We the Teachers

New Teaching Resources on the Federalist Papers

Roots of Liberty

Roots of Liberty

The Cornerstone Project has just introduced The Roots of Liberty: Unlocking the Federalist Papers. This is a comprehensive curriculum for teaching about the Federalist Papers, and it includes:

  • a student text featuring ten essays written by scholars unifying key topics and themes throughout the Papers (20 copies included with each classroom set)
  • an accompanying teacher’s discussion guide with multiple tools and activities
  • companion videos corresponding to lessons

Topics Include:

  • the doctrine of enumerated powers
  • separation of powers
  • federalism
  • the independent judiciary
  • how the U.S. Constitution enables public officials to make good decisions
  • political freedom
  • economic freedom
  • religious freedom
  • the Constitution as a defense against foreign aggression

To learn more, or to access a free lesson, click here.

The 65th Anniversary of NATO

Truman_signsNATOratification

Truman signs the document implementing NATO in the presence of European dignitaries.

Tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The first peacetime military alliance outside of the Western hemisphere that the US joined, it marked a departure from the generally isolationist policy of the US prior to the World War II. Now, Truman and his policy advisors saw a need to provide collective security against an expansionist Soviet Union. The Soviet blockade of West Berlin, the Soviet-sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia, added to worries about Soviet meddling in Greek and Turkish affairs, caused US officials to worry that Western European states could find their independence compromised. Through the Marshall Plan, the US had already demonstrated a willingness to support the political security of Western Europe through aid to its economic recovery. This helped many Western European states to see the advantage of a military alliance. Truman’s speech at the signing of the treaty included a carefully worded reference to an impasse already arising in the United Nations:

Within the United Nations, this country and other countries have hoped to establish an international force for the use of the United Nations in preserving peace throughout the world. Our efforts to establish this force, however, have been blocked by one of the major powers.

 This lack of unanimous agreement in the Security Council does not mean that we must abandon our attempts to make peace secure.

It also included a statement of political principles that Truman implied the parties to the alliance shared:

We believe that it is possible for nations to achieve unity on the great principles of human freedom and justice, and at the same time to permit, in other respects, the greatest diversity of which the human mind is capable.

Our faith in this kind of unity is borne out by our experience here in the United States in creating one nation out of the variety of our continental resources and the peoples of many lands.

 This method of organizing diverse peoples and cultures is in direct contrast to the method of the police state, which attempts to achieve unity by imposing the same beliefs and the same rule of force on everyone.

Truman made the same point in his speech to the Senate appealing for ratification of the treaty:

The nations signing this treaty share a common heritage of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. The American members of the North Atlantic community stem directly from the European members in tradition and in love of freedom. We have joined together in the progressive development of free institutions, and we have shared our moral and material strength in the present task of rebuilding from the devastation of war.

When did the Cold War Begin?

Map_of_Poland_(1945)_corrExactly when and how did the Cold War begin? This set of documents on “The Grand Alliance” that defeated Nazi Germany in World War II shows the swift unraveling of the agreement made at Yalta on the question of Poland, one of the areas liberated from Nazi conquest that, according to the Crimean agreement, was to be helped to an independent status, with decisions about government made in free elections. The Memorandum of a Meeting at the White House (April 23, 1945) shows a particularly interesting discussion among newly inaugurated President Truman and his advisors, during the last months of the war in Europe. While the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, Ambassador to the Soviet Union Averell Harriman, and Secretary of State Edward Stettinius warn that the Soviets intend to set up a puppet state in Poland, and argue that the US should stand firm against this, other officials, including Secretary of  of War Henry Stimson and General Marshall, argue that maintaining a cooperative relationship with Soviet Union is the paramount concern.

New Resources for Catholic School Teachers

If you teach in a Catholic school you may want to be aware of a new opportunity from Sophia Institute for Teachers. The organization has just launched a website for teachers to upload and download lessons they’ve created. While they are building it out, they’re paying $10 for every resource that is accepted for publication.

