Teaching history in North Carolina

The North Carolina Board of Education is discussing how to teach U.S. and North Carolina history in public schools and some Republican members of the Board are saying proposed changes are “anti American” and wrongly teaching students that the U.S. is “racist” and “anti capitalist.”

Lorda mercy.

Why don’t we elevate and teach some of the stories that I did not learn in 4th and 8th grade units in North Carolina history, and in two units of U.S. history in high school. Get the kids talking about why (1) this did not used to be taught; (2) why we are doing it now; and (3) let them discuss what they think this means for the World we are leaving them.

Several topical suggestions that can provide students with a sense of discovery and get them talking about Race, based on engaging some of our history that has been avoided.

  1. Ask Students to read and then rewrite Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution in modern language. What was being said here? Is that section still in force?
  2. In 1871, Governor William Holden of North Carolina became the first Governor in U.S. history impeached and removed from office. Why was he removed?
  3. In 1898 the local government in Wilmington, N.C. was deposed and run out of town and a bunch of folks got murdered. I never heard of this event until I was 30, even though I grew up in Goldsboro, about 75 miles from Wilmington. Why did this event take place? Why did I not learn of this until I was 30?
  4. Today in the U.S. Capitol building, the two statues representing N.C. are Governors Zebulon Vance and Charles B. Aycock (from Goldsboro!). They have been there since the 1920s (Aycock is being replaced by the Rev. Billy Graham later this year). Why were they the two N.C. statues for nearly a Century? In 2011, the North Carolina Democratic Party changed the name of their annual fundraiser away from the Vance-Aycock dinner, so named in 1960. Why did the Democratic Party add and then remove their names when they did?
  5. There has been lots of discussion of removing Confederate monuments and memorials. Let’s talk about when they were put up and where. In the first wave from the 1860s-1880s they were mostly in military cemeteries (purple bars), while in the twentieth Century they were mostly put up in public places like town squares and college campuses (orange bars). Why the change? [the below is one slide in this link on the “Silent Sam” monument that used to be on the UNC Chapel Hill campus].

I promise the students will do a better job talking about what this history means for our World today and their World tomorrow, than their parents or grand parents will.

Confederate monuments in North Carolina, by year of erection. Purple is in cemetery, Orange is in public place like a town square, or a campus.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University https://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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