Monthly Archives: May 2017

Team-Teaching Social Studies and Language Arts in a Rigorous Project-Based Curriculum

Teachers who aim to impart critical thinking skills must be willing to trust their students. Trust is essential to a range of teaching strategies, but one very interesting example appears in the work of Cathy Alderman and Steve Main, who partner in a combined Social Studies and Language Arts program at Anderson New Tech High School in Anderson, California. They allow trust—and accountability—to regulate the pace and direction of the curriculum.

Alderman, a graduate of Ashland University’s Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) program, teaches Political Studies, a required course for seniors that combines English, American Government, and Economics in an integrated curriculum at Anderson New Tech. Students at New Tech are given responsibility for the management of their own education from the first day of their freshman year, due to the school’s use of a rigorous version of “project-based learning” modeled after the team-based work environment of corporate America. With English instructor Steve Main, Alderman team-teaches both the freshman and the senior classes at Anderson New Tech, introducing new students to the project-based model and later pushing them, as seniors, to complete a months-long research project in which students work in teams to investigate local civic challenges.

Anderson and Main jointly plan and lead class sessions and work together to coach students through projects, assessing their work at regular intervals. Partnering with an English instructor has given Alderman the confidence to put the exposition of primary documents into the hands of students themselves. Main uses a combination of Socratic questioning and “scaffolding”—quickly filling conceptual gaps by, for example, explaining archaic vocabulary—to help freshman students closely read the primary documents covered at the beginning of the course: excerpts of 17th and 18th century English and American political theory, usually characterized by long periodic sentences. A few weeks into the fall semester, however, students are working through primary documents on their own. Class sessions become student-led discussions, sometimes conducted in a “fishbowl” style: a circle of eight students debate questions posed by both teachers. For example, after reading “Common Sense,” students are first asked to consider, “How does Paine ask you to prepare yourself for his ‘common sense’ arguments?”

Participants in the discussion must cite passages of the primary document to support their views. Meanwhile, the rest of the class takes notes on the debate, so that later they too can comment, challenging or supporting the interpretations they have heard. Alderman and Main trust the students to keep the discussion on track. “Students become very good at calling each other out for making claims that are not supported by the text,” Alderman says. “They’ll demand, ‘Where did you find that in the document?’”

These discussions early in the freshman year give students the confidence to undertake a later project when they divide into teams and research the earliest constitutions adopted by the newly independent states during the Revolution. Each team of three or four students assumes the identity of one of the thirteen states. They review early constitutions and other primary sources which shed light on the distinctive political perspective of their state. As each team digests and discusses the documents they have found, they come to understand their shared political principles and interests. Then all the teams meet in a mock convention, attempting to hammer out a single federal constitution. “When teams have so thoroughly and enthusiastically adopted the point of view of their states that they are unable to resolve their differences, it opens a discussion on the remarkable achievement of the Founders in 1787,” Alderman says. Students grasp an essential tenet of historical thinking, a tenet often obscured by the march of dates and facts that textbooks present: that political outcomes are not inevitable. Human beings, acting cooperatively or confrontationally in history, determine their own future. Moreover, students observe that in a free society, the ability of citizens to shape their own future is in the largest measure limited only by their ability to compromise.

In the second half of the freshman year, students to undertake a research project combining literature and geography, reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley while working in teams to research one of the towns Steinbeck describes in his memoir. Eventually they work up video presentations, pitching the town’s amenities and quality of life to the rest of the class, as if they were speaking for the local Chamber of Commerce.

“When you teach as we do,” Alderman says, “you are trusting students to reach their own conclusions. When you show this level of confidence in your students, and they see you are there to cheer them on rather than to dictate what they should think, they astonish you with their willingness to think, investigate, and even originate policy ideas.”

Minnesota Teacher of the Year Constantly Builds Her Content Knowledge

In March, the Minnesota Council of Social Studies named Heather Loeschke 2017 Teacher of the Year. Loeschke, a 2014 graduate of the Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) program at Ashland University, has taught for 21 years—since 2001 