The Curriculum Exchange already contains several resources for teachers of American History and government, such as this lesson on the Declaration of Independence and Just War, and this DBQ on Martin Luther King, Jr and non-violence.

You can find more info on the $10 per lesson offer here.

The Crimean Conference

Yalta_summit_crop-pubdomainCrimea, the sunfish-shaped peninsula on the Northern Black Sea, connected to the Ukraine at the “head”—but within a few miles of Russia at its eastern “tail”—has been in the news lately. We associate the region with the Crimean War of the mid-19th century, which occasioned Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” and Florence Nightingale’s efforts to improve battlefield medicine. But in February of 1945, in the seaport of Yalta, it was the site of a final meeting of the three chief Allied leaders throughout most of war—Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin—who reached an agreement on the terms of the German surrender.

Reporting to Congress on the results of the conference on March 1, 1945, Roosevelt announced the plan for a “temporary” division of Germany into four zones, with France, Britain, the United States and Russia each administering one. He also announced what he called a “unanimous” agreement “that the political and economic problems of any area liberated from Nazi conquest, or any former Axis satellite, are a joint responsibility of all three Governments [Britain, the United States, and Russia]. They will join together during the temporary period of instability after hostilities, to help the people of any liberated area, or of any former satellite state, to solve their own problems through firmly established democratic processes.” And he looked ahead to a preliminary meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco on April 25, 1945.

Six weeks later, Roosevelt collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Ashbrook Teachers Converse with “Silent Cal”

This past weekend, the Ashbrook Center hosted eighteen history and government teachers for a discussion about the life and presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

Teachers at Calvin Coolidge Library and Museum, Northamptom, MA

Teachers at Calvin Coolidge Library and Museum, Northamptom, MA

Overshadowed by more activist presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and tainted by the assumption that the “Coolidge Prosperity” in the mid-1920s led ineluctably to a stock market crash in 1929 and to nearly a full decade of economic depression, Coolidge is rarely given the opportunity to speak to us on his own terms. Participants in last weekend’s colloquium found in Calvin Coolidge a man who, despite the nickname of “Silent Cal”, said much about America’s uniqueness – and said it with great eloquence.

To Coolidge, as to his Puritan ancestors, America was still very much an experiment in self-government. The Puritans, he wrote, came to the New World “undecked with orders of nobility,” eager to create a new society without the inherited class distinctions and ranks of the Old World. “They cared little for titles,” Coolidge explained, “still less for the goods of this earth; but for an idea they would die.” Like Coolidge’s father and family, and generations of his ancestors and friends in the rugged mountains of Vermont, the Puritans knew the meaning of labor; with their hands, Coolidge says, “they wrung from the soil their bread”. But from their humble beginnings, Coolidge marveled at the results. “What an increase, material and spiritual, three hundred years has brought that little company…. No like body has ever cast so great an influence on human history.”

With collectivist and socialist movements gathering strength in the Old World of Europe, Coolidge labored to create a vision for his fellow Americans of a nation that could continue to avoid class enmity, and the extremes of oligarchy or anarchy threatened by class conflict. As Governor of Massachusetts, he was confronted with the very real danger of anarchy in the form of a strike by members of the Boston Police Department. Arguing for better working conditions and benefits, some members of the Boston Police attempted to unionize, and went on strike. Endorsing the Boston Mayor’s decision not to rehire striking police, Coolidge explained that the success of their strike had “meant anarchy” and that striking officers “dispossessed themselves. They went out of office.” Coolidge’s popularity soared nationally as a result of his response to the strike, earning him a place on Warren Harding’s presidential ticket in 1920, and setting the stage for his election as President in 1924.

His response to the strike also revealed something about Coolidge’s political principles. Denouncing the striking police, Coolidge wrote, “No man has a right to place his own ease or convenience or the opportunity of making money above his duty to the State.” Coolidge was guided by the vision of an America without class distinction, an America in which the law was made in the interest of a sovereign People – not for the benefit of private interests (by which term he meant not only business interests, but also labor, and even those from previous generations who argued for a right to own slaves).

