The first Documents in Detail session for the 17-18 school year took place on 30 August 2017, with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence. Among the many topics and questions discussed were Jefferson’s idea of an “American Mind,” the issue of Jefferson’s authorship – which was no widely known for years after the document was written – and the many local declarations of independence, hundreds of which were written by towns, churches, and civic groups during the first half of 1776.
The panelists fielded questions about the choice of Jefferson as the primary author and the input and impact of other delegates to the Second Continental Congress, and pointed out that Jefferson’s use of Locke’s ideas and language acted as “18th Century hyperlinks,” which virtually any reader would recognize as important ideas, if not also as the works of John Locke. Also of interest was the discussion of the parts that were left out of the final, accepted draft and the first draft.
This program could work well with students as well as teachers and anyone interested in learning more about why the document was written, what it meant, and what it still means.
Books mentioned include Edmund Morgan’s American Freedom, American Slavery, Jay Fliegelman’s Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance, and Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf’s “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination.
TAH.org’s first Saturday Webinar of the 2017-18 school year took place on 26 August, focusing on the Intolerable Acts. Over 120 teachers joined our panel of scholars for a live discussion of the directives from Parliament that made up the Acts, looking at what they said, how they were received, and how they shaped the colonial response to British rule. Dr. Todd Estes, one of the panelists, recommended Unbecoming British as a good book for additional background on how the American colonists transformed from a colonial to a post-colonial people.
Our two webinar series for the 17-18 school year, Saturday Webinars: Moments of Crisis and Documents in Detail now have a calendar to which you can subscribe and have appear in your Google calendar or iCal. You can also search for this public calendar on your Google calendar by looking for “TeachingAmericanHistory.org Webinars.”
TAH.org has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.
We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.
The last Documents in Detail webinar for the 16-17 school year took place on Wednesday, 17 May, and focused on George Washington’s Farewell Address. A good question that kicked off the discussion was simply why? That is, why is Washington’s Farewell Address so popular, so often read, and considered by so many over the last 200+ years to be so important. What’s so special about it? Scholars brought up the point that Washington, while very popular at the outset of his first term, experienced the first presidential controversies – the Jay Treaty, the problems within his own cabinet between Jefferson and Hamilton, to name but two – and many Americans questioned his decisions and leadership by 1796.
Also discussed were the various drafts of Washington’s address, the first of which was written mostly by James Madison at the end of Washington’s first term, when he seriously considered stepping down; and the one written by Alexander Hamilton in 1796. Both were based solidly on Washington’s ideas, however.
Additional suggested reading is from Ellis’s Founding Brothers, specifically chapter 4, “The Farewell.”
Access the full archives, with documents links, here.
Podcast Feed (for folks who don’t use iTunes)
TAH.org’s 2016-17 school year Saturday Webinar series, Landmark Supreme Court Cases, has finished its run, ending the year on 13 May 2017 with New Jersey v. T.L.O. You can access all the archives to these programs in three ways, depending on your needs and preferences.
We maintain videos of all our webinars on our YouTube channel, with each season of our programs organized as separate playlists. You can access all 10 of our Landmark Supreme Court Cases videos there.
Finally, all of our individual episode pages, with document links and scholar bios, are found on our Webinars Archives page.
Consider looking back at this last season and listening to or watching some of the programs you missed, or even ones you attended. Think about how you could use the documents for each with your students. Many teachers from around the country are using archived webinars with their students, in some cases flipping their classrooms by having students read some of the documents and watch the programs themselves outside of class, reserving class time for Socratic discussions and other activities.
The 1985 search and seizure case, at a high school in New Jersey, addressed standards for how school officials are to interpret Fourth Amendment rights. The original question that faced the court, interestingly enough, was not what the USSC eventually decided. Initially, the case was in regards to the exclusionary rule and how it applied to school officials. USSC justices, however, pulled back from that initial question, and instead focused on whether or not the Fourth Amendment even applied to school officials, and how it was to be applied to minor students. Also at issue is the definition and description of “reasonable suspicion,” as compared to “probable cause.”
Interesting point of what might seem like legal trivia: in United States v. Place (1983) it was determined that a drug-sniffing dog is not considered a search. Beyond that, in relation to use of such dogs at schools, no reasonable suspicion is required in a school. This came up in response to a teacher question about drug-sniffing dogs operating at schools around students.
Access the full archives of this program, including video, here.
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.
April’s Documents in Detail webinar was about Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s address to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Stanton’s use of John Locke, her view that women deserved the vote on moral grounds, and how greater involvement by women in society would improve society were all discussed, as well as the impact of her words alongside those of other women’s rights leaders.
Both scholars noted Stanton’s blunt style and her tendency to say things how she saw them, including when expressing reservations about Catholics and the error she believed the 15th Amendment to be, since it gave the right to vote to African-Americans and not women.
The 9th of TAH.org’s Landmark Supreme Court Cases webinars took place on Saturday, 8 April 2017, with University of CA Regents v. Bakke (1978) as the focus. Scholars provided a background on the case, the state of affirmative action policy and laws as of the 1970s, and the particulars of how these were being applied in higher education at the time. A number of interesting facts about the case were considered – including Bakke’s professional background and how his case made its way through the California legal system, and finally to the United States Supreme Court.
The 14th Amendment figured prominently in the early decisions, as well as the legal claims made by Bakke in his suits against the school, and how these could be reconciled with Civil Rights legislation from the 1960s. A significant undercurrent of the case and discussion was about whether the equal protection clause mandates color-blindness, for any reason, or if it permits some kinds of race-based considerations, but not others. This complicated case is a great opportunity to teach students how laws and the Constitution are analyzed, interpreted, and used, to reach court decisions.
Professors John Moser, Jason Stevens, and John Dinan discussed James Madison’s Federalist 10 in today’s webinar. The background, historical context, and meaning of the document were discussed at length, as well as its importance at the time it was written, and in the over two centuries since. The panelists discussed in detail Madison’s concerns with factions, especially majority factions, and how in a republic it was possible for a majority for a develop into a faction that would seek to trample on the rights of the minority. Additionally, a number of questions were asked about Madison’s assertion that an extended republic would be more conducive to protecting individuals’ rights than a small republic – a key piece of evidence presented by the Federalists in favor of the Constitution.
Roe v. Wade was the topic of TAH.org’s Saturday Webinar held on 11 March 2017, with Drs. Chris Burkett, John Dinan, and David Alvis discussing the legal, political, historical, and constitutional aspects of the controversial landmark case.
The second episode in our pilot webinar series, Documents in Detail, aired live on 15 February, with a focus on MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, of 1963. Among a variety of issues and topics, the program delved into the historical context around the letter, its perceived and actual audience, and the particulars of King’s citing of Abraham Lincoln in the letter. Teachers also asked questions about the role of King’s faith in the content and wording of the letter, and King’s relationship with other Civil Rights leaders, namely Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.
The latest in our Landmark Supreme Court Cases Saturday Webinar series focused on Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the landmark case that decided a school-based case about expressive speech and political protest. At the height of the Vietnam War, high school students in Iowa sought to protest America’s involvement in the war by wearing black arm bands, and were prevented from doing so by school administration. Four years later, in 1969, the case was decided by the Supreme Court, changing American legal views on free speech, protest, and how these things could be expressed in a public schools.
Questions raised by the audience of teachers focused on Justice Black’s dissent, original intent of the Founders, and the power of the Supreme Court to interpret language and law.