You’ve likely seen Ashbrook’s 50 Core American Documents project online at TeachingAmericanHistory.org. We’re pleased to release a new paperback book edited by Ashland University professor Christopher Burkett. The book contains all fifty documents, a brief introduction to establish context, and several questions suitable for your own private musing or for classroom discussion.
Looking for a gift for that teacher, student, or history buff in your life? Order a copy today!
Bill of Rights Day, the day on which the first ten amendments to the constitution went into effect upon their ratification, is December 15th. In addition to TeachingAmericanHistory.org’s own interactive resources on the Bill of Rights, our friends at the Bill of Rights Institute have a plethora of related interactive and documentary resources designed for use in secondary school classrooms. Among these are animated games and exercises, quizzes, videos, SMARTboard activities, and lesson plans.
Learn more at the at BRI’s Bill of Rights Day page.
Sunday, December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, being the anniversary of the day in 1791 on which the document became an official part of our Constitution. When Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the document, these first ten amendments to the Constitution took effect. For a detailed exploration of the philosophical origins of the Bill of Rights and the political process by which they came to be adopted, visit the exhibit Gordon Lloyd prepared for our site, as a companion to exhibits on the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates, and the Ratification of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights completed the design for our government given us by the Founders, since it provided additional restraints on the federal government thought to be needed by those who were hesitant to ratify the Constitution.
James Madison, who played a pivotal role in insuring the ratification of the Constitution, also took the lead in calling for the Constitution’s first set of amendments. Madison outlined the need for a Bill of Rights in a speech before the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789. We reprint below Professor Christopher Burkett’s comment on Madison’s “Speech on Amendments to the Constitution.” It is part of a new collection of primary documents in American history edited by Burkett and published by the Ashbrook Center, 50 Core Documents: Required Reading for Students, Teachers and Citizens.
We think of our national celebration of Thanksgiving as rooted in the harvest feast of seventeenth century Pilgrim settlers. But as an official government holiday, the celebration was inaugurated by George Washington, following a resolution of Congress, in 1789. Though he issued the proclamation on October 3, he set the date of the celebration for the fourth Thursday in November, a tradition we follow today.
Washington notes in the beginning of the Proclamation that “both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’” In fact, Congress was then an almost brand-new institution, having convened for the first time the previous March. The new Constitution had not become the working blueprint of our government until late in July 1788, by which time the necessary eleven of the original thirteen states had ratified that document. Hence in issuing the Proclamation, Washington was no doubt expressing a sense of relief and jubilation that the young nation’s extraordinary process of inventing a republican form of government had actually succeeded. The new government united regions with differing economic interests, led by statesmen with sharply different views of what a republic would require for its survival.
Professor Gordon Lloyd, who created our online exhibits on the creation of the Constitution and its Ratification, underlines the uniqueness of this achievement, which required Antifederalists to quell their very real concerns, well before a Bill of Rights was hammered out and agreed to:
“Historians tell us that the importance of the 1800 election is that it’s the first peaceful exchange of power from one party to another. Yes, that is extremely important. Here is another thing that’s important. What other country prior to the United States is informed that its government doesn’t work, sits for four months in convention, comes back for an entire year and debates and debates, and not a drop of blood was spilled?”
Something else to think about as we count our blessings next week.
Our friends at the Bill of Rights Institute have introduced a new documentary resource written by teachers for use in K-12 classrooms. Documents of Freedom: History, Government, & Economics through Primary Sources is designed to be used as a supplement (or even as a substitute) for traditional government, civics, and economics textbooks. Each lesson unit highlights key primary sources and is indexed to the standards of many states, the Common Core, and the College Board. Best of all, it works equally well across all platforms: Windows, Mac, tablets, smartphones, and other devices.
Access to Documents of Freedom is free (registration is required).
Attention, High School teachers! The Bill of Rights Institute is holding a scholarship essay contest for current high school students. Winning essays can receive prizes of up to $4,000. The teacher of the winning student also may receive a prize of up to $500.
Student essays will be responses to three questions related to ideas contained in the United States Constitution. Complete details about entry, including the three writing prompts, may be found at the contest website.
The entry deadline is December 6, 2013.
On this day in 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the Constitution, by a vote of 46 to 23. Pennsylvania was the first large state to ratify, as well as the first state to endure a serious Anti-Federalist challenge to ratification.
If you didn’t already know, Professor Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University has created a website in collaboration with the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University on the Ratification of the Constitution. Professor Lloyd organizes the content on the Ratification in various ways on the website. One lesson plan has been created to align with the content of the “in doors” conversations of ratification. There are four main component parts to the “in doors” coverage on the website. 1) A Commentary that breaks down the “in house” ratification into The Six Stages of the Ratification of the Constitution. 2) Elliot’s Debates is the major source for learning what took place at the various state ratifying conventions. 3) We have provided a day-by-day summary of each of the three ratifying conventions Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York. This summary highlights the particular clauses of the Constitution that were under consideration on that day along with a synopsis of the main points that were made by the delegates. Each of the three Day-by-Day Summaries is preceded by a brief overview of the entire ratifying convention. 4) A set of individual Maps along with a comprehensive map that shows the location of Federalist and Antifederalist strength throughout the thirteen states.
