We the Teachers

Plessy v. Ferguson: May 18th, 1896

May 18th is the anniversary Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the doctrine of “equal, but separate” was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case helped to cement the Jim Crow laws already prevalent throughout the South, and paved the way for another 60 years of legal segregation before it was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Learn more about the details and historical context of this case at TeachingAmericanHistory.org, where it’s one of our 50 Core Documents. The case, with Justice Harlan’s dissenting opinion that the “Constitution is color-blind,” is also accompanied by a summary, guiding questions, links to related documents, and a search tool to help you find state academic standards relevant to the case.

Our 2016-17 Saturday Webinars will focus on developing a deeper understanding of Landmark Supreme Court Cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson. Registration details will be published soon. In the meantime, you can access all our archived webinars, and subscribe to our iTunes podcast, too.

Ashbrook Master’s Graduate Named Ohio’s Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher

In October, Kimberly Huffman, a graduate of Ashbrook’s Master of Arts in American History and Government degree program, was named Ohio’s Outstanding Secondary Social Studies Teacher.  The Ohio Council of Social Studies (OCSS), which promotes social studies education, recognized Huffman for exceptional practice in teaching, leadership in her school community, supporting the success of youth, and promoting youth’s civic participation.

Huffman touring the White House during her month-long internship with the office of Congressman Renacci.

Huffman touring the White House during her month-long internship with the office of Congressman Renacci.

Huffman teaches government at Wayne County Schools Career Center (WCSCC), a school where students learn career-technical skills while completing high school academic requirements. The career center emphasizes hands-on learning, with a range of apprenticeship opportunities, from bricklaying to nursing and hospitality work. Although Huffman teaches an academic rather than a skills-based subject, she focuses on real-life application.

Jean Roberts, former Career Services Coordinator at WCSCC, who nominated Huffman for the award, noted the “high energy” level in Huffman’s classroom. Students grasp the relevance of government under Huffman’s guidance, engaging with enthusiasm in research reports, current event discussions, and conversations with Ohio political officials or their staffers who visit the classroom in person or via Skype. Huffman “instills both knowledge and passion for the democratic process in her students,” Roberts said.

Huffman teaches a state-mandated government course to juniors and seniors.  Since completing her Master’s, she has also taught a “dual enrollment” government course that gives students three college credits through Stark State College. This head start on an associates degree would not have opened at WCSCC had Huffman not discovered Ashbrook’s nearby master’s program with its summer schedule. Like many teachers in Ashbrook’s program, Huffman did not want to take time off, abandoning her students, while earning her degree.

Huffman particularly appreciated the government component of Ashbrook’s program. “I got a B.A. in education with a concentration in social studies,” which required low-level courses in history, sociology, economics, geography, and political science. This did not supply the content knowledge she needed to teach government. “I was told that if I concentrated in political science I’d never get hired. But you don’t find your passion by learning a little bit about a lot of different things. Now, thanks to Ashbrook, I know a lot about a smaller area—government and politics.”

Huffman encourages students to become “engaged citizens who understand and protect their rights. I tell students that to protect our freedoms, we have to know the Constitution”—lest we discover the liberties it protects only “after they’re taken away.” Huffman advises the student leadership council at WCSCC, helping students “strategize how to correct” school issues. “You have to understand the established process of government and work within those parameters.” She must reason against the impatience of adolescence and a “distaste for politics” noticeable across all age groups.

In 2013, Huffman was the high school teacher chosen as Congressional Fellow by the James Madison Foundation, giving her a rare month-long internship in a Washington Congressional office. Huffman worked for Jim Renacci, Congressman for Ohio’s 16th district, gaining great respect for the long hours and careful thought Renacci puts in as he balances competing interests within his district. She can now explain to her students the difficulty of making legislative decisions. Last summer Huffman furthered her knowledge of a particular interest—the Supreme Court—when she attended a seminar on the Supreme Court at Stanford University.

Huffman says Ashbrook’s program built her confidence to tackle these challenges. The professors “stretch you, exposing you to primary documents and their importance. Before, I was a textbook teacher—always just two weeks ahead of the kids” in her grasp of the subject. “Now I have a repertoire of primary documents to use in class and a secure knowledge of the subject.” Using primary sources as a framework for class debate, Huffman can “let the students arrive at their own conclusions.” Like other Ashbrook-educated teachers, Huffman has seen that when students read America’s founding documents, they embrace on their own the principles of our democratic system.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Announces New Fall Teacher Institutes

Our friends at George Washington’s Mount Vernon have taken the best elements of their highly popular Summer Residential Program to create their NEW Fall Residential Programs. The two programs being offered are focused on George Washington’s role in the founding of the U.S. Government, as well as his experiences in the military.

