We the Teachers

Session 15: Lincoln Confronts Stephen Douglas’s Popular Sovereignty

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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What does Stephen Douglas mean by “popular sovereignty”? Why does Lincoln view the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 as a reversal of American policy towards domestic slavery? How does “indifference” about the spread of slavery amount to “covert real zeal” for its spread? How does Lincoln justify previous national compromises with slavery? What is Lincoln’s definition of self-government and how does it inform his political rhetoric and policy proposals? What is Lincoln’s definition of democracy? What role does Lincoln think the Declaration of Independence plays in contemporary political practice? Why does Lincoln advise against a Republican call for repeal of the fugitive slave law? What connection does Lincoln make between liberty, union, and the Constitution?

Program Report: Truman Weekend in Independence, MO


Teachers in the White House Decision Center

TAH.org hosted two groups of teachers – a total of 37 – from across the country for a Weekend Colloquium at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO, 16-18 October 2015. Focusing on Truman’s actions and challenges during the early years of the Cold War, teachers had an opportunity to study primary documents related to the first years after World War 2, Soviet espionage abroad and in America, and how Truman and his administration managed the impact of the Cold War on the American public.

In addition to the discussion sessions, teachers visited the Truman Library’s White House Decision Center and took part in a documents-based roleplay/simulation about Truman’s desegregation the Armed Forces in 1948, and were then able to tour the museum. Teachers: if ever you have the chance to visit the Truman Library with students, it’s worth the effort. The WDC staff and simulation were excellent – well-organized and entirely primary documents-based, making for a rich and thoughtful learning experience. They have programs for both adults and students.

The picture above  shows teachers in the role of Harry Truman giving a press conference in which the decision to desegregate the military is announced, explained, and defended to the press corps.

Now Accepting Spring 2016 TAH.org Weekend Colloquia Applications

Are you ready to reignite your passion for teaching American history and government? TAH.org is proud to offer elite programs to social studies and civic teacher from across the country. TAH.org’s Weekend Colloquia at Historic Sites allows teachers to explore in-depth the people and ideas you are asked to teach, at the historic sites that help illuminate the subject. We want to help you increase your expertise and develop the content knowledge needed to educate your students.

Application Deadline: Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Click here to get more details about locations for Spring and to apply.

Webinar: Religious Liberty and the Courts


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A 75-minute discussion between scholars with a live teacher audience, this program explores the impact of several key US Supreme Court cases on the definition and limits of religious liberty in America, originally broadcast on 3 October 2015.

Jeff Sikkenga (Ashland University) and Matthew Franck (Witherspoon Institute) will discuss three recent Supreme Court cases that dealt with religion: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby; Abercrombie and Fitch v. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and Holt v. Hobbs.

In the Hobby Lobby case the court ruled that closely-held for profit companies were exempt from provisions of the Affordable Care Act that violated the religious beliefs of the companies owners. The Court’s opinion may be found here.

The Abercrombie case concerned the decision of Abercrombie and Fitch not to hire someone because they wore a head scarf, which violated the company’s dress code.  The court ruled that the job applicant did not have to specifically ask for the company to accommodate her religious practice (the head scarf) in order for the job applicant to be protected by Title VII’s prohibition on the basis of religion. The Court’s opinion may be found here.

In Hobbs v. Holt, the Court ruled that prison authorities could not prevent an inmate from growing a beard for religious reasons because doing so violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  The Court’s decision may be found here.

Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, Princeton, New Jersey.  He is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Radford University, in Radford, Virginia, where he taught constitutional law, American politics, and political philosophy from 1989 to 2010, was Chairman of the  Department of Political Science from 1995 to 2010, and received the Radford University Foundation Award for Creative Scholarship in 2001.  He is also Visiting Lecturer in Politics at Princeton University.

Jeffrey Sikkenga is professor of political science at Ashland University, adjunct fellow of the John M. Ashbrook Center and senior fellow in the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in political thought, the American Founding and American constitutional law. He is deeply interested in the relationship between politics and religion in liberal democracy and America in particular.

This Webinar is the second in a series of three on Religion in American History and Politics.  The third will occur March 12, 2016.  David Tucker and Stephen Knott will discuss the views of Jefferson and Hamilton on religion and politics.


Session 14: Abolitionism and Constitutional Self-Government

Prof. Allen Guelzo:  

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According to Garrison, what is wrong with gradual abolition of slavery? Does he think the Constitution is pro-freedom or pro-slavery? Why does Garrison not endorse political reform as the cure for the nation’s ills? What is the key principle that Lincoln proposes for the “fusion” of various political interests into a new party? Contrast Lincoln’s approach to eliminating slavery with Garrison’s. What does Lincoln mean by comparing America to “a house divided against itself”? What is Frederick Douglass’s view of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? Does he view blacks in the United States as Americans? What do blacks in America need to flourish as human beings and as citizens? Why is Lincoln not an abolitionist?
Supplemental/Optional Readings:
  • Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided, chaps. 7-8
  • Diana Schaub, “Frederick Douglass’s Constitution”

American Presidents: Andrew Jackson


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Andrew Jackson was the focus of Saturday, October 10th’s American Presidents webinar, moderated by Chris Burkett and featuring Jeremy Bailey and Jace Weaver as panelists, with a live teacher audience of over 80. Of particular interest was Jackson’s balance between executive power and his support of states’ rights – something that is often difficult to reconcile. During the discussion two books were mentioned as being particularly good resources for information about Jackson: Presidential Greatness, which has a chapter about Jackson; and Andrew Jackson, by Robert Remini.

