Thursday, November 06, 2008

Good feeling!

I am a history teacher, and we have just finished the reasons for the Civil War and are now on the war itself. In our discussion about the causes, we talk a lot about the different views on slavery in the 1800s. I'm 57 years old, and I had a father who insisted on having Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley as regular dinner guests, so I grew up seeing black people being hosed down or having dogs sicced on them because they had the audacity to want to vote, and governors like George Wallace blocking schoolhouse doors to keep blacks from entering.

I voted for Barack Obama, but I would think that even many who voted for John McCain should get a pretty good feeling when they watch African-Americans across the nation celebrating, Colin Powell choking up with emotion, and Jesse Jackson crying uncontrollably with the joy of seeing the election of our first African-American president. Only a fool would suggest that prejudice no longer exists in our nation, but, "We shall overcome!" has never had so much meaning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be more thrilled with a president of any color whose principles were not antithetical to life, liberty, and morality.

11/06/2008 8:54 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Anonymous, would your first name possibly be Ebeneezer?

11/07/2008 2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather not have a president at all, but anonymous is correct about Obama (the same could be said about McCain). And I hope, Dennis, that you taught your students that Lincoln waged the war not to end slavery, but to keep the southern states under his boot. The Civil War was not a true civil war, but a war fought to prevent southern independence. I would rather have seen the north separate from the union and fight to free the slaves. Read Lysander Spooner's article "To The Non-Slaveholders of The South". That would have been my solution to end slavery. Lincoln wasn't interested in that.

11/07/2008 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who won't read Spooner's "To The Non-Slaveholders of The South", Spooner was advocating for the southerners that didn't own slaves, which were about 70% of the population, to organize raids which would forcibly free the slaves from their oppressors. Unlike many of that era who suggested compensating the slaveholders for their losses when the slaves were set free, Spooner suggested compensating the slaves themselves with the land they had been forced to work.

11/07/2008 6:42 AM  
Blogger mazenko said...


Your comment on just finishing teaching the Civil War reminded me of an old colleague, long since retired.

When I first started teaching, Tom came walking into the faculty lounge, loudly proclaiming "29 and 0!" Because he was a championship baseball coach and a huge sports fan, I assumed he was referring to his record. But I asked anyway.

"29 and 0!" He said again. "I've been teaching American history for twenty-nine years. I've taught World War II twenty-nine times. America has never lost."

29 and 0!

11/07/2008 11:34 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Michael, this is my 35th year of teaching, but I can't remember which year I started teaching American History. I've got about the same amount of wins as Tom, but the problem is that I keep on losing in Vietnam.

Anonymous, I teach that the South had one goal, and that was to maintain their independence. I teach that the Union began with one goal--to reunite the Union by force, but they added a second in the second year of the war with the Emancipation Proclamation: freeing the slaves. I also teach that Lincoln was under great pressure to drop that as a war goal during the election year of 1864, but he refused to do so. Is that good enough for you? I'm not sure whether I want it to be or not. :)

11/07/2008 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bad, Dennis. Not bad at all.

11/07/2008 4:33 PM  
Blogger annkas said...

I teach in a small rural town in southeast Michigan. The kids knew I supported Obama because of my bumper sticker, so I have been honest with them, always stressing that whatever the outcome, on November 5 we always come back together as a nation under one president. On Thursday (Wednesday was county-wide inservice)one of my loudly pro-McCain students said, "I bet you're glad Obama won." I told him that I was, and that I hoped one day he would be able to look back on this moment and be glad that Obama won, too.
I am a math teacher. I don't care what the primary reason for the Civil War was. It did result in the end of slavery. I don't care that Obama is black. He is hardworking, eloquent but straight-talking, and has a record of community service and activism. I believe he can be a hero and role model to our youth, black or white, rich or poor, male or female. As teachers, we know that modeling is the best way to teach the behavior we would like to see in our students. I was an infant when JFK was assassinated, but I have to believe that my feelings about Obama are similar to the optimism inspired by President Kennedy.
I don't understand the motivation for the negative (and frankly cowardly, because they were posted anonymously) comments. Sitting here at my computer on Friday night, after a long, emotional week, I just want to give you a trans-ethernet high-five. Hooray for us and our country!

11/07/2008 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be noted that the Emancipation Proclamation came only after Lincoln realized that he was not going to get continued support for the war without it. Several groups had pleaded with him to issue it earlier, but he refused.

Near the end of Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, he referred to a bill (not by name) that had passed both houses of congress, which he intended to support. This was the Corwin Amendment, which was meant to amend the Constitution to permit slavery to continue without end in the southern states where it still was in practice at the time. So Lincoln was obviously willing to allow slavery to continue if it meant keeping the union intact. I doubt many Americans have been taught about the Corwin Amendment, but they should be.

