Can you prove you're smarter than a high school student?

Well, according to the Washington Post, the NAEP is once again stating that high-schoolers are illiterate scum.

I’m a little biased, here, I’ll admit; I went to high school in the late '80’s, when we were being told that high schoolers couldn’t find the US on a map, and that we were continually being shellacked by Germany and Japan in test scores. Neither of these things were actually true, but that never stops media hang-wringing over what idiots our children are. So I’m very interested to find out exactly how the tests were staged and phrased, because I expect the results are being portrayed as darker and more dire than they really are.

But my biggest problem with the current article is this line-

Ladies and gentleman, I have a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Maryland. I have over twenty books- all of which I have read voraciously- on the Civil War. I not only know who Judah Benjamin is, I can recite the order in which he held offices in Jefferson Davis’ cabinet. I can name every army commander of the Eastern theater and which army he commanded, in order, to the extent that there is some agreement over the definitions of “army” and “commanded”.

And I am very hard pressed to “adequately [explain] two advantages the South had over the North” without resorting to “Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”

The Union had more soldiers. More material. More industrial capacity to build material. A President more capable of leading the country during war, both by knowing how to get out of the way, and by being able to inspire and lead the people around him and the public at large. The Union had a more competent Cabinet, support- or at least agreements of non-interference- from European states, and a real navy.

The South had- at first- better field generals.

I suppose one could argue that the South had the advantage of terrain, or the natural defensive superiority of the rifled muskets being used- but are those conditions we expect our students to learn in High School? Are we discussing history or The Art Of War?

So explain to me: what two advantages- which are important for high school seniors to know and understand- do you feel the South had?

It had advantages??? I thought they were coping with scarcity and hunger, plus less industrial resources and manpower…

The only thing I can come up with is the same as you…good military generals.

But then, I was not educated in US high schools, with years of US history, I only took one year.

It had advantages??? I thought they were coping with scarcity and hunger, plus less industrial resources and manpower…

The only thing I can come up with is the same as you…good military generals.

But then, I was not educated in US high schools, with years of US history, I only took one year.

I’m sorry! :open_mouth: the board slowed down and said the first post wasn’t valid…

I’ll take a guess:

I vaguely remember Better leadership (as John Corrado observed) from High School (in 1958!)

My other guess would be:
– Support from Europe (or maybe just from England and/or France)

Of course, only 34 percent of newspaper reporters realize that a word is missing from the above sentence. I won’t mention the missing spaces, extraneous commas, and unnecessarily split infinitives.

Hey, Mikey, is that a beam in your eye?


The most obvious one was that the South was fighting a defensive war. This is innately much easier - both logistically and emotionally- than a war of conquest. All they had to do was hold on to what they already had. The North had to invade and hold territory. And the Southerners were literally defending their homes, which the Northerners were not.

At least in Virginia, the North got trounced every time it tried to invade. Even Grant lost far more men during the Overland Campaign than Lee did. (And the only reason he succeeded at last is because he kept pressing on, even though “defeated” by Lee at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.) Likewise, even the hypercompetant Lee got his butt handed to him when he tried to invade the North, first at Antietam and later at Gettysburg.

It was only the North’s huge advantage in manpower and industry, together with a willingness to lose horrific numbers of men, that was able to overcome this advantage of the South.

OK, the second one was better generalship, at least in the east.

Hmm, ok…

  1. Better generals, like everybody has said.

  2. Hmm…a lower standard/decreased expectations? To win, the North had to move forward and take and hold territory, while the South just had to stop them from doing so? So inaction on the fronts lowers the North’s morale but increases the South’s morale? That’s debatable, and kind of esoteric, I guess.

  3. Judah Benjamin. The guy rocked.

I would say that the South had some advantages.

The South was defending, which is easier than attacking.

The South had extremely good cavalry which took the North much time to make up. The analogy I heard that the North attacking the South that had the quality of cavalry would be like a country attacking another where the defending country had 100% air superiority. Not impossible with numbers, but tough.

Am I close? IANAH (I am not a historian)

Of course, I think it is a stupid question to ask high schoolers!

Now, two experiences with teaching COLLEGE students (cut very short with no background). Out of about 40 students, only 2 placed the distance between the Earth and the sun within even 10 million to 1 billion miles. The most common answer being 1000 miles. On a blank world map, only 4 in about 25 was able to put an X on or close to the United States. My own personal experience. So, the results don’t seem off to me.

I’m stumped. The North had more manpower, due to immigration; more munitions factories; more access to international trade and resources, and other advantages already outlined by the OP.

In addition to “better generals,” the answer to the question posed in the OP might be that Great Britain was tacitly on the side of the South, contrary to the OP. Lord Palmerston and his ministers were inclined to ally with the South because England was an industrial nation, and as such it required huge amounts of natural resources. The South provided England with many natural resources, and the most valuable was cotton. As the New York Times puts it:

Just a guess, that’s all.