They have also extended the deadline for these programs to Friday, May 20, 2016.

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The two programs being offered are:

Each session is designed to support K-12 educators who teach about the life, leadership, and legacy of George Washington and the 18th-century world in which he lived. Join them this fall and return to your classroom with relevant new resources. Learn More

Again, the deadline to apply for these program is now Friday, May 20, 2016. If you are a George Washington Teacher Institute Residential Program Alumni you are eligible to apply as well!

Get more details about the programs and how to apply here.

Program Report: Nuremburg War Trials Seminar in Palm Beach County, FL

IMG_3527On Saturday, May 7, the Palm Beach County School District (FL) hosted a seminar for thirty area teachers about the Nuremburg War Trials led by Dr. David Krugler. Educators discussed the creation of the Tribunal, the charges, the trials, and concluded with the verdict and sentences of convicted. This seminar was the final in a six part series that Palm Beach County Schools held during the 2015-2016 school year.

Please join us for the 2016-2017 TAH.org Series in Palm Beach County School District for the following seminar topics:

  • Origins of the American Idea
  • Civil Rights in America
  • Supreme Court Cases that Changed America
  • Labor History in America
  • Cuban Missile Crisis

Registration will be opening soon.

American Presidents: Ronald Reagan

 

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reagan43Our last Saturday Webinar of the 2015-16 school year took place on Saturday, May 7, with Ronald Reagan as our focus. Teachers from around the country joined our panelists for a discussion about Reagan the person, president, and thinker. Questions ranged from his core political beliefs to his transformation from an FDR Democrat to a Republican, and included questions about both foreign and domestic policy. A good deal of attention was paid to his views on Communism and his enduring belief that it was an oppressive, morally bankrupt system that could be made to fail, and without war. Additionally, his genuine desire to eliminate – not just reduce – world arsenals of nuclear weapons was discussed, in the context of his personal outreach to and relations with Soviet leaders, especially Mikhail Gorbachev.

The following books are recommended for additional reading about Reagan and his era:

The full archive, with documents and video, is available here.

Join us, starting in August, for our 2016-17 Saturday Webinar series, ‘Landmark Supreme Court Cases,’ beginning with Marbury v. Madison.

Program Report: Lincoln Collouquim in Washington D.C.

This past weekend, educators from the western Pennsylvania region attended a weekend colloquium in Washington, D.C. thanks to the generosity of the Allegheny Foundation.

IMG_3504Dr. Lucas Morel of the University of Washington and Lee, chaired the discussion on Abraham Lincoln. Topics and primary documents considered Lincoln’s view on slavery, secession, equality, the  path to emancipation and preservation of the Union. Teachers enjoyed a private tour of Lincoln’s Cottage in D.C. and spent time with the onsite curriculum specialist using many of their online educational resources.

If you are interested in attending one of our programs, please view our calendar to find one near you.

Teacher Offers Students A Second Chance To Engage With History Through Primary Documents

TAH.org Teacher seminars model the free and thoughtful discussion of primary documents. Creative teachers like Deb Wiley Horner take the documents and discussion back to the classroom, and watch their students begin to care about history. 

Horner attends every TAH.org Saturday seminar she can. The seminars are held on the Ashland University campus and she finds them rejuvenating after a week working with students many would find challenging to teach: residents at the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center in Ravenna, Ohio.

Horner’s students range in age from 12 to 18. They arrive unpredictably and stay from a few weeks to three months. Most lack good parental role models for dealing with the conflicts of adolescence. They are suspicious of authority figures, having often gotten into trouble by acting out natural feelings of anger and resentment. They feel victim to the hidden agendas of the adults in their lives.

But primary documents give them access to the inside story of history. The letters and speeches of earlier Americans reveal what they actually thought and intended. Reading the documents, Horner’s students feel they are at last getting the straight story.

Some bright students also gain a new critical thinking tool. If asked to turn from a primary document to an historian’s summary, they ask, “Who wrote this? What was that person’s angle?”

As they become fascinated with history, Horner’s students develop academic discipline. One student, working on a computer in Horner’s room during a study period, watched her preparing to teach a class on the Declaration of Independence. The student then found the online document on the Teaching American History website. After a while, Horner noticed he was writing down every word in the Declaration that he did not understand, then checking an online dictionary for the definitions. Horner used the student’s annotated vocabulary list the next day as she taught the document.

