We the Teachers

Session 5: The Constitutional Convention, pt1 – The Alternative Plans

Lecture, Prof. Gordon Lloyd:  

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Of what significance were the rules adopted by the Convention? In what respects did the Virginia Plan represent a new constitution rather than a mere revision of the Articles? What were delegates’ initial reactions and questions concerning the Virginia Plan? What parts of the Plan were rejected or amended? What did the delegates mean when they spoke of a national government as opposed to a federal government? What different principles animate the New Jersey and Virginia Plans and the Hamilton Proposal? Why were they even introduced? What are the arguments for representation of the states, as opposed to the people, in the federal government? Consider the discussions of the executive power, bicameralism, and the role of the judiciary in the context of “republican principles.” What do “republican principles” say about the sources of power, the powers, and the structure of the federal government? Is Madison’s extended republic argument a departure from republican principles?

Session 4: The Revolutionary Era

Lecture, Dr. David Hackett Fischer:  

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How did the American colonists define liberty and freedom as they sought to secure their independence from mother England? During the Revolutionary War, what difficulties did the Americans face in fighting for liberty while maintaining the supremacy of civilian over military authority?
  • Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

TAH.org Weekend Colloquium: New Orleans

TAH.org hosted a diverse group of teachers in New Orleans over the weekend of 31 July to 2 August. The topic, Security, Self-Determination, and Empire: The Grand Alliance, 1941-1945, focused on the interactions between the United States, Great Britain, and Soviet Union during World War 2, with a special emphasis on the Yalta Conference of 1945, during which many of the agreements for the post-war world and divisions of land, people, and power were made. Teachers visited the National World War 2 Museum and along with seeing the new European Theater Galleries, saw the outstanding Tom Hanks-narrated Beyond All Boundaries documentary. In keeping with the special format of the program – a documents-based simulation of the Yalta Conference, with teachers playing the roles of specific national leaders and their assistants, with competing agendas and priorities – it was decided that an attempt at a recreation of the famous photo of the ‘Big 3′ at Yalta would be appropriate.

Keep your eyes on our Weekend Colloquia page for dates and locations for Fall 2015 programs. You can also register to receive email updates through the interest form at the bottom of our homepage.


TAH.org Weekend Colloquia in Philadelphia and Charlottesville

TAH.org held several Weekend Colloquia simultaneously this past weekend. Social Studies and Civics teachers from across the country spent time with scholars and peers in Charlottesville, VA and Philadelphia, PA discussing primary documents and touring historic sites.

Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, hosted two colloquia and over forty educators. Jefferson famously stated, “I cannot live without books” and felt that education was foundational to the success of this young republic. The Colloquia Jefferson and Education focused and explored that theme with scholar Dr. Robert McDonald of the United States Military Academy leading the discussion. He is also an alumni of Jefferson’s University of Virginia and eagerly invited participants on a Saturday evening tour of the campus.

Keeping on the Jefferson topic, an additional Colloquia entitled Jefferson, the Enigma also occurred that weekend, with scholar Dr. Eric Sands who also graduated from the University of Virginia and currently instructs with Berry College. To this day, Jefferson remains an enigmatic character, one who is highly discussed and debated for his views on equality, slavery, constitutionalism, and federalism. Readings for this seminar focused on those issues as well as Jefferson’s impact on Lincoln and his Presidency.

Charlottesville July 2015

Dr. Christopher Burkett of Ashland University presided as scholar in Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love” for a colloquium on James Madison: Statesman for Constitutional Government. Is there a more fitting place to hold a conversation on the Constitution? Participants spent several sessions discussing this nation’s founding documents on Civil and Religious Liberty; The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. After a tour of Independence Hall, Dr. Burkett narrated a short walking tour of Philadelphia.

Philly July 2015

We would enjoy meeting you at one of the Weekend Colloquia or other programs and hope you have signed up for email notifications for upcoming programs at TAH.org. To view our Programs Calendar please visit, TAH.org/events.

