We the Teachers

Interview: Prof. Jeremy Bailey, author of Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power

We talked with Professor Jeremy Bailey about his upcoming online course, The American Presidency II: Johnson to the Present, which begins January 12. Professor Bailey teaches in the Department of Political Science and the Honors College at the University of Houston. He is the author of an acclaimed analysis of Jefferson’s role in defining the presidency, Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Why take this course? What can students learn from a survey of the presidency that they do not learn as well from courses on historical periods?

You get to isolate one institution and one concept and follow it through time. The Presidency, and how it functions as an institution, is such an important variable within various historical periods. You can learn a lot about LBJ by studying the sixties, but you won’t understand as much without studying the changes in the presidency between FDR and LBJ.

Also, it’s easy to reduce the presidency to biography, and end up relying on amateur psychological assessments to understand why Presidents did what they did. In fact, however, the only people a president is really comparable to are other presidents.

You’ve written on the presidency yourself, notably in Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power. Do you often work on the presidency in your research? What are your current research interests?

The presidency—and changes to the presidency over time—is one of my two or three research interests. I study executive power and what it is: how much of it is a legal puzzle, and how much is a political phenomenon calling on the partisan strengths of the person holding the office?

There are three different conversations I’m involved in on the presidency. In addition to the above, I’m making a particular inquiry into who has the power to fire executive officials. I co-authored a book, The Removal Power, on this with David Alvis (also a MAHG teacher) and Flagg Taylor (married to Natalie Taylor, another teacher in the MAHG program). We met at Ashland a couple of times to work on aspects of the book. We like to call the removal power “the most important controversy you’ve never heard of.” The book will be published around Labor Day in 2013.

A third interest is in presidential proclamations. With a colleague here, I am working to compile the only complete set of presidential proclamations. We want to collect and code them so that members of the general public who need to know will be able to find them. If you were trying to find a list of every executive veto that’s ever been issued, you could easily do it. But proclamations are an area of history that has been overlooked, perhaps because the assumption is that most presidential proclamations are merely ceremonial. Nevertheless, before the 1930s, presidential proclamations carried a lot of policy significance. It is interesting to study the extent to which presidents have used proclamations to make policy unilaterally. Sometimes proclamations are used to alert the public to a power the president is using that is indisputably his; sometimes the power exercised in the proclamation has been delegated by Congress; sometimes it has been delegated by Congress but used in a way not intended by Congress.

A proclamation is distinguished from an executive order in that it goes to people outside of government, to the citizens. For example, Truman could desegregate the military through an executive order, but Washington issued the neutrality proclamation (1793) to announce to Americans at large that the country was at peace.


How important is the presidency in American government overall? Has it gained in importance since the Founding?

It has absolutely gained in importance. We now rely on the President to provide a budget for the entire government. We also assume that when we elect a president we are electing the leader of the free world. This means that contemporary presidents hold a power via the war power that far exceeds what early Americans would have expected of the presidency. For example, using the war power, George Bush sent about 500,000 soldiers to Iraq.

In our political discussions at present, are we in danger of overestimating the importance of the executive?

The budget standoff shows that on the one hand, with the growth of attention and focus on the presidency, we now have an expectations gap in domestic policy. Presidents can only do so much. It’s very hard for the President to get the policy he wants. And in foreign affairs, there are new constraints: NGOs, the international legal community—that limit the president’s power. Bush and Obama haven’t had the same flexibility that FDR had.

What will prove to be most historically important about the election we just went through?

The first thing that comes to mind is that now we have to have a national election every couple of years just to achieve one policy! Another question we’re asking about the election, of course, is whether it is a sign that the country is aligning with the Democratic Party.

You taught the first half of the course on the presidency in the fall online program, and you’ve taught both surveys of the presidency, the early and later, in the summer program. How does the online course differ from the summer course?

The summer course allows for a different dynamic. You have one very intense week. But there is a lot that cannot happen in that week. The online course, with its more traditional pacing, allows time for an idea to be introduced one week and to percolate for a couple of weeks after that. Time always brings out the best questions. So the summer courses offer intensity, while the online courses offer time for reflection.





Congratulations to MAHG Student Nancie Lindblom on Winning Arizona Teacher of the Year!


Nancie Lindblom, Arizona Teacher of the Year


Nancie Lindblom believes the study of American history can inspire positive civic action. On the walls of her classroom at Skyline High School in Mesa, Arizona, she has hung three simple exhortations: “Take a stand,” “Use your voice,” and “Make a difference.” Around each slogan she has grouped photos of American historical figures. “Not all of them are presidents,” she says. Many are humbler figures, people such as any of her students may aspire to become.

Named in November as Arizona’s Teacher of the Year, this teacher of AP US history and American government is a third-year MAHG student. She decided to pursue a Master of American History and Government at Ashland because the program combined a teacher-friendly schedule with the content focus that would strengthen her knowledge base for the classroom.

