Park smart to enhance focus on education

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2010

“Assuming,” any good news reporter will tell you, is a perilous act. And it’s what the Vicksburg National Military Park is avoiding by creating, as The Post reported last week, a new job for an education specialist.

Perhaps it was safe to believe at one time that each succeeding generation of Americans would have as much or more appreciation of the nation’s natural and historic treasures as those who came before. But for a variety of reasons, including overcrowding at some parks and the addition of admission fees, that may not continue. No slight against young people. Can’t blame them for not treasuring information they don’t have. After all, a flag is merely a colorful piece of cloth to those who don’t know what it stands for.

Through July 27, the National Park Service is taking applications for a specialist to work with teachers and curriculum planners here and with those who intend to visit. This move brings focus to the education aspect, which, along with preservation, is central to the NPS mission.

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Fate dealt Vicksburg a major role in national history, one that reaches well beyond considerations of “North” vs. “South” in the War Between The States. Many scholars have pointed out that Union supporters were war-weary and voices suggesting that the nation remain divided were on the rise. The decision of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton and his staff at their headquarters on Crawford Street to surrender, the scholars say, gave new impetus to the belief that America could “bind up its wounds.” Viewed in that light, America as we know it exists because of events here.

An amazing number of local residents know little about the Vicksburg National Military Park except that there is one and it has something to do with fighting here nearly 150 years ago. A staff education specialist could change that. And the more who appreciate this community, the better.