We the Teachers

“Did the Founders Misunderstand Democracy?” Webinar Reflection

Our second webinar of the season occurred last Saturday with over 50 participants! We hope everyone enjoyed David Foster, Ken Masugi and Chris Burkett ponder and expound on the topic, “Did the Founders Misunderstand Democracy?” How did Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson view democracy and was it meant for the masses? We explored several Federalist Papers and discussed factions, political parties and the influences of both on the young republic.

If you missed our engaging webinar please join us October 25th, 2014 at 11:00 EST for our next topic, “Was the Constitution Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?” Register here.

Lincoln’s View of Reconstruction in July 1864

Abraham_Lincoln_seated_Feb_9_1864_slideshowIn July of 1864, the Civil War was in its fourth summer, its end point uncertain but its enormous cost in human life painfully clear. The Union Army had not yet achieved the decisive victory that would insure the vindication of Lincoln’s understanding of the Union as unbreakable. And the people of the North were questioning the war’s human cost. Looking ahead to the fall presidential election, Lincoln thought it unlikely that voters would return him to office, and he expected that his Democratic opponent, if elected, would begin negotiating peace on Confederate terms–probably allowing slavery to continue and implicitly or explicitly acknowledging the right of individual states to nullify federal law or withdraw from the Union at will.

Hence we can infer that a bill pushed through Congress by radical Republicans just before it adjourned for summer recess seemed to Lincoln intemperate and impractical. The Wade-Davis bill tried to predetermine the policy for the reconstruction of the South that would follow a Union victory in the war. It would have stipulated that only those who could swear an oath that they had never given aid to the Confederacy be allowed to vote in the reconstructed states. It would also have required any state readmitted to the Union to have abolished slavery. Lincoln had shown through the Emancipation Proclamation that he now saw the abolition of slavery as a necessary outcome of the war, but he wanted that abolition to be made permanent by Constitutional amendment, and securing the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives was proving difficult. Lincoln pocket-vetoed the Wade-Davis bill, but he went on to issue on July 8 a proclamation explaining this action, in which he said he was

unprepared, by a formal approval of this Bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration; and . . . I am also unprepared to declare, that the free-state constitutions and governments, already adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana, shall be set aside and held for nought, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same, as to further effort; or to declare a constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in States, but am at the same sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the nation, may be adopted . . . .

On July 18, Lincoln issued a letter evidently intended for the Confederate leadership but refraining from addressing them as such, lest he imply their political legitimacy. Instead, he advised those “To Whom It May Concern” that he would entertain and consider “Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States.”

New Teaching Resources on the Federalist Papers

Roots of Liberty

Roots of Liberty

The Cornerstone Project has just introduced The Roots of Liberty: Unlocking the Federalist Papers. This is a comprehensive curriculum for teaching about the Federalist Papers, and it includes:

  • a student text featuring ten essays written by scholars unifying key topics and themes throughout the Papers (20 copies included with each classroom set)
  • an accompanying teacher’s discussion guide with multiple tools and activities
  • companion videos corresponding to lessons

Topics Include:

  • the doctrine of enumerated powers
  • separation of powers
  • federalism
  • the independent judiciary
  • how the U.S. Constitution enables public officials to make good decisions
  • political freedom
  • economic freedom
  • religious freedom
  • the Constitution as a defense against foreign aggression

To learn more, or to access a free lesson, click here.

New Resources for Catholic School Teachers

If you teach in a Catholic school you may want to be aware of a new opportunity from Sophia Institute for Teachers. The organization has just launched a website for teachers to upload and download lessons they’ve created. While they are building it out, they’re paying $10 for every resource that is accepted for publication.

The Curriculum Exchange already contains several resources for teachers of American History and government, such as this lesson on the Declaration of Independence and Just War, and this DBQ on Martin Luther King, Jr and non-violence.

You can find more info on the $10 per lesson offer here.

Ashbrook Teachers Converse with “Silent Cal”

This past weekend, the Ashbrook Center hosted eighteen history and government teachers for a discussion about the life and presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

Teachers at Calvin Coolidge Library and Museum, Northamptom, MA

Teachers at Calvin Coolidge Library and Museum, Northamptom, MA

Overshadowed by more activist presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and tainted by the assumption that the “Coolidge Prosperity” in the mid-1920s led ineluctably to a stock market crash in 1929 and to nearly a full decade of economic depression, Coolidge is rarely given the opportunity to speak to us on his own terms. Participants in last weekend’s colloquium found in Calvin Coolidge a man who, despite the nickname of “Silent Cal”, said much about America’s uniqueness – and said it with great eloquence.

