Displaying and Teaching the Confederate Flag in the Classroom (Part 3)

Bulletin boards can be a unique and useful tool in education if used properly. Due to a lack of funds and resources, field trips to historical sites and structures can represent a challenge. Bulletin Boards help fill that void through visual stimulation. Objects on the board can grab the attention of students, make them think and/or question, and engage them in the current curriculum. When I can, and when resources allow me to, I change the class bulletin board to draw my students’ attention to new material. This past week my U.S. History classes began their unit on the Civil Rights Movement. When I changed the bulletin board for this unit (featured image on the header), I incorporated a new item; something  my students helped create. 

If you recall, at the beginning of the school year (August, 2015) I started a project on teaching and displaying the Confederate Battle Flag in the classroom. In this project, the goal is to have students assess what they think about the flag and to reflect on whether or not that assessment is accurate. At the beginning of the year, students recorded their views of the Confederate Flag on index cards and then later entered that information into a Google Form. You can see the results of that here

I felt, and still feel, that the Confederate Flag is a powerful and controversial symbol. It wields significant meaning in the eye of the beholder. With that in mind,  I wanted my classes to find meaning in it, beyond their programmed responses. My students needed to alter the flag to represent themselves. To do this, I asked students to paint on the flag what they initially think when they see this symbol. Students simply transferred what they had originally wrote down from the index cards onto the flag. The end result, is pretty powerful.

Click on image to zoom in and out on picture.

Students have only painted half of the flag so far. This half represents what students felt and thought about the Confederate Battle Flag upon entering my class in August. Yesterday, my students completed part two of the assignment. After finishing the unit on the Civil Rights Movement, I asked my students to reflect upon their initial view of the flag. I had them fill out another Google Form and to conclude by writing a brief essay. This time, students had the opportunity to make an educated response rather than record an initial reaction. The essay called for students to reflect on their view of the flag, why they hold this view, and how/if their view of the flag has changed, evolved, or stayed the same after almost two full semesters of U.S. History. Eventually, students will conclude the project by painting their new responses on the right side. I’m excited to see the results.

9 thoughts on “Displaying and Teaching the Confederate Flag in the Classroom (Part 3)

  1. This seems like a really difficult lesson to work through, one with lots of landmines. But kudos to you for pushing through. However they felt before, and however they end up feeling now about that symbol, they will at least be able to discuss how and why that is, which is more than most people seem to be able to do.

    1. Thankfully, landmines were avoided. I was very open with the students on day 1 about the long term project and why I wanted to implement it. They just rolled with it like apathetic teenagers. No parents reached out for or against the project. Ultimately, like you said, the goal was to be able to discuss why they think what they think and to reflect on that. I’m going to publish the final results in a couple of days.

  2. I notice that one of your students wrote on his card “rednecks, racism” (from part 1). Does he or any of the other students see a problem with that?

    1. Well, that is his/her immediate reaction when they see the Confederate Flag. Over the course of the school year, that student will have to reflect upon that view and they may or may not see a problem with it. Do you see one?

  3. Interesting Rob. I have family in nearby communities but I am not too familiar with Suwanee. Any sense of whether there is a difference in reaction by students based on family background?

    1. I’m certain there is. In part 2 of this series I posted the data from the phase 1 of the project. This was done at the beginning of the schools year (August 2015). Students had to self-identify. Granted, this poll dealt primarily with race/ethnicity and nationality.

      Once I get some down time, I will post the phase 2 data taken towards the end of the school year. I included questions on the poll which included students to identify their view as positive/negative/neutral and to identify whether or not they were raised in the South. The results I’ve read so far are very interesting. Especially the change in perspective some students had.

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