We the Teachers

Program Report: FDR vs. Hoover at the MA Historical Society in Boston

On Saturday, May 21st TAH.org brought Dr. Gordon Lloyd to the Massachusetts Historical Society to present on FDR’s “Forgotten Man” vs. Hoover’s “Rugged Individual”. This seminar discussed the Great Depression, speeches and policies of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt.

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The conversation considered topics such as Executive Power, the Constitution, The Supreme Court along with the national morale of the people. All of the selected readings can be found in The Two Faces of Liberalism: How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debate Shapes the 21st Century by Dr. Gordon Lloyd.

As Dr. Lloyd says, “May the blessings of Liberty be upon you.”

Ashbrook Master’s Graduate Named Ohio’s Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher

In October, Kimberly Huffman, a graduate of Ashbrook’s Master of Arts in American History and Government degree program, was named Ohio’s Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher.  The Ohio Council of Social Studies (OCSS), which promotes social studies education, recognized Huffman for exceptional practice in teaching, leadership in her school community, supporting the success of youth, and promoting youth’s civic participation.

Huffman touring the White House during her month-long internship with the office of Congressman Renacci.

Huffman touring the White House during her month-long internship with the office of Congressman Renacci.

Huffman teaches government at Wayne County Schools Career Center (WCSCC), a school where students learn career-technical skills while completing high school academic requirements. The career center emphasizes hands-on learning, with a range of apprenticeship opportunities, from bricklaying to nursing and hospitality work. Although Huffman teaches an academic rather than a skills-based subject, she focuses on real-life application.

Jean Roberts, former Career Services Coordinator at WCSCC, who nominated Huffman for the award, noted the “high energy” level in Huffman’s classroom. Students grasp the relevance of government under Huffman’s guidance, engaging with enthusiasm in research reports, current event discussions, and conversations with Ohio political officials or their staffers who visit the classroom in person or via Skype. Huffman “instills both knowledge and passion for the democratic process in her students,” Roberts said.

Huffman teaches a state-mandated government course to juniors and seniors.  Since completing her Master’s, she has also taught a “dual enrollment” government course that gives students three college credits through Stark State College. This head start on an associates degree would not have opened at WCSCC had Huffman not discovered Ashbrook’s nearby master’s program with its summer schedule. Like many teachers in Ashbrook’s program, Huffman did not want to take time off, abandoning her students, while earning her degree.

Huffman particularly appreciated the government component of Ashbrook’s program. “I got a B.A. in education with a concentration in social studies,” which required low-level courses in history, sociology, economics, geography, and political science. This did not supply the content knowledge she needed to teach government. “I was told that if I concentrated in political science I’d never get hired. But you don’t find your passion by learning a little bit about a lot of different things. Now, thanks to Ashbrook, I know a lot about a smaller area—government and politics.”

Huffman encourages students to become “engaged citizens who understand and protect their rights. I tell students that to protect our freedoms, we have to know the Constitution”—lest we discover the liberties it protects only “after they’re taken away.” Huffman advises the student leadership council at WCSCC, helping students “strategize how to correct” school issues. “You have to understand the established process of government and work within those parameters.” She must reason against the impatience of adolescence and a “distaste for politics” noticeable across all age groups.

In 2013, Huffman was the high school teacher chosen as Congressional Fellow by the James Madison Foundation, giving her a rare month-long internship in a Washington Congressional office. Huffman worked for Jim Renacci, Congressman for Ohio’s 16th district, gaining great respect for the long hours and careful thought Renacci puts in as he balances competing interests within his district. She can now explain to her students the difficulty of making legislative decisions. Last summer Huffman furthered her knowledge of a particular interest—the Supreme Court—when she attended a seminar on the Supreme Court at Stanford University.

Huffman says Ashbrook’s program built her confidence to tackle these challenges. The professors “stretch you, exposing you to primary documents and their importance. Before, I was a textbook teacher—always just two weeks ahead of the kids” in her grasp of the subject. “Now I have a repertoire of primary documents to use in class and a secure knowledge of the subject.” Using primary sources as a framework for class debate, Huffman can “let the students arrive at their own conclusions.” Like other Ashbrook-educated teachers, Huffman has seen that when students read America’s founding documents, they embrace on their own the principles of our democratic system.

Teacher Offers Students A Second Chance To Engage With History Through Primary Documents

TAH.org Teacher seminars model the free and thoughtful discussion of primary documents. Creative teachers like Deb Wiley Horner take the documents and discussion back to the classroom, and watch their students begin to care about history. 

Horner attends every TAH.org Saturday seminar she can. The seminars are held on the Ashland University campus and she finds them rejuvenating after a week working with students many would find challenging to teach: residents at the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center in Ravenna, Ohio.

Horner’s students range in age from 12 to 18. They arrive unpredictably and stay from a few weeks to three months. Most lack good parental role models for dealing with the conflicts of adolescence. They are suspicious of authority figures, having often gotten into trouble by acting out natural feelings of anger and resentment. They feel victim to the hidden agendas of the adults in their lives.

