We the Teachers

Students “Unlock” Clues in Primary Documents, Finding Constitution Booklet

Joe Welch, an American history teacher at North Hills Middle School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, relies on internet technology for access to primary historical documents. He directs his eighth graders to online libraries such as Teaching American History’s (TAH.org) collection “almost every day.” This helps students learn our nation’s history directly from those who lived it. Reading the words of earlier Americans, students empathize with the way those Americans thought and felt, relating their own life challenges to those of the past. This helps students understand themselves. Welch tells his students, “Technology and styles may change, but human emotions do not change.”

Teachers with these high goals need to step back into the role of student from time to time, to check whether their approach works. Welch did so last spring at an TAH-sponsored weekend colloquium on Alexander Hamilton’s role as advisor to George Washington.

A group of twenty teachers sat together discussing Washington and Hamilton’s speeches and letters, guided by an engaging scholar: Stephen Knott, a faculty member in TAH.org’s Master’s program at Ashland University, a presidential biographer, and a Professor at the US Naval War College. “I had not discussed history in this way since college,” Welch said. Knott helped teachers answer the questions that arise when reading primary sources: “What was Washington’s motive when he wrote this? What other contemporary events affected his thinking?” Discussing such questions pointed up those unexpected layers of meaning that Welch hopes his eighth graders will discover.

Later, Welch attended a conference on classroom technology. One workshop suggested a classroom application of the “break-out” game, in which a team of friends is locked in a room and uses clues to find a way out. In the educational version, students go to websites to find clues to open a box with multiple locks. “How can I use this to introduce students to primary sources?” Welch wondered.

Welch thought of the most important primary source he uses in his class: the US Constitution. He carries a pocket Constitution at all times. “We study it as we cover the Founding; in later lessons I pull it out and refer to it. I wanted my students to find the Constitution inside the lockbox.” So Welch reached out to his new contacts at TAH, who agreed to donate 100 copies of the booklet, enough for every student.

In the game Welch designed, students examined five sets of short primary sources to open six locks. Documents included short letters, speeches, images, even a hand-written Electoral College vote tally. It was early in the school year, and Welch wanted to demonstrate the range of documents historians use.

He presented a scenario: “A new President has been elected, and he wants to create his own version of American history. He is destroying all our primary source documents. But our Founding Fathers locked away one thing to prevent a tyrant from taking power and erasing our memories. What is it? Open the box to find out. You have 40 minutes until the President’s executive order takes effect.”

“It was far-fetched, but middle-schoolers ate it up,” Welch said. “I’d never seen students so eager to examine primary sources. They read each document, then read it again.”

The locks opened in different ways. One set of clues directed students to a key hidden in the room. Another lock was opened by a word; two required a combination of digits. Finding keys required making connections between documents. For example, one set of clues contained a dated copy of the Gettysburg Address and a copy of the Declaration of Independence with the date blanked out. Students realized that the first words of the Gettysburg speech, “Four score and seven years ago,” referred to 1776, the year Americans announced their independence—and also the four digits that opened the lock.

To make some clue sets, Welch pulled documents related to Western Pennsylvania. A 1794 letter from Alexander Hamilton (then Secretary of War) to Governor Thomas Mifflin, “on the necessity of an immediate March of the Militia against the Western Insurgents,” referred to the Whiskey Rebellion—an event in local history most of Welch’s students had never heard of—and yielded the clue “western” for a directional lock. As clues to the word lock (opened with the key “PITTS”), Welch pulled 18 images from the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Rapidly researching the images to discover what they had in common, students realized that playwright August Wilson and ecologist Rachel Carson were born in or near Pittsburgh, that Fred Rogers filmed his children’s program there, that the Westinghouse Company was headquartered nearby, and that Meriwether Lewis launched the keelboat he and William Clark needed for their expedition into the west on the Allegheny River, at Fort Fayette in Pittsburgh.

Since Welch had built two lockboxes, students competed in teams. This introduced another skill: collaborative reading. “They divided to conquer, then worked as groups to figure out the remaining clues.” Seven out of ten teams (in five classes) met the 40-minute deadline.

Welch designed the game to show students “that they were going to have dig underneath the surface of primary documents to find their meaning and to find connections between documents.” At the end of class, the look of triumph on students’ faces showed they had also learned that “you can really work together with your peers to accomplish something.

