Monday, December 13, 2004

Slavery Wasn't So Bad

Slavery should have its proponents in order to give students a "balanced view" of the causes of the Civil War, according to Christian school administrators.

Leaders at Cary Christian School say they are not condoning slavery by using "Southern Slavery, As It Was," a booklet that attempts to provide a biblical justification for slavery and asserts that slaves weren't treated as badly as people think.

Principal Larry Stephenson said the school is only exposing students to different ideas, such as how the South justified slavery. He said the booklet is used because it is hard to find writings that are both sympathetic to the South and explore what the Bible says about slavery.

I've checked the school's web site, and not surprisingly, every single picture is of a white child. Statistics are not available on the site, but I'm guessing that there are not a lot of African Americans enrolled.

While I agree that an attempt to understand the past necessitates a presentation of the philosophy that led to such things as slave-holding, there are much more intelligent, honest ways to present such information. Using Uncle Tom's Cabin as the straw man against which the school is presenting another view is a specious argument; in the 140 years since the end of the war, vast amounts of scholarship have been done that document how the North profited from Southern slavery even when it condemned it. Any history teacher worth his or her salt knows this; Cary's administrators are propagandists, not historians. There were reasons that the South went to war, but defending slavery is an abomination.

I'm assuming that the following topics will be covered in Cary's curriculum in the coming year:

"Putting Jews to Sleep: Why gas was a humane way to deal with the Jews according to biblical principles."

"Native Americans were pagans: Wounded Knee as justified by the Old Testament."

"Paul Told Women To Shut Up: The biblical perspective on beating the crap out of your wife."

Thanks to Jo for alerting me to the story.

1 comment:

Sheryl said...

I think the truth about slavery is that slaves were treated different ways at different times.

My mom is into genealogy. On of our ancestors was an indian slave, and she was freed because someone wanted to marry her. And I think it was perfectly legal for people to intermarry until some slave uprising outside the US, where a bunch of slaveowners got their heads cut off (or something like that.) After that, they started being uglier to the slaves.

So whereas I don't think we should paint slavery into a positive picture, I do think that some people were considerably kinder to their slaves than other people, and people were less bigotted at different times in our country's history than in others. And perhaps it would not hurt to study what motivated these differences in attitudes.