For a women’s history project, the same student asked Horner to help him find a collection of letters between John and Abigail Adams. He then incorporated selections from the letters in a powerpoint presentation on the second first lady. Horner is encouraging this student to finish high school and go to college.

Horner listens at TAH.org seminars for the human dynamic in history that relates to her students’ lives. “I went to an TAH program at the Heinz Center with Gordon Lloyd on ‘Fifty Ways to Love Your Founders.’ He spoke about how the Founders argued a lot. I love that I can tell my students, ‘They agreed on the principle of freedom, but they did not agree on everything.’” Horner helps students realize that you can have a serious disagreement with someone without throwing a punch.

You can even collaborate with an antagonist on projects of great consequence. When Horner’s students read the Declaration, she said, “we discussed how the document ends, with the signers saying, ‘We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.’ The signers were committing treason against Great Britain. I asked students to imagine what could have happened to them if the Revolution failed. Then I asked, ‘What does it mean to be willing to lay your life down for someone you’ve actually been arguing with?’’’

During her free periods, Horner’s students see her reading. “They see me pull a document from the stack on my desk and ask what’s in it. I say, ‘It’s for my weekend Ashbrook seminar.’ They ask, ‘Why do you keep going to these classes?’ and I answer, ‘So I can be a more informed teacher for you, and can bring you a different perspective than you’ve heard before.’ It’s inspirational for them. They think, ‘If my teacher is still learning, why can’t I?’”

Program Report: LBJ and Vietnam

Seventeen teachers, ranging from California to New York, joined TAH.org andDr. David Krugler of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in Austin, Texas, for a weekend colloquium about President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War. The program included a visit to the LBJ Library and Museum, and discussion sessions aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of LBJ’s reasons for war, escalation, strategy for the conflict, and the impact of anti-war protests on him and American policy. In addition to the reading packet, which can be downloaded here, Dr. Krugler recommended both Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, and for a thoughtful survey of American foreign policy, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1776.

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Program Reports: Three East Coast Weekend Colloquia at Historic Sites

Northampton LF 2016.04This past weekend TAH.org conducted three east coast colloquia at historic sites attended by history and government teachers from across the country.

The Liberty Fund co-sponsored program in Northampton, Massachusetts on President Calvin Coolidge was held at the Historic Hotel Northampton Inn. Dr. William Ruger led discussions on Coolidge’s Political Economy, Education, Self-Government and the Constitution. Participants enjoyed a private tour of Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Library housed at the Forbes Library in Northampton, then enjoyed some time to tour the town where President Coolidge and his wife lived.


 

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Teachers from western Pennsylvania came to Philadelphia to enjoy a weekend on Alexander Hamilton chaired by Dr. Stephen Knott of the Naval War College. This program was sponsored through the generosity of the Allegheny Foundation of Pennsylvania. Dr. Knott, a Hamilton expert, led the discussion on Hamilton’s View of the Executive, the launching of the new government, the Citizen Genet episode, and the French Revolution. Participants then toured Independence Hall as well as the Liberty Bell.


 

Mt Vernon WEC 2016.04The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation kindly sponsored a weekend colloquium at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, with Dr. Bill Allen at the helm. The conversation began Saturday morning on the topic of “Saving the Revolution” followed by “Washington and Union” and ended the day considering, “Why Did Washington Succeed”. Teachers were treated to a private tour of the General’s home and his vast estate.

 

Please visit our events calendar to find upcoming programs near you.

 

Weekend Colloquium: Ronald Reagan Library and Museum

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TAH.org hosted a group of teachers from across the country at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA, 8-10 April 2016. Reagan’s policies, ideas, and the crises he faced were discussed through a series of primary documents. Teachers were also able to visit the Reagan Library and Museum and take part in a two-hour presidential decision-making simulation, in which each person played the role of someone in Reagan’s leadership team or the media. The simulation challenged teachers to work through multiple policy and media crises, and utilized real-time simulated communications, news stories, and Situation Room information flow.

The discussion leader for the weekend was Dr. Joe Postell of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

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Program Report: Liberty Fund Co-Sponsored Weekend Seminar in Hyde Park, NY

Last weekend 18 teachers from around the country came together in Hyde Park, New York for a Liberty Fund Co-Sponsored Weekend Seminar on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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Topics of conversation considered whether or not the New Deal programs achieved their intended goal, the constitutionality of the programs and to what extent the New Deal has created today’s “entitled state”. Teachers discussed the need for expanded presidential powers when a crisis is at hand, yet, when the crisis abates, does any President relinquish the control? Roosevelt changed the dynamic of the Presidency and expanded government control over economics and domestic policies. After a long day of thoughtful discussion, teachers toured Franklin Roosevelt’s Hyde Park home and his Presidential Museum.