You can learn more about the lockbox game Welch designed here

Inside each lockbox students found copies of Ashbrook’s Constitution booklet.

Students used a flashlight to read a clue written in invisible ink: the number 538, the total number of Electoral College votes today.

Teacher’s Volunteer Work Gives her Students Opportunity to Work with Shoah Foundation

Kelly Eddy, a 2015 graduate of Ashland University’s Master of Arts in American History and Government degree program, teaches Advanced Placement US history at Winston Churchill High School in Livonia, Michigan, a western suburb of Detroit. Since the 2008 recession, the school’s performing arts magnet program has attracted students from underfunded schools in Detroit, as well as immigrant Chinese and Middle Eastern students. Eddy, who has demanded students’ best efforts during her 20 years at Churchill, has had to adapt her teaching style.

Ambitious students are now taking AP classes they are not ready for. “They need extra support. With many parents working an extra job, the students are alone more. So I have to explain: ‘Here is what you must do to be successful.’”

Last year Eddy seized a chance to give several students a push. The Henry Ford Museum—where Eddy researched her Master’s thesis on the founder of the auto company—asked her to bring four students to a workshop offered by the Shoah Foundation. Eddy drove four bright students to Dearborn, Michigan, where they participated in an “IWitness” event. They watched filmed interviews of Holocaust survivors and constructed “found poems” from these elderly witnesses’ moving words. As an TAH-educated teacher, Eddy had prepared her students to deal with primary sources. They responded thoughtfully to the films.

Kelly Eddy, a 2015 graduate of Ashland's Master of Arts in American History and Government, was named 2012 Michigan History Teacher of Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

Kelly Eddy, a 2015 graduate of Ashland’s Master of Arts in American History and Government, was named 2012 Michigan History Teacher of Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

“High school kids spending a day of summer going to school—that’s impressive,” Eddy thought, as she and her students were leaving. “Then a Shoah Foundation filmmaker asked if my students would stay to be interviewed.” They stayed.

Later, Eddy and her students were invited to a Shoah Foundation gala at the Ford museum, where philanthropist Bill Ford would be honored. Students donned their best clothes and climbed in a limo that whisked them back to Dearborn. They were in a private room, reviewing their poems from the summer workshop, when “in walked filmmaker Steven Spielberg, founder of the Shoah organization, who sat and talked with them.”

“Then the students mingled with the VIP guests, talking about their experience with IWitness. I watched as they met actors Steve Carell and Halle Berry.” At dinner, a promotional video was shown, and Eddy was surprised to find her students the stars of the film.

Later, the Foundation emailed Eddy about their student ambassador program. Eddy urged Brandon, a gifted student who’d been featured prominently in the video to apply. First she warned him: “If you’re not going to take this seriously, don’t do it. Brandon was a natural leader who at times goofed off. But he was selected as an ambassador, one of four students outside the state of California.” Through the program, he interviewed several Detroit area Holocaust survivors and one survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Eddy watched Brandon change. “He gained empathy—he began standing up for others—plus self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. He realized it wasn’t just his name on the line, it was mine, also.” The student now studies at Central Michigan University.

The TAH Master’s program helped Eddy enlarge her expectations of students. “In every MAHG class, teachers discuss and interpret primary sources. Now I put those documents in students’ hands: to teach critical thinking skills and to allow them to learn directly from the past.”

“The way the TAH professors teach through discussion changed my own approach. I lecture less now,” Eddy says, admitting this involves risk. TAH Teachers prepare well for MAHG classes, and discussions are rich. But in high school, “if the kids haven’t done the reading, discussion will fall flat. Then I say, ‘Well, we’ve lost the chance to discuss this. You’re still responsible for it on the test, but we’re moving on to something else.’ The AP curriculum doesn’t allow us to slow down. But students can learn from mistakes as well as triumphs.”

You can view the video featuring Eddy’s students at the link below. The student who reads his poem near the beginning of the film, Brandon Bartley, was selected as a student ambassador for the Shoah Foundation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dlqxOButic

A Scholar of the Presidency Discusses the 2016 Election

The 2016 presidential election highlighted strong divisions among American voters, while the outcome defied the predictions of pollsters. We asked Professor Marc Landy, a highly respected instructor in Ashland’s Master’s program for secondary school teachers, to talk about what the election means. Landy is Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Edward and Louise Peterson Professor of American History and Government at Ashland University. He researches political parties, the presidency, and American political development. With Jeremy Bailey of the University of Houston, Landy co-teaches a two-part historical survey of the presidency in our summer residential MAHG program.

