We the Teachers

Documents in Detail: Federalist 51

 

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One of the most famous of The Federalist, number 51, penned by James Madison in February 1788, tackles the issue of how to build a system of government that is forced to check itself in order to prevent it from becoming tyrannical. Along with Federalist 51, the panelists discussed specific Antifederalist writings that addressed the same issue, bringing together an array of documents that orbit the same concerns.

About 30 minutes into this program, Dr. John Moser was dropped by the Webex system, and was able to rejoin a few minutes later. The panelists continued the discussion uninterrupted.

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September Programs and Website Update

 

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We’re trying something new in the form of a short, monthly website and programs update podcast, in which we’ll take a few minutes to highlight some of the newest and most relevant resources and programs we’re offering online and in person. This month’s update includes mention of the following:

  • Constitution230 – our resource to help you celebrate Constitution Day
  • American History Toolkits – our ‘on ramps’ to transitioning away from textbooks to a documents-based approach to teaching
  • Upcoming MAHG courses – live, online, documents-based graduate courses for teachers of American history and government
  • In-person TAH.org events – an interactive calendar of programs taking place around the country, maybe even near you

Documents in Detail: Declaration of Independence

 

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The first Documents in Detail session for the 17-18 school year took place on 30 August 2017, with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence. Among the many topics and questions discussed were Jefferson’s idea of an “American Mind,” the issue of Jefferson’s authorship – which was no widely known for years after the document was written – and the many local declarations of independence, hundreds of which were written by towns, churches, and civic groups during the first half of 1776.

The panelists fielded questions about the choice of Jefferson as the primary author and the input and impact of other delegates to the Second Continental Congress, and pointed out that Jefferson’s use of Locke’s ideas and language acted as “18th Century hyperlinks,” which virtually any reader would recognize as important ideas, if not also as the works of John Locke. Also of interest was the discussion of the parts that were left out of the final, accepted draft and the first draft.

This program could work well with students as well as teachers and anyone interested in learning more about why the document was written, what it meant, and what it still means.

Books mentioned include Edmund Morgan’s American Freedom, American Slavery, Jay Fliegelman’s Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance, and Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf’s “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination.

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Saturday Webinar: The Intolerable Acts

 

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TAH.org’s first Saturday Webinar of the 2017-18 school year took place on 26 August, focusing on the Intolerable Acts. Over 120 teachers joined our panel of scholars for a live discussion of the directives from Parliament that made up the Acts, looking at what they said, how they were received, and how they shaped the colonial response to British rule. Dr. Todd Estes, one of the panelists, recommended Unbecoming British as a good book for additional background on how the American colonists transformed from a colonial to a post-colonial people.

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LBJ’s Birthday: 27 August

27 August of 2017 marks the 109th birthday of Lyndon Baynes Johnson, our 34th president. Below are some resources worth using to learn more about the president behind the Great Society, and saddled with much of the legacy of the Vietnam War.

Summer Podcast: Re-examining Hoover and FDR

 

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Hoover and FDR, presidents during the Great Depression, are often fit neatly into nearly-stereotypical categories: the do-nothing and the man of action; the old, ineffective approach and new, successful perspectives. Dr. John Moser of Ashland University discusses where and how these images of the two presidents are accurate, misleading, and in some places incorrect.

TAH.org’s new seasons of live Webinars will begin on 26 August, with the first Saturday Webinar, focused on the Intolerable Acts.

Summer Podcast: Religion and Science – The Case of Eugenics

 

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This podcast discusses the eugenics movement in the United States in the first decades of the 20th century. Eugenics gained authority from science, earned the support of prominent Americans, and led to the passage of sterilization laws designed supposedly to enhance the human gene pool. The podcast explains why religious leaders joined the eugenics movement and why others opposed it. Understanding the eugenics movement helps us understand the complex relationship between science, religion and politics in American history.

Summer Podcast: Jefferson and Hamilton – Opposed in Death as in Life, pt2

 

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Originally recorded in March, 2005, Dr. Stephen Knott addressed a group of teachers in a two-session program, discussing the often-clashing views and personalities of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both programs address the following points, and together lay a solid foundation on the two men, their ideas, and their legacies.

How do you explain the cult of Thomas Jefferson that emerged in the 20th century? Why did New Deal advocates of a strong central government embrace Jefferson over Hamilton? 20th Century progressives were fond of advocating “Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends” — what did they mean by that statement? Jefferson, it is alleged, conducted his Presidency in a Hamiltonian fashion — what evidence is there to support this contention, and what impact did that have on Jefferson’s successors? Throughout much of the nation’s history, American politicians turned to Jefferson or Hamilton and embraced their principles and practices to bolster their cause — why was this done and is this still the case? What role has race played in influencing both men’s reputations among scholars and the public? Abraham Lincoln often invoked Jefferson’s name and Jeffersonian rhetoric throughout his political career and seldom invoked Hamilton’s name or principles. Yet, one could argue that his policies were decidedly Hamiltonian. How does one explain this apparent discrepancy? It is said that Americans “honor Jefferson but live in Hamilton’s country” — is this true? Is it accurate to claim, as many Hamiltonians argue, that Thomas Jefferson’s world is a thing of the past, and that Hamilton is the “man who made modern America”? If Jefferson’s world is a lost world, then what have we lost?