11/07/2008 4:54 PM  
Anonymous greg mattson said...

Annkas, I don't see the difference between posting as anonymous and using my name. Dennis allows either one. But, just to make you happy, I'll use my name this time.

By the way, I think it's appalling that someone who teaches children for a living would ever say that they don't care what the primary reason was for one of the major events is their country's history, which resulted in the deaths of 600,000 Americans, many of them innocent of any wrongdoing.

11/07/2008 5:21 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Annkas, Geraldine Ferarro got into a great deal of trouble by saying that Obama's race had helped him. I think she was right, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I think there were a lot of people who thought that, considering our history, it would be a wonderful thing if a African-American could be elected President of the United States. I have to admit that I had those feelings myself. Assuming that this person would have to demonstrate that he or she was qualified, I can't see what's wrong with that.

I think Barack Obama might have the potential to be a great president. Bill Clinton really couldn't have been a "great" president (even if he had more self control) because he took over in relatively tranquil times. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are considered great presidents because they took over in times of crisis and they handled their situations well. I'm not sure how bad our economic situation is going to get, but I'm afraid it could get very bad. Add that to the situations with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia, and combine that with Obama's ability to inspire people, and I think you've got an equation that could make for greatness. Whether or not he is able to achieve that is an open question, but I think the potential is there. Obama ran an incredible campaign and he was a fantastic candidate. Even the
conservative Bill Bennett acknowledges that. I just hope he can be half as good a president.

11/07/2008 5:38 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

By the way, Annkas, thanks for the high five!!

11/07/2008 5:40 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

I'm very worried that Barack Obama, with a Democrat majority Congress, is going to pass legislation on a national level regulating homeschoolers. Already on his website he has outlined plans for universal preschool courtesy of the taxpayer. Yikes.

Can we say we've come far enough that someone can say they don't like this man's ideals no matter what his colour? Please?

God bless you, Dennis. I'm glad you are back blogging again. :]

11/08/2008 4:57 AM  
Anonymous greg said...

Dennis, I will say that even though I wish nobody had been elected president, since someone was, I'm glad it was Obama instead of McCain. And I'll admit that on the evening of November 4th, I sat in front of my television set rooting for Obama to beat McCain, and that this was solely because of the color of Obama's skin, not because I think he would govern any better or worse than McCain would have. And I am white.

I don't want a president, but if we have to have one I'm glad that Americans were willing to elect a black person to that office. That in itself does mean a lot.

11/08/2008 8:04 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Dennis, if you don't teach that the reason the south wanted to be independent was to maintain slavery, then you are doing your students a disservice.

11/08/2008 1:54 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Michael: Oh ye of little faith! I told Anonymous what I teach as the goals of the two sides in the war. Maintaining its indpependence as a nation was THE goal of the South. In fact, I read in one source that when the South became desperate at the end of the war, they offered to give up slavery in return for help from Great Britain. Not to worry, though. In the unit before our actual Civil War unit, we study the causes of the war--economic differences, the states' rights vs. Union argument, and the MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, slavery. And that is how I present it.

Mrs. C., I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning someone's policies. I've said before that I'm just a little left of center politically, so even I am concerned about the strength that liberals will have now. Obama has definitely been liberal, but he's not that liberal on education, and he's for some things that the teachers' unions don't like very much. You and I have different views on what education policy should be, but I think Obama is about as good as someone like you could get if there's going to be a Democrat in the White House. I would be very surprised if he did anything that would cause problems for homeschooling parents, like you, who truly want to educate their kids.

11/08/2008 3:01 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

I hope you're right, and slightly off topic, but here's a quote from the Obama website:

Prepare Teachers: Obama and Biden will require all schools of education to be accredited.

ALL SCHOOLS. I'm taking that to mean homeschools and private schools, too. I squinted and didn't see any fine print in there. It's possible since he's a government official that he only meant government schools, perhaps. Your opinion?


11/08/2008 4:00 PM  
Anonymous bev said...

Mrs. C, I read that to mean the universities that educate teachers, not the schools that educate young students.

In other words, XYZ University, that produces certified teachers in the great state of ABC, MUST be accredited. Although I am a student pursuing my certification at an accredited School of Education, apparently some colleges and universities are not. (Actually, in my state you can't become certified unless you have a degree from an accredited institution, so it's kind of a head-scratcher.)

In my state, private schools are not required to hire certified teachers and I don't think anyone's going to mess with that - religious freedom and all.

11/08/2008 5:30 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

Ah... well, I wish it were a little less ambiguous on the site, but thank you, Bev!

11/08/2008 7:17 PM  
Blogger Deb S. said...

May we all work to support the President-elect, do our part to foster positive change in America, and answer the call to public service. Good post.

11/15/2008 3:11 PM  
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