But primary documents give them access to the inside story of history. The letters and speeches of earlier Americans reveal what they actually thought and intended. Reading the documents, Horner’s students feel they are at last getting the straight story.

Some bright students also gain a new critical thinking tool. If asked to turn from a primary document to an historian’s summary, they ask, “Who wrote this? What was that person’s angle?”

As they become fascinated with history, Horner’s students develop academic discipline. One student, working on a computer in Horner’s room during a study period, watched her preparing to teach a class on the Declaration of Independence. The student then found the online document on the Teaching American History website. After a while, Horner noticed he was writing down every word in the Declaration that he did not understand, then checking an online dictionary for the definitions. Horner used the student’s annotated vocabulary list the next day as she taught the document.

For a women’s history project, the same student asked Horner to help him find a collection of letters between John and Abigail Adams. He then incorporated selections from the letters in a powerpoint presentation on the second first lady. Horner is encouraging this student to finish high school and go to college.

Horner listens at TAH.org seminars for the human dynamic in history that relates to her students’ lives. “I went to an TAH program at the Heinz Center with Gordon Lloyd on ‘Fifty Ways to Love Your Founders.’ He spoke about how the Founders argued a lot. I love that I can tell my students, ‘They agreed on the principle of freedom, but they did not agree on everything.’” Horner helps students realize that you can have a serious disagreement with someone without throwing a punch.

You can even collaborate with an antagonist on projects of great consequence. When Horner’s students read the Declaration, she said, “we discussed how the document ends, with the signers saying, ‘We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.’ The signers were committing treason against Great Britain. I asked students to imagine what could have happened to them if the Revolution failed. Then I asked, ‘What does it mean to be willing to lay your life down for someone you’ve actually been arguing with?’’’

During her free periods, Horner’s students see her reading. “They see me pull a document from the stack on my desk and ask what’s in it. I say, ‘It’s for my weekend Ashbrook seminar.’ They ask, ‘Why do you keep going to these classes?’ and I answer, ‘So I can be a more informed teacher for you, and can bring you a different perspective than you’ve heard before.’ It’s inspirational for them. They think, ‘If my teacher is still learning, why can’t I?’”

Freedom Day Resources

 

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In support of ‘Freedom Day,’ TeachingAmericanHistory.org has collected a variety of resources for you and your classes. Freedom Day encourages people of all ages to explore how Americans’ freedoms of speech and expression are exercised, threatened, and protected in the past and today in the world. Join with the Civics Renewal Network and National Constitution Center in conversation, activities and online programs to discuss the meaning for Freedom and its relevance in modern society.  The Center has chosen April 13th to celebrate the understanding and meaning of freedom expressed by the Constitution and other founding documents however, schools can choose to celebrate on that day or any day that week.

  • Primary Document-based lesson plan collections – lessons on a wide variety of topics related to American history, government, and civics, all based in primary documents
  • The Constitutional Convention Online Exhibit – the web’s most-visited and comprehensive resource on the Convention of 1787
  • The Bill of Rights Online Exhibit – An extensive study of the politics, ideas, origins, and legacy of the United States Bill of Rights
  • Religion in America – A unique and powerful study of the place and impact of religion in American politics and life
  • 50 Core American Documents – The essential starting point from which to consider what it means to be an American. Over 67,000 print and ebook copies of this volume have been distributed since late 2014
  • Presidential Academy – 31 sessions addressing the broad scope of American history, challenges, and ideas from the Founding through the late 20th Century
  • Thomas Jefferson – An extensive collection of letters, political writings, and other resources spanning the years from 1774 to his death in 1826

 

Program Report: “Civil Disobedience” Seminar in Asheville, NC

Last Saturday teachers from four states gathered in Asheville, North Carolina for one of the final TAH.org seminars of 2015. They discussed “Civil Disobedience” with Dr. David Alvis, an interesting topic that explored America’s founding and it’s roots in civil disobedience. What does civil disobedience mean? How far can a person or group act upon their convictions before it deemed not civil?

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This seminar’s three sessions began with John Locke’s Two Treatises and the Declaration of Independence. Was the American Revolution “revolutionary” or merely a “war for independence” when compared to the French or Russian Revolutions. The second session considered Henry David Thoreau’s idea of conscientious disobedience, that a person is morally obligated to act upon any repugnant injustice or law, regardless of the outcome. However, with that idea come events like John Brown acting on his own moral authority who murders in the name of justice. Juxtapose Thoreau’s writings with Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum address and he warns of the dangers with “mobocracy” and the need for rule of law at all times. Our third session compared Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail writings to Malcolm X “The Ballot of the Bullet”.  All in all, it was a very thought provoking day.

We hope to meet you at one of our programs in 2016.

 

Dr. Gordon Lloyd’s Constitution Day Presentation

 

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Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Professor Emeritus of Pepperdine University and Senior Fellow at the Ashbrook Center, took time on 17 September of this year to talk with a group of people about the history and importance of the United States Constitution, in honor of the 228th anniversary of its signing.