It was in the interest of the people as a whole that Coolidge presented his fiscal policy. Shortly after assuming the presidency in the wake of Harding’s death, Coolidge noted the cost to Americans of their involvement in Europe’s Great War. “For seven years the people have borne with uncomplaining courage the tremendous burden of national and local taxation. These must both be reduced. The taxes of the Nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly. High taxes reach everywhere and burden everybody. They wear most heavily upon the poor. They diminish industry and commerce. They make agriculture unprofitable. They increase the rates on transportation. They are a charge on every necessary of life.” Despite this, Coolidge did not hesitate to encourage the federal government, prudently, to fund certain public improvements and public buildings which promised to make commerce and administration more efficient.

Throughout his life and presidency, Coolidge retained a great respect for the role of educators, especially civic educators. He called education “the cornerstone of self-government,” and he wrote that “Teaching is one of the noblest of professions.” His explanation of this deserves to be read and cherished by all who have taken up that noble profession:

It requires an adequate preparation and training, patience, devotion, and a deep sense of responsibility. Those who mold the human mind have wrought not for time, but for eternity. The obligation which we all owe to those devoted men and women who have given of their lives to the education of the youth of our country that they might have freedom through coming into a knowledge of the truth is one which can never be discharged. They are entitled not only to adequate rewards for their service, but to the veneration and honor of a grateful people.

Last weekend’s colloquium was the last offered by Ashbrook in the 2013-14 school year. We will begin accepting applications for 2014-15 colloquia late this summer. To be notified when the application period opens, please click here and submit your name and email address.

FDR’s Vision for a Postwar America

U.S. Presidential PortraitsIn early 1944, after the allies had begun to achieve victories in the war against the Axis powers, Franklin Roosevelt delivered a State of the Union Address that would not only address measures needed to bring the war to a successful conclusion; he also laid out his vision for a postwar America. He made clear that he had not retreated from his ideal of the “Four Freedoms” that he had set as goals before America entered the war. These freedoms included not only the civil rights traditionally recognized in the US, but also his own conception of “economic rights”:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights — among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however — as our industrial economy expanded — these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not freemen.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.

Roosevelt Speaks Out on Victims of Nazi Oppression

FDR_GettyImages_RadioHitler’s professed intent to exterminate the Jews living in all areas under Nazi control, and the means he carried out to achieve this end, did not receive much attention in the anti-Nazi rhetoric of the American government during most of World War II. While the US State Department had by late 1942 confirmed that Jews were being murdered in large numbers in Nazi detention camps, it was not until March of 1944 that Franklin Roosevelt issued a statement on this specific issue. When Roosevelt did finally forcefully condemn the genocide, on March 24, 1944, he addressed the people of Europe and Asia as much as American people. He appealed to those who witnessed genocidal actions—directed by the Japanese against the Chinese as well as by Nazis against European Jews—to secretly resist when possible, providing protection and means of escape to those threatened, and to record the evidence of atrocity when resistance was not possible. Foreshadowing the postwar Nuremburg trials, he promised that “none who participate in these acts of savagery shall go unpunished.”

LBJ Asks Congress to Wage War on Poverty

Lyndon_B._Johnson_-_Official_White_House_PortraitThis week marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s request that Congress enact legislation to pursue a “war on poverty.” Johnson had declared this “war” in his January 8, 1964 State of the Union message; now he pushed for the legislation to wage it. In a special message to Congress on March 16, 1964, Johnson proposed an Economic Opportunity Act which, he said, would strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” Johnson’s broad agenda included training opportunities for impoverished youth in the form of a Job Corps and several training and work study programs to be funded largely through a new Office of Economic Opportunity; a volunteer corps of anti-poverty workers that would be called VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America); and loans and guarantees to employers who would hire the unemployed. At the same time, Johnson asked Congress to enact a federal food stamp program and the health insurance program for the elderly that would come to be called Medicare. Johnson likened his broad set of proposals to the actions of other presidents who had “requested from Congress the authority to move against forces which were endangering the well-being of our country.” Much of the legislation he called for was enacted in the following two years.

