Monthly Archives: January 2013

MLK Day

“I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” So wrote Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1963 as he served a ten-day jail term for violating a court injunction against any “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing” in Birmingham. He came to Alabama’s largest city to lead an Easter weekend protest and boycott of downtown stores as a way of forcing white city leaders to negotiate a settlement of black citizens’ grievances. King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to a public statement by eight white clergymen appealing to the local black population to use the courts and not the streets to secure civil rights. The clergymen counseled “law and order and common sense,” not demonstrations that “incite to hatred and violence,” as the most prudent means to promote justice. This criticism of King was elaborated the following year by a fellow Baptist minister, Joseph H. Jackson (president of the National Baptist Convention from 1953-1982), who delivered a speech counseling blacks to reject “direct confrontation” and “stick to law and order.”

By examining King’s famous essay in defense of nonviolent protest, along with two significant criticisms of his direct action campaign, this Edsitement lesson will help students assess various alternatives for securing civil rights for black Americans in a self-governing society.

Happy Birthday Common Sense

The Thomas Paine version that is. This pamphlet was originally published anonymously, and advocated independence for the American colonies from Britain and is considered one of the most influential pamphlets in American history.  Credited with uniting average citizens and political leaders behind the idea of independence, “Common Sense” played a remarkable role in transforming a colonial squabble into the American Revolution.

At the time Paine wrote “Common Sense,” most colonists considered themselves to be Englishmen.  Paine fundamentally changed the tenor of colonists’ argument with the crown when he wrote the following:  “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

This Edsitement lesson looks at Thomas Paine and at some of the ideas presented in Common Sense, such as national unity, natural rights, the illegitimacy of the monarchy and of hereditary aristocracy, and the necessity for independence and the revolutionary struggle.

Interview: Prof. Jeremy Bailey, author of Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power

We talked with Professor Jeremy Bailey about his upcoming online course, The American Presidency II: Johnson to the Present, which begins January 12. Professor Bailey teaches in the Department of Political Science and the Honors College at the University of Houston. He is the author of an acclaimed analysis of Jefferson’s role in defining the presidency, Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Why take this course? What can students learn from a survey of the presidency that they do not learn as well from courses on historical periods?

You get to isolate one institution and one concept and follow it through time. The Presidency, and how it functions as an institution, is such an important variable within various historical periods. You can learn a lot about LBJ by studying the sixties, but you won’t understand as much without studying the changes in the presidency between FDR and LBJ.

Also, it’s easy to reduce the presidency to biography, and end up relying on amateur psychological assessments to understand why Presidents did what they did. In fact, however, the only people a president is really comparable to are other presidents.

You’ve written on the presidency yourself, notably in Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power. Do you often work on the presidency in your research? What are your current research interests?

The presidency—and changes to the presidency over time—is one of my two or three research interests. I study executive power and what it is: how much of it is a legal puzzle, and how much is a political phenomenon calling on the partisan strengths of the person holding the office?

There are three different conversations I’m involved in on the presidency. In addition to the above, I’m making a particular inquiry into who has the power to fire executive officials. I co-authored a book, The Removal Power, on this with David Alvis (also a MAHG teacher) and Flagg Taylor (married to Natalie Taylor, another teacher in the MAHG program). We met at Ashland a couple of times to work on aspects of the book. We like to call the removal power “the most important controversy you’ve never heard of.” The book will be published around Labor Day in 2013.

A third interest is in presidential proclamations. With a colleague here, I am working to compile the only complete set of presidential proclamations. We want to collect and code them so that members of the general public who need to know will be able to find them. If you were trying to find a list of every executive veto that’s ever been issued, you could easily do it. But proclamations are an area of history that has been overlooked, perhaps because the assumption is that most presidential proclamations are merely ceremonial. Nevertheless, before the 1930s, presidential proclamations carried a lot of policy significance. It is interesting to study the extent to which presidents have used proclamations to make policy unilaterally. Sometimes proclamations are used to alert the public to a power the president is using that is indisputably his; sometimes the power exercised in the proclamation has been delegated by Congress; sometimes it has been delegated by Congress but used in a way not intended by Congress.

