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The True Cause of the American Civil War

Hello Tedsters, I'm a student of an Advanced Placement United States History Class or APUSH in short. Recently for the class, we had to write an essay about the Civil War, and it's inevitability due to extremism and failure of leadership. We discussed how the cause for the Civil War was not merely slavery and definitely not only slavery. Our teacher also emphasized that we should "DIG DEEPER". One of the few examples she gave us was; the riots of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry led to the South's nervousness and responded to Lincoln's victory in the Election of 1860 by establishing the Confederacy and proposing secession.
One of my arguments was that the South wanted economic freedom to continue their agricultural lives, practice of slavery and trade with Britain. I agreed with a comment stating this was a Second Revolutionary War, due to the South desiring to escape the economic restrictions from the North (such as the Tariffs), like how the colonies did from Britain during the American Revolutionary War.

Now when I look back to the regular history classes I've taken in the past years, I thought to myself, why isn't this taught in basic classes? Must a student be eligible to be in an AP class or wait till College just to realize history isn't that vague, and everything taught in the textbooks isn't exactly true but merely one of the many perspectives on a single issue? So I have two main questions:

Why isn't this concept of thinking taught in basic classes in middle school or high school? Is it because there's a fear that students can't learn or understand such concepts? Isn't it a bit problematic that while I can argue a couple of deep causes to the Civil War, a few of my friends believe and only believe the true cause is slavery?

My second question is:

What do you think the true cause of the Civil War was? If you’re going to say without an explanation, slavery and only slavery, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to dig deeper or at least explain why.


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  • Jan 6 2013: "You can't handle the truth."

    When said to an adult, these words amount to a slap in the face. But it is certainly true that young children cannot be taught the full raw truth. I agree with Fritzie Reisner and Mike Colera, that primarily it is a matter of finding the right explanation suitable to the knowledge and development of the students. Another factor is social acceptance. Text books that do not support accepted stories will not sell very well.
    • Jan 8 2013: "Text books that do not support accepted stories will not sell very well."

      That is an utterly upsetting reality. If only the world didn't revolve around money and instead focused on the knowledge and development of students so they may excel to be able to comprehend better explanations of the full truth.
      • Jan 8 2013: I agree.

        However, the reason for this is that the textbooks are selected by local school boards, which are elected locally, largely by the parents of the students. This system has its faults, but I would not change it. The obvious solution is better educated adults, so let us hope that we can improve the whole system, produce a better educated population, which will result in an even better education system.

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