Since this is my blog, you already understand that what I say here is just my opinion. Quite some time ago, I applauded the work of the Civil War Trust in coming to the aid of Princeton Battlefield and its fight to save 15 acres of land from the developer’s shovel. With money from a very passionate membership, the organization was able to purchase the land and put into motion future plans to improve structures and build a modern visitors center. The name changed to American Battlefield Trust because of the shift toward saving all battlefields, not just those of the Civil War. (see www.battlefields.org/)
In early 2017, the American Battlefield Trust accepted a commitment from President Trump such that he would donate his first year’s salary to the organization. My feeling then was that it was inappropriate to accept the promised money because it was politicizing the cause and that it, in my opinion again, was a transparent publicity stunt. Our president has a history of promising donations and then not coming forward with the money. I made my feelings known, which I felt was important for them to hear.
Today, I received the latest copy of Hallowed Ground, the membership magazine of the Trust. The magazine has an overwrap on it advertising its latest campaign to raise money to support local teachers in their efforts to teach history effectively. Sounds necessary and honorable, right? I don’t disagree that it is an admirable objective, however it misses the mark by a mile. In my opinion, the problem isn’t teachers ineffectively reaching their students because they lack resources. The real problem is that the time allowed to teach the subject of history in schools has been replaced by STEM and other such initiatives that past presidents and the Secretary of Education feel are more important. No number of charts, props, artifacts and other materials can replace the time schools used to have to educate the future electorate about our interesting history. The American Battlefield Trust needs to set its aim higher. Perhaps it should be using the connection with President Trump to redirect federal education money (only about 19% of most schools’ education funding) to modify priorities and reintroduce history as a core competency for graduation. Once there is time to teach, then the resources with which to teach will be necessary; as it is, just the time to hand out the props will take up half their allotted teaching time for the subject.