A proclamation is distinguished from an executive order in that it goes to people outside of government, to the citizens. For example, Truman could desegregate the military through an executive order, but Washington issued the neutrality proclamation (1793) to announce to Americans at large that the country was at peace.

 

How important is the presidency in American government overall? Has it gained in importance since the Founding?

It has absolutely gained in importance. We now rely on the President to provide a budget for the entire government. We also assume that when we elect a president we are electing the leader of the free world. This means that contemporary presidents hold a power via the war power that far exceeds what early Americans would have expected of the presidency. For example, using the war power, George Bush sent about 500,000 soldiers to Iraq.

In our political discussions at present, are we in danger of overestimating the importance of the executive?

The budget standoff shows that on the one hand, with the growth of attention and focus on the presidency, we now have an expectations gap in domestic policy. Presidents can only do so much. It’s very hard for the President to get the policy he wants. And in foreign affairs, there are new constraints: NGOs, the international legal community—that limit the president’s power. Bush and Obama haven’t had the same flexibility that FDR had.

What will prove to be most historically important about the election we just went through?

The first thing that comes to mind is that now we have to have a national election every couple of years just to achieve one policy! Another question we’re asking about the election, of course, is whether it is a sign that the country is aligning with the Democratic Party.

You taught the first half of the course on the presidency in the fall online program, and you’ve taught both surveys of the presidency, the early and later, in the summer program. How does the online course differ from the summer course?

The summer course allows for a different dynamic. You have one very intense week. But there is a lot that cannot happen in that week. The online course, with its more traditional pacing, allows time for an idea to be introduced one week and to percolate for a couple of weeks after that. Time always brings out the best questions. So the summer courses offer intensity, while the online courses offer time for reflection.

 

 

 

 

Emancipation Proclamation at 150

As the new year dawns another Civil War sesquicentennial can be celebrated with the Emancipation Proclamation.  There are a number of great resources to be found at TAH to aid in the teaching of this great document. Check out this lesson developed by Professor John Moser and High School Teacher Lori Hahn. Through primary documents, students examine Abraham Lincoln’s role as a wartime president.  Students will focus on Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the Emancipation Proclamation, his decision to arm the freed slaves, his refusal to accept a compromise peace with the South, and the election of 1864.

This podcast of a lecture devlivered at the Ashbrook Center by Professor Allen Guelzo from February 28th of 2004 tells of the complicated story of the first of January, 1863, Lincoln’s “Emancipation Moment,” and the greatest moment of the American Civil War.

 

Congratulations to MAHG Student Nancie Lindblom on Winning Arizona Teacher of the Year!

 

Nancie Lindblom, Arizona Teacher of the Year

 

Nancie Lindblom believes the study of American history can inspire positive civic action. On the walls of her classroom at Skyline High School in Mesa, Arizona, she has hung three simple exhortations: “Take a stand,” “Use your voice,” and “Make a difference.” Around each slogan she has grouped photos of American historical figures. “Not all of them are presidents,” she says. Many are humbler figures, people such as any of her students may aspire to become.

Named in November as Arizona’s Teacher of the Year, this teacher of AP US history and American government is a third-year MAHG student. She decided to pursue a Master of American History and Government at Ashland because the program combined a teacher-friendly schedule with the content focus that would strengthen her knowledge base for the classroom.

Nancie was named Arizona Teacher of the year by the Arizona Education Foundation in a thorough selection process that involved a lengthy written application, an hour-long interview, and a visit to her classroom by a camera crew who not only recorded her teaching but also interviewed the students and administrators she works with. Both students and administrators say they are inspired by Nancie’s energetic teaching style.

She has been engaged in this work for 17 years, ten of these at the high school level. When she began teaching, at Brimhall Junior High School in Mesa, she at first worried that she may have contracted a serious illness, she said, because she returned home each evening thoroughly exhausted. Soon she figured out that the teaching profession simply demands a maximal daily output of energy.

