The Civil War Controversy

 January 11, 2024

The recent civil war controversy over Nikki Haley’s response to the question about the cause of the Civil War has brought back memories of Stillwell Junior High School and my history teacher William Nicholas. When Mr. Nicholas asked us what caused the Civil War, our response was “Slavery, duh.”

“Are you sure?” he questioned back, leaving us perplexed. What was he talking about? He then explained that what actually started the Civil War was the southern states attempt to secede from the United States. However, slavery was a significant factor behind their desire to secede. It wasn’t until further into the fight that slavery became the dominant reason for the war. So, on one level it was about state rights; on another it was about slavery. Why does it have to be one or the other?

Learning to Go Deeper

What Mr. Nicholas was doing wasn’t trying to tell us that slavery wasn’t the reason for the Civil War. He was trying to get us to question commonly accepted beliefs, seek out more information, and make more informed decisions; something he did throughout the two years I had him as a teacher.  Something for which I am grateful.

He would ask us questions then shake his head in frustration as we struggled to figure out what answer he was looking for. Being shy, I never told him back then how much appreciated this. Later, in my twenties, I met him again when his daughter was a member of my youth group. I was able then to tell him what I wasn’t able to say as a teen.

He challenged my young mind to not accept things at face value but to go deeper. A lesson I value today.

So, thank you Mr. Nicholas for your efforts to open young minds.

Who are the teachers or mentors in your life that have influenced you? I would love to hear about them.


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