We the Teachers

TAH.org Feature Change: Standards Search Tool

For the last few years, TAH.org has incorporated a search tool into our documents library that has enabled teachers to search for documents based on state academic standards, or identify documents related to their standards. With changes to many states’ standards over the time, and the move away from the Common Core ELA standards in many states, we have decided to take a different route to helping teachers meet their standards-based lesson needs, and in so doing will end support for this website function by the end of December, 2017.

In a few months we will roll out a series of new website features and functions that will make the work of finding documents for your lessons easier and more accurate.

In the meantime, take a look at our American History Toolkits, which combine Essential Documents lists with curated website resources on several must-teach topics in American history and government.

Find Free Resources for Your American History Classroom!

If you’re like most teachers, you can’t help but put your students first. In fact, during lean budgetary times, you may even make sacrifices with your wallet. According to AdoptaClassroom.com’s 2015-2016 survey of 1,800 teachers, the average teacher spent $600 of their own money on supplies. When expenditures extend beyond pens and pencils to cover books and resources, that amount can easily go into the thousands. Many new teachers are told that if they want their students to be fully engaged with the curriculum, they’ll be spending personal money (and countless hours).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Teachers of American History can cut their resource spending by 100% by accessing free resources that also happen to be the best for their students.

The Power of Primary Documents

TeachingAmericanHistory.org believes in the power of our country’s rich heritage of original documents–declarations, speeches, letters, and other materials that tell the complex story of the United States better than any textbook or worksheet. While these public domain works can always be searched and accessed for free, TAH saves you much more time and money by curating the documents for you, writing associated guiding questions, and providing multimedia resources in American History Toolkits that can be taught as self-contained units:

  • The American Founding
  • Expansion & Sectionalism
  • Civil War & Reconstruction
  • The Progressive Era
  • The Great Depression & World War 2
  • Civil Rights

What’s more, you can align your free curriculum to state and Common Core standards by using a simple Standards Search Tool that allows you to search from standard to document or document to standard, ensuring that your resources are not only engaging, but on target for your instructional requirements and goals.

Professional Development That Won’t Break the Bank

Think you have to spend your own money on classes and professional development, too? TAH.org believes in providing American History teachers with free opportunities to learn, grow, and get inspired. We offer seminars to K-12 teachers in public, independent, parochial, and charter schools. These half and full-day events, offered at no cost to the participant, model sound and engaging teaching by using primary documents as the foundation for learning. At the end of the program, you will receive certificate for the hours you spend with us for the day. You also have the option to earn one graduate credit from attending a seminar and creating your lesson plan based on documents and ideas discussed in the program. Provided in partnership with Ashland University, this option costs just $200.

Good teachers don’t have to empty their personal bank accounts in order to engage their students. With TAH resources, you can work smarter, not harder, and spend nothing in the process.

Bill of Rights Anniversary

The Bill of Rights was adopted on 15 December, 1791, and is made up of the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. Originally made up of 12 amendments, two of which would be ratified later – one much, much later – the Bill of Rights we think of today was in part a compromise between the earliest political camps in America, as came out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and refined during the Ratification Debates across the 13 states from 1787 to 1788.

Take a moment and look over Professor Gordon Lloyd’s exhibit on the origins, politics, and ratification of the Bill of Rights, and explore the English and Colonial roots of these most precious rights; the ideas borrowed from existing state constitutions; and examine the lineage of each right within each amendment.

Additionally, TAH.org has the following resources to help you understand, and more effectively teach, about these fundamental rights enjoyed by all Americans.

Join TAH.org at NCSS in San Francisco!

Representatives from TAH.org will be at NCSS in San Francisco, November 17th and 18th, 2017. Jeremy Gypton, Michelle Hubenschmidt, and Chris Pascarella will be on the exhibitor floor with information about our teacher programs, Master’s programs, and online resources. Additionally, Michelle will be meeting with various national and state-level Social Studies leaders throughout the conference, so if you’re attending the Council of State Social Studies Specialists (CS4) meetings you might see her. Jeremy is taking part in a panel session with other members of the Civics Renewal Network (CRN), detailed below.

Session #761: Civics is Cool Again: Debating Our Constitution
Friday, November 17, 10:00 – 11:00 am
Room: 2020, Moscone Center West

Webinars for 2017-18

TAH.org is excited to announce two 10-episode webinars series for the 2017-18 school year. Both series are free to attend, feature live, documents-based discussions between scholars with questions taken from a national audience of teachers, and all attendees to the live shows will receive a downloadable certificate worth 2 hours of continuing education time.