Accepting the award, Nancie agrees to serve during 2013 as an advocate for the teaching profession, speaking before professional, business, civic, educational, parent, and student groups throughout the state. As one of 52 state, District of Columbia, and US territory Teachers of the Year, she will attend national education conferences, meet with President Obama in the Oval Office, attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and be considered for the honor of National Teacher of the Year, a role that entails a year of full-time education advocacy. The National Teacher of the Year program—of which the Arizona Teacher of the Year program is a part—is the oldest and most prestigious American teacher recognition program. It is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C.

In her teaching, Nancie sees her immediate role as conveying the content knowledge of history while preparing the juniors and seniors in her AP history and government classes for college. But this preparation is also life-preparation:  “I have to put rigor into the classroom, guiding students in analytical writing and critical thinking. They must form their own opinions and back these opinions up with facts and analysis. I hope to teach them problem-solving skills that will help them be successful in their lives.”

Nancie uses primary texts as much as possible in her history and government classes. The MAHG program has helped a great deal with this. “Every class I have ever taken there has provided primary material for my teaching. We leave each course with a binder of primary sources. The program also sponsors a great website, TeachingAmericanHistory.org, with links to other documents.”

Nancie was interested in the MAHG program for several years before she enrolled in it. “I randomly audited a MAHG course on the Supreme Court and had a good experience, but I didn’t know how I could afford the program. So I started looking at Arizona State University’s MA program in history. I didn’t like it; it was focused on historical research, and I wanted a program that would help me as a teacher. Then I learned about theTAH grant program and received a grant to take the Progressive Era course.  When I saw that the grant could pay for the graduate credit, I realized the program could work for me. I applied for the Madison Fellow program with my fingers crossed, and was selected in 2011.” While the Madison program covers tuition, room and board, “I cover the cost of travel to Ashland. To me it’s worth it. The program makes me a better teacher because of the resources it provides, the historical content knowledge I gain, and the community of teachers I tap into.”

Nancie values the “community of teachers” who participate in MAHG courses. She finds she meets them elsewhere: “This past summer at the James Madison Fellow program at Georgetown, probably a third of those participating were Ashland students. In 2011, when I attended the last of the Ashbrook sponsored Presidential Academies, many of those teachers were Ashland students as well. It is great to make connections with all these teachers. We use social networking to stay in touch, and when acceptances go out for such programs as the seminars on the Ratification of the Constitution, Ashland students are checking with each other to see who will be attending. I met a woman in the Presidential Academy I was able to meet up with again at the (Ashbrook sponsored) Ratification seminar in Boston, so I went sightseeing with her while there. This spring I’ll be traveling to Springfield, Illinois for a conference on Lincoln,and I’ve already learned that I’ll see a MAHG friend there.”

“A friend in Arizona asked me, when I told her I was traveling to Ashland for a summer seminar, if I had arranged to room with a person I liked. ‘What if you get stuck with a person you can’t talk to?’ she wanted to know. I told her we do not have a problem with that in the MAHG program! You know automatically that you all share the same passion for teaching history and for learning about the founding of American government.”

The summer schedule of the original MAHG program appealed to Nancie, whose teaching year is very busy. As an AP teacher, she spends most evenings grading student essays. But “at the same time I can’t spend four weeks every summer at Ashland,” so she has enrolled in the new online courses, taking Professor Ken Masugi’s course on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. “Studying face-to-face with the professor is obviously best, but this online format allows us to study face-to-face through the computer. I’ve never been successful at the usual online format, because I really need the classroom interaction.” In the webinar format, “we can share opinions and hear what others have to say.”

Nancie hopes to finish her MAHG coursework this summer and begin a capstone, so as to graduate in December 2013. Given this goal, and her ambassadorial duties as Arizona Teacher of the Year, she faces a challenging and exciting year.

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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