The Advantages of the South.

By Lemur

Mr. Corrado’s Homeroom.

  1. Limited war aims: This is in my view the critical advantage of the South. In order for the North to win the war, they had to occupy the South. In order for the South to win the war, they had to prevent the North from occupying the South. There were lots of northerners who felt that if the South wanted to secede then good riddance. A few more military blunders on the part of the northern leadership and the number might have grown, enough to force the north to break off the offensive. If the north isn’t invading the south and making advances, or at least putting pressure on, then the south wins.

  2. Allies. Both France and Britain wanted the south to prevail, because that would weaken the US. Recognition by Europe might have broken the will of the North to push the issue–see advantage #1.

  3. Strategic Defensive. This is an overlap with #1, but it is worth pulling out. While the Southern leadership were masters of the tactical offense, they had the luxury of being on the strategic defense. Shorter supply lines, greater morale, easier reinforcements, familiar terrain, ability to use existing slave labor to construct fortifications.

  4. Leadership. The South undoubtedly had better military leadership (although weaker political leadership). Lee, Jackson, and Forrest ran rings around the northern generals. Grant and Sherman figured out how to use the North’s overwhelming advantages in supply and manpower to negate that leadership, but never matched it head-on.

  5. Morale. For whatever reason, the Southern army was much more motivated than the Northern army. A combination of #1 and #4, probably. An army that wins battles under Lee or Forrest tends to win more battles later, because they believe they can win more battles. A self-fulfilling prophecy, especially with civil-war and earlier technology. An army that runs away will get slaughtered, whereas an army that holds will win. As Napoleon said, the moral is to the physical as 10 is to 1.

  6. And of course, who can forget the Rivington men? Without their technology and supplies the South would have been in trouble, and might even have lost.

  1. Better

  2. Generals…

Seriously- I’d say

  1. Better leadership
    1a. More of a tradition of military service- not just generals, but lower level officers

(caution, WAG ahead)
2. state of preparedness- I seem to remember that the south was better organized for war, at least initially- wasn’t the plan to hit quick, and then force a settlement?

As good as I can do without burying myself in a library…


and here I thaught the major cause of the civil war was the right to secession. I guess I was also lied to when I was told the major cause of divorce was marriage too.

The South fought on home turf, and with superior fighters(although they eventually were outnumbered 2 to 1), especially cavalry. It was fighting for independence; some would call this a psychological advantage.

Another factor acting in the South’s favor, at least in the beginning of the war, was that they were fighting for a cause. They were fighting to win their independence from what they perceived as a Federal government opposed to their way of life. The North, on the other hand, was merely fighting to keep a bunch of southern rabble attached to their country. Of course, the Emancipation Proclamation eventually changed that, by turning a war to preserve the Union into a war to free the slaves (at least in the public eye).

And why did the Confederate states want to secede? Because they feared that Northern expansion would limit their ability to extend slavery to the new western territories. Slavery really was the ultimate cause of the war.

it was a joke. But the ultimate cause of the civil war was the right to secession. A major cause would be slavery. The North could have allowed a secession without the war. And the south didnt fight the war for the right to keep slaves, but so that they could secede from the union.

QUOTE]*Originally posted by blanx *
2. state of preparedness- I seem to remember that the south was better organized for war, at least initially- wasn’t the plan to hit quick, and then force a settlement?

I’m not the expert on all things Civil War, but I thought that the North was generally better organized for war. All the heavy industry was in the North. The plan was to hit the South at the battle of whateveritwascalled and end the war quickly. The South ended up being better prepared than the North expected but in general, I don’t think they were beter prepared overall.

I could be way off though.

“Being organized for war” is kind of a nebulous term though. Generally, you want to be prepared in the right place at the right time. For example, the mighty US armored forces (ie tanks and other heavy war vehicles) don’t matter in Kosovo if they don’t fit on the plane.

So overall, the North was better organized for a prolonged, “modern” offensive war while the South was more organized for a defensive war.

I suppose the big advantage of the South was that they didn’t have to conquer the North, they just had to not lose long enough for the North to get sick of fighting.
How any of this is an indicator of the quality of our high schools is beyond me. I wonder what % of HS kids would be able to write a decent essay on the Enron fiasco or the War on Terrorism?

Slavery was the cornerstone of the Confederacy, acording to Vice President Lincoln Stephens:

From the Mississppi Declaration of Secession:

And Texas:

Not to mention the various apologias written by Confederates comparing the institution of slavery to Northern “wage slaves.”

Please, let’s not muck up this thread with the tired rehashing of the Lost Cause and Second American Revolution nonsense that attempts to whitewash the moral stain of slavery from the Confederacy by claiming the War was about states’ rights.

It was about slavery. Case closed. Move on or start another thread.

What’s the next report going to say? 96% of american students cannot calculate Pi to 400 places?