Nancie was named Arizona Teacher of the year by the Arizona Education Foundation in a thorough selection process that involved a lengthy written application, an hour-long interview, and a visit to her classroom by a camera crew who not only recorded her teaching but also interviewed the students and administrators she works with. Both students and administrators say they are inspired by Nancie’s energetic teaching style.

She has been engaged in this work for 17 years, ten of these at the high school level. When she began teaching, at Brimhall Junior High School in Mesa, she at first worried that she may have contracted a serious illness, she said, because she returned home each evening thoroughly exhausted. Soon she figured out that the teaching profession simply demands a maximal daily output of energy.

Accepting the award, Nancie agrees to serve during 2013 as an advocate for the teaching profession, speaking before professional, business, civic, educational, parent, and student groups throughout the state. As one of 52 state, District of Columbia, and US territory Teachers of the Year, she will attend national education conferences, meet with President Obama in the Oval Office, attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and be considered for the honor of National Teacher of the Year, a role that entails a year of full-time education advocacy. The National Teacher of the Year program—of which the Arizona Teacher of the Year program is a part—is the oldest and most prestigious American teacher recognition program. It is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C.

In her teaching, Nancie sees her immediate role as conveying the content knowledge of history while preparing the juniors and seniors in her AP history and government classes for college. But this preparation is also life-preparation:  “I have to put rigor into the classroom, guiding students in analytical writing and critical thinking. They must form their own opinions and back these opinions up with facts and analysis. I hope to teach them problem-solving skills that will help them be successful in their lives.”

Nancie uses primary texts as much as possible in her history and government classes. The MAHG program has helped a great deal with this. “Every class I have ever taken there has provided primary material for my teaching. We leave each course with a binder of primary sources. The program also sponsors a great website, TeachingAmericanHistory.org, with links to other documents.”

Nancie was interested in the MAHG program for several years before she enrolled in it. “I randomly audited a MAHG course on the Supreme Court and had a good experience, but I didn’t know how I could afford the program. So I started looking at Arizona State University’s MA program in history. I didn’t like it; it was focused on historical research, and I wanted a program that would help me as a teacher. Then I learned about theTAH grant program and received a grant to take the Progressive Era course.  When I saw that the grant could pay for the graduate credit, I realized the program could work for me. I applied for the Madison Fellow program with my fingers crossed, and was selected in 2011.” While the Madison program covers tuition, room and board, “I cover the cost of travel to Ashland. To me it’s worth it. The program makes me a better teacher because of the resources it provides, the historical content knowledge I gain, and the community of teachers I tap into.”

Nancie values the “community of teachers” who participate in MAHG courses. She finds she meets them elsewhere: “This past summer at the James Madison Fellow program at Georgetown, probably a third of those participating were Ashland students. In 2011, when I attended the last of the Ashbrook sponsored Presidential Academies, many of those teachers were Ashland students as well. It is great to make connections with all these teachers. We use social networking to stay in touch, and when acceptances go out for such programs as the seminars on the Ratification of the Constitution, Ashland students are checking with each other to see who will be attending. I met a woman in the Presidential Academy I was able to meet up with again at the (Ashbrook sponsored) Ratification seminar in Boston, so I went sightseeing with her while there. This spring I’ll be traveling to Springfield, Illinois for a conference on Lincoln,and I’ve already learned that I’ll see a MAHG friend there.”

“A friend in Arizona asked me, when I told her I was traveling to Ashland for a summer seminar, if I had arranged to room with a person I liked. ‘What if you get stuck with a person you can’t talk to?’ she wanted to know. I told her we do not have a problem with that in the MAHG program! You know automatically that you all share the same passion for teaching history and for learning about the founding of American government.”

The summer schedule of the original MAHG program appealed to Nancie, whose teaching year is very busy. As an AP teacher, she spends most evenings grading student essays. But “at the same time I can’t spend four weeks every summer at Ashland,” so she has enrolled in the new online courses, taking Professor Ken Masugi’s course on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. “Studying face-to-face with the professor is obviously best, but this online format allows us to study face-to-face through the computer. I’ve never been successful at the usual online format, because I really need the classroom interaction.” In the webinar format, “we can share opinions and hear what others have to say.”

Nancie hopes to finish her MAHG coursework this summer and begin a capstone, so as to graduate in December 2013. Given this goal, and her ambassadorial duties as Arizona Teacher of the Year, she faces a challenging and exciting year.

What So Proudly We Hail

The new book What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song takes what its editors’ term, “…a literary approach to teaching civic education.”  The book is an anthology of stories, speeches, and songs which tell the story of American and citizenship.  Included are the works and ideas of Americans as varied as Mark Twain, George Washington, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Luther King Jr., and Irving Berlin.

The book itself is an excellent teaching resource, and it is accompanied by a richly featured website which includes curriculum guides; video conversations; a supplemental library of stories, documents, speeches, and songs; resources for teaching about national holidays; and other useful learning tools.

Political Sign Rewind contest

An example of a historic campaign sign created for the Political Sign Rewind contest.

