We the Teachers

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.

Students “Unlock” Clues in Primary Documents, Finding Constitution Booklet

Joe Welch, an American history teacher at North Hills Middle School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, relies on internet technology for access to primary historical documents. He directs his eighth graders to online libraries such as Teaching American History’s (TAH.org) collection “almost every day.” This helps students learn our nation’s history directly from those who lived it. Reading the words of earlier Americans, students empathize with the way those Americans thought and felt, relating their own life challenges to those of the past. This helps students understand themselves. Welch tells his students, “Technology and styles may change, but human emotions do not change.”

Teachers with these high goals need to step back into the role of student from time to time, to check whether their approach works. Welch did so last spring at an TAH-sponsored weekend colloquium on Alexander Hamilton’s role as advisor to George Washington.

A group of twenty teachers sat together discussing Washington and Hamilton’s speeches and letters, guided by an engaging scholar: Stephen Knott, a faculty member in TAH.org’s Master’s program at Ashland University, a presidential biographer, and a Professor at the US Naval War College. “I had not discussed history in this way since college,” Welch said. Knott helped teachers answer the questions that arise when reading primary sources: “What was Washington’s motive when he wrote this? What other contemporary events affected his thinking?” Discussing such questions pointed up those unexpected layers of meaning that Welch hopes his eighth graders will discover.

Later, Welch attended a conference on classroom technology. One workshop suggested a classroom application of the “break-out” game, in which a team of friends is locked in a room and uses clues to find a way out. In the educational version, students go to websites to find clues to open a box with multiple locks. “How can I use this to introduce students to primary sources?” Welch wondered.

Welch thought of the most important primary source he uses in his class: the US Constitution. He carries a pocket Constitution at all times. “We study it as we cover the Founding; in later lessons I pull it out and refer to it. I wanted my students to find the Constitution inside the lockbox.” So Welch reached out to his new contacts at TAH, who agreed to donate 100 copies of the booklet, enough for every student.

In the game Welch designed, students examined five sets of short primary sources to open six locks. Documents included short letters, speeches, images, even a hand-written Electoral College vote tally. It was early in the school year, and Welch wanted to demonstrate the range of documents historians use.

He presented a scenario: “A new President has been elected, and he wants to create his own version of American history. He is destroying all our primary source documents. But our Founding Fathers locked away one thing to prevent a tyrant from taking power and erasing our memories. What is it? Open the box to find out. You have 40 minutes until the President’s executive order takes effect.”

“It was far-fetched, but middle-schoolers ate it up,” Welch said. “I’d never seen students so eager to examine primary sources. They read each document, then read it again.”

The locks opened in different ways. One set of clues directed students to a key hidden in the room. Another lock was opened by a word; two required a combination of digits. Finding keys required making connections between documents. For example, one set of clues contained a dated copy of the Gettysburg Address and a copy of the Declaration of Independence with the date blanked out. Students realized that the first words of the Gettysburg speech, “Four score and seven years ago,” referred to 1776, the year Americans announced their independence—and also the four digits that opened the lock.

To make some clue sets, Welch pulled documents related to Western Pennsylvania. A 1794 letter from Alexander Hamilton (then Secretary of War) to Governor Thomas Mifflin, “on the necessity of an immediate March of the Militia against the Western Insurgents,” referred to the Whiskey Rebellion—an event in local history most of Welch’s students had never heard of—and yielded the clue “western” for a directional lock. As clues to the word lock (opened with the key “PITTS”), Welch pulled 18 images from the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Rapidly researching the images to discover what they had in common, students realized that playwright August Wilson and ecologist Rachel Carson were born in or near Pittsburgh, that Fred Rogers filmed his children’s program there, that the Westinghouse Company was headquartered nearby, and that Meriwether Lewis launched the keelboat he and William Clark needed for their expedition into the west on the Allegheny River, at Fort Fayette in Pittsburgh.

Since Welch had built two lockboxes, students competed in teams. This introduced another skill: collaborative reading. “They divided to conquer, then worked as groups to figure out the remaining clues.” Seven out of ten teams (in five classes) met the 40-minute deadline.

Welch designed the game to show students “that they were going to have dig underneath the surface of primary documents to find their meaning and to find connections between documents.” At the end of class, the look of triumph on students’ faces showed they had also learned that “you can really work together with your peers to accomplish something.

You can learn more about the lockbox game Welch designed here

Inside each lockbox students found copies of Ashbrook’s Constitution booklet.

Students used a flashlight to read a clue written in invisible ink: the number 538, the total number of Electoral College votes today.

Rebuilding the Liberty Narrative: A Conversation with Gordon Lloyd

 

There is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty, Tocqueville informs. While equality in modern democratic society is a natural tendency—one that grows without much effort—it is liberty that requires a new defense in each generation. In this spirit the next edition of Liberty Law Talk discusses with Gordon Lloyd the Liberty Narrative and its unending contest with the Equality Narrative.