Marc Landy

Marc Landy

Landy has written several studies of public policy, including Creating Competitive Markets: The Politics and Economics of Regulatory Reform (2007) and Seeking the Center: Politics and Policymaking at the New Century (2001). With Sidney Milkis, he has authored Presidential Greatness (2000) and a textbook, American Government: Enduring Principles, Critical Choices, now in its third edition (2014).

  1. Professor Landy, is it accurate to call the Trump campaign a populist movement? If so, how does it resemble or differ from other populist movements we have seen in the US?

If we agree on the definition of populism as a movement of voters very disaffected with the establishment, with the way the “elites” are governing, then certainly this is a populist movement. Two such movements readily come to mind: the Jacksonians in the 1830s and the Populist Party of the 1880s and 1890s. But those movements had very different goals. Jackson was fighting for the decentralization of government. He felt the common man needed a government closer to him than the elites who were governing at the national level. With Bryan, it was a specific set of economic questions that were affecting the farmers.

With Trump, it’s a much broader set of questions: the abandonment of industry in the rustbelt, plus the resentment of those who feel their values are being denigrated by the liberal cultural elite. It’s a very different movement, with more diffused motives.

  1. Do you feel a “realignment” of the electorate has occurred, favoring the Republican Party? In 2008, some thought that Obama triggered a realignment in favor of the Democratic Party.

You can’t tell. Realigning elections don’t happen when the new political leader first takes power; they happen when that person wins re-election. A great example is FDR. The realignment didn’t occur in 1932; it happened in 1936, when you knew popular support for Roosevelt was real. The same goes for Jackson. It didn’t happen when he was first elected in 1828. The re-election solidifies the new direction.

  1. What does the election of 2016 teach us about our current primary system? Do you view this system as more “democratic” than earlier processes for selecting candidates? Does the fact that state primaries occur throughout several months, rather than all on the same day, undercut the “democratic” impulse behind the primary system?

Our primary system is dreadful. The idea that there should be a preliminary election before the general election, in order to give the people a decent choice—that seems very wrong-headed. Political parties are a very good idea. Inherent in the party system is the idea that those within the party have more in common than they do with those outside of the party. What the primary system does is to disrupt that feeling of party cohesion, loyalty and commonality.

As for staggering the primaries over a series of months in different states, it’s hard to know how else you could do it. The only other way would be for the party leaders in each state to select delegates who were committed to them, who would meet to hammer out who the candidate would be. But that can’t be done in today’s political climate. So we have to figure out another way to winnow out the candidates. On the Republican side, the fact that we had so many candidates was a disaster. But I don’t know how you could devise rules to limit that possibility.

Some dreadful things just can’t be undone. Right now, I fear that any effort to tinker with the primaries would lead to accusations of election rigging.

  1. Given that Clinton won the popular vote, many people are again questioning the Electoral College. Does that institution still serve a useful purpose?

I love the Electoral College! It’s a way of affirming that we elect our president via fifty state elections. That reinforces our notion of American federalism, which is very important. Second, it gives a part of the country that otherwise would probably be neglected more prominence. But the essential thing is that presidents are elected by the states; this ensures that the states remain a part of our system of government.

  1. This election seemed to turn on questions about the character of the candidates more than any other recent presidential election. Is this an accurate historical perspective? If so, why do you think this occurred?

I think we see it in an extreme form in this election. There have been character issues raised in other times: with Nixon, for example. But to have serious character issues raised with both candidates is highly unusual. This again points to the danger of the primary system. Up to now, we’ve been very lucky. We have had few unfortunate choices since the primaries took hold, in the late sixties and seventies. In every case since 1972 (I don’t think McGovern could have succeeded as president) the losing candidate could have governed the country.  But this time, the primary system resulted in very unhappy choices.

Clinton would have had as much trouble unifying the country under her leadership as Trump will have. Had Hillary won, her term would have been dominated by investigations of her conduct while Secretary of State. With Trump, we know so little about how he plans to govern, that we cannot predict how he might succeed. Certain things that served him very well during the campaign, emphasizing his outsider status, now make him look unprepared to assume the role.