To Coolidge, as to his Puritan ancestors, America was still very much an experiment in self-government. The Puritans, he wrote, came to the New World “undecked with orders of nobility,” eager to create a new society without the inherited class distinctions and ranks of the Old World. “They cared little for titles,” Coolidge explained, “still less for the goods of this earth; but for an idea they would die.” Like Coolidge’s father and family, and generations of his ancestors and friends in the rugged mountains of Vermont, the Puritans knew the meaning of labor; with their hands, Coolidge says, “they wrung from the soil their bread”. But from their humble beginnings, Coolidge marveled at the results. “What an increase, material and spiritual, three hundred years has brought that little company…. No like body has ever cast so great an influence on human history.”

With collectivist and socialist movements gathering strength in the Old World of Europe, Coolidge labored to create a vision for his fellow Americans of a nation that could continue to avoid class enmity, and the extremes of oligarchy or anarchy threatened by class conflict. As Governor of Massachusetts, he was confronted with the very real danger of anarchy in the form of a strike by members of the Boston Police Department. Arguing for better working conditions and benefits, some members of the Boston Police attempted to unionize, and went on strike. Endorsing the Boston Mayor’s decision not to rehire striking police, Coolidge explained that the success of their strike had “meant anarchy” and that striking officers “dispossessed themselves. They went out of office.” Coolidge’s popularity soared nationally as a result of his response to the strike, earning him a place on Warren Harding’s presidential ticket in 1920, and setting the stage for his election as President in 1924.

His response to the strike also revealed something about Coolidge’s political principles. Denouncing the striking police, Coolidge wrote, “No man has a right to place his own ease or convenience or the opportunity of making money above his duty to the State.” Coolidge was guided by the vision of an America without class distinction, an America in which the law was made in the interest of a sovereign People – not for the benefit of private interests (by which term he meant not only business interests, but also labor, and even those from previous generations who argued for a right to own slaves).

It was in the interest of the people as a whole that Coolidge presented his fiscal policy. Shortly after assuming the presidency in the wake of Harding’s death, Coolidge noted the cost to Americans of their involvement in Europe’s Great War. “For seven years the people have borne with uncomplaining courage the tremendous burden of national and local taxation. These must both be reduced. The taxes of the Nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly. High taxes reach everywhere and burden everybody. They wear most heavily upon the poor. They diminish industry and commerce. They make agriculture unprofitable. They increase the rates on transportation. They are a charge on every necessary of life.” Despite this, Coolidge did not hesitate to encourage the federal government, prudently, to fund certain public improvements and public buildings which promised to make commerce and administration more efficient.

Throughout his life and presidency, Coolidge retained a great respect for the role of educators, especially civic educators. He called education “the cornerstone of self-government,” and he wrote that “Teaching is one of the noblest of professions.” His explanation of this deserves to be read and cherished by all who have taken up that noble profession:

It requires an adequate preparation and training, patience, devotion, and a deep sense of responsibility. Those who mold the human mind have wrought not for time, but for eternity. The obligation which we all owe to those devoted men and women who have given of their lives to the education of the youth of our country that they might have freedom through coming into a knowledge of the truth is one which can never be discharged. They are entitled not only to adequate rewards for their service, but to the veneration and honor of a grateful people.

Last weekend’s colloquium was the last offered by Ashbrook in the 2013-14 school year. We will begin accepting applications for 2014-15 colloquia late this summer. To be notified when the application period opens, please click here and submit your name and email address.

Prof. Gordon Lloyd presents: The Ratification of the Constitution – April 11, 2014 (Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA)

Gordon LloydThe Ashbrook Center and The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Learning Center at the Reagan Library are pleased to sponsor Professor Gordon Lloyd for a series of presentations on the Ratification of the Constitution, Friday, April 11, 2014. The lectures will be hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.

Dr. Lloyd is Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, and he is creator and editor of a series of Online Exhibits on the American Founding hosted at the Ashbrook Center’s TeachingAmericanHistory.org website.

