashing History

April 11, 2010

Let’s revisit the success of Texas State Board of Education member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, in requiring social studies students to analyze Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address. The Texas Education Agency has posted the revised American history curriculum standards (as of the January changes) here. The relevant standard for eighth-grade American history reads:

“(A)nalyze the ideas contained in Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address and Abraham Lincoln’s ideas about liberty, equality, union, and government as contained in his first and second inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address.”

The implication here is that Davis and Lincoln had competing ideas about “liberty, equality, union, and government.” Such competing ideas should be obvious: Davis was defending the Confederacy’s right to secede so that it could maintain the evil institution of slavery. Lincoln, who opposed slavery, was trying to maintain the Union. But that’s not what Cargill and other far-right board members really have in mind.


Does the SBOE Think Treason Is Patriotic?

April 8, 2010

The Texas State Board of Education‘s approval in January of a requirement that students study the ideas in the inaugural address of Confederate President Jefferson Davis hasn’t received a lot of attention. Far-right board member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, proposed that addition to the eighth-grade American history curriculum standards.

In states that once made up the Confederacy, nostalgia for the Old South is hardly new. To many on the right, the Confederacy offers a heroic stand against the “tyranny” of Washington (never mind that slavery was the key issue at the time of the Civil War). Segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s, for example, waved the Rebel flag in defiance of federal court rulings and Congressional acts protecting civil rights. Today some elected officials — including Texas Gov. Rick Perry — pander to wild-eyed, anti-government extremists and flirt with secessionist, “states’ rights” and “nullification” rhetoric common in the years leading up to the Civil War.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that far-right members of the State Board of Education want Texas students to study the ideas of Davis, the Confederacy’s only president. But let’s look at some of Davis’ ideas students will be considering, thanks to Ms. Cargill and her board colleagues. (Quoted passages below come from Davis’ inaugural address.)

Treason is patriotic.

“Doubly justified by the absence of wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others, there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any measure of defense which their honor and security may require.”