  1. Are Congress and the executive likely to cooperate during the next four years? If so, what sort of mandate will Republicans in Congress believe the election gave them?

The initial signs suggest cooperation. The choice of Priebus as chief of staff is excellent, and Priebus as a bridge between Trump and Ryan is promising.

The election does suggest a mandate to do something serious about Obamacare. Trump campaigned hard on it, and Congressional Republicans have made it a high priority over a number of years. The word “repeal” is very misleading; they can repeal the law, but they would have to put something in its place.

  1. Do you see the American electorate as more divided than ever before? To put the question another way, are the divided sides in this election less tolerant of each other’s views than ever before?

We’re divided in different ways. Today the arm of the federal government reaches further into people’s lives. And the media really penetrates. People in remote areas may be even more affected by the major media outlets than those who live in urban areas, where there are a diversity of news sources.

Many observers discounted the grievances of those in the rustbelt and southern states: their terrible economic insecurity and their resentment of “political correctness.”

It was not so much that people lost jobs; rather, they lost the high-paying factory jobs they once had. They’re working for $15 an hour instead of $20 or $30. Then, people objected to points of view being imposed on them. It’s not that they all object to homosexual or transgender behavior, but they don’t like being forced into positions that they think defy common sense, such as allowing a person who appears to be a male to use a female bathroom. The demonstrations in Ferguson, which challenged people’s notions of law and order, troubled them also. These are serious issues, and the fact that many people felt they were not allowed to discuss them in a reasonable way hurt the Democrats.

 

Pennsylvania Teacher Testifies to Benjamin Franklin’s Wonderful Life

Talk with teachers participating in TAH.org’s programs, and you learn that many have cultivated a deep knowledge of the history of their states, counties, and towns. Local history it is not emphasized in most school curricula. Yet teachers find that pointing students toward this history can help students make connections between past and present. It also encourages civic-mindedness, helping students to understand American government as a federal system, in which citizens take responsibility for local and state government.

A statue of Benjamin Franklin stands near the original site of Fort Allen (photo by Mike Feifel).

A statue of Benjamin Franklin stands near the original site of Fort Allen (photo by Mike Feifel).

Teachers who bring knowledge of their specific region to Ashbrook Masters seminars sometimes instruct the faculty. Professor Christopher Flannery speaks of a remarkable moment in a class he taught on the writings of Benjamin Franklin. In his Autobiography, Franklin mentions his brief military service during the French and Indian War. A seminar student – Mike Feifel, a teacher at Lehighton Area High School, near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – offered Flannery and classmates an in-depth account of this episode.

Feifel explained that at the outset of the war, Franklin, as Pennsylvania representative to the continental Albany Congress, had attempted to organize a united governing council and militia for the colonies. The royal governor had not accepted his plan, and the threat posed by French-allied native American tribes to settlers along the frontier persisted.

Some of these settlers were Moravian missionaries who had founded a settlement called New Gnadenhutten – at the site of present-day Lehighton – for British-allied Indians, members of the Lenni Lenape tribe. Considered traitors by the Indians now fighting alongside the French to oust the British settlers, the Lenni Lenape had been hounded from their traditional hunting grounds.  The Moravians offered these native Americans their “Huts of Mercy” settlement, providing instruction in the gospel along with a stable community. They helped the Lenni Lenape build homes, while living themselves in one mission house just across the Lehigh River.

On November 24, 1755, the Moravians were eating dinner when a party of hostile Indians attacked. The Moravians were pacifists. Those not immediately killed fled to the attic, dying when the Indians set fire to the house.

“I pass by the site every day on my way to school,” Feifel said. The spot is marked with a marble burial stone and an historical placard that tells the story of the massacre.

The mass grave of the victims of the Gnadenhutten massacre (photo by Mike Feifel).

The mass grave of the victims of the Gnadenhutten massacre (photo by Mike Feifel).

The alarm caused by the massacre and a failed retaliation forced Deputy Governor Robert Morris to act. He gave Franklin the title of Colonel and put him in charge of frontier defense. A highly capable administrator and communicator, Franklin recounts in his autobiography how he had raised supplies from Pennsylvania farmers for British General Bratton’s earlier disastrous venture to retake Fort Duquesne. However, he says, “I had not so good an opinion of my military Abilities as [Governor Morris] professed to have.”