Through extensive study of Madison’s notes and artifacts from the Founding Era, Professor Lloyd has developed an unparalleled understanding of the Framers and the events that took place leading up to the signing and ratification of the Constitution. Professor Lloyd will help audiences navigate through the vast and complex Founding Era and provide an intimate look at the ratification of the Constitution. This lecture series will take the audience back in time to 1787 and offer the audience a glimpse at the debates surrounding ratification through two lenses: “out-of-doors” in newspapers and pamphlets throughout America’s thirteen states and “in-doors” in the state ratifying conventions. Participants will receive complementary admission to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum,  Air Force One, and a special exhibition: Baseball: Celebrating Our Great American Pastime. This free event is open to teachers, students and the general public.

Lecture Schedule:

Session 1 The Six Stages of Ratification: Yes? No? Maybe?
Session 2: The In-Doors Debate: Principle and Compromise
Lunch- Optional Lunch Box (vegetarian option available)
Session 3: The “Out-of-Doors Debate I”: Constitutionalism and Human Nature
Session 4: The “Out-of-Doors Debate II”: Constitutionalism and Institutions

To learn more, or to register, click here.

Consider applying for Mount Vernon’s Summer Teacher Institute

The George Washington Summer Residential Teachers’ Institute is a highly competitive program which brings teachers to Mount Vernon, Virginia for an intensive week of study at Washington’s home. Participating teachers immerse themselves in the study and discussion of this critical period of American history and the remarkable role George Washington played in the founding of our nation.

Teachers will have the opportunity to:

  • Examine the character and accomplishments of George Washington while living on his 18th Century estate
  • Engage in active discussion of 18th Century history with top historians
  • Explore Mount Vernon through interactive workshops, tours, and group projects
  • Connect to Common Core and discuss how to integrate teaching history into English and STEM curricula in accordance with current education standards
  • Return to your classroom with new knowledge, teaching materials and enthusiasm to share with your students and colleagues

In 2014, Mount Vernon will host sessions by state to build the foundation for statewide collegial networks of teachers who can share classroom ideas, lesson plans, and resources.

2014 Dates

June 8-13: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
June 22-27: Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, California
July 13-18: Maryland, Florida, North Carolina
July 27-Aug 1: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York

To learn more, or to apply, visit http://www.mountvernon.org/teacherinstitute.

Ashbrook brings teachers to Mount Vernon for a weekend with George Washington

Ashbrook Center at Mount VernonThis past weekend, the Ashbrook Center brought 18 teachers from around the country to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Teachers enjoyed private tours of the mansion and the grounds, and an audience with the historic re-enactor who portrays Martha Washington.

In addition, participating teachers had the opportunity to explore George Washington’s life and presidency in depth, through his own writings. We explored the “Rules of Civility” which guided the young and ambitious Washington as he shaped his character so as to rise within the Virginia aristocracy. We discussed his surveying career and military service, which gave him an expansive view of the potential of a united America. We discussed his letters on religious liberty, including his famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, with its dramatic proclamation, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” Finally, we discussed key issues within his presidency that challenged his vision of a united America, including the Whiskey Rebellion, his Proclamation of Neutrality, and the persistence of partisan views and local identities that he challenged in his Farewell Address.

Participants got a fuller view of George Washington as a man, as a precedent setter, and as a leader calling Americans to embrace the full promise of our national experiment in self-government.

Fellowship Opportunity for Teachers at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Applications are now being accepted for the 2014-2015 Life Guard Teacher Fellows Program at The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. These short-term residential fellowships are intended to help teachers educate America’s students in the history of our founding era – and particularly in the remarkable traits and accomplishments of George Washington.

By living and working on George Washington’s estate, fellows will enjoy the opportunity to connect and collaborate with Mount Vernon’s on-site experts in early American history, preservation, archaeology and other relevant fields, as well as the scholars who frequently visit for lectures, research, educational programs, and other purposes.

These funded research opportunities are available to exceptional classroom teachers (grades 3 – 12), curriculum specialists, media specialists, and to those engaged in university-level teacher training. Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $1,000 a week as well as housing and round-trip airfare or mileage reimbursement for one trip to and from the scholars’ residence.

The application deadline is February 28, 2014. Awardees will be notified by April 30, 2014.

Click here to learn more about research parameters and application process.

Ashbrook hosts colloquium on American Exceptionalism

LF New Orleans January 2014Last weekend, the Ashbrook Center hosted 18 teachers from across the country in the exceptional city of New Orleans, Louisiana, for a conversation on the topic of American exceptionalism.

