Down at Cary Christian School in the Raleigh-Durham area, students are (well, WERE until yesterday) reading a book suggesting that slaves lived “a life of plenty, of simple pleasures.”
According to a News-Observer article:
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.
The article highlights some potential conflicts of interest between the pro-slavery booklet authors and the Cary Christian School.
One of the co-authors of the pamphlet is a Moscow, Idaho pastor Douglas Wilson. According to the News-Observer‘s T. Keung Hui:
Wilson’s Association of Classical and Christian Schools accredited Cary Christian, and he is scheduled to speak at the school’s graduation in May.
Some school leaders, including (Cary Christian Principal) Stephenson, founded Christ Church in Cary, which is affiliated with Wilson’s Idaho church.
The booklet’s other author, Steve Wilkins, is a member of the board of directors of the Alabama-based League of the South. That is classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group.
On Wilkins and Wilson, the article reports further:
“Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins have essentially constructed the ruling theology of the neo-Confederate movement,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report.
Potok said people who argue that the South should secede again have latched onto the writings of Wilson and Wilkins, which portray the Confederacy as the last true Christian civilization.
At a time when a number of Triangle Christian schools have lost enrollment and even closed, Cary Christian has seen rapid growth since it opened in 1996.
The school has 623 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. With a relatively low tuition — up to $5,000 — it has attracted families from 55 churches. At least one parent must be a regular attendee of a church.
After the article appeared yesterday, Cary Christian School dropped the pamphlet and issued this statement:
“Southern Slavery, As It Was” removed from CCS curriculum.
December 9, 2004
As you may be aware, today the News and Observer published a rather negative article about Cary Christian School and our use of a small booklet supplement entitled, “Southern Slavery, As It Was”. Within the article it stated, “the booklet has received criticism from a number of historians and that it has been pulled from publication because of faulty footnotes and citation errors.”
We were unaware of these findings and as a result have already pulled this booklet from our curriculum. Let us reiterate that it is always our goal in the secondary grades to present two sides of an argument. At no time has slavery ever been condoned in our curriculum. As Mr. Stephenson stated within the article, “Slavery is wrong, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not debatable. The South was wrong about the slave trade.”
We apologize for this oversight and covet your prayers for our school.
I believe in debate and the ongoing struggle between those who hold different views of history, of policy, of what our society should look like.
But as I have written before, the extreme wing of the social conservative movement has been far better at intimidating some of the blue chip members of American civil society than these institutions have been at defending their right to air constructive and educational material, even if provocative.
But this is a case where shining a spotlight on a disconcerting practice at a school produced a good result. We need more of this — more open debates with and public exposure of those who want to stifle reason.
There is nothing that the extreme wing of the social conservative movement has that can’t be matched and overwhelmed by those in this country who value progress, rationality, and common sense — and who can manage these right along side their personal religious faith.
While there are tens of thousands of madrasas in the world, and this is just one American Christian school — powerful political ideology wrapped in religion is toxic in such schools.
I applaud Cary Christian’s decision to change course on the pamphlet — but encourage your sister schools and your own teachers to educate and stimulate high-quality thinking and inquiry in the minds of your students.
Don’t radicalize them with politically-motivated religious zealotry. If your students want to revisit history, even the history of slavery in the South, make that their personal decision — not your school curriculum’s.
— Steve Clemons