Online sign vendor Signazon.com is sponsoring a “Political Sign Rewind” contest.  Entrants should design and submit a campaign poster in the style of a modern-day candidate yard sign for historical elections.  Imagine what might voters might have seen posted for hotly contested presidential elections like 1800, 1860, or 1912!

As with any online contest, read the terms and conditions carefully before entering.  Still, for social studies teachers interested in exploring with their students the evolving nature of political campaign advertising, having your students plan and create campaign materials for candidates such as Jefferson, Lincoln, or Roosevelt is an excellent way to explore the candidates and issues involved.

Inspired to Make a Difference after 9/11

Tomorrow marks the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation serves to honor the victims, survivors, and rescuers involved in the 2001 and 1993 attacks upon the World Trade Center.

At their website, 911memorial.org, the Foundation offers a wealth of resources useful for teachers and others who wish to discuss the events and their aftermath.  In particular, check out the Teaching Guide entitled Inspired to Make a Difference after 9/11, which chronicles the acts of volunteerism by people around the world in the wake of the attacks.

September 4, 1957: Little Rock Central High School

On this day in 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court decision ordering compliance with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, called out the Arkansas National Guard to obstruct the integration of Little Rock Central High School.  The incident marks the first major test of the decision as well as the Eisenhower administration’s will to enforce the order.

The United States National Park Service’s We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement website chronicles Little Rock Central as well as dozens of other civil rights-related historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Picture of Silver Framing an Apple of Gold

September 17, Constitution Day, is not as vivid in the American imagination as is the Fourth of July. But the two dates will need one another forever in American history. On July 4, 1776, of course, Americans declared their independence, proclaiming to the world what will always be the most American of all ideas, “that all men are created equal.” Eleven years later, still trying to vindicate that idea, delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed on September 17, 1787, the Constitution that resulted from their summer-long deliberations and recommended it to the states in hopes of forming “a more perfect Union.” As it happened, this was done in Independence Hall in Philadelphia–where the Declaration of Independence, too, had been signed–making this arguably the most politically sacred ground in America. Some scores of years down the American road, on the eve of his great trial and the greatest crisis of the Union and the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln meditated on the relation between the Union and the Constitution and the Declaration. He had in mind a beautiful passage from Proverbs (25:11)–”a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver”–as he wrote a private note to himself sometime after his election as president in November 1860, and before his inauguration in March 1861. He reflected on the blessings enjoyed by the United States–our “free government” and “great prosperity.” “All this,” he writes, “is not the result of accident.”

It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all”–the principle that clears the path for all–gives hope to all–and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.

The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate.Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity….

The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple–not the apple for the picture.

In the period of the American Founding, from the Revolution to the establishment of the Constitution, Americans displayed statesmanship unsurpassed in the history of human freedom. Any freedom and prosperity we enjoy today is, as Lincoln understood in his time of constitutional crisis, a legacy of that statesmanship–an inheritance of apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Happy Constitution Day.

–Christopher Flannery, Professor of Political Science, Azusa Pacific University, and Louaine S. Taylor Professor of American History and Government, Ashland University

Welcome to We The Teachers

The Ashbrook Center and TeachingAmericanHistory.org are pleased to unveil our new history and government teaching resource blog, We the Teachers.  Here you will find regularly updated posts highlighting not only the resources found at our own site, but many of the best resources, lesson plans, and professional development opportunities offered by leading history and civics education groups and government agencies.

Your feedback is encouraged and will help us to refine We the Teachers as this project continues to develop.  We encourage you to share us with friends and colleagues by posting to your own social networking sites, to follow our feed on Twitter, and to like our page on Facebook.

Learn Liberty

Learn Liberty is website run by the Institute for Humane Studies and designed to assist educators in addressing key issues in economics, philosophy, and other disciplines. In the Classroom Resources section of the Learn Liberty website, teachers can find curriculum guides, and videos. Learn Liberty is great for supplemental material, to start a discussion and to structure outside-of class assignments.

Bill of Rights Institute: Constitutional Workshops for Teachers

The Bill of Rights Institute offers Constitutional Workshops for teachers. These workshops take place all across the United States and include a copy of their teacher-written curriculum, a certificate for 6 hours of professional development and bi-monthly emailed lesson plans. There are dates available this fall.   Register today for a location close to you.

“Apple of Gold:” The Centrality of the Declaration of Independence in American Political Life

Why is it important to understand the Declaration of Independence? What does the Declaration say, and why and how does it say it? What does the Declaration not say, and why and how does it not say it? Explore the answer to these and other questions asked and  answered in this lecture delivered by Professor Christopher Flannery from June of 2002. Happy 4th!

TAH Lesson Plan of the Week

This week’s suggested plan was created by Professor Chris Burkett and teacher Patricia Dillon and is entitled, “The Federalist and Anti-federalist Debates on Diversity and the Extended Republic.” Lesson one focuses on the Anti-Federalist argument while lesson two deals with Federalist arguments of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and the extension of the republic (Federalist #s 9, 10 and 51). The printable PDF files that accompany each lesson challenge students to study primary that frame each debate. An incredible unit that will bring this period to life for your students.

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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