Throughout American history, America has been seen, in many ways, to be distinct as a nation and as a people. Through readings from the colonial era, founding era, Civil War, Progressive era, and from contemporary times, the teachers who gathered with us in New Orleans discussed ways in which America or Americans have been viewed as “exceptional”.

During its youth, America offered the hope of freedom from the limits of the Old World. Participants read from the letters of the French settler to America, John Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, who explained how the European landing in the new world, “is arrived on a new continent; a modern society offers itself to his contemplation, different from what he had hitherto seen. It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess everything and of a herd of people who have nothing. Here are no aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one; no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great refinements of luxury…. There he sees a parson as simple as his flock, a farmer who does not [live in excess] on the labor of others. We have no princes for whom we toil, starve, and bleed. We are the most perfect society now existing in the world. Here man is free as he ought to be….”

The 19th century saw conflict about whether this freedom should extend to African-Americans as well as Americans of European origin. Participants explored writings from both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, who in his famous Gettysburg Address called America to an exceptional purpose – of dedicating ourselves, after a brutal war fought over the meaning of America’s founding principles, to the proposition that “all men are created equal” and to the task of guaranteeing “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In the 20th century, Americans struggled with the question of whether, with the closing of the American frontier and the rise of the industrial economy, some dramatic change was necessary in American political ideals or institutions. Was it the case, as Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed, that 18th century conceptions of liberty were out of date, and that in the modern age, Americans should embrace the political principle that Woodrow Wilson had borrowed from European political science and admit, “The day of enlightened administration has come”? Or should Americans heed the counsel of Herbert Hoover who argued, “Our country has a political, social, and economic system that is peculiarly our own.  It is the American system.  It grew out of our revolt from European systems and has ripened with our experience and our ideals…. It has been the moving force of our progress.  It has brought us into the leadership of the world.”

As long as American represents Lincoln’s ideal of a government that is of, by, and for the people, America will remain exceptional. Teachers and students of American history and government must continue to ask whether this requires a radical departure from the model of self-government established at America’s founding, or whether there is something exceptional (as Hoover argued) in America’s tradition of decentralized and ordered liberty.

Five Questions with… Prof. Todd Estes

Todd-Estes1-e1372615143927Recently, Prof. Todd Estes (Oakland University) joined the Ashbrook Center to serve as Discussion Leader for a weekend colloquium on James Madison, held on the grounds at James Madison’s Montpelier. Todd is the author of the highly regarded The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, And The Evolution Of Early American Political Culture (University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), and is currently working on a book on the ratification debate that occurred in the public press, and he is editing a book of the writings of his Ph.D. advisor, the late Prof. Lance Banning (University of Kentucky).

Todd is a frequent collaborator with the Ashbrook Center, and has taught several courses within our MA Program in American History and Government. He was kind enough to join us for five questions about his work as a historian. Listen to our interview with Todd Estes.

A Timely Visit to Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield

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There is no better way to commemorate tomorrow’s 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address than by reading and reflecting on the words and ideas of Abraham Lincoln.

Last weekend, the Ashbrook Center brought 18 social studies teachers to Springfield, Illinois to do just that. Together, we talked about the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Participants read and discussed some of Lincoln’s most famous writings, including his “Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, IL,” his “Eulogy of Henry Clay,” his “House Divided Speech,” his First and Second Inaugural Addresses, and, of course, the Gettysburg Address. Our discussion leader for the weekend was Prof. Lucas Morel (Washington and Lee University). In addition to our discussions, we visited the Lincoln family’s Springfield home, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

For those interested in exploring the legacy of Abraham Lincoln on their own, the Ashbrook Center has many resources. View our extensive library of documents by and about Lincoln here. To hear Prof. Morel lecture about the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural, click here. Finally, to register for our upcoming series of teacher webinars on the 50 Core Documents – which include Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural – click here.

Conversations about the Constitution

On Saturday, November 2, the Ashbrook Center hosted Professors Chris Burkett (Ashland University), Peter Schramm (Ashland University) and Gordon Lloyd (Pepperdine University) for a webinar conversation on the topic “Reflection and Choice versus Accident and Force: the Making of the Constitution“. This was the third in Ashbrook’s series of nine monthly webinars during the 2013-14 school year on America’s 50 Core Documents. If you weren’t able to join us, please view the video!

To register for future webinars, or to take a series of them for graduate credit, click here.

 

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