1/24/2007

OTBL Still Fighting Civil War



If you've followed the ravings of our arch enemy blog, ontheborderline.nut long enough surely you've encountered verbal and visual references the south.
There's something about being southern that just kinda goes with being a public school hater. I could never quite put the pieces of this puzzle together until today. In a documentary following Oprah Winfrey tracing her genealogy there was a section that described how one of her ancestors had attended an integrated public school shortly after the civil war. The narrator commented how this period was unusual for blacks and short lived as shortly after the war southerners realized that if blacks had become educated, the plantation owners source of cheap labor would soon evaporate.
And we come to today where the brain trust at OTBL makes many of the same arguments against public education as southerners shortly after the civil war.
A strange coincidence?



EDUCATION IN THE SOUTHERN COLONIES

In the 1840's, the growth of state funded public education was blossoming in states from Connecticut to Illinois (see also "Normal Schools" in the Common School section of this web page). However, the Southern states did not have a tradition of public education to build on, as the North did, and in fact, it was well after the Civil War before the South legislated for state supported schools. This occurred for several different reasons.

First and foremost, Southerners believed that education was a private matter and not a concern for the state. They were quick to point out that in all traditional societies the most important training a child receives is in the home where he/she is inducted into the values of the society he/she is about to enter. If the family fails in this endeavor, then how can the schools be more successful? They felt a priority should be placed upon creating a college-bred elite, if their traditions and way of life were to be successfully transferred to successive generations. This system helped to perpetuate the sharply defined social-class structure which existed in the South. There were planters (plantation owners) and there were slaves; no middle-class existed in the South to bridge the gap between upper and lower classes, and as such, there was no demand for services beyond that provided for those who could afford to pay. Another reason that public education did not flourish in the South was that the population was more dispersed than it was in the North, making it difficult to find enough children in one area to justify a school. Also, the Anglican religion of the South did not put quite as much emphasis on religious indoctrination through schooling as did Puritan New England. The final reason was the South's feeling about slavery, which will be mentioned below.


"Knowledge is Power" and as events conspired to bring the Civil War ever closer, the Southerner asked, "Who should be entrusted with this power?" Certainly not a slave. Southern colonies began passing laws to make it a crime to teach slaves to read and write. Only the Catholics and Friends (Quakers) continued their efforts to educate the black people in the South, and they were few in number. The North, with its Puritan heritage, had for many decades supported education as a means of providing religious training to its children. In the South, where the religious emphasis was Anglican (Church of England), the religious leaders supported the slave owners by providing oral (not written) religious training for the slaves. One minister commented that instead of reading the Bible, literate slaves would soon be reading documents filtering down from the North inciting rebellion, and pose a threat to the Southern family. Supporting slavery as an institution became the patriotic thing to do.


Reconstruction and Its Aftermath

During the years after the war, black and white teachers from the North and South, missionary organizations, churches and schools worked tirelessly to give the emancipated population the opportunity to learn. Former slaves of every age took advantage of the opportunity to become literate. Grandfathers and their grandchildren sat together in classrooms seeking to obtain the tools of freedom.

After the Civil War, with the protection of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, African Americans enjoyed a period when they were allowed to vote, actively participate in the political process, acquire the land of former owners, seek their own employment, and use public accommodations. Opponents of this progress, however, soon rallied against the former slaves' freedom and began to find means for eroding the gains for which many had shed their blood.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your point about the plantation owners keeping the Blacks ignorant and poor to keep a cheap supply of labor is interesting. Of course, the plantanion owner would equate to the capitalist.

Since you mention the lack of a middle class, remember that it was in the interest to blame the troubles of the poor Whites on the Blacks. You don't want to get above your raisin'. This was no doubt driven home with the weapon of terror delivered by the likes of the KKK and unequal treatment under the law.

Likewise, the South being a more agarian economy, the education and assimilation of children for the growing northern industrialization would explain the need for more formalized education up North.

Grover Cleavage said...

Anon,
you said:

"Of course, the plantation owner would equate to the capitalist."

Not necessarily. I think there are many
enlightened business leaders who realize that they should be partnering with public education to help produce well educated workers who will help them advance their enterprises. Of course I could never include the posters at OTBL in that camp.
Selling internuts requires zero innovation.

George L. said...

Those guys look like a strange mutant strain between Star Wars Storm Troopers,
and Red Neck KKK members.