American Presidents Webinar: Lyndon Johnson

 

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Saturday, April 9th’s American Presidents webinar focused on Lyndon Johnson and the two pillars of his administration: the Great Society, and the Vietnam War. Panelists discussed topics ranging from the impact of Johnson’s political skill and legislative experience on the development and passage of his policies, as well as the role of Democratic majorities in Congress at the time. Of interest was the broad, bipartisan support expansion of Social Security enjoyed, as compared against other large social programs of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and how this support, or lack of it, shaped the policies and the politics surrounding and following them.

johnson2LBJ’s views on and actions related to Vietnam were discussed at length, touching on what seemed to be his lack of interest in being involved, and yet his sense of necessity to stay involved in the war he inherited. The panelists also touched on the different rhetoric LBJ used when promoting his social programs versus that he employed regarding Vietnam and foreign policy. View the archive page, with document and YouTube links, and scholar bios, here.

To register for the final webinar of the 2015-16 school year on Saturday, May 7 at 11:00 AM EST discussing Ronald Reagan – The Great Communicator, click here.

Abraham Lincoln Program Report

18 teachers from across the country gathered in Springfield, IL, April 1-3, to deepen their knowledge of IMG_0482Abraham Lincoln at our latest Liberty Fund co-sponsored weekend colloquium. Discussion sessions focused on Lincoln’s early public life, his election in 1860, and his handling of the many issues, challenges, and crises associated with sectionalism, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Special emphasis was placed on Lincoln’s keen legal thinking, his deep respect for the traditions of the Founding – especially those embodied in the Declaration of Independence – and the evolution of his ideas and solutions over time.

In addition to the six 90-minute discussion sessions, the group benefitted from visits to the Lincoln Home and his library and museum.

Program Report: 2 Thomas Jefferson Colloquia in Charlottesville, VA

This past weekend TeachingAmericanHistory.org and the Ashbrook Center hosted two weekend colloquia in Charlottesville, VA about Thomas Jefferson. Professor Eric Sands of Berry College, led a colloquium on The Politics of Thomas Jefferson while Professor Robert McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy, led a colloquium on Thomas Jefferson and Education.

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Teachers from across the country at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson believed that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” Dr. McDonald’s group focused on only on Jefferson’s education and his plans for educational reform in Virginia but also his founding of the United States Military Academy in 1802 and the University of Virginia in 1819.

Dr. Sands facilitated conversation that centered on Thomas Jefferson and Politics, which considered topics as the Constitution, Race, Religious Freedom, Education and his lasting legacy. Participants enjoyed an afternoon tour of Monticello which was in full bloom with Spring tulips. After dinner Dr. McDonald delighted everyone with a tour of the University of Virginia to discuss Jefferson’s architectural designs.

Freedom Day Resources

 

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In support of ‘Freedom Day,’ TeachingAmericanHistory.org has collected a variety of resources for you and your classes. Freedom Day encourages people of all ages to explore how Americans’ freedoms of speech and expression are exercised, threatened, and protected in the past and today in the world. Join with the Civics Renewal Network and National Constitution Center in conversation, activities and online programs to discuss the meaning for Freedom and its relevance in modern society.  The Center has chosen April 13th to celebrate the understanding and meaning of freedom expressed by the Constitution and other founding documents however, schools can choose to celebrate on that day or any day that week.

  • Primary Document-based lesson plan collections – lessons on a wide variety of topics related to American history, government, and civics, all based in primary documents
  • The Constitutional Convention Online Exhibit – the web’s most-visited and comprehensive resource on the Convention of 1787
  • The Bill of Rights Online Exhibit – An extensive study of the politics, ideas, origins, and legacy of the United States Bill of Rights
  • Religion in America – A unique and powerful study of the place and impact of religion in American politics and life
  • 50 Core American Documents – The essential starting point from which to consider what it means to be an American. Over 67,000 print and ebook copies of this volume have been distributed since late 2014
  • Presidential Academy – 31 sessions addressing the broad scope of American history, challenges, and ideas from the Founding through the late 20th Century
  • Thomas Jefferson – An extensive collection of letters, political writings, and other resources spanning the years from 1774 to his death in 1826

 

50 Documents That Tell America’s Story

Required reading for students, teachers, and citizens.

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