Session 3: The American Mind, Part 2

Lecture, Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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The political logic of the argument of the Declaration, continued: Further reflections on the course of human events, people, the laws of nature and of nature’s God, decent respect for the opinions of mankind, self evident truths, equality, rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, consent, prudence, the ends of government, the right to abolish government and institute new government, facts submitted to a candid world, sacred honor, and more.

Religious Liberty and the American Founding Webinar

A Discussion Celebrating the 225th Anniversary of Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation

George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI is perhaps the best expression of the spirit of religious liberty that shaped the new American republic.  This August is the 225th anniversary of its composition.  Join us at our August 22 webinar for a discussion in commemoration of the letter.  We will discuss how religious liberty came about, its connection to America’s founding principles, and its consequences for American history and politics.

In addition to Washington’s letter, we will be discussing Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.  All three documents may be found in the Ashbrook Center’s 50 Core American Documents: Required Reading for Students, Teachers and Citizens.

For the story behind the letter and additional information about it, please visit the web site of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom.

Readings from the 50 Core American Documents:

The program will take place on Saturday, August 22nd, at 11am EST, and will last about 75 minutes. It is free. Panelists will be David Tucker and Chris Burkett.

Click here to register for this special event

TAH.org Springfield Weekend Colloquium on American History & Government

This past weekend middle and high school teachers gathered in Springfield, Illinois to discuss and analyze Abraham Lincoln’s rhetoric, speeches, and writings with Professor Joseph Fornieri, Historian and Professor of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Dr. Fornieri and teachers dissected the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Stephens and referenced those influences upon Abraham Lincoln’s Peoria Speech, Gettysburg Address, and Inaugural Speech. President Lincoln endured deep crises and his writings and musings reflected his struggle with the moral and legal issue of slavery, states’ rights, and constitutional limits.

After a morning of discussion and analysis, participants enjoyed an afternoon visit to Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield home, followed by a tour of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. 2015.07 Springfield

Participants enjoyed profound conversation mixed with levity and laughter within the sessions, and into the after hours as well. We are excited to be able to help advance the content knowledge of teachers at our programs. About half of the teachers who attended had never participated in a TAH.org program and have already registered for other seminars and webinars.

The 15th Amendment: Providing the Vote


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On 21 July, NCSS and TAH.org hosted the last of three episodes in their joint Summer Webinar Series about the Reconstruction amendments. Professor Scott Yenor discussed with a group of teachers the reasoning behind the 15th Amendment, different ideas about how to achieve its goal, and the resulting impact of access to the vote – real or imagined – by African-Americans over time. You can download a copy of the slideshow here, and the reading packet for the entire series here.

Session 2: The American Mind, Part 1

Lecture, Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Thomas Jefferson wrote that in drafting the Declaration of Independence he meant to give expression to “the American mind.” What does the Declaration tell us about the American mind as it related to the foundations, forms, and purposes of the newly sovereign United States? What is the political logic of the argument of the Declaration? What is the philosophical and historical heritage on which the Declaration draws? Reflections on the course of human events, people, the laws of nature and of nature’s God, decent respect for the opinions of mankind, self evident truths, equality, rights, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, consent, prudence, the ends of government, the right to abolish government and institute new government, facts submitted to a candid world, sacred honor, and more.

The 14th Amendment: How it Completes the Constitution


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In part 2 of the TAH.org/NCSS Summer Webinar Series, Professor Scott Yenor discusses the need for, development of, and implementation of the 14th Amendment. Starting with conjecture over an ideal resolution to the Civil War, Professor Yenor and a group of teachers worked through the competing ideas and practical challenges of Reconstruction as applied to what became the 14th Amendment. You can access the slideshow used during the webinar here, and the reading packet for the three-session series here.

Session 1: Intro and the “Apple of Gold”: – The Centrality of the Declaration of Independence in American Political Life

Introduction, Dr. Peter Schramm:  

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Part 1, Dr. Chris Flannery:  

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Part 2: Dr. Lucas Morel:  

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Why is it important to understand the Declaration of Independence? What does the Declaration say, and why and how does it say it? What does the Declaration not say, and why and how does it not say it? What is the significance of Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration? What does the Declaration mean, and what does the Declaration not mean?

