We the Teachers

From the Archives: Re-Thinking Uncle Tom: The Political Philosophy of H.B. Stowe

 

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The first of two sessions from Professor Bill Allen, about the political philosophy of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This was recorded at the Ashbrook Center with a live audience of teachers on 24 January, 2009. This 74-minute program consisted of remarks by Dr. Allen and a question and answer session with teachers.

Generally critics and interpreters of Uncle Tom have constructed a one-way view of Uncle Tom, albeit offering a few kind words for Uncle Tom along the way. Recovering Uncle Tom requires re-telling his story. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s oeuvre, in partnership with that of her husband Calvin, constitutes a demonstration of the permanent necessity of moral and prudential judgment in human affairs. Moreover, it identifies the political conditions that can best guarantee conditions of decency. Her two disciplines—philosophy and poetry—illuminate the founding principles of the American republic and remedy defects in their realization that were evident in mid-nineteenth century. While slavery is not the only defect, its persistence and expansion indicate the overall shortcomings. In four of her chief works (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, Dred, and Oldtown Folks), Stowe teaches not only how to eliminate the defect of slavery, but also how to realize and maintain a regime founded on the basis of natural rights and Christianity. Further, she identifies the proper vehicle for educating citizens so they might reliably be ruled by decent public opinion.

Saturday Webinar: McCulloch v. Maryland

 

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Drs. Chris Burkett, Jeremy Bailey, and Dan Monroe discussed the historical context, constitutional connections and reasoning, and legal and political legacy of the second in our Landmark Supreme Court Cases webinars, McCulloch v Maryland (1819). Access the archives of the program here and subscribe to our iTunes podcast.

Saturday Webinar: Marbury v. Madison

 

 

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On Saturday 27 August 2016, TAH.org hosted its first Saturday Webinar of the 2016-17 school year, on Marbury v. Madison. This year’s theme of Landmark Supreme Court cases got off to a great start with a thoughtful discussion of the politics and constitutional aspects of the at the time it was decided, and the legal and constitutional legacy in the years since. Scholars also discussed the case as related to the concepts of both judicial review and judicial supremacy, and the extent to which the Constitution was seen as a legal, rather than political document.

You can visit the archive page of this program here.

Liberty vs. Freedom

 

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Historian David Hackett Fischer discusses the related, yet distinct concepts of liberty and freedom in this archived lecture. Expanding on his 2004 book, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Foundinghe describes the different meanings of the words at the Founding, and how their meanings have evolved and been applied by Americans since.

American Presidents: Ronald Reagan

 

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reagan43Our last Saturday Webinar of the 2015-16 school year took place on Saturday, May 7, with Ronald Reagan as our focus. Teachers from around the country joined our panelists for a discussion about Reagan the person, president, and thinker. Questions ranged from his core political beliefs to his transformation from an FDR Democrat to a Republican, and included questions about both foreign and domestic policy. A good deal of attention was paid to his views on Communism and his enduring belief that it was an oppressive, morally bankrupt system that could be made to fail, and without war. Additionally, his genuine desire to eliminate – not just reduce – world arsenals of nuclear weapons was discussed, in the context of his personal outreach to and relations with Soviet leaders, especially Mikhail Gorbachev.

The following books are recommended for additional reading about Reagan and his era:

The full archive, with documents and video, is available here.

Join us, starting in August, for our 2016-17 Saturday Webinar series, ‘Landmark Supreme Court Cases,’ beginning with Marbury v. Madison.

American Presidents Webinar: Lyndon Johnson

 

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Saturday, April 9th’s American Presidents webinar focused on Lyndon Johnson and the two pillars of his administration: the Great Society, and the Vietnam War. Panelists discussed topics ranging from the impact of Johnson’s political skill and legislative experience on the development and passage of his policies, as well as the role of Democratic majorities in Congress at the time. Of interest was the broad, bipartisan support expansion of Social Security enjoyed, as compared against other large social programs of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and how this support, or lack of it, shaped the policies and the politics surrounding and following them.

johnson2LBJ’s views on and actions related to Vietnam were discussed at length, touching on what seemed to be his lack of interest in being involved, and yet his sense of necessity to stay involved in the war he inherited. The panelists also touched on the different rhetoric LBJ used when promoting his social programs versus that he employed regarding Vietnam and foreign policy. View the archive page, with document and YouTube links, and scholar bios, here.

To register for the final webinar of the 2015-16 school year on Saturday, May 7 at 11:00 AM EST discussing Ronald Reagan – The Great Communicator, click here.

American Presidents Webinar: Dwight Eisenhower

 

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The latest in our American Presidents webinar series took place on Saturday, 4 March 2016, with Dwight D. Eisenhower as the focus for this month. Drs. Chris Burkett, Joe Postell, and David Alvis discussed Ike’s handling of the Korean War, Cold War, and rapid change at home during the 70-minute program, and recommended Fred Greenstein’s The Hidden Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader for those interested in learning more.

The archive page for the program, with audio, video, and documents links, is here.

Session 30 pt2: The Reagan Era and the New Deal Legacy; George W. Bush’s Founding Faith

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

Reagan seemed to campaign against Roosevelt’s legacy, but delighted in pointing out that he voted for him four times. Yet, he seemed to be interested in cutting back the size of the federal government and making its programs less ambitious. What were his purposes in doing so? Was his failure to cut back the size of government due primarily to Reagan’s policies during an era of “divided government,” or rather more a reflection of FDR’s success?
President Bush seems intent on arguing that his policies, both domestic and foreign, derive directly from the principles of the founding. He argues that self-government needs to be re-invigorated and places emphasis on the obligations of citizenship, and sometimes public spiritedness is difficult. He reminds us that citizenship is not a matter of birth and blood, but rather, “we are bound by ideals,” and those ideals have to be learned. Is he right? Are his arguments about the philosophical and historical heritage he appeals to persuasive?


Readings:
George W. Bush:

Session 30 pt1: Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

Does King’s proposal for a “Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged” indicate a shift from his earlier vision of the American dream? Does King’s advocacy of “compensatory or preferential treatment” look more to race or poverty as its justification? Is the G.I. Bill of Rights a good analogy for King’s promotion of a federal, economic program to help blacks and the disadvantaged, generally? What does “black power” mean to King?
How does Malcolm X’s theology inform his political thinking? Malcolm X insists that there is no legitimate intermediate position between “the ballot” and “the bullet.” He is highly critical of King’s reliance on “civil” disobedience. Is he correct? How does his understanding of political action, and particularly the justification for violence, compare to the right of revolution as articulated by John Locke and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence? Why did Malcolm X reject integration as an aim of the civil rights struggle? Why must Black Nationalism be an internationalist movement?
Readings:
    Martin Luther King, Jr.:

  • King, Why We Can’t Wait (1964)
    • Chap. 8, “The Days to Come,” 116-143
  • King, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches
    • “Black Power Defined” (June 11, 1967), 153-65
    • “I See the Promised Land” (April 3, 1968), 193-203
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chap. 11-12
Malcolm X:

American Presidents Webinar: Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

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Franklin D. Roosevelt was the subject of Saturday, 13 February’s American Presidents webinar. Professor Chris Burkett, of Ashland University, moderated the 80-minute discussion between Drs. Stephen Tootle and David Krugler, which focused on topics ranging from FDR’s handling of the Great Depression in both political and policy terms to the controversies of his presidency, including the ‘court packing’ incident. Panelists also discussed FDR’s relations with foreign powers during World War II, and discussed his impact on the country and the presidency. Over 90 teachers attended, posing a number of thoughtful questions.

Our scholars recommend the following books on the subject:

You can access the video and documents archive for the FDR webinar here.

Join us next month, on 5 March, for American Presidents: Dwight Eisenhower – Change at Home and Challenge Abroad.

Session 29: Brown v. Board of Education; Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Resistance, and the American Dream

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court briefly traces the history of public schools in America. How does this help the Court argue against racially segregated schools? What role do legal precedents play in the Court’s argument against “separate but equal” schools? What is meant by “intangible considerations” and how does this help the Court establish that the mere act of separating school children by race produces an unequal education? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Court’s opinion in Brown? If segregated schools did not produce “a feeling of inferiority” on the part of black children, would these schools be unconstitutional according to Brown?
Why does King reject force as a response to oppression? What is the major concern of the white clergymen who counsel King to stay away from Birmingham? What are the four stages of civil disobedience? How does King’s nonviolent resistance against a particular law actually support obedience to the government and laws? Why does King blame white moderates more than fringe elements like the Ku Klux Klan for lack of progress in securing civil rights for black Americans?
Readings

Brown v. Board of Education

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Supplemental/Optional Readings
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Writings–The Crisis, “Marcus Garvey” (Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921), 969-979
  • Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, “Brown’s Backlash,” 385-440
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chaps. 6-8

Session 28: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP

Juan Williams:  

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Focus

What role did Thurgood Marshall play in the Civil Rights Movement? What was his view of the American founding? What was his opinion of contemporary activists for civil rights, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X?
Readings

Session 27: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic Leadership

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

The political and constitutional legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt is impressive. What was his extraordinary achievement? In what ways did he improve upon Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s, and the Progressives’ understanding of democratic life and political structures? How did his New Deal envision a powerful, active, and programmatically ambitious national government? How was this related to the possibility of self-government? What is his legacy?

Session 26: The Progressive Reform and Self-Government

Prof. Kesler:  

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Focus

The Progressives fought for reform at the turn of the century. What principled form did their criticism take of the Declaration, the Constitution, and political decentralization take? They revered Lincoln, yet did not emulate his devotion to the Declaration of Independence, but invoked the preamble to the Constitution to make democracy more active. Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s views became living arguments again, but with interesting shifts. Self-government was in need of some assistance. What effect did their reforms—for example, direct primaries, initiative, referendum—have on federalism, separation of powers, and political parties? What legacy did the Progressives, Woodrow Wilson in particular, leave the nation?

Session 25: Booker T. Washington; W.E.B. Du Bois

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

What did Washington believe were the most urgent priorities for blacks at the close of the 19th century? On what issues was Washington prepared to compromise and why? What were the goals of Washington’s program and how did these differ from the recommendations of W.E.B. Du Bois? Why does Du Bois seek to “conserve” the races? How would “the conservation of the races” help the future of the Negro race as well as the future of world civilization? What principles of the American regime appear to run counter to Du Bois’s emphasis on “race organizations” and “race solidarity”? What does Du Bois mean by the “talented tenth”? Compare Washington and Du Bois on the purpose of education.
Readings:
Du Bois:
Supplemental/Optional Readings:
    Booker T. Washington:

  • Washington, Up From Slavery (1901), chap. 3, “The Struggle for an Education”
  • Washington, “Address on Abraham Lincoln,” (February 12, 1909)
  • Louis Harlan, “Booker T. Washington in Biographical Perspective” (October 1970), 1581-1599
  • Fairclough, Better Day Coming, chap. 3
W.E.B. Du Bois:

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