We the Teachers

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.

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.

TAH Lesson Plans

Many teachers are starting much deserved summer vacations. Even though the 2012-2013 school year is a couple months away, the time off can provide opportunities to look at new ideas. Did you know that there are many incredible lessons available on this site? Over the course of the summer the “We the Teachers” blog will try to highlight some of them on a weekly basis.

The first is an awesome plan entitled “The War for American Independence” created by Professor John Moser and West Branch HS (Pa.) teacher Lori Hahn. It can be found here.


The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

No document is more central to securing “the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” than the United States Constitution, and no website is more thorough than ConstitutionOnline.com.

The Heritage Foundation has launched a new site, “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution,” a searchable reference tool revolving around the Constitution. “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution is intended to provide a brief and accurate explanation of each clause of the Constitution as envisioned by the Framers and as applied in contemporary law.” This new resource can compliment a lesson on the Constitution and is a great way to incorporate technology into your lesson. Check-out the Teacher Companion section of the site to see how this resource can be used in your classroom.

Home for History- Gilder Lehrman

Gilder Lehrman launched their new “Home for History” website this month. The site features History by Era, Programs and Exhibitions, Primary Sources, History Now, Community, and Multimedia. This site is a great go-to resources for teachers, students and scholars.

The History by Era section of the site can act as a great visual aid for students as they study the American Revolution, the Civil War and many more. Each era is equipped with a  chronological timeline of important dates to the era. Sub eras provide teachers with essays,   related primary sources, teacher resources and multimedia. Check-out Home for History and introduce this great new resource into your classroom.

Teaching with Primary Sources

The Library of Congress publishes a quarterly Journal entitled, The Teaching with Primary Source (TPS) Journal. This journal “focuses on pedagogical approaches to teaching with Library of Congress digitized primary sources in K-12 classrooms.” Their recent November issue, The Civil War Across Disciplines“explores how teachers can use primary sources to teach about the Civil War.” Click the link below to explore previous issues of The TPS Journal.

National Archives-Docs Teach

The National Archives is a great resource for teachers and your students. Their Docs Teach website is dedicated specifically to teachers to help “bring history to life for your students.” The site offers “ready-to-use tools for teaching in the classroom”and “thousands of primary sources selected from the National Archives.” Each lesson or online activity includes triangles that “graphically indicate correlation with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy(Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001), adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956).” Take a minute to check out this site offered through the National Archives and encourage the learning of various topics through primary sources.

On April 11, 2012 the National Archives announced the release of the DocsTeach App for iPad. “Using the app, you can choose a topic, such as ‘Civics & Government’ or ‘Postwar U.S. 1945 – early 1970s,’ and challenge yourself with a DocsTeach activity to interact with stories, events, and ideas of the past. All activities are based on primary source documents from the holdings of the National Archives, such as the U.S. Constitution, the canceled check for the purchase of Alaska, and Thomas Edison’s patent drawing for the light bulb. The activities were created by the National Archives education team and an army of DocsTeach users.”

All of these online interactive activities are a great supplement to topics being taught in the classroom. With the new iPad app school’s can have, at their fingertips, all these activities as well as all of the Primary sources available through the National Archives.

Federalist 17: What Attaches Citizens to Government?

David Foster, Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, Ashland University answers the question, “What attaches citizens to Government?” using Federalist 17


Careful students of American history know the famous essays in the Federalist Papers on faction, separation of powers, and an extended republic. But scattered throughout that great work are many less famous essays containing useful arguments and nuggets of wisdom. A key argument is offered in Federalist 17. Here, while analyzing the defects of the Articles of Confederation, Publius finds occasion to discuss what it is that attaches citizens to government.

After noting the “known fact in human nature” that men are more attached to what is close by and tangible than to what is far away and “diffuse” (to one’s own family, for example, than to one’s community in general or to the nation at large), he argues that more than anything else what impresses upon the minds of the people an affection, esteem, and even “reverence” towards government is the “ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice.” The administration of justice is “the immediate and visible guardian of life and property” and it regulates “all those personal interests, and familiar concerns, to which the sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake.” In other words, the most powerful and universal source of popular obedience and attachment to government is its protection of those things about which we care the most: the things that are closest to us–our own lives, our properties, our families.

Publius made these arguments to put at ease those citizens who feared that the proposed Constitution would create a federal government too strong for the states. Your concerns are misplaced, he says in effect, since human nature and the administration of justice at the state level will always give the states a “transcendent advantage” over the federal government. And yet we can’t help but notice that the states have this advantage only “if they administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence;” indeed, the fundamental principle that we love most what is closest to us favors the states, “unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration” in the government of the union. Is Publius hinting that the federal government might protect our lives and property better than the states do, thereby coming to deserve greater allegiance? Or is it that some principle other than the love of our own and familiar things might attach us more strongly to the federal than to the state governments? These questions cannot be answered without reading the second half of the Federalist, where Publius pays much closer attention to virtue, wisdom, and republican liberty than in the first half. But in considering those themes, we must never forget the statement in #17 on the fundamental basis of attachment to government.

It is difficult to say from this distance in time what part these arguments played in persuading critics to support the Constitution. But Publius’ argument is worth reconsidering today, when concerns about the size and reach of the federal government are once again a prominent theme in public debate. Moreover, the reflections in Federalist 17 give an important example of what Publius means in his famous statement that government is the “greatest of all reflections on human nature.”

–David Foster, Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, Ashland University

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