On #6, the total enrollment figures provided by the district are misleading. The report implies the district's annual student enrollment totals reflect overall population growth for the entire district which is the same as Charleston County. Actually, the district has tended to inflate these numbers in recent years by counting the enrollment of non-traditional programs such as Headstart and other early childhood development classes which it has acquired or initiated outside the typical public school structure. The core figures for CCSD's 5K thru 12th grade for the entire period actually saw a dip before the Great Recession. Starting in 2008, private school applications declined as public schools were seen as the only affordable alternative. Charter schools enrollment since then has increased dramatically. Traditional (non-charter) public school enrollments for CCSD has, at best, been flat for most of the former superintendent's tenure.
Dwayne: You're too young. Ask those who were there. Charleston in the fall of 1963 was tense, but it wasn't Little Rock a half dozen years earlier nor was it anything like what happened at Lamar six years later. There were bumps in the road and things said that shouldn't have been, but it was on the way to becoming a true and realistic image of the downtown community at the time. It would be the consolidation of the county public school system that threw it all into reverse. We're still living with the results of a dream deferred largely at the hand of outsiders who have never really known the real story. They use us for their photo ops, but they continue to do nothing to restore the healing process that was only started in 1963. The consolidated school system halted and by some accounts reversed that progress in 1968. Our schools are still suffering from the political games being played by the adults in charge. It's hard for someone who grew up too many years later and who watched from across the river to fully understand what really happened in 1963. Just don't write about it without talking (and really listening) to all those who were there. I was there, and like many of those who have been given a few sound bites, I know the full story isn't being told. The current conditions exist because its politically expedient for those in charge. That part of the story hasn't changed.
History isn't static, but those who would use an Orwellian approach to rewriting history by blacking out the past have no more virtue than those who would set the entire story in Romantic stone.
I read the same SC History textbook by Mrs. Oliphant in 1963 as a third grader. Even then I was well aware of her inaccracies, thanks to my parents and a grandmother who disapproved of the amount of historical myths that were being fed to school children in this state. I never viewed Gov. Tillman as a hero. My grandfather, as a child, lived across the street from the notorious governor and often played with the neighborhood children in the Governor's Mansion. My grandfather, even as a child, found Gov. Tillman to be a clown, but one with power that he used for good and ill.
"Pitchfork Ben", as his nickname implied, had a confrontational reputation politically and was seen as uncouth by the very Bourbons he displaced. Tillman was no friend of the heirs to the pre-Civil War aristocracy. To lump him and his fellow populists with the post Reconstruction Bourbon Democrats is a gross misreading of SC history. History is far more complex and full of ironies that potentially have lessons to teach the generations that follow.
As a high school student in the late 1960's, I also viewed his monument on the State House grounds for the first time, however, even then I saw it then as a piece of carefully managed political propaganda...just as I knew was the case with the Confederate flag flying over the State House. I was fortunate to have had good teachers and relatives who were determined to give students like me an opportunity to see history, and all its interpretations, in their proper context. Ultimately we can know the historical truths, but only if we are encouraged to understand the lies. Knowing the context of the times and society in which the events took place is also important.
I suggest the Ben Tillman monument be retained, but that its inscriptions be amended to include some of his more infamous speeches. I can't think of a more lasting testament to the infamy of the Jim Crow era which he launched for SC than to quote his thoughtless and cold reply to requests for state aid to be sent to Beaufort following the massive hurricane that hit Beaufort and the Sea Islands during his term. Thousands died during the storm and from starvation in the weeks that followed. Tillman knew he had few if any votes that came from the Lowcountry. He not only condemned the Black population to their fate, but the White populations of the coastal counties were of no concern to him either. His inflammatory rhetoric played well to a state divided by race, geography, class and economics.
Perhaps we should be reminded of everything Ben Tillman did and said. Without these reminders inscribed to show all on a public monument in the shade of the State House grounds, how will we be able to recognize another Ben Tillman when he (or she) rises? We should be reminded that demagogues often are propelled by crowds who have momentary desires. They play on our prejudices and divide us against our own collective best interests as citizens of this state.
Keep the Ben Tillman monument, but add his words so we don't forget his true nature in the context of a more accurate history. Tell a more complete story, not the convenient myth that Mrs. Oliphant repeated. We should know the truth so that we can be forewarned when this type of politician makes a similar appeal. Let us be reminded of this history that we might not be so easily persuaded to ignore our better angels in the future.
I'm open to any evidence to the contrary.
He has no vision and he doesn't listen.
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