Gordon Lloyd

Gordon Lloyd is the Dockson Emeritus Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University and a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center. He is the creator, with the help of the Ashbrook Center, of four highly regarded websites on the origin of the Constitution.

From the Library of Law and Liberty

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

 

 

MAHG by the Numbers

On Saturday, August 13th, Ashland University awarded the degree of Master of Arts to 24 MAHG/MASTAHG students.  Since 2005, 174 students have earned the degree.

Twenty-two of these new graduates were in the MAHG program; two were in MASTAHG program.  They came from 15 states and include 14 James Madison Fellows.  Two students wrote a thesis, four created a capstone project, and 18 completed their studies via the qualifying examination.

There are now 244 students in the MAHG program; 75 in MASTAHG.  These students come from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and one US territory, the Virgin Islands (yeah, Norda!).

A free coffee mug to anyone who guesses which two states don’t have representatives in MAHG.  Two free coffee mugs if you enroll in the program from one of those states!

Students on campus this summer came from 36 states. For the Fall schedule of classes, go to https://www.ashland.edu/mahg/student-informationschedule-courses/fall-2016.  For more information, please contact Chris Pascarella at cpascarella@tah.org.

New TAH.org Site Feature: Enhanced Sitewide Search

TeachingAmericanHistory.org has a new feature: a simple, enhanced search tool embedded on every page of the site. If you look in the upper-right corner of any page you’ll see the Search box that’s always been there – but now you have the ability to select whether you want the search term to be applied to whole site, or just our Documents Library. If you select Documents, you’ll be able to search the titles and contents of our 2300+ primary documents, providing easier, faster access to the information you want.

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Saturday Webinar 2016-17 Season: Landmark Supreme Court Cases

Announcing the 10 LANDMARK SUPREME COURT CASES Webinar Series

Building on the success of our last two years of Saturday WebinarsAmerican Controversies and American Presidents – we invite you to join our 10 Landmark Supreme Court Cases webinar series during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Drawing from our list of 50 Core Documents and related sources, TAH.org’s Saturday Webinar series is designed to help teachers develop a deeper understanding of the historical, political, constitutional, and social dimensions of 10 of America’s most important Supreme Court cases. Each month a different panel of scholars – experts in their fields –discuss the topic at hand, with Dr. Chris Burkett of Ashland University as moderator, and a live online audience of teachers.

Document links will be updated throughout the season, at least a month in advance of each episode.

Register for the 2016-17 season

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.

Plessy v. Ferguson: May 18th, 1896

May 18th is the anniversary Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the doctrine of “equal, but separate” was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case helped to cement the Jim Crow laws already prevalent throughout the South, and paved the way for another 60 years of legal segregation before it was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Learn more about the details and historical context of this case at TeachingAmericanHistory.org, where it’s one of our 50 Core Documents. The case, with Justice Harlan’s dissenting opinion that the “Constitution is color-blind,” is also accompanied by a summary, guiding questions, links to related documents, and a search tool to help you find state academic standards relevant to the case.

Our 2016-17 Saturday Webinars will focus on developing a deeper understanding of Landmark Supreme Court Cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson. Registration details will be published soon. In the meantime, you can access all our archived webinars, and subscribe to our iTunes podcast, too.

Freedom Day Resources

 

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In support of ‘Freedom Day,’ TeachingAmericanHistory.org has collected a variety of resources for you and your classes. Freedom Day encourages people of all ages to explore how Americans’ freedoms of speech and expression are exercised, threatened, and protected in the past and today in the world. Join with the Civics Renewal Network and National Constitution Center in conversation, activities and online programs to discuss the meaning for Freedom and its relevance in modern society.  The Center has chosen April 13th to celebrate the understanding and meaning of freedom expressed by the Constitution and other founding documents however, schools can choose to celebrate on that day or any day that week.

  • Primary Document-based lesson plan collections – lessons on a wide variety of topics related to American history, government, and civics, all based in primary documents
  • The Constitutional Convention Online Exhibit – the web’s most-visited and comprehensive resource on the Convention of 1787
  • The Bill of Rights Online Exhibit – An extensive study of the politics, ideas, origins, and legacy of the United States Bill of Rights
  • Religion in America – A unique and powerful study of the place and impact of religion in American politics and life
  • 50 Core American Documents – The essential starting point from which to consider what it means to be an American. Over 67,000 print and ebook copies of this volume have been distributed since late 2014
  • Presidential Academy – 31 sessions addressing the broad scope of American history, challenges, and ideas from the Founding through the late 20th Century
  • Thomas Jefferson – An extensive collection of letters, political writings, and other resources spanning the years from 1774 to his death in 1826

 

United States Colored Troops Lesson Plan

Paul LaRue, 4th-usct-weba teacher at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio and the 2010 Ohio History Teacher of the Year, shares with us a lesson plan he contributed to the Civil War Trust’s web exhibit on the United States Color Troops.  Highlighting the unique contributions of African-American soldiers to the Union’s cause, the unit is appropriate for middle grades American history classrooms. It is just one part of the Civil War Trust’s complete series of curricula available for all grade bands.

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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