We the Teachers

The College Board: Elections and the Jackson Era

Stump Speaking (1854) by George Caleb Bingham

The common person did not always hold the electoral clout the he does today. Political parties were dominated more by party elites in the Early National era.  One example: the term “King Caucus” refers to the system in which party elites would choose nominees for major national offices.  The common person had little input for nominations.  Additionally, the common man had less of a say in the choice of President.  Electoral College delegates were not required to follow the popular vote tallies–that is, in times and places where the people at large were even permitted to say any role in the choosing of the President.

The Jacksonian Era saw a major shift in the role that the common person played in political campaigns.  Primaries were introduced in this era and participation in them were broaden to include more than just elites.  Thus, “King Caucus” died.  Further, Electoral College delegates were increasingly chosen by the common person.  The common man began, during this time, to be courted for his partisan support.  Political activity increased exponentially, as the people were increasingly engaged at all political levels.  Certainly, by 1840, a more modern system emerged in which two political parties mobilized the masses in order to win political office.

Teachers of Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) are familiar with the document-based question (DBQ).  The College Board, which operates the myriad AP programs, has a website that allows teachers access to many helpful resources concerning the DBQ.

A previous APUSH exam had students analyze the rise of political participation during the Jacksonian Era.  Even if you do not teach APUSH, this website can be a tremendous boon to adding critical thinking into the classroom.  Teachers can give this document set to students to introduce the the question of the rise of political participation during the Jackson Era.

Teachers could then have students analyze the documents using this DBQ Analysis Sheet from APUSH guru Warren Hierl, or can have students write an essay answer to the DBQ.

Additionally, in helping prep students for the DBQ essay, teachers can print these analysis aides for interpreting the documents.  This link also includes a long list of specifically factual information terms that could be useful in providing a breadth of content.  There is also a scoring rubric given.

Finally, this site provides teachers with sample student responses.  Scroll down to the end of this PDF in order to view them.

Reading Like an Historian: Populism and the Election of 1896

The Cross of Gold Speech, with Democrat/Populist champion William Jennings Bryan

The history of third parties is a very interesting study.  Typically, their electoral success is minimal-to-none.  However, some ideas of their platforms are often absorbed by the major parties.  In essence, their legacies are found in some of the policies enacted by administrations of subsequent mainstream politicians.

The Populists were no different.  The late 1800s represented their heyday.  They achieved some success at the state levels through such legislation as Granger laws and by electing some governors.  At the national level, Congress even seated members from their ranks.  They were unable to achieve electoral success in the presidency, however.  Their best chance in this realm came in 1896, when the Democrats nominated a champion of many Populist ideals in trumpet-voiced William Jennings Bryan.  He, however, was defeated soundly by Ohio Republican William McKinley.

Stanford University has a wonderful department in their education school called Stanford History Education Group (SHEG).  SHEG has produced a series of lesson plans, called Reading Like an Historian, that utilizes primary sources as the driving factor behind achieving student interaction with the past.  These inquiry-based lessons are posted on their website.

SHEG’s lesson plan for Populism and the Election of 1896 can be found here.   Accompanying the lesson is also a link to a PowerPoint and a set of primary sources that align with the topic.

Additional lessons from the Gilded Age are also posted on the Reading Like an Historian website.

The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Candidates’ Religion

This election season has seen the issue of religion surface again and again.  The Romney campaign has labeled President Obama as an attacker of religion.  Romney’s own faith has been a subject of debate as well.

But this is not a new development.  Religion has played a role in presidential campaigns for over 150 years.  John C. Fremont’s possible Catholicism was questioned in 1856 by Democrats: if he was elected, would the Pope rule the U.S.?   Al Smith suffered similar attacks in 1928.  Neither candidate was elected; their links to the Catholic Church were part of the reason for this.  The trend in America politics seems to have been (and may still be) one of fear of and discomfort with the religiously unfamiliar.

The Living Room Candidate can help teachers provide students with a more-recent look at this trend.  Kennedy’s Catholicism was also scrutinized in 1960.  For teachers interested in this topic, and for teachers interested in the history of presidential campaign television commercials, this website provides a poignant video.  This video depicts Kennedy defending his ability to lead the nation as a Catholic while honoring the doctrine of separation of church and state.  Allaying the deeply-embedded (and absurd) fears of Protestant America that the Pope would sail up the Potomac as a crowned monarch upon his election was one of the many reasons why Kennedy won in 1960.  This made him the first Catholic president in United States’ history.

JFK and Pope Paul VI, 1963

The Living Room Candidate: Historical Presidential Campaign Commercials

What is a social studies teacher to do with television being dominated by presidential campaign advertisements?  It is very tempting to be cynical and decry the commercialization of politics in our culture.  An alternative pedagogical route would be to provide the historical background of presidential commercials.

The thirteenth edition of The American Pageant provides a critical analysis of the 1952 presidential campaign.   This campaign marked a major change over time, as it represented the first time in which presidential candidates used heavy doses of television ads in order to gain votes.  Bailey, et al, on page 887 of that edition, critiques the Eisenhower camp’s political ads, stating that they were “tightly scripted,” “devoid of substance,” and that they “vastly oversimplified complicated economic and social issues.”  All of this, the historians claim, “foreshadowed the future of political advertising.”

