The Civil War changed the course of the United States of America in dramatic ways. Over 150 years later, some might question if the study of this particular war is still relevant for children and young adults today. There are three key reasons why teaching children about the Civil War is still important.
- Perhaps the Greatest Event in Our Country’s History
The Civil War was arguably the most important, all-encompassing event in our country’s history after the American Revolution. It transformed our nation and, in some parts of the United States, is still spoken of on a regular basis. Even the use of the terms “Civil War” and “War Between the States” in different parts of the country today suggests that the memory of this epic war lingers in the minds of many Americans. As we face important issues in our country today, we should remember the difficult lessons learned during that war. We must understand what has shaped our country in the past in order to carefully discern our path to the future.
- Understand that the Civil War Was Not Only about Slavery
People often mistakenly think that the Civil War was only about Abraham Lincoln setting the slaves free in the South with the Emancipation Proclamation. While slavery was a very significant part of the event, the reasons behind this war extend beyond that one issue.
The conflict that stretched back to America’s founding between proponents of state rights versus those wanting stronger federal rights was becoming increasingly acrimonious. The differing economic models in the North (industrial) and South (plantations based on slave labor) created friction. The rise of the abolition movement contributed significantly to the start of the Civil War. Lastly, the question of slavery in the territories also played a significant role in the start of this epic war. To write off the war as only an event where Lincoln freed the slaves means we miss the opportunity for other important lessons as well.
- Understand How Beliefs and Convictions Motivate People
The Civil War was heartbreaking for thousands of families in both the North and the South as brothers and cousins took up arms to fight against each other. What kinds of beliefs and convictions would be so compelling to cause families to break apart and fight on opposite sides? Studying the Civil War opens up the opportunity for many thought-provoking discussions about the powerful impact of a person’s beliefs and their willingness to risk everything for principles they hold dear.
Even 150 years later, the Civil War provides many learning opportunities to our current generation. It is important that our children and young adults study this difficult, but powerful period in our country’s history so they can better understand who we are as a nation, how we came to be what we are, and how we should move forward in the future.