Standards-Based Search Tool for Our Documents Library

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is very happy to announce the launch of our Standards Search Tool for our Documents Library. You can now search for standards by type (Social Studies or Common Core ELA for History), state, and grade level and get lists of documents that are relevant to teaching them. You can also select a specific document and see which standards are most appropriate to it. A short how-to page is here, and you’ll see the interface for the tool on any document page – like this one - on both the right side of the screen and on the ‘Academic Standards’ tab right above the text of the document.

The 13th Amendment: The Beginning of a Constitutional Revolution?

Professor Scott Yenor:   

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On the evening of 7 July, 2015, TeachingAmericanHistory.org and the National Council for the Social Studies presented the first of three webinars in a series based around the three Reconstruction Amendments. Professor Scott Yenor, of Boise State University, worked with a group of teachers from across the country to consider the constitutional, legal, and practical issues surrounding the 13th Amendment. Did the amendment represent a departure from constitutional precedent, or a culmination of it? How was the question of slavery dealt with as a constitutional and legal issue through this amendment? Were the Reconstruction amendments truly a coherent ‘package,’ as often portrayed? These questions and others were addressed in detail using this documents packet and this slideshow. Download those files and follow along with the attached podcast.

Presidential Academy: The Declaration of Independence and the American Founding

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is proud to offer the first 11 of 30 sessions of our Presidential Academy documents-based survey course of American history and American political thought through iTunesU, iTunes, and this blog.

Starting on Tuesday, 14 July, we’ll publish one session per week, excluding some weeks due to holidays. This first portion of the course will end on Tuesday, 22 September, and will be followed the week after by Part 2, and then Part 3 in 2016.

Presidential Academy was a grant-funded program that TAH.org presented to groups of teachers who met and studied in three cities over two weeks, with discussions rooted in three separate documents. The first days were in Philadelphia, beginning with the American Founding, through the Declaration of Independence. Additional documents and ideas were addressed and analyzed throughout the several sessions there before the group moved on to Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Finally, the group moved to Washington, D.C., and study of modern America, with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the focal point.

Each session is made up of a set of readings, all linked from its blog post, and usually one lecture. Guiding questions and focus issues are at the foundation of each week’s study. A list of all session titles in Part 1 of the course is below, along with the dates on which each will be published on this blog, and the audio made available through iTunes. You can subscribe to our iTunes Podcast feed by clicking here. The entire course, divided into the three major sections – Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington – is already available on iTunesU.

Session 1: Introduction and the “Apple of Gold”: - The Centrality of the Declaration of Independence in American Political Life, 14 July
Session 2: The American Mind: Part I, 21 July
Session 3: The American Mind: Part II, 28 July
Session 4: The Revolutionary Era, 4 AUG
Session 5: The Constitutional Convention, Part I – The Alternative Plans, 11 AUG
Session 6: The Constitutional Convention, Part II – The Connecticut Compromise, 18 AUG
Session 7: The Constitutional Convention, Part III – The Committee of Detail Report and the Close of the Convention, 25 AUG
Session 8: The Constitution and American Self-Government, 1 SEP
Session 9: The Proposed Constitution of 1787 and Its Defense in The Federalist Papers, 8 SEP
Session 10: The Federalist Papers – The Sum of Power and the Separation of Powers, 15 SEP
Session 11: The Federalist Papers – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, 22 SEP

We invite you to deepen your knowledge of American history through this series, and use these materials in any way that will benefit you and your students.

Presidential Academy: A full course in American History

Presidential Academy, a program run by the Ashbrook Center for teachers and held in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C., is now available on iTunes U and will soon be available through this blog.

We’ve taken all 30 sessions of the program and packaged them into three parts, listed below, and we’re making them available in two formats, as indicated. Each session is made up of a lecture, usually 60-90 minutes long, and set of readings, which are linked from our documents library on TAH.org.

We invite you to subscribe to our iTunes podcast – through which all the audio for the Presidential Academy will be made available – and to use all these materials to expand your knowledge and understanding of the American experiment in republican self-government.

Part 1: The Declaration of Independence and the American Founding

Part 2: The Gettysburg Address and the Civil War

Part 3: MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Modern America

TeachingAmericanHistory.org is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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