Today, as pundits note the anniversary of Johnson’s antipoverty initiative, a debate rages over whether the war on poverty has succeeded or failed. What do you and your students think?

The Atlantic Charter

792px-Atlantic_Conference_Between_Prime_Minister_Winston_Churchill_and_President_Franklin_D_Roosevelt_10_August_1941_A4821During the first two years of World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill worked closely together, not only in making American resources available for the British war effort. They also prepared a political strategy that would clarify their joint war aims once events made America’s entry in the war inevitable. In August 1941 the two men met aboard a US Naval vessel off the coast of Newfoundland agreed upon a joint declaration, The Atlantic Charter. In this document one can trace the beginning outlines of the organization that would later become the United Nations. One also finds language Roosevelt had used in his State of the Union Address the previous January, where he described the “four freedoms” he hoped that the war effort would secure for a world-wide community. In fact, the document was shaped more in line with Roosevelt’s Wilsonian idealism than with the interests of Britain, which was still an imperial power. Roosevelt wanted the charter to promise a world that, he thought, Americans would see as worth going to war to secure; and Churchill, who above all wanted to bring the Americans into the Allied war effort, allowed Roosevelt to take the lead.

Prof. Gordon Lloyd presents: The Ratification of the Constitution – April 11, 2014 (Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA)

Gordon LloydThe Ashbrook Center and The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Learning Center at the Reagan Library are pleased to sponsor Professor Gordon Lloyd for a series of presentations on the Ratification of the Constitution, Friday, April 11, 2014. The lectures will be hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.

Dr. Lloyd is Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, and he is creator and editor of a series of Online Exhibits on the American Founding hosted at the Ashbrook Center’s TeachingAmericanHistory.org website.

Through extensive study of Madison’s notes and artifacts from the Founding Era, Professor Lloyd has developed an unparalleled understanding of the Framers and the events that took place leading up to the signing and ratification of the Constitution. Professor Lloyd will help audiences navigate through the vast and complex Founding Era and provide an intimate look at the ratification of the Constitution. This lecture series will take the audience back in time to 1787 and offer the audience a glimpse at the debates surrounding ratification through two lenses: “out-of-doors” in newspapers and pamphlets throughout America’s thirteen states and “in-doors” in the state ratifying conventions. Participants will receive complementary admission to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum,  Air Force One, and a special exhibition: Baseball: Celebrating Our Great American Pastime. This free event is open to teachers, students and the general public.

Lecture Schedule:

Session 1 The Six Stages of Ratification: Yes? No? Maybe?
Session 2: The In-Doors Debate: Principle and Compromise
Lunch- Optional Lunch Box (vegetarian option available)
Session 3: The “Out-of-Doors Debate I”: Constitutionalism and Human Nature
Session 4: The “Out-of-Doors Debate II”: Constitutionalism and Institutions

To learn more, or to register, click here.

FDR Responds to the Outbreak of World War II

509px-FDR_in_1933Two days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Franklin Roosevelt gave a radio address to Americans on the same day, deploring the commencement of war while laying the blame on Nazi aggression. In a careful balancing act, he tried to arouse American indignation at Hitler’s effort to dominate Europe while pledging his adherence to the Neutrality Act passed in 1937. That act had given FDR some flexibility in supporting resistance to Nazi Germany, since it had allowed the sale of arms to Great Britain and France on a “cash and carry” basis (purchasing nations would pay immediately for the arms and would arrange for their transport); but the provision had been written to expire after two years, on May 1. When Hitler had invaded Czechoslovakia in March of 1939, Roosevelt had tried and failed to get the provision renewed. However, on November 4 of 1939, Congress renewed the “cash and carry” provision in a new Neutrality Act—ending the arms embargo with nations fighting Nazi Germany.

