Friday, October 03, 2014

TX State Board of Education and the Civil War

Texans must be sick of the constant fighting by the State Board of Education over the content of texts for public schools.  If only they spent this much energy on trying to improve education.  Given that we are in the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and in an effort to get some comments going, I offer the following. One the many controversial issues in texts involves the causes of the civil war.   According to the Dallas Morning News, SMU historian Edward Countryman concluded:
“The combination of incoherence, poor construction and attempted indoctrination is clear” in several of the books, Countryman said.
For example, he said, some of the history books closely follow the state board’s curriculum requirement that the causes of the Civil War be taught in this order: sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery. 
“Any serious historian knows that slavery was the fundamental driving issue of the war,” Countryman said."
What's your take on the Civil War?  What factor should be #1?


  1. What was it? Four percent of southern whites owned slaves? If a love of slavery was predominant on the part of the pro-war people, why would non-owners have been willing to fight?

    I don't know about "fundamental driving issue", but certainly there were many other factors besides slavery. Given the cultural background of many southern whites, and the "mini-nationalism" still seen among competing SEC football teams (GA vs. AL vs. FL, e.g.), I'd say that states' rights was a significant factor.

    Another factor was that of an industrialized North vs. an agrarian South. The southerners sold at wholesale, but had to buy at retail. That hasn't changed for farmers and ranchers in the last 150+ years.


  2. IMO, slavery was the fuse that ignited a powder keg about states' domestic rights verses overreaching federal control. This argument regarding separate and limited powers still divides the country today even-though slavery was abolished over 150 years ago.

  3. Art & 44 Thanks. I don't think anyone "loved slavery." Yes there were many factors. States rights to continue slavery and protect it (e.g. fugitive slave act) were the real "states rights" issue. Fear of what Lincoln might do re slavery was the dominant factor behind secession which led to the first acts of "war, Confederate seizure of federal forts, arsenals, etc. and Fort Sumer.

  4. Pardon my spelling. I believe it's "Sumter."