TAH.org Weekend Colloquia in Philadelphia and Charlottesville

TAH.org held several Weekend Colloquia simultaneously this past weekend. Social Studies and Civics teachers from across the country spent time with scholars and peers in Charlottesville, VA and Philadelphia, PA discussing primary documents and touring historic sites.

Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, hosted two colloquia and over forty educators. Jefferson famously stated, “I cannot live without books” and felt that education was foundational to the success of this young republic. The Colloquia Jefferson and Education focused and explored that theme with scholar Dr. Robert McDonald of the United States Military Academy leading the discussion. He is also an alumni of Jefferson’s University of Virginia and eagerly invited participants on a Saturday evening tour of the campus.

Keeping on the Jefferson topic, an additional Colloquia entitled Jefferson, the Enigma also occurred that weekend, with scholar Dr. Eric Sands who also graduated from the University of Virginia and currently instructs with Berry College. To this day, Jefferson remains an enigmatic character, one who is highly discussed and debated for his views on equality, slavery, constitutionalism, and federalism. Readings for this seminar focused on those issues as well as Jefferson’s impact on Lincoln and his Presidency.

Charlottesville July 2015

Dr. Christopher Burkett of Ashland University presided as scholar in Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love” for a colloquium on James Madison: Statesman for Constitutional Government. Is there a more fitting place to hold a conversation on the Constitution? Participants spent several sessions discussing this nation’s founding documents on Civil and Religious Liberty; The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. After a tour of Independence Hall, Dr. Burkett narrated a short walking tour of Philadelphia.

Philly July 2015

We would enjoy meeting you at one of the Weekend Colloquia or other programs and hope you have signed up for email notifications for upcoming programs at TAH.org. To view our Programs Calendar please visit, TAH.org/events.

Julia Fuette places a capstone on her education

Writing her capstone project, Julia Rae Fuette wanted to synthesize the most important concepts she’d learned in her coursework as a Masters student in American History and Government. At the same time she wanted to design a project that she could put directly to use in her teaching at Cornerstone Christian School in Wildomar, California, a community in California’s southern central valley. At this small K-12 school, Fuette is chair of the history and English departments and teaches a range of high school courses, including American history, American government, American literature, and AP US history.

Fuette selected a theme that she could follow from the Founding to the Civil War. She wrote a 115-page narrative of six different moments in American history when the Constitution’s tacit allowance of slavery in the new American republic became a point of contention in American political life. Each “moment” was defined by primary documents that show the Founders and their successors struggling to reconcile their quest for liberty with the shameful fact of their country’s acceptance of slave labor.

Then she designed seven lesson plans, so that her students, too, might explore those six moments through original documents, after first considering short meditations by Founder John Jay and Civil War leader Abraham Lincoln that set the context for the entire story.  In December, her capstone was honored with the Chairman’s award.

Fuette’s advisor, Professor Pete Myers, calls her capstone project “a remarkably well conceived, well researched, and well executed work. Its narrative component tells the complicated, vitally important story of slavery and the Constitution briskly, clearly, and fairly, and her series of accompanying lesson plans should serve her for years to come as a small treasure of pedagogical resources.”

“My work in the Masters program at Ashland taught me to focus on thematic-based teaching,” Fuette said. “Ashbrook’s TeachingAmericanHistory.org website opened my eyes to the wealth of primary sources I could share with my students. This helped me to pull away from the textbook, which simply bombards students with names, dates and facts.”

Fuette had nearly completed another Masters in history at California State University in Long Beach when she found the Ashland University program. She had earned 30 credits at Cal State, but hit a snag when advisors rejected her proposals for a thesis. She enjoyed the three summers she spent in Ashland immersing herself in study of primary sources. In contrast to the focus on historiography at Cal State, which elevates the arguments among contemporary historians, Ashbrook’s program invites one into the minds of American statesmen by asking students to read the documents they wrote while arguing for principles, forging compromises, and shaping law and policy.

“Today, the Constitution and the Declaration provide the themes I use to teach American history. I was not taught that at Cal State.” In government class, Fuette’s students spend a semester going through the first three articles of the Constitution, reading excerpts from “three quarters of the Federalist papers to understand the design of our government. I would never have attempted this if it hadn’t been for the Ashbrook program,” Fuette says.

“From Fuette’s example and those of similarly gifted teachers we are fortunate to assist,” Professor Myers says, he and others who commit their energies to the program “find encouragement in the knowledge that secondary school students in at least some parts of the nation are yet receiving able instruction in the principles and statecraft of the Founders.”

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.

Welcome to We The Teachers

The Ashbrook Center and TeachingAmericanHistory.org are pleased to unveil our new history and government teaching resource blog, We the Teachers.  Here you will find regularly updated posts highlighting not only the resources found at our own site, but many of the best resources, lesson plans, and professional development opportunities offered by leading history and civics education groups and government agencies.

Your feedback is encouraged and will help us to refine We the Teachers as this project continues to develop.  We encourage you to share us with friends and colleagues by posting to your own social networking sites, to follow our feed on Twitter, and to like our page on Facebook.

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