Saturday Webinars: Our flagship series, going into its fourth full season, these 75-minute programs each focus on a single topic, event, person, or idea. For the 17-18 school year, TAH.org presents “Moments of Crisis” – 10 events in American history and politics that challenged our people, systems, and traditions. All episodes air at 11am EST on their show date. Register for Saturday Webinars here.

Documents in Detail: Our new series, going into its first full season, these 60-minute programs take place typically on the third Wednesday of each month, at 7pm EST. Each episode will focus on one document, this year drawn from our collection of 50 Core American Documents. Spanning American history from 1776 to 1964, each episode is a deep-dive into a single document, exploring its historical context, ideas, language, and impact on politics, law, and culture. Register for Documents in Detail here.

New Resource on TAH.org

Incorporating the Federalist Papers into American Government and American History courses is both important and challenging, given the complexity of the language. Doing the same with Anti-Federalist writings is compounded by the vast and varied collection of essays, speeches, and articles that can be categorized as fitting under that heading. This is further complicated bythe fact that most Antifederalist writings are barely mentioned by name in contemporary history and government texts.

TAH.org has added a resource to the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit that aims to make it easier for teachers to use the words of the Federalists and Antifederalists to help get to the root of the major differences between those broad camps: those who supported the Constitution and those, for whatever reasons, did not.

Take a look at the Purpose, Structure, and Powers of government and you’ll find a list of key issues from 1787-1788, with essential Federalist and Antifederalist writings chosen for each. For example, if you would like to learn about the two sides’ positions on the role of the executive, it is suggested that you read Federalist 71 and An Olde Whig V.

Use this new resource to help your students read Founding era documents for a purpose, and to help them understand the ideas that animated the debates between Americans at the Founding, and how many of these issues are still being debated today.

Pennsylvania Teacher Testifies to Benjamin Franklin’s Wonderful Life

Talk with teachers participating in TAH.org’s programs, and you learn that many have cultivated a deep knowledge of the history of their states, counties, and towns. Local history it is not emphasized in most school curricula. Yet teachers find that pointing students toward this history can help students make connections between past and present. It also encourages civic-mindedness, helping students to understand American government as a federal system, in which citizens take responsibility for local and state government.

A statue of Benjamin Franklin stands near the original site of Fort Allen (photo by Mike Feifel).

A statue of Benjamin Franklin stands near the original site of Fort Allen (photo by Mike Feifel).

Teachers who bring knowledge of their specific region to Ashbrook Masters seminars sometimes instruct the faculty. Professor Christopher Flannery speaks of a remarkable moment in a class he taught on the writings of Benjamin Franklin. In his Autobiography, Franklin mentions his brief military service during the French and Indian War. A seminar student – Mike Feifel, a teacher at Lehighton Area High School, near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – offered Flannery and classmates an in-depth account of this episode.

Feifel explained that at the outset of the war, Franklin, as Pennsylvania representative to the continental Albany Congress, had attempted to organize a united governing council and militia for the colonies. The royal governor had not accepted his plan, and the threat posed by French-allied native American tribes to settlers along the frontier persisted.

Some of these settlers were Moravian missionaries who had founded a settlement called New Gnadenhutten – at the site of present-day Lehighton – for British-allied Indians, members of the Lenni Lenape tribe. Considered traitors by the Indians now fighting alongside the French to oust the British settlers, the Lenni Lenape had been hounded from their traditional hunting grounds.  The Moravians offered these native Americans their “Huts of Mercy” settlement, providing instruction in the gospel along with a stable community. They helped the Lenni Lenape build homes, while living themselves in one mission house just across the Lehigh River.

On November 24, 1755, the Moravians were eating dinner when a party of hostile Indians attacked. The Moravians were pacifists. Those not immediately killed fled to the attic, dying when the Indians set fire to the house.

“I pass by the site every day on my way to school,” Feifel said. The spot is marked with a marble burial stone and an historical placard that tells the story of the massacre.

The mass grave of the victims of the Gnadenhutten massacre (photo by Mike Feifel).

The mass grave of the victims of the Gnadenhutten massacre (photo by Mike Feifel).

The alarm caused by the massacre and a failed retaliation forced Deputy Governor Robert Morris to act. He gave Franklin the title of Colonel and put him in charge of frontier defense. A highly capable administrator and communicator, Franklin recounts in his autobiography how he had raised supplies from Pennsylvania farmers for British General Bratton’s earlier disastrous venture to retake Fort Duquesne. However, he says, “I had not so good an opinion of my military Abilities as [Governor Morris] professed to have.”

