Sunday, April 30, 2006

From Our What Were They Thinking Files?

I did a double take when I read this story about the Alabama school that had students, some of them African American, singing a Confederate marching song at a school program:
Singing a popular marching song of the Confederacy during a Civil War history lesson angered some parents of black students at The Highlands School in Mountain Brook.

At least five black students sang, along with other fifth-graders, the lyrics of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" at the closing of last Friday's program.

The 1861 song was written in honor of the blue flag with the white star that Mississippi flew over the state Capitol upon seceding from the Union. While singing it in the class, a black student held one end of a cardboard representation of the blue Confederate flag with a single white star.

Whitlynn Battle said she could not believe her ears when her 11-year-old daughter sang the lyrics, "We are a band of brothers and native to the soil. Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil."

"There's no explanation or excuse for it," she told The Birmingham News in a story Wednesday.

Highlands School is a private school for 4-year-olds through eighth-graders. About 11 percent of the 280 students are minority students, according to the school's Web site.

Dale Hanson, the school's acting head, said he has received a couple of e-mails and the school is handling the issue in-house.

"I've had the teacher write and explain it to the parents and I'm going to do the same," he said. Hanson declined to discuss the explanation.

Battle said the song was not on the printed program. The presentation featured students dressed in Civil War-era garb while they read journal entries from people involved in the war.

Battle said she and other parents had no idea the students would sing the song since all the practices were done during music class and the lyrics were not brought home.

A song drawing the words from Abraham Lincoln's campaign song followed the Confederate hymn, but Battle said school officials should have known better than to have the children sing "Bonnie Blue."

"We are sorry if anyone was offended and we certainly did not mean to offend anyone," said Hillery Head, chairwoman of the school's board.
Now I'm a southerner both by birth and by ancestery. Our southern roots are deep; in the 18th century, the Wonk family immigrated from Scotland, settled in Georgia, and later moved to northern Florida. My ancestors on both the agnate and distaff sides fought for the Confederate cause.

What continues to puzzle me, however, is how some of my fellow Southerners continue to insist on re-fighting the Civil War ad nauseum even though it ended some 141 years ago.

I guess this might be news to some: The war is over. The North won. Let's get over it and move on.

I believe it's unlikely that the school was being rascist in its selection of songs. (Consider taking a look at the lyrics of The Bonnie Blue Flag
here and more about the song there.) But I do think that they were being monumentally insensitive to their students, both black and white.
See our latest education-related entries right here.