Summer Podcast: Causes of the Civil War pt.2

 

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ew other questions in American history have generated more controversy than “What Caused the Civil War?” That conflict preserved the United States as one nation, indivisible and abolished the institution of slavery that for more than four score years had made a mockery of American claims to stand as a republic of liberty, a beacon of freedom for oppressed peoples in the Old Word. But these achievements came at the great cost of more than 629,000 lives and vast destruction of property that left large parts of the South a wasteland. Could this terrible war have been avoided? Who was responsible for the events that led to war? Could the positive results of the war (Union and Freedom) have been achieved without war? How have participants in the war and historians answered these questions over the five generations since the war ended?

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University and 2003 president of the American Historical Association. Widely acclaimed as the leading historian of the Civil War, he is the author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (a New York Times bestseller), For Cause and Comrades (winner of the Lincoln Prize), and many other books on Lincoln and the Civil War era.

McPherson, a pre-eminent Civil War scholar, is widely known for his ability to take American history out of the confines of the academy and make it accessible to the general reading public. His best-selling book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1989. He also has written and edited many other books about abolition, the war and Lincoln, and he has written essays and reviews for several national publications.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Session Two

Focus: Nearly four months elapsed from the secession of South Carolina to the firing on Fort Sumter that started the war. During this period there were many efforts to fashion a compromise to forestall the secession of Southern states, or to bring them back into the Union, or in the last resort to avoid an incident that would spark a shooting war. All failed, and the war came. Why? Why didn’t the Lincoln refuse to surrender the fort? Why did Jefferson Davis decide to fire on the fort? Why did both sides prefer war to compromise?

Readings:

  • McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 202-275
  • Charles B. Dew, “Apostles of Secession,” North and South, IV (April 2001), 24-38
  • Hans L. Trefousse, ed., The Causes of the Civil War, 91-125 (excerpts from Ramsdell, Potter, and Current)
  • Perman, ed., Coming of the American Civil War, 300-314 (excerpt from Paludan)
  • “Official Explanations of the Causes of the Civil War,” from the Causes of the Civil War, 28-47 (Messages of Davis and Lincoln)

Summer Podcast: Jefferson and Hamilton – Opposed in Death as in Life, pt1

 

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Originally recorded in March, 2005, Dr. Stephen Knott addressed a group of teachers in a two-session program, discussing the often-clashing views and personalities of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both programs address the following points, and together lay a solid foundation on the two men, their ideas, and their legacies. Part 2 will be published on 24 July 2017.

How do you explain the cult of Thomas Jefferson that emerged in the 20th century? Why did New Deal advocates of a strong central government embrace Jefferson over Hamilton? 20th Century progressives were fond of advocating “Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends” — what did they mean by that statement? Jefferson, it is alleged, conducted his Presidency in a Hamiltonian fashion — what evidence is there to support this contention, and what impact did that have on Jefferson’s successors? Throughout much of the nation’s history, American politicians turned to Jefferson or Hamilton and embraced their principles and practices to bolster their cause — why was this done and is this still the case? What role has race played in influencing both men’s reputations among scholars and the public? Abraham Lincoln often invoked Jefferson’s name and Jeffersonian rhetoric throughout his political career and seldom invoked Hamilton’s name or principles. Yet, one could argue that his policies were decidedly Hamiltonian. How does one explain this apparent discrepancy? It is said that Americans “honor Jefferson but live in Hamilton’s country” — is this true? Is it accurate to claim, as many Hamiltonians argue, that Thomas Jefferson’s world is a thing of the past, and that Hamilton is the “man who made modern America”? If Jefferson’s world is a lost world, then what have we lost?

Summer Podcast: Causes of the Civil War, pt.1

 

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Few other questions in American history have generated more controversy than “What Caused the Civil War?” That conflict preserved the United States as one nation, indivisible and abolished the institution of slavery that for more than four score years had made a mockery of American claims to stand as a republic of liberty, a beacon of freedom for oppressed peoples in the Old Word. But these achievements came at the great cost of more than 629,000 lives and vast destruction of property that left large parts of the South a wasteland. Could this terrible war have been avoided? Who was responsible for the events that led to war? Could the positive results of the war (Union and Freedom) have been achieved without war? How have participants in the war and historians answered these questions over the five generations since the war ended?

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University and 2003 president of the American Historical Association. Widely acclaimed as the leading historian of the Civil War, he is the author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (a New York Times bestseller), For Cause and Comrades (winner of the Lincoln Prize), and many other books on Lincoln and the Civil War era.