“Franklin had not spent a day of his life in a military campaign,” said Feifel, who’s done independent research in Franklin’s letters. Yet Franklin traveled to the frontier settlement of Bethlehem, mustered troops, and planned an attack on the tribe who had destroyed the Gnadenhutten settlement. “On the morning of his 50th birthday, Franklin was about to set out when he got word that muskets he had brought and supplied settlers with had failed to fire during another Indian attack.” American muskets required gunpowder that didn’t ignite in wet weather. “Franklin set out anyway, but then, as his soldiers marched through a narrow, wooded gorge, he saw they were vulnerable to hidden attackers.” He ordered a retreat.

Instead of going to meet the foe, Franklin resolved to build forts. These became Fort Allen, Fort Franklin, and Fort Norris, and offered strongholds to which settlers could run when attacked. “It was a huge advance for the undefended area,” Feifel told his classmates.

“In 1758, the Treaty of Easton brought a truce between British settlers and the hostile tribes. The last Indian massacre in the area occurred in 1763,” as the French and Indian War neared conclusion. Feifel credits Franklin’s initiative and leadership with securing the Pennsylvania frontier.

He pointed out to the seminar that this region would be critical to the nation’s industrialization. Here, anthracite coal would be discovered, and Josiah White would build canal to take coal to Philadelphia. Coal would later fuel the steel industry that grew up around Bethlehem. The area would also become the birthplace of organized labor, where the “Molly Maguires” first organized.

White would donate some of his profits from Lehigh River navigation to found schools for Native Americans. One of these, Carlisle Industrial Indian School (now Carlisle College), educated the great athlete Jim Thorpe.

“All of this happened because of what Franklin did,” Feifel told fellow students in Flannery’s Ashbrook seminar.

Program Report: Alexander Hamilton hosted at Fraunces Tavern, NYC

This last Saturday, October 15th, the esteemed Dr. Stephen Knott presented a Forum at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City.  Fifty-five teachers from several states gathered at this historic site, the very place where General Washington bid farewell to his troops at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  Dr. Knott spoke on “Hamilton’s View of Federal Power”, “Launching the New Government” and “Cabinet Warfare: The Report on Manufacturing and the Whiskey Rebellion” as topics, as well as all facets of Hamilton’s life, his workings with Washington, the rivalry with Jefferson and the duel with Burr that ended his life. All participants received a copy of Dr. Knott’s latest book, “Washington and Hamilton: An Alliance That Forged America”   This program was generously funded by the Achelis & Bodman Foundations.  

Teachers at the Fraunces Tavern

Teachers at the Fraunces Tavern

 

Five Teachers Compare Student Attitudes Toward Civil War

In this post, we report on five teachers’ project to assign a common book probing American understanding of the Civil War. Five Madison Fellows from five states, four of them in the MAHG program, required all their American history students to read the same historical text, Apostles of Disunion, which makes a compelling argument against a long-standing theme of historiography on the American Civil War. 

Five Teachers Compare Student Attitudes in North and South Toward the Civil War

Creative Collaborations Among Teachers

The friendships that begin in the Master of Arts program in History and Government lead to a fertile exchange of teaching ideas. Recently they’ve led to teaching collaborations across time zones.

In this post, we share the story of two teachers who collaborated in assigning a local history project. Through it, students in California and Ohio learned that trends in national history have shaped their hometowns in parallel ways.

California and Ohio Teachers Collaborate on Local History Project

 

 

MAHG by the Numbers

On Saturday, August 13th, Ashland University awarded the degree of Master of Arts to 24 MAHG/MASTAHG students.  Since 2005, 174 students have earned the degree.

Twenty-two of these new graduates were in the MAHG program; two were in MASTAHG program.  They came from 15 states and include 14 James Madison Fellows.  Two students wrote a thesis, four created a capstone project, and 18 completed their studies via the qualifying examination.

There are now 244 students in the MAHG program; 75 in MASTAHG.  These students come from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and one US territory, the Virgin Islands (yeah, Norda!).

A free coffee mug to anyone who guesses which two states don’t have representatives in MAHG.  Two free coffee mugs if you enroll in the program from one of those states!

