To the Editor:
While the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was commemorated with fanfare within historical circles and in Gettysburg, Pa., itself, the education world has shown stunningly little interest.
In probably the greatest land battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere, Union and Confederate forces clashed at Gettysburg from July 1 to 3, 1863. Some 75,000 Confederate soldiers engaged 83,000 Union forces. While the Union won a resounding victory, the human toll on both sides was very costly: 23,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate casualties.
Many Americans may not know of the battle’s magnitude and significance. Many perhaps make the facile assumption about the inevitability of the North’s victory in the Civil War. Not so. The Battle of Gettysburg could have gone either way, and with it the Civil War. If the Confederacy had succeeded in stifling the North, the United States would have become two separate nations.
To be sure, America has remembered the war and the battle, for example with Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Ronald F. Maxwell’s “Copperhead,” and the commemorative postal stamp of the battle. At Gettysburg itself, thousands of re-enactors gathered the first week in July to relive and commemorate the battle (“Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary Brings Opportunity to Learn,” Curriculum Matters blog, edweek.org, July 3, 2013).
It is surprising that major media in the world of primary and secondary education have essentially ignored both this year. This newspaper has had no significant coverage or commemoration of the battle.
That the education world apparently ignored this pivotal battle which forged a new identity for our country is truly stunning. The implications of this neglect are serious. Societies require glue to bind and sustain them, and one important source of this binding is significant historical events.
Portsmouth Abbey School and Salve Regina University
A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2013 edition of Education Week as Coverage of Gettysburg Anniversary Lacking