McPherson, a pre-eminent Civil War scholar, is widely known for his ability to take American history out of the confines of the academy and make it accessible to the general reading public. His best-selling book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1989. He also has written and edited many other books about abolition, the war and Lincoln, and he has written essays and reviews for several national publications.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History at Princeton University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. This program was originally recorded at Princeton University on 12 February 2005.

Part 2 of this two-part series will be published on 5 August 2017.

Session One

Focus: The question of what caused the Civil War is really two questions. The first is “Why did the South secede?” The second is “Why did secession lead to war?” This seminar will analyze the roots of secession. At the beginning of the American Revolution all thirteen of the states that formed the United States had slavery. By the first decade of the nineteenth century, however, states north of the Mason-Dixon line and Ohio River had abolished the institution while slavery flourished more than ever south of those lines. A definite “North” and “South” with increasingly disparate socioeconomic institutions and distinctive ideologies had begun to develop. Yet for a half century these contrasting sections coexisted politically in the same nation. Why and how did that national structure fall apart in the 1850s? Was this breakdown inevitable, or could wiser political leadership have prevented it? Why did the election of Abraham Lincoln as president precipitate the secession of seven lower-South states?

Readings:

  • James M. McPherson, “What Caused the Civil War?” North and South, IV (Nov. 2000), 12-22, and responses to this article in subsequent issues of North and South
  • Michael Perman, ed., The Coming of the American Civil War, 23-53, 90-113, 169-88, (excerpts from writing by Beard, Owsley, Craven, Randall, Holt, and Foner)
  • James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 78-116, (or any other chapter of your choice among chaps. 2, 4, 5, or 6)
  • “Premonitory Explanations of the Sectional Crisis,” from The Causes of the American Civil War, 1-27 (excerpts from Calhoun, Seward, Douglas, and Lincoln)

Summer Podcast: Frederick Douglass on Lincoln

 

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Dr. Peter Myers, of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, gave this 74-minute presentation about Frederick Douglass, and his views on Abraham Lincoln. Introduced by Dr. Peter Schramm, Myers discusses Douglass’ views on slavery, early Civil Rights, Reconstruction, and what he thought of Lincoln’s handling of the same.

Documents in Detail: Washington’s Farewell Address

 

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The last Documents in Detail webinar for the 16-17 school year took place on Wednesday, 17 May, and focused on George Washington’s Farewell Address. A good question that kicked off the discussion was simply why? That is, why is Washington’s Farewell Address so popular, so often read, and considered by so many over the last 200+ years to be so important. What’s so special about it? Scholars brought up the point that Washington, while very popular at the outset of his first term, experienced the first presidential controversies – the Jay Treaty, the problems within his own cabinet between Jefferson and Hamilton, to name but two – and many Americans questioned his decisions and leadership by 1796.

Also discussed were the various drafts of Washington’s address, the first of which was written mostly by James Madison at the end of Washington’s first term, when he seriously considered stepping down; and the one written by Alexander Hamilton in 1796. Both were based solidly on Washington’s ideas, however.

Additional suggested reading is from Ellis’s Founding Brothers, specifically chapter 4, “The Farewell.”

Access the full archives, with documents links, here.

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Landmark Supreme Court Cases Webinars Archives

TAH.org’s 2016-17 school year Saturday Webinar series, Landmark Supreme Court Cases, has finished its run, ending the year on 13 May 2017 with New Jersey v. T.L.O. You can access all the archives to these programs in three ways, depending on your needs and preferences.

We maintain videos of all our webinars on our YouTube channel, with each season of our programs organized as separate playlists. You can access all 10 of our Landmark Supreme Court Cases videos there.

Additionally, if you’re interested in a podcast of any program, you can find all of our web programs at our iTunes Podcast site, or subscribe directly to the podcast feed if you don’t use iTunes.

Finally, all of our individual episode pages, with document links and scholar bios, are found on our Webinars Archives page.

Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.

Saturday Webinar: New Jersey v. T.L.O.

 

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The 1985 search and seizure case, at a high school in New Jersey, addressed standards for how school officials are to interpret Fourth Amendment rights. The original question that faced the court, interestingly enough, was not what the USSC eventually decided. Initially, the case was in regards to the exclusionary rule and how it applied to school officials. USSC justices, however, pulled back from that initial question, and instead focused on whether or not the Fourth Amendment even applied to school officials, and how it was to be applied to minor students. Also at issue is the definition and description of “reasonable suspicion,” as compared to “probable cause.”

Interesting point of what might seem like legal trivia: in United States v. Place (1983) it was determined that a drug-sniffing dog is not considered a search. Beyond that, in relation to use of such dogs at schools, no reasonable suspicion is required in a school. This came up in response to a teacher question about drug-sniffing dogs operating at schools around students.

Access the full archives of this program, including video, here.

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