“Franklin had not spent a day of his life in a military campaign,” said Feifel, who’s done independent research in Franklin’s letters. Yet Franklin traveled to the frontier settlement of Bethlehem, mustered troops, and planned an attack on the tribe who had destroyed the Gnadenhutten settlement. “On the morning of his 50th birthday, Franklin was about to set out when he got word that muskets he had brought and supplied settlers with had failed to fire during another Indian attack.” American muskets required gunpowder that didn’t ignite in wet weather. “Franklin set out anyway, but then, as his soldiers marched through a narrow, wooded gorge, he saw they were vulnerable to hidden attackers.” He ordered a retreat.

Instead of going to meet the foe, Franklin resolved to build forts. These became Fort Allen, Fort Franklin, and Fort Norris, and offered strongholds to which settlers could run when attacked. “It was a huge advance for the undefended area,” Feifel told his classmates.

“In 1758, the Treaty of Easton brought a truce between British settlers and the hostile tribes. The last Indian massacre in the area occurred in 1763,” as the French and Indian War neared conclusion. Feifel credits Franklin’s initiative and leadership with securing the Pennsylvania frontier.

He pointed out to the seminar that this region would be critical to the nation’s industrialization. Here, anthracite coal would be discovered, and Josiah White would build canal to take coal to Philadelphia. Coal would later fuel the steel industry that grew up around Bethlehem. The area would also become the birthplace of organized labor, where the “Molly Maguires” first organized.

White would donate some of his profits from Lehigh River navigation to found schools for Native Americans. One of these, Carlisle Industrial Indian School (now Carlisle College), educated the great athlete Jim Thorpe.

“All of this happened because of what Franklin did,” Feifel told fellow students in Flannery’s Ashbrook seminar.

Program Report: Alexander Hamilton hosted at Fraunces Tavern, NYC

This last Saturday, October 15th, the esteemed Dr. Stephen Knott presented a Forum at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City.  Fifty-five teachers from several states gathered at this historic site, the very place where General Washington bid farewell to his troops at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  Dr. Knott spoke on “Hamilton’s View of Federal Power”, “Launching the New Government” and “Cabinet Warfare: The Report on Manufacturing and the Whiskey Rebellion” as topics, as well as all facets of Hamilton’s life, his workings with Washington, the rivalry with Jefferson and the duel with Burr that ended his life. All participants received a copy of Dr. Knott’s latest book, “Washington and Hamilton: An Alliance That Forged America”   This program was generously funded by the Achelis & Bodman Foundations.  

Teachers at the Fraunces Tavern

Teachers at the Fraunces Tavern

 

Liberty Fund Weekend Colloquium: George Washington

This last weekend 18 teachers came to Alexandria, Virginia  for a Liberty Fund Colloquia on George Washington.  Topics of conversation considered Washington’s early life and the beginning of the Revolution and his advocacy for Federalism and Republicanism.  Teachers discussed the complexities of his first and second Presidencies, and the difficulty of setting new precedents while always remaining committed to the limits set forth within the Constitution.  We spoke at great length of Washington’s virtue, integrity, character and commitment to his nation.  Washington set for the standard by which all future Presidents were and are  judged.  After a long day of thoughtful discussion, teachers toured the Mount Vernon estate and the Presidential Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest is Underway!

TAH.org is once again excited to support the Roots of Liberty National Essay Contest. This is an excellent opportunity for a high school teacher to sponsor an outstanding student essay. The contest asks student to build a thoughtful essay about the following:

“In To Make Their Interests Coincide With Their Duty: How the Constitution Leads Public Officials to Make Good Decisions, law professor Robert T. Miller argues that the brilliance of the American Constitution is that it “creates a system of procedures for selecting public officials and ordering how they make decisions that are in the best interests of society.” Analyze one consequential presidential decision to determine to what extent, if any, the Constitution leads presidents to make good decisions.

The winning student essay will received a grand prize of $5,000, plus a trip to D.C. for 2. The teacher who sponsors the winning student will receive a prize of $1,000. Additional cash prizes are available. Find prize and rule details here. The essay contest deadline is Friday, December 15, 2016.

A Conversation with Historian Charles Dew

Charles Dew, author of Apostles of Disunion, published this month The Making of Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade. Part memoir, part history, this thoughtful book argues we need public dialogue on slavery and its legacy. We discussed this and the MAHG teachers’ collaborative project in our interview with him.

A Conversation with Historian Charles Dew

Creative Collaborations Among Teachers

The friendships that begin in the Master of Arts program in History and Government lead to a fertile exchange of teaching ideas. Recently they’ve led to teaching collaborations across time zones.

In this post, we share the story of two teachers who collaborated in assigning a local history project. Through it, students in California and Ohio learned that trends in national history have shaped their hometowns in parallel ways.

California and Ohio Teachers Collaborate on Local History Project

 

 

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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