Are these claims true?  One website that may help a teacher answer this question and provide historical insight to presidential commercials for students.  The Living Room Candidate is a treasure trove of many of the most influential presidential campaign advertisements from the television age.  By going to their 1952 campaign site, a teacher can get students to critically evaluate the claims of American Pageant.

Were Ike’s commercials “tightly scripted“?

Were Ike’s commercials “devoid of substance“?

Did they “oversimplify complicated economic issues“?

Of course, teachers should not overlook the Adlai Stevenson campaign either.  Why would your students make of these ads?

Adlai to You

Ike…Bob

Platform Double Talk

 

Be sure also to note the very helpful tabs that provide context to the campaign under the headings “1952,” “Eisenhower,” “Stevenson,” and “Results.”

"Selling the President like toothpaste" --The American Pageant

The Miller Center: Presidential Campaign Debates

Carter v. Reagan Debates

The 2012 presidential debates are approaching.  Many social studies teachers may incorporate the Obama-Romney debates into their classroom.  The Miller Center is an excellent resource for teachers who would like to provide opportunities for students to compare/contrast this election with past ones.

The surface similarities the 1980 Carter-Reagan campaign with this current one are myriad.  The incumbent Democrat, facing a difficult economy, was seen in Carter as well as presently seen in Obama.  The Republican challenger in both cases either asked or is asking Americans, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

But getting past the surface takes a little more research.  If a teacher was interested in pursuing the similarities and differences, on a deeper level, between the 1980 and the 2012 elections, the Miller Center’s site on the Campaigns and Elections of Jimmy Carter would be very helpful.

Teachers will find both the 1976 and 1980 elections summarized here.  Additionally, videos are posted that include clips of the presidential debates from each election.  Hopefully, these resources can help teachers find ways to make past elections and debates relevant to the current election and debates.

 

Riding the Tiger: Election Season Blog

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” --Harry S. Truman

With election season in high gear, many social studies teachers may be looking for ways to incorporate the campaigns into their classrooms.  The University of Virginia’s Miller Center is an highly informative, nonpartisan resource that is very useful for analyzing presidential history.

The Miller Center contains its own blog on elections.  Dubbed “Riding the Tiger,” this blog contains informative articles concerning past elections and this current one.  It helps provide historical context for issues surfacing in 2012.  From the Miller Center blog itself:

Riding the Tiger looks at contemporary events through the lens of history. It frames the 2012 race by providing scholarly insight into policy and politics and featuring historical resources from the Miller Center’s digital archive.”

There are a couple links within this blog that are especially relevant and interesting.  One site is called: “Greatest Hits from Democratic Conventions Since the Progressive Era.”  A useful companion for teachers wishing to engage in compare/contrast activities would be: Greatest Hits in the Modern History of Republican Conventions.

Religion in 18th Century America Lesson Plan

Many APUSH classes are beginning their study of the reasons that Colonial America sought  separation from Great Britain. One of the many significant undercurrents of this era was the First Great Awakening. TAH has a fabulous curriculum unit that, through the use of primary documents, introduce students to the First Great Awakening, as well as to the ways in which religious-based arguments were used both in support of and against the American Revolution. These lessons can be found here.

Inspired to Make a Difference after 9/11

Tomorrow marks the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation serves to honor the victims, survivors, and rescuers involved in the 2001 and 1993 attacks upon the World Trade Center.

At their website, 911memorial.org, the Foundation offers a wealth of resources useful for teachers and others who wish to discuss the events and their aftermath.  In particular, check out the Teaching Guide entitled Inspired to Make a Difference after 9/11, which chronicles the acts of volunteerism by people around the world in the wake of the attacks.

Lesson Plan of the Week: Abraham Lincoln on the American Union: “A Word Fitly Spoken”

This lesson that was created by Professor Lucas Morel and Teacher Constance Murray, explores the political thought of Abraham Lincoln on the subject of American union. Students will examine Lincoln’s three most famous speeches—the Gettysburg Address and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses—in addition to a little known fragment on the Constitution, union, and liberty to see what they say regarding the significance of union to the prospects for American self-government. These speeches and other lesson resources can be accessed through this interactive. Upon completion, students should have a better understanding of why Lincoln revered the union of the American states as “the last best, hope of earth.”

Learn Liberty

Learn Liberty is website run by the Institute for Humane Studies and designed to assist educators in addressing key issues in economics, philosophy, and other disciplines. In the Classroom Resources section of the Learn Liberty website, teachers can find curriculum guides, and videos. Learn Liberty is great for supplemental material, to start a discussion and to structure outside-of class assignments.

TAH Lesson Plan of the Week

This week’s suggested plan was created by Professor Chris Burkett and teacher Patricia Dillon and is entitled, “The Federalist and Anti-federalist Debates on Diversity and the Extended Republic.” Lesson one focuses on the Anti-Federalist argument while lesson two deals with Federalist arguments of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and the extension of the republic (Federalist #s 9, 10 and 51). The printable PDF files that accompany each lesson challenge students to study primary that frame each debate. An incredible unit that will bring this period to life for your students.

The Churchill Centre and Museum

Any study of or research project into WWII should include a stop at the Winston Churchill Centre and Museum. This incredible online resource for all things Churchill offers access to audio files of Churchill’s speeches, reviews of books on WWII and Churchill, updates on traveling exhibits, and materials for teachers.  Remember to sign up for the Chartwell Bulletin and recieve monthly e-mail updates on Centre news.

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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