MOULTRIE — This week before the school board, a local history buff challenged the curriculum taught in Colquitt County Schools about the American Civil War.
Keith Taylor of Lee’s Cadets represented about 20 parents of local children — members in Lee’s Cadets and the Order of the Confederate Rose — when he criticized history textbooks used at the high school and at the middle school level for teaching inaccuracies. Lee’s Cadets, a Southern heritage boy’s camp, has about 140 members in South Georgia and North Carolina.
“I understand that the federal government mandates what the state can teach, and the state has to pass down what the federal government gives them. And I understand there are situations in the school where we can’t get the textbook pulled, but teachers do have the right to elaborate, to add. As long as they’re teaching the curriculum, they can expand on the curriculum and add more to it,” Taylor said.
“… In the books that we’re seeing coming out now and in the past few years, it’s like they’re give you the history but they’re giving you a part of the history. It’s like the statements in them are giving you a leading statement,” he said.
Regarding the Battle of Olustee where Union soldiers were attempting to cut the rail supply near Lake City, Fla., for instance, he said, official records indicate the Confederacy won overwhelmingly and spared Tallahassee from being taken by the Union. Yet, textbooks at the Colquitt County High School are teaching that it was a Union victory, he said.
Another discrepancy is a middle school book’s interpretation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Taylor said that the history book teaches that the proclamation freed all U.S. slaves, but that’s not so. Taylor said it was an attempt on Lincoln’s part to instigate a slave insurrection.
“We’ve asked teachers if they’ve ever read it, and they said no, they only buy what they’re taught in college to get their teacher’s certificate. When teachers read it, they realize that it freed no slaves. … What it says in simple terms is that Lincoln was going to free all the slaves in all the territories of all the states in rebellion with the exception of territories that were occupied by Union troops (in which) the state of slavery stayed as it was. So in other words, he was freeing all the slaves in the country of the Confederate States of America.
“That would be like President Bush saying — and I’m going to use an example a friend of mine uses — that the country of Mexico cannot sell tacos any more. At that time, since we were a separate nation, his ruling had no effect,” Taylor said.
He and the local group of parents are concerned that in teaching about the Civil War the textbooks address the slavery issue but never get into the taxation issue of the war, he said.
Lincoln signed a proposed 13th Amendment that was presented to the Confederacy two months prior to the beginning of the war that outlined a deal that if the segregated states would rejoin the Union and pay import/export taxes of 60 to 70 percent, Lincoln would leave the slavery issue alone, Taylor said.
The Confederate states didn’t want to be “taxed to death,” he said, and declined the proposal.
“Back in the early 1990s, people knew about this document,” said Taylor who has read the original at the National Archives. “They’ve taken it out of the textbooks because it explains the main situation for the war.”
Lee’s Cadets also has issue with the local practice of using the Hollywood movie “Glory” as a teaching aide. The docudrama tribute chronicles the efforts of one of the first black units in the war, the 54th Massachusetts volunteer regiment.
“They’re using it and testing kids on things that they’ve learned from that film,” he said. “Our whole point is we’re not just arguing about the information about the War between the States. That just happens to be an area that a lot of us into Southern history read and research. That’s where we find errors. Other sections of the book — we’re afraid they are filled with errors as well, but they’re not areas that we know much about,” he said.
“… Our main concern from our organizational standpoint from the Lee’s Cadet Corps, we try to teach true history. We teach the good, the bad and the ugly. We teach the bad side of the Confederacy and the good side. We don’t teach anything that we can’t prove in fact,” Taylor said. “From a Lee’s Cadet Corps standpoint, we want to make sure that youth of the South — white, black, yellow, pink, purple and polka-dotted — get all the information to make their own decisions.”
In response, Colquitt County Superintendent Leonard McCoy reserved comment until he receives more information he said he expects from Taylor.