Consider applying for Mount Vernon’s Summer Teacher Institute

The George Washington Summer Residential Teachers’ Institute is a highly competitive program which brings teachers to Mount Vernon, Virginia for an intensive week of study at Washington’s home. Participating teachers immerse themselves in the study and discussion of this critical period of American history and the remarkable role George Washington played in the founding of our nation.

Teachers will have the opportunity to:

  • Examine the character and accomplishments of George Washington while living on his 18th Century estate
  • Engage in active discussion of 18th Century history with top historians
  • Explore Mount Vernon through interactive workshops, tours, and group projects
  • Connect to Common Core and discuss how to integrate teaching history into English and STEM curricula in accordance with current education standards
  • Return to your classroom with new knowledge, teaching materials and enthusiasm to share with your students and colleagues

In 2014, Mount Vernon will host sessions by state to build the foundation for statewide collegial networks of teachers who can share classroom ideas, lesson plans, and resources.

2014 Dates

June 8-13: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
June 22-27: Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, California
July 13-18: Maryland, Florida, North Carolina
July 27-Aug 1: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York

To learn more, or to apply, visit http://www.mountvernon.org/teacherinstitute.

Churchill Tries to Rouse America

300px-Sir_Winston_S_ChurchillIn the two years before the outbreak of World War II, Winston Churchill twice addressed the American people by radio, hoping to persuade them to throw American weight against Nazi aggression in Europe. Churchill had not yet been elected Prime Minister. When he spoke to the United States on October 16, 1938, he himself was still a minority voice demanding that the government of Neville Chamberlain cease its policy of appeasing Hitler’s demands for expanded territory in Europe. He appealed to American sensibilities in support of liberty:

Has any benefit or progress ever been achieved by the human race by submission to organized and calculated violence? As we look back over the long story of the nations we must see that, on the contrary, their glory has been founded upon the spirit of resistance to tyranny and injustice, especially when these evils seemed to be backed by heavier force.

While he warned that “the stations of uncensored expression are closing down; the lights are going out,” he insisted “there is still time for those to whom freedom and parliamentary government mean something, to consult together.” He held out hope that an international alliance—joined by the US—that would restrain Hitler.

When he spoke again, less than a month before Hitler invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war, his descriptions of the aggressions of Hitler and Mussolini—and by now, Japan—were more ironic, and his tone was more ominous:

There is a hush over all Europe, nay, over all the world, broken only by the dull thud of Japanese bombs falling on Chinese cities, on Chinese universities or near British and American ships. But then, China is a long way off, so why worry? The Chinese are fighting for what the founders of the American Constitution in their stately language called: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And they seem to be fighting very well. . . . After all, the suffering Chinese are fighting our battle, the battle of democracy. They are defending the soil, the good earth, that has been theirs since the dawn of time against cruel and unprovoked aggression. Give them a cheer across the ocean–no one knows whose turn it may be next.

Ashbrook brings teachers to Mount Vernon for a weekend with George Washington

Ashbrook Center at Mount VernonThis past weekend, the Ashbrook Center brought 18 teachers from around the country to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Teachers enjoyed private tours of the mansion and the grounds, and an audience with the historic re-enactor who portrays Martha Washington.

In addition, participating teachers had the opportunity to explore George Washington’s life and presidency in depth, through his own writings. We explored the “Rules of Civility” which guided the young and ambitious Washington as he shaped his character so as to rise within the Virginia aristocracy. We discussed his surveying career and military service, which gave him an expansive view of the potential of a united America. We discussed his letters on religious liberty, including his famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, with its dramatic proclamation, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” Finally, we discussed key issues within his presidency that challenged his vision of a united America, including the Whiskey Rebellion, his Proclamation of Neutrality, and the persistence of partisan views and local identities that he challenged in his Farewell Address.

Participants got a fuller view of George Washington as a man, as a precedent setter, and as a leader calling Americans to embrace the full promise of our national experiment in self-government.

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