We the Teachers

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.

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution

No document is more central to securing “the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” than the United States Constitution, and no website is more thorough than ConstitutionOnline.com.

The Heritage Foundation has launched a new site, “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution,” a searchable reference tool revolving around the Constitution. “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution is intended to provide a brief and accurate explanation of each clause of the Constitution as envisioned by the Framers and as applied in contemporary law.” This new resource can compliment a lesson on the Constitution and is a great way to incorporate technology into your lesson. Check-out the Teacher Companion section of the site to see how this resource can be used in your classroom.

Map of Historic Philadelphia in the Late 18th Century

This interactive map that was organized by Professor Gordon Lloyd is a great resource for all teachers that visit the “Old City” district of Philadelphia. Many also use it to “virtually” transport their students when studying the amazing content found on the Constitutional Convention site. Please share how these great resources have found application in your classroom.

Home for History- Gilder Lehrman

Gilder Lehrman launched their new “Home for History” website this month. The site features History by Era, Programs and Exhibitions, Primary Sources, History Now, Community, and Multimedia. This site is a great go-to resources for teachers, students and scholars.

The History by Era section of the site can act as a great visual aid for students as they study the American Revolution, the Civil War and many more. Each era is equipped with a  chronological timeline of important dates to the era. Sub eras provide teachers with essays,   related primary sources, teacher resources and multimedia. Check-out Home for History and introduce this great new resource into your classroom.

Teaching with Primary Sources

The Library of Congress publishes a quarterly Journal entitled, The Teaching with Primary Source (TPS) Journal. This journal “focuses on pedagogical approaches to teaching with Library of Congress digitized primary sources in K-12 classrooms.” Their recent November issue, The Civil War Across Disciplines“explores how teachers can use primary sources to teach about the Civil War.” Click the link below to explore previous issues of The TPS Journal.

Teaching American History.org

The Ashbrook Center offers a great resource to teachers through our TeachingAmericanHistory.org website. “Learn more about American history by going back to the original source documents, from the founding through the 20th century and beyond.” The site offers a wide variety of resources, like primary sources documents from many eras, audio lectures from professors across the country, web-based lesson plans, and special exhibits on the American Founding. Follow the link below to check out this great site.


A Sample Course in the MAHG Curriculum: The American Founding

An intensive study of the Constitutional Convention, the struggle over ratification of the Constitution, and the creation of the Bill of Rights, this course includes a close examination of The Federalist and the anti-federalist papers. It will be offered twice this summer, both times in Philadelphia. Taught by  Ashland University Professor Christopher Burkett and Guest Lecturer Gordon Lloyd (Pepperdine University), a leading scholar of the Founding era. Lloyd, who designed our interactive web exhibits on the Constitutional Convention and the, Ratification of the Constitution offers an enthusiast’s encyclopedic knowledge of Founding era.

Students new to the degree program may take their first course at the Ashland campus tuition-free.  There is no obligation or risk. Learn More about the Program and view the schedule online.

National Archives-Docs Teach

The National Archives is a great resource for teachers and your students. Their Docs Teach website is dedicated specifically to teachers to help “bring history to life for your students.” The site offers “ready-to-use tools for teaching in the classroom”and “thousands of primary sources selected from the National Archives.” Each lesson or online activity includes triangles that “graphically indicate correlation with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy(Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001), adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956).” Take a minute to check out this site offered through the National Archives and encourage the learning of various topics through primary sources.

On April 11, 2012 the National Archives announced the release of the DocsTeach App for iPad. “Using the app, you can choose a topic, such as ‘Civics & Government’ or ‘Postwar U.S. 1945 – early 1970s,’ and challenge yourself with a DocsTeach activity to interact with stories, events, and ideas of the past. All activities are based on primary source documents from the holdings of the National Archives, such as the U.S. Constitution, the canceled check for the purchase of Alaska, and Thomas Edison’s patent drawing for the light bulb. The activities were created by the National Archives education team and an army of DocsTeach users.”

All of these online interactive activities are a great supplement to topics being taught in the classroom. With the new iPad app school’s can have, at their fingertips, all these activities as well as all of the Primary sources available through the National Archives.

Federalist 17: What Attaches Citizens to Government?

David Foster, Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, Ashland University answers the question, “What attaches citizens to Government?” using Federalist 17


Careful students of American history know the famous essays in the Federalist Papers on faction, separation of powers, and an extended republic. But scattered throughout that great work are many less famous essays containing useful arguments and nuggets of wisdom. A key argument is offered in Federalist 17. Here, while analyzing the defects of the Articles of Confederation, Publius finds occasion to discuss what it is that attaches citizens to government.

After noting the “known fact in human nature” that men are more attached to what is close by and tangible than to what is far away and “diffuse” (to one’s own family, for example, than to one’s community in general or to the nation at large), he argues that more than anything else what impresses upon the minds of the people an affection, esteem, and even “reverence” towards government is the “ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice.” The administration of justice is “the immediate and visible guardian of life and property” and it regulates “all those personal interests, and familiar concerns, to which the sensibility of individuals is more immediately awake.” In other words, the most powerful and universal source of popular obedience and attachment to government is its protection of those things about which we care the most: the things that are closest to us–our own lives, our properties, our families.

Publius made these arguments to put at ease those citizens who feared that the proposed Constitution would create a federal government too strong for the states. Your concerns are misplaced, he says in effect, since human nature and the administration of justice at the state level will always give the states a “transcendent advantage” over the federal government. And yet we can’t help but notice that the states have this advantage only “if they administer their affairs with uprightness and prudence;” indeed, the fundamental principle that we love most what is closest to us favors the states, “unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration” in the government of the union. Is Publius hinting that the federal government might protect our lives and property better than the states do, thereby coming to deserve greater allegiance? Or is it that some principle other than the love of our own and familiar things might attach us more strongly to the federal than to the state governments? These questions cannot be answered without reading the second half of the Federalist, where Publius pays much closer attention to virtue, wisdom, and republican liberty than in the first half. But in considering those themes, we must never forget the statement in #17 on the fundamental basis of attachment to government.

It is difficult to say from this distance in time what part these arguments played in persuading critics to support the Constitution. But Publius’ argument is worth reconsidering today, when concerns about the size and reach of the federal government are once again a prominent theme in public debate. Moreover, the reflections in Federalist 17 give an important example of what Publius means in his famous statement that government is the “greatest of all reflections on human nature.”

–David Foster, Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, Ashland University

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

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