Students on campus this summer came from 36 states. For the Fall schedule of classes, go to https://www.ashland.edu/mahg/student-informationschedule-courses/fall-2016.  For more information, please contact Chris Pascarella at cpascarella@tah.org.

Program Reports: The Father of the Constitution and The New Frontier

TAH.org hosted two Colloquia the weekend of August 12-14: James Madison: The Father of the Consitution at Montpelier and John F Kennedy: The New Frontier in Quincy, Massachusetts.  

No single person contributed more to the constitutional mind of America than James Madison.  Through his contributions to the U.S. Constitution, Madison shaped this republican form of government.  Professor Chris Burkett, of Ashland University, led the conversation as teachers explored readings on religious liberty, the Federalist Papers, Bill of Rights and Madison’s final advice to his country.  Participants enjoyed a three hour tour of Montpelier and its beautiful grounds.  

Professor Stephen Knott, of the Naval War College, chaired the Weekend Colloquium on President John F. Kennedy, the nation’s youngest elected President.  This colloquium examined Kennedy’s brief presidency, including his Cold War policies toward the Soviet Union, Cuba, Berlin and Vietnam, his domestic initiatives on civil rights; as well as his lasting impact on the office of the presidency.  Teacher visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum as well.  

For more information and teacher resources, please visit our website www.teachingamericanhistory.org

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Ashbrook Teachers outside Montpelier

Ashbrook Teachers engaging in discussion during the Father of the Constitution colloquia.

Ashbrook Teachers engaging in discussion during the Father of the Constitution colloquia.

Program Report: The Civil War at the Massachusetts Historical Society

Saturday, July 30th, TeachingAmericanHistory.org partnered once again with the Massachusetts Historical Society for a Forum on the Civil War, generously sponsored by the Filene Foundation in Massachusetts.  Dr. Joseph Fornieri, Political Scientist with the Rochester Technical Institute chaired the conversation with three sessions: “A House Divided” Causes of the Conflict; “The Apple of Gold and Picture of Silver”: Secession and The Union; and finally “A New Birth of Freedom.” We enjoyed lively discussion under the watchful gaze of John and Abigail Adams, Daniel Webster and  General Washington (some of the  portraits in the meeting room).  When the program concluded, participants enjoyed several new exhibits at the Massachusetts Historical Society, such as the pen that President Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. General Washington’s epaulet’s are on display as are several letters of John Winthrop,  along with artifacts of King Phillip’s War. If you are in the Boston area, please stop in and visit!

The pen Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation

The pen Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

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Dr. Joseph Fornieri leading discussion at the Forum on the Civil War at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Program Reports: “The American Founding” and “The Origins of the Cold War”

The Manatee Technical College hosted a two day TAH.org seminar on the topics of The American Founding and The Origins of the Cold War that drew teachers from southern and central Florida.  Dr. David Alvis, from Wofford College, led the discussion on The American Fouding, with three sessions that considered documents such as Abraham Lincoln’s “Fragment on th the Constitution”; Tocqueville’s Democracy in America; James Madison’s “Vices of the political System of the United States” Federalist Papers #47, #10 and #51.  

Dr. David Krugler, Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville, chaired conversation in the Origins of the Cold War Seminar.  Thirty educators came together to discuss documents of Wartime Alliance 1939-1941, followed with readings on the Origins of Containment 1945-1947 and we concluded with primary sources on the Practice of Containment 1947-1950.  

For more information on upcoming seminars and programs, please visit www.teachingamericanhistory.org.  

Teachers with Professor David Krugler at Manatee Technical College

Program Report: Charlottesville Weekend Colloquia

This past weekend, July 22-24, TeachingAmericanHistory.org and the Ashbrook Center hosted two Weekend Colloquia in Charlottesville, VA on Thomas Jefferson.  Professor Eric Sands of Berry College, chaired a Colloquia on The Politics of Thomas Jefferson while Professor Robert McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy, led a Colloquia on Thomas Jefferson and Education.  

Thomas Jefferson believed that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”  One group focused on only on Jefferson’s education and his plans for educational reform in Virginia but also his founding of the United States Military Academy in 1802 and the University of Virginia in 1819.  