The full lesson can be found here.
In 1953, the Abraham Lincoln Association published The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, a multi-volume set of Lincoln’s correspondence, speeches, and other writings. Roy P. Basler and his editorial staff, with the continued support of the association, spent five years transcribing and annotating Lincoln’s papers. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln represented the first major scholarly effort to collect and publish the complete writings of Abraham Lincoln, and the edition has remained an invaluable resource to Lincoln scholars. Through the efforts of the Abraham Lincoln Association, the edition is now available in electronic form.
Pearl Harbor Day is sadly fading from being commemorated in many U.S. classrooms. For students of the war the day still serves as an amazing event that truly placed the world into a war that would last for four more years and impact every continent. This interactive site from National Geographic illustrates the events of that infamous day in an extraordinary way.
The Battle of Fredericksburg by Kurz and Allison
The release of the cinematic masterpiece, Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, is a boon for history teachers nationwide. This movie will certainly be nominated for multiple Academy Awards and draw countless millions to theaters. Even middle and high school students have been caught up in the rush to see this mature, adult-targeted film. History teachers have a grand opportunity to capture the hype surrounding the movie to engage learners who otherwise may not be as accessible.
If you are a teacher that attempts to align your teaching calendar with anniversaries of historical events, you may want to use this renewed interest in all-things-Civil-War to utilize the Civil War Animated website. Coming soon, in mid-December, is the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The Civil War Animated website is a tremendous tool for engaging learners. It not only provides poignant, relevant historical context of the war’s battles, but it also allows students to interact with animated battle maps. For your students that love military history (and even those who may loath it), there are very few websites constructed that can quite as effectively capture their attention
The website itself provides a brief statement highlighting historical context and battle outcomes:
Following the indecisive Battle of Antietam Creek, President Lincoln replaces General George McClellan with General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside immediately submits a plan to race Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg and on to Richmond. Lincoln accepts the plan and the Army of the Potomac marches to Fredericksburg. But extremely poor planning causes the pontoon bridges for crossing the river to be left at the end of the baggage trains allowing to Lee to concentrate his army and prepare for Burnside’s assault.
After introducing students to the importance, context, and outcome of the battle, the teacher can then direct students to the animations of the battles, found here. Notice, the animation begins with another historical survey of the battle. After students have read and internalized this, the teacher can direct them to the actual battle maps. When students click on “Play,” the animations begin. The progress of the battle is then animated step-by-step, with helpful narratives displayed and sound effects included. Fittingly for a history class, the final scene provides excerpts from primary sources that gave contemporary commentary on the battle’s outcome.
Is it not amazing how a president can be very popular during his time and yet be evaluated downwards in subsequent years, as some have said of Eisenhower? Is it not equally amazing that some have been so pitifully unpopular that they decide to not run for reelection, as in the case of Truman in 1952 and LBJ in 1968?
Similarly, sometimes approval ratings mean nothing, electorally speaking, as Truman proved in 1948.
Presidential approval ratings have been tracked since 1941. The American Presidency Project from UC-Santa Barbara has compiled thorough listings of these statistics since FDR. The general index can be accessed here. To view each president’s ratings, simply click on their name in the drop-down box.
Additional statistics for job approval ratings can also be found through other links:
- Initial job approval ratings
- Approval ratings following the First 100 Days
- Final approval ratings
The American Presidency Project is a very detailed web resource for all manners of subjects related to the presidency. Put on by the University of California at Santa Barbara, this digital library covers topics ranging from presidential approval ratings to party platforms to White House staff budgets.
The upcoming election provides social studies teachers many opportunities for linking the present to the past. The American Presidency Project offers a detailed set of statistics for past presidential elections. By visiting this site, teachers and students can glean, compare, contrast, and analyze past presidential election electoral and popular vote tallies. Additionally, teachers and students can determine which way their own state went in that election, as each election year link has not only whether the state went red or blue that year, but it also has a break-down by state of how many electoral and popular votes went to each candidate.
1892 Electoral College Map
“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” --Harry S. Truman
With election season in high gear, many social studies teachers may be looking for ways to incorporate the campaigns into their classrooms. The University of Virginia’s Miller Center is an highly informative, nonpartisan resource that is very useful for analyzing presidential history.
The Miller Center contains its own blog on elections. Dubbed “Riding the Tiger,” this blog contains informative articles concerning past elections and this current one. It helps provide historical context for issues surfacing in 2012. From the Miller Center blog itself:
“Riding the Tiger looks at contemporary events through the lens of history. It frames the 2012 race by providing scholarly insight into policy and politics and featuring historical resources from the Miller Center’s digital archive.”
There are a couple links within this blog that are especially relevant and interesting. One site is called: “Greatest Hits from Democratic Conventions Since the Progressive Era.” A useful companion for teachers wishing to engage in compare/contrast activities would be: Greatest Hits in the Modern History of Republican Conventions.
Constitution Day is less than a month away. Check out some of these amazing resources for classroom use created by the Bill of Rights institute.
TeachingHistory.org provides this terrific lesson to help students learn to write more effective thesis statements. A great series of activities to help students develop stronger writing skills at the start of a new school year.