Saturday, June 27, 2015

Now’s a good time to talk Confederate flag in the classroom

Yes, I know that’s not the official flag of the old Confederacy.  Yes, I know that’s the Confederate battle flag. 

Also, shut up.  You know what we’re talking about here. 

The tragedy in Charleston has brought about a conversation about a controversial item that never really stopped being a controversial item in schools.  Now that Amazon, Sears, Wal-Mart, and eBay have removed Confederate flag items from their stores, and the National Park Service has eliminated sales of items that don’t have historical relevance, I guess the issue of Confederate flags in the classroom should probably be discussed.

While not prominent I’m fairly sure there is a small Confederate flag on some Civil War stuff I have in my classroom.  I’m not a big fan of the Confederate flag.  I don’t see slavery in the symbolism of the flag.  I see disunion and secession.  I see the attempt of a group of people to refuse to progress as a society and were so head-strong to stay in the Dark Ages that they were willing to destroy a new nation.  In the end it’s a symbol of backwardsness.

However I’m also not a big fan of people deciding what is and is not offensive, and then banning those things because they are controversial.  A few years ago controversy sprang up at our school because some people had Confederate flags on their shirts, emblems on their jackets, or stickers on their binders.  Some teachers wanted the items banned because some students found the image offensive.  I was not one of those teachers.  In fact I was one of those teachers who said that, according to the courts, the image did not have a history of causing violence at our school so it was constitutionally questionable to ban it. 

So what happens when a Confederate flag is seen in the classroom?  Most of the time, nothing.  Giving a symbolic item power usually comes from people getting hysterical (justified or not), thus creating a condition that focuses on the item, not the issue.  In all likelihood the Confederate flag will come up early in the year because it’s been on the news.  We’ll discuss what it means, the history behind it, and the constitutional issues around the flag.  In the end the image of the Confederate flag will remain regardless of its offensive nature.  Why?

1.  It’s constitutionally protected under the 1st Amendment. 

2.  Banning “offensive” items, especially those of a political nature, is a really slippery slope.

And we are teaching young adults here.  We are teaching them to think, debate, collaborate, reason, and act in a way that creates a benefit to society.  Debating controversial things is a benefit to society. Enforcing political and social agendas on teenagers because you have a moral superiority complex is not.  I detest the Confederate flag.  That’s not point.  What it represented, what it represents now, and how it will be represented in the future in the minds of these young people. 

That’s the point. 

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