Dr. Sands facilitated conversation that centered on Thomas Jefferson and Politics, which considered topics as the Constitution, Race, Religious Freedom, Education and his lasting legacy.  Participants enjoyed an afternoon tour of Monticello which was in full bloom with spring tulips.  After dinner Dr. McDonald delighted everyone with a tour of the University of Virginia to discuss Jefferson’s architectural designs.  

A group of Ashbrook Teachers taking in the sights at Monticello.

A group of Ashbrook Teachers taking in the sights at Monticello.

Civics Renewal Network/AP Conference Presentation Materials

TeachingAmericanHistory.org

TAH.org has partnered with the Civics Renewal Network to present a workshop at the 2016 Advanced Placement Annual Conference, in Anaheim, California. TAH.org will also be on the vendor hall floor with CRN, so stop by and see if us you’re planning on attending the conference.

The resources below are a collection of documents-based webinars, reading packets, lessons, and archived courses all focused on or related to Reconstruction. The documents packets include not only documents, but also guiding questions and short summaries establishing context. The webinars are about 75 minutes long each. None of these require any passwords or any registration, and all materials and linked pages can be posted freely on other websites so long as TAH.org is attributed as the original source.

Ashbrook Graduate Earns Top Teacher Award from Daughters of the American Revolution

The Daughters of the American Revolution have named a graduate of Ashbrook’s Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) degree program as West Virginia’s Outstanding Teacher of American History for 2016. Adena Barnette, who teaches at Ripley High School, also placed third in the national competition.

In March, Adena Barnette was presented the DAR award for Outstanding Teacher of American History at the Greenbrier National Historic Landmark in White Sulphur Springs.

Active in statewide and national education efforts and a frequent traveller to out-of-state teacher seminars, Barnette brings the wider world to students in her hometown of Ripley. It‘s an Appalachian town of about 3,500, thirty miles north of Charleston. It boasts the country’s largest small town Independence Day celebration, which drew a visit from President George W. Bush in the July following 9/11. Yet students in the economically challenged town need a push to claim their personal potential.

The high school serves 1,000 students from Ripley and surrounding communities. Barnette chairs the social studies department and teaches the college preparatory track: helping students, often the first in their families to aspire to college, gain the skills for admission and success. Meanwhile, she encourages the “belief that hard work begets success.”

“My students read primary sources at least three out of five days in any given week,” Barnette told the DAR awards panel. This requires hands-on teaching as she guides students in highlighting, annotating, looking up vocabulary words, and moving from analysis to high-order questioning of the implications of a text.

Barnette credits Ashbrook’s Master’s program, which is based on the study of primary documents, with sharpening her own skills of both document analysis and writing. “To become a good writer, it helps to emulate the great American writers . . . thinking about what they say and how they say it.”

Through the program, Barnette developed her analytical and writing skills well enough to earn the Chairman’s award for her thesis, which presented ground-breaking research on the Constitutional process through which West Virginia detached from Virginia, becoming its own state.

Ashbrook’s MAHG program also gave Barnette valuable colleagues. “Living in a rural area, you can feel isolated if you don’t know others in your community who are equally obsessed with American history. I can bounce ideas off of my MAHG friends, ask questions about my lesson plans, and share my latest projects.”

One such project is the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a national non-profit organization working with like-minded groups to increase access to educational resources. Barnette serves on the Education Advisory Committee to the DPLA and has written teaching guides to six primary source sets on a wide range of American history topics, from coal mining and labor history to colonial American religion. Still, Barnette calls Ashbrook’s Teaching American History website “one of the greatest repositories for primary sources. If I’m looking for a document, that’s where I go.”

Teaching key American documents that articulate American principles serves Barnette’s primary goal of “instilling a genuine and abiding patriotism that rises above party, region, or demographic.” She quotes John Adams: “Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people,” adding that “it rests on educators’ shoulders whether our American republic will continue to be a ‘city on a hill’ or a failed experiment in democracy.”

Barnette is the second graduate of Ashbrook’s Master’s program to have placed nationally in the DAR competition. Nancy Lindblom of Arizona won the top national award in 2012. Michelle Hubenschmidt of Florida, now a manager of Ashbrook teacher programs, won the national award bestowed by the Sons of the American Revolution, a brother organization to the DAR, in 2012. These awards testify to Ashbrook’s key role in strengthening American constitutional government through civic education.

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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