We The People Webinar: Session 3


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In this third session of our joint webinar series with the Center for Civic Education, Dr. Gordon Lloyd discusses the relationship the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and how the Civil War amendments and their impact over time have changed interpretations and understanding of the original document and American Founding.

We The People Webinar: Session 2


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Session 2 of TAH.org and the Center for Civic Education’s joint webinar series about the creation and meaning of the United States Constitution. In this 75-minute program, Dr. Gordon Lloyd discusses the actual framing of the Constitution, including his thoughts on the Articles of Confederation and their failures; the New Jersey and Virginia plans and their comparative merits; and the ratification debate.


Session 13: The Rule of Law, Slavery, and the Future of Self-Government

Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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What is “reverence for the laws” and why does Lincoln think it is so important to “the perpetuation of our political institutions”? Who or what is the “towering genius” that poses the greatest threat to American self-government? What does Lincoln’s criticism of “old school” temperance reformers suggest about the proper mode of political debate for a self-governing people? What role does Lincoln believe religion plays in a self-governing society?

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama: Act 4


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This course consists of four session, each rooted in a video presentation by Dr. Lloyd in front of a teacher audience, focused on a specific topic and drawing from a selection of relevant documents.
Each session’s post includes a list of Scenes within the given Act, with dates listed within each Scene – this helps expand on the metaphor of the Constitutional Convention as a drama. Most every day includes a link to information about what happened on that day, mostly drawn from Madison’s Debates, the most comprehensive and accurate record of the Convention.
As you watch the video for each session, take notes on Dr. Lloyd’s insights about the Convention, the contributions of different delegates, topics discussed, and decisions made. Then expand on your notes by going through the different documents linked from the post. This way, you’ll learn directly from Dr. Lloyd, and you’ll clearly see where his ideas are found in the documents.
Scene 1: The Brearly Committee Report
  • Sept. 1 The final push
  • Sept. 3 Article XVI revisited
  • Sept. 4 Brearly Committee reports 9 propositions
  • Sept. 5 Brearly Committee reports 5 propositions
  • Sept. 6 Brearly Committee and the Electoral College
  • Sept. 7 Discussion on the Presidency
  • Sept. 8 Treaties, Impeachment and Money Bills
  • Sept. 10 Randolph articulates his difficulties
Scene 2: The Committee of Style Report: A Preamble and 7 Articles
  • Sept. 11 How about this and how about that?
  • Sept. 12I s this different from Committee of Detail report?
Scene 3: The Discussion of the Committee of Style Report
Scene 4: The Signing of the Constitution

We The People Webinar: Session 1


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On Tuesday, 22 SEP 15, TAH.org and the Center for Civic Education hosted a 72-minute webinar featuring Dr. Gordon Lloyd, who spoke about the historical and philosophical roots of the United States Constitution, and provided some ideas about how teachers can frame instruction about the document and the ideas set forth by it. You can watch the video archive below, and the the podcast is at the top of this post.

One of the questions asked at the end of this program was about which philosophers or schools of thought most shaped the Founders and their views on politics. Dr. Lloyd suggested George H. Nash’s Books and the Founding Fathers as a solid resource for learning about what the Founders read.

Once all six episodes are completed we will build a single archive page on TAH.org for all program sessions and materials.


Session 12: Lincoln and 21st-Century America

Drs. Lucas Morel and Allen Guelzo:  

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In the face of modern-day critics from both the Right and the Left, does Lincoln still “belong to the ages”?

Program Report: Philadelphia Liberty Fund Weekend Colloquium

19 teachers gathered in Philadelphia, PA, over the weekend of 18-20 September for a Liberty Fund co-sponsored colloquium about the Federalist Papers. In addition to six 90-minute discussion sessions, teachers visited Independence Hall and were able to take in the sites of the historic downtown area. Dr. Jeremy Bailey, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, served as discussion leader and facilitated a detailed study of almost half the Federalist Papers, focused on topics such as the selection and separation of powers, Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary. You can download a copy of the full course reading packet here.


Dr. Gordon Lloyd’s Constitution Day Presentation


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Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Professor Emeritus of Pepperdine University and Senior Fellow at the Ashbrook Center, took time on 17 September of this year to talk with a group of people about the history and importance of the United States Constitution, in honor of the 228th anniversary of its signing.

Saturday Webinar: James Madison


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On Saturday, 19 September, TAH.org hosted the second in this year’s American Presidents webinar series, this time studying the two terms of James Madison. The audio is a little rough at the beginning for our moderator, but quickly smooths out, so stick around for some very insightful discussion of Madison’s presidency, the War of 1812, and how the ‘Father of the Constitution’ governed. You can access the video archive and list of documents here.

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