We the Teachers

Documents in Detail: Washington’s Farewell Address

 

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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.

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Landmark Supreme Court Cases Webinars Archives

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.

Additionally, if you’re interested in a podcast of any program, you can find all of our web programs at our iTunes Podcast site, or subscribe directly to the podcast feed if you don’t use iTunes.

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.

Saturday Webinar: New Jersey v. T.L.O.

 

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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.

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Webinars for 2017-18

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.

Documents in Detail: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Address Delivered at Seneca Falls

 

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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.

Access our podcast feed here, or our iTunes podcast here.

View the permanent program page, including the YouTube archive here.

 

New Resource on TAH.org

Incorporating the Federalist Papers into American Government and American History courses is both important and challenging, given the complexity of the language. Doing the same with Anti-Federalist writings is compounded by the vast and varied collection of essays, speeches, and articles that can be categorized as fitting under that heading. This is further complicated bythe fact that most Antifederalist writings are barely mentioned by name in contemporary history and government texts.

TAH.org has added a resource to the Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit that aims to make it easier for teachers to use the words of the Federalists and Antifederalists to help get to the root of the major differences between those broad camps: those who supported the Constitution and those, for whatever reasons, did not.

Take a look at the Purpose, Structure, and Powers of government and you’ll find a list of key issues from 1787-1788, with essential Federalist and Antifederalist writings chosen for each. For example, if you would like to learn about the two sides’ positions on the role of the executive, it is suggested that you read Federalist 71 and An Olde Whig V.

Use this new resource to help your students read Founding era documents for a purpose, and to help them understand the ideas that animated the debates between Americans at the Founding, and how many of these issues are still being debated today.

Saturday Webinar: Regents of CA v. Bakke

 

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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.

Access the full archives of the program

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Documents in Detail: James Madison’s Federalist 10

 

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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.

Access the full archives on the original program page; our YouTube channel; and our iTunes podcast.

For additional resources and documents, consider looking at TAH.org’s Federalist-Antifederalist Debates exhibit, or the exhibit on the Ratification of the Constitution by the states and people.

Liberty Fund Weekend Colloquium: Thomas Jefferson

15 teachers gathered in Charlottesville, VA, to discuss Thomas Jefferson through a collection of documents spanning most of his public life, and visit historic Monticello. Professor Todd Estes, of Oakland University, served as Discussion Leader for the weekend, facilitating sessions focusing on Jefferson’s ideas and writings during the American Revolution and presidency, in which teachers discussed the evolution of his political thought, and the complexity of his character as expressed through his ideas and, as president, his policies.

Teachers visited Monticello on Saturday, 18 March, where they toured the grounds and house, where they were able to see expressions of Jefferson’s mind at work in the many artifacts, art, and fascinating household gadgets he’d created and collected throughout his life there.

 

Recreating Teaching American History Colloquium, Teacher Helps Students Learn about African American Experience in World War I

Love of history and an interest in helping young people drew Jotwan Daniels away from a planned business career and into high school teaching. He also hoped to improve on the teaching method his own teachers had used. “They viewed students as baby birds: they digested material and regurgitated it for our consumption.” Consequently, “we retained historical concepts long enough to pass the test, then forgot them. They were brokers of knowledge; I want to facilitate learning,” Daniels says.

Daniels uses the approach Teaching American History (TAH) encourages: guiding students’ conversations about primary documents. He asks students to read several accounts of one event and then draw their own conclusions. “Reading primary documents allows students to ask questions of themselves, ask questions of each other, and ultimately ask questions of history,” Daniels says.

A TAH weekend colloquium on World War I introduced Daniels to primary documents he would later use in his classroom. He enjoyed discussing these texts with the facilitator: Professor Jennifer Keene, a historian at Chapman University and a visiting faculty member in the Masters of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) program at Ashland University. Instead of lecturing, Keene guided the teachers in discussing readings on the experience of soldiers in the war and of Americans on the home front. Even so, Daniels felt he “really benefited from Keene’s expertise. I also enjoyed bouncing ideas off of other teachers on how we might use the documents to recreate the colloquium for our own students.”

