We the Teachers

Documents in Detail: FDR’s Commonwealth Club Address

 

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TeachingAmericanHistory.org’s Documents in Detail webinar for Wednesday, 21 FEB 2018 focused on FDR’s Commonwealth Club Address, seen as his closing argument to America late in the 1932 election campaign, and as the foundational document for understanding his policies and actions as president.

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Special Video Presentation: Gordon Lloyd at Pepperdine on the Bill of Rights

 

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Dr. Gordon Lloyd visited Dr. Jeff Sikkenga’s class at Pepperdine University in early February 2018 to talk about the origins of the Bill of Rights, with particular focus on the First Amendment, and the two religion clauses. Dr. Lloyd also used his online exhibit on the Bill of Rights to help students dig deeply into the documentary and historical origins of the rights protected in the Bill of Rights.

Saturday Webinar: The Cuban Missile Crisis

 

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TAH.org’s 3 FEB 18 Saturday Webinar looked deeply into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the ’13 days’ during which the world seemed to teeter on the bring of nuclear war.

How did this crisis come into being? How was evidence of the missiles discovered, and verified? What was the nature of the crisis – that is, were there people within JFK’s inner circle who saw it differently than it is typically portrayed? How did the upcoming midterm elections factor into decision-making and internal analysis by Kennedy and his people? How did JFK’s experience from the Bay of Pigs impact his view on Cuba? And what impact did the crisis have on Castro’s control over Cuba?

Our panelists dug into these questions and others, working with a live audience of over 100 teachers from across the country.

The following books were recommended for additional reading:

One Hell of a Gamble,” Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali

We Now Know, John Lewis Gaddis

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Documents in Detail: Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech

 

 

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TR’s New Nationalism speech was the focus on 24 January’s Documents in Detail webinar. The importance of the political context around the speech – trends in Republican politics, recent electoral results – were discussed, as well as the meaning of the location of TR’s speech. Roosevelt’s rhetoric and attempts to take hold of the ‘mantle of Lincoln’ in the speech were also discussed in detail. Also discussed were TR’s audience, and how his message and wording were tailored for them.

Questions included those about TR’s views of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and the place of the Panama Canal in popular opinion, taken alongside this speech and its message.

Access this program’s archive page here.

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Saturday Webinar: Attack on Pearl Harbor

 

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2018’s first TAH.org took place on Saturday, 6 January, and focused on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Professors Chris Burkett, David Krugler, and John Moser, discussed the reasons behind the attack, the Japanese military and political rationale for the attack and what they hoped to achieve, and how they believed such an attack would enable them to reach their goals. American responses to Japanese involvement in China played a role in driving Japanese policy, in context alongside Nazi views on American character and willingness to shoulder burdens or deal militarily with other great powers. Also discussed is the concept of America’s “reluctant interventionism,” which has become a preferred term among scholars to the more-often used “isolationism” to describe American foreign policy, especially during the years between World War 1 and World War 2.

This program, along with digging deeply into a number of interesting questions about the why and how of the attack – as a political and diplomatic, as well as military, event – also forms a comprehensive telling of the story of the beginning of the war in the Pacific, working forward from Japanese expansion in China during the 1930s, and even going back as far as Japanese designs on Asia following World War 1.

Suggested books for further reading include…

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Documents in Detail: Gettysburg Address

 

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The last TAH.org Webinar for 2017 took place on December 13th, with a discussion of the Gettysburg Address. Drs. John Moser, Jon White, and Dan Monroe discussed the words and ideas in Lincoln’s most famous speech. The place of Gettysburg, as a site of national reconciliation, helped to solidify Lincoln’s words in American history and myth, was introduced as location of the famed, pivotal battle. Lincoln’s singular place in American history was also discussed, and when and how the words of the Gettysburg Address contributed, in the years close after his death, to his central position in our story.

The panelists also brought Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott case, and other addresses and writings over time, into the discussion, demonstrating consistency by Lincoln on several key issues over time.

A books mentioned is Awaiting the Heavenly Country: The Civil War and America’s Culture of Death, by Mark Schantz, which delves into significant changes in American traditions related to death, burial, and memorial wrought by the Civil War.

Access this program’s archive page here.

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Saturday Webinar: Sinking of the USS Maine

 

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The last Saturday Webinar of 2017 aired on 2 DEC, with a lively discussion about the sinking of the USS Maine, and its role in the Spanish-American War, as well as its place within the context of late 19th Century colonial and imperial expansion.

The panelists discussed American motivations for involvement in Cuba and the Philippines, and in relating to Spain as it did, and the complex interactions between Progressive ideology and policy goals and imperial designs. Parallels with other American international interventions, including that in Vietnam, were also discussed, as well as domestic opposition to imperialism.

Jennifer Keene has published extensively on a variety of topics in American history, especially on World War I. Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America is one of her titles.

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Saturday Webinar: Lincoln’s Assassination

 

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TAH.org continued its Saturday Webinar series on November 18th, 2017, looking deeply at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A far larger, more complex, and more ambitious plot than many people understand it to be, John Wilkes Booth’s attempt to ‘decapitate’ the leadership of the United States government shook both North and South, creating immediate and lasting political, legal, and cultural waves, shaping what became post-war Reconstruction and the years beyond.

In addition to a lively discussion of the plot itself and its immediate and longer-term impacts, the panelists suggested James Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer for those interested in further reading about the assassination itself.

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Documents in Detail: What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

 

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15 November’s Documents in Detail webinar was about Frederick Douglass’s What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, his oration delivered on 5 July 1862. There were some technical difficulties in the first minutes of the program, which resulted in one of the panelists being a few minutes late. Otherwise, it was an interesting discussion of the occasion on which Douglass spoke, his place as one of the leaders of the abolition movement in the 19th Century, and the importance of the ideas he expressed in the speech.

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Documents in Detail: Monroe Doctrine

 

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18 October’s Documents in Detail program focused on the Monroe Doctrine – that which gave rise to the politics that led to it, what it said and meant, and how it represented a growing sense of American identity in the world and a guide for relations with other countries at the time, throughout the rest of the 19th Century, and even to today.

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Moments of Crisis Webinar: Nullification Crisis

 

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This month’s Saturday Webinar was about the Nullification Crisis of 1832. Our program began with the question, which comes up so often in early American History on the topic of slavery and sectionalism, which is “why South Carolina?” What made that state – since the Constitutional Convention and even before, so seemingly intransigent about issues important to them? What about other states, especially in the South – were they as unyielding in their views on local issues, as well?

Discussed at length were the historical and immediate economic and political roots of the Nullification Crisis, how the Crisis itself developed and unfolded, and how it was resolved, and in terms that were surprisingly familiar to modern listeners: bank foreclosures, lost homes, and a federal government at odds with local priorities.

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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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50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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