We the Teachers

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:

American Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt

 

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TAH.org kicked off 2016 with the sixth episode in this year’s American Presidents webinar series. Today’s 75-minute program, moderated as always by the Dr. Chris Burkett of Ashland University, included discussion of TR’s economic, domestic, and foreign policy moves and ideas, his place in American presidential politics, and his impact on electoral politics even today.

In addition to answering the many excellent questions posed by teachers, the scholars recommended the History of American Political Thought as a good resource for learning more about TR’s ideas and ideology.

You can also access the documents and a YouTube archive of the program here, on TAH.org.

Session 24: The Modern Era Confronts the American Founding

Profs. Morel and Kesler:  

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Focus

What did the American founding and Civil War look like to politicians and public intellectuals at the start of the 20th century?
Readings:

Presidential Academy: MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Modern America

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is proud to offer the third and final part of our Presidential Academy documents-based survey course of American history and American political thought through iTunesU, iTunes, and this blog.

This segment of the course, consisting of 7 sessions, focuses on the Modern America, with the ideas expressed in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the foundation of study. The first session in this part of the course will be posted on Tuesday, 5 January 2016.

Presidential Academy was a grant-funded program that TAH.org presented to groups of teachers who met and studied in three cities over two weeks, with discussions rooted in three separate documents. The first days were in Philadelphia, beginning with the American Founding, through the Declaration of Independence. Additional documents and ideas were addressed and analyzed throughout the several sessions there before the group moved on to Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Finally, the group moved to Washington, D.C., and study of modern America, with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the focal point.

Each session is made up of a set of readings, all linked from its blog post, and usually one lecture. Guiding questions and focus issues are at the foundation of each week’s study. A list of the session titles for Part 3 of the course is below, along with the dates on which each will be published on this blog, and the audio made available through iTunes. You can subscribe to our iTunes Podcast feed by clicking here. The entire course, divided into the three major sections – Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington – is already available on iTunesU.

Session 24:  The Modern Era Confronts the American Founding, 5 JAN 16
Session 25: Booker T. Washington; W.E.B. Du Bois, 12 JAN
Session 26: The Progressive Reform and Self-Government, 19 JAN
Session 27: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic Leadership, 26 JAN
Session 28: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, 2 FEB
Session 29: Brown v. Board of Education; Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-Violent Resistance, and the American Dream, 9 FEB
Session 30 pt1: Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X, 16 FEB
Session 30 pt2: The Reagan Era and the New Deal Legacy; George W. Bush’s Founding Faith, 23 FEB

We invite you to deepen your knowledge of American history through this series, and use these materials in any way that will benefit you and your students, and we hope that you have enjoyed this course series.

Session 23: Frederick Douglass – Reconstruction and the Future of Black Americans

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Focus

How did Douglass answer the question, “What Country Have I?” What was his critique of the emigrationist position? What was the basis for his greater optimism about race relations in America? Just as Douglass was the leading figure in the fight to secure the natural right to liberty for blacks in America, he was the leading figure in the post-war struggle to secure civil rights for African-Americans. Why does Douglass favor justice (“fair play”) over charity (“benevolence”) for black Americans? Why does Douglass counsel black Americans against “race pride”? Why does Douglass consider “the Negro problem” a misnomer for “the nation’s problem” and how does this affect the kind of solutions proposed to help black Americans? What was his critique of the emigrationist position? Does he believe in black reparations? If color prejudice is the bane of black Americans, what principles and policies does Douglass propose to eliminate it from American society?

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