Daniels wrote a lesson plan based on the colloquium, tested it with his students at Summit High School in Frisco, Colorado, and then contacted Teaching American History Program Manager Jeremy Gypton to report that the lesson went very well.

He used documents highlighting the African American soldier’s experience. Students first read President Wilson’s speech announcing America’s entrance into the war, calling it a fight to “make the world safe for democracy.” Then they read an editorial in the NAACP journal Crisis by W. E. B. Dubois, who urged black men to enlist. Finally they read a letter sent to Dubois by one of those who enlisted and fought in France.

African American Sergeant Charles Isum had been quartered in a French family’s home, treated as an honored guest and invited to social events. Accepting these invitations, as Isum told Dubois, brought his arrest by American military police, who had forbidden fraternization between the black soldiers and the French locals. After the French protested, Isum was released and a threatened court martial hearing was dropped.

To provide extra historical background, Daniels showed students a video on the 369th infantry regiment—an African American force sent to fight under the command of the French. Dubbed “hellfighters” by the Germans they fiercely combatted, they captured a key railroad junction during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Upon returning home to New York City, the “Harlem Hellfighters” were honored with speeches and parades.

Nevertheless, their heroic service did not lead, as Dubois had hoped, to better economic opportunities and recognition of civil rights for African Americans. The case of Corporal Henry Johnson, who with another soldier repulsed a surprise German attack on a bridge held by US forces, illustrates the stubborn African American reality after World War I. Johnson was awarded the highest French military honor—the Croix de Guerre—and personally welcomed home by New York Governor Al Smith. Yet he died young, poor and alone, his injuries having left him unable to support himself.

“The students I teach are still innocent,” Daniels said, “so they were shocked by what they read. But our conversations around these documents were amazing.” To prepare for discussion, students worked in pairs on a silent “collaborative annotation” exercise. They pasted copies of the documents to butcher-block paper and then wrote comments around them. “One student’s annotation would prompt a written response from his partner.” Having processed the documents silently, all were ready to join the conversation that followed.

Later, students returned to the butcher-block paper to complete a Venn diagram. Inside one circle they noted African American soldiers’ experience in France; inside the other they wrote about these soldiers’ experience in America. In the overlap between the circles they noted conditions the soldiers experienced in both countries. This exercise helped students articulate the ways that racist attitudes blinded many Americans to what the French recognized as heroic service.

Daniels believes that reading the testimony of the past, even when it shows American failures, does not teach cynicism about the American future. “History can be a little sad,” Daniels says. “But if students understand the historical background of current events, they may be better able to devise solutions to those problems today.”

Troops from the 396th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellfighters.

Jotwan Daniels teaches American history at Summit High School in Frisco, Colorado.

Students stretch out on the floor for the silent annotation exercise.

Students “Unlock” Clues in Primary Documents, Finding Constitution Booklet

Joe Welch, an American history teacher at North Hills Middle School near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, relies on internet technology for access to primary historical documents. He directs his eighth graders to online libraries such as Teaching American History’s (TAH.org) collection “almost every day.” This helps students learn our nation’s history directly from those who lived it. Reading the words of earlier Americans, students empathize with the way those Americans thought and felt, relating their own life challenges to those of the past. This helps students understand themselves. Welch tells his students, “Technology and styles may change, but human emotions do not change.”

Teachers with these high goals need to step back into the role of student from time to time, to check whether their approach works. Welch did so last spring at an TAH-sponsored weekend colloquium on Alexander Hamilton’s role as advisor to George Washington.

A group of twenty teachers sat together discussing Washington and Hamilton’s speeches and letters, guided by an engaging scholar: Stephen Knott, a faculty member in TAH.org’s Master’s program at Ashland University, a presidential biographer, and a Professor at the US Naval War College. “I had not discussed history in this way since college,” Welch said. Knott helped teachers answer the questions that arise when reading primary sources: “What was Washington’s motive when he wrote this? What other contemporary events affected his thinking?” Discussing such questions pointed up those unexpected layers of meaning that Welch hopes his eighth graders will discover.

Later, Welch attended a conference on classroom technology. One workshop suggested a classroom application of the “break-out” game, in which a team of friends is locked in a room and uses clues to find a way out. In the educational version, students go to websites to find clues to open a box with multiple locks. “How can I use this to introduce students to primary sources?” Welch wondered.

Welch thought of the most important primary source he uses in his class: the US Constitution. He carries a pocket Constitution at all times. “We study it as we cover the Founding; in later lessons I pull it out and refer to it. I wanted my students to find the Constitution inside the lockbox.” So Welch reached out to his new contacts at TAH, who agreed to donate 100 copies of the booklet, enough for every student.

In the game Welch designed, students examined five sets of short primary sources to open six locks. Documents included short letters, speeches, images, even a hand-written Electoral College vote tally. It was early in the school year, and Welch wanted to demonstrate the range of documents historians use.

He presented a scenario: “A new President has been elected, and he wants to create his own version of American history. He is destroying all our primary source documents. But our Founding Fathers locked away one thing to prevent a tyrant from taking power and erasing our memories. What is it? Open the box to find out. You have 40 minutes until the President’s executive order takes effect.”

“It was far-fetched, but middle-schoolers ate it up,” Welch said. “I’d never seen students so eager to examine primary sources. They read each document, then read it again.”

The locks opened in different ways. One set of clues directed students to a key hidden in the room. Another lock was opened by a word; two required a combination of digits. Finding keys required making connections between documents. For example, one set of clues contained a dated copy of the Gettysburg Address and a copy of the Declaration of Independence with the date blanked out. Students realized that the first words of the Gettysburg speech, “Four score and seven years ago,” referred to 1776, the year Americans announced their independence—and also the four digits that opened the lock.

To make some clue sets, Welch pulled documents related to Western Pennsylvania. A 1794 letter from Alexander Hamilton (then Secretary of War) to Governor Thomas Mifflin, “on the necessity of an immediate March of the Militia against the Western Insurgents,” referred to the Whiskey Rebellion—an event in local history most of Welch’s students had never heard of—and yielded the clue “western” for a directional lock. As clues to the word lock (opened with the key “PITTS”), Welch pulled 18 images from the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Rapidly researching the images to discover what they had in common, students realized that playwright August Wilson and ecologist Rachel Carson were born in or near Pittsburgh, that Fred Rogers filmed his children’s program there, that the Westinghouse Company was headquartered nearby, and that Meriwether Lewis launched the keelboat he and William Clark needed for their expedition into the west on the Allegheny River, at Fort Fayette in Pittsburgh.

Since Welch had built two lockboxes, students competed in teams. This introduced another skill: collaborative reading. “They divided to conquer, then worked as groups to figure out the remaining clues.” Seven out of ten teams (in five classes) met the 40-minute deadline.

Welch designed the game to show students “that they were going to have dig underneath the surface of primary documents to find their meaning and to find connections between documents.” At the end of class, the look of triumph on students’ faces showed they had also learned that “you can really work together with your peers to accomplish something.

You can learn more about the lockbox game Welch designed here

Inside each lockbox students found copies of Ashbrook’s Constitution booklet.

Students used a flashlight to read a clue written in invisible ink: the number 538, the total number of Electoral College votes today.

Documents in Detail: MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail

 

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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.

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Saturday Webinar: Tinker v. Des Moines

 

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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 mary-and-johnprevented 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.

Access the full archives of the program on its original page on TAH.org, and subscribe to our iTunes Podcast.

Documents in Detail: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

 

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TAH.org’s first Documents in Detail webinar aired on Wednesday, 25 January 2017, focusing on Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Professors John Moser, Eric Sands, and Joe Fornieri discussed a number of perspectives on the document, from the prominence of Biblical language throughout, to the political impact of and reaction to the address. The scholars also discussed a counter-factual question regarding how Lincoln might have navigated the minefield of Reconstruction differently – and perhaps more successfully – than his successor, Andrew Johnson.

lincolninaugural-560x502Suggested further reading is Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, by Ronald White.

Access the full archive of the program, and related documents, here.

Access our podcast here.

Note: there is a slight echo on one scholar’s voice at about the 34-minute mark, which lasts for about 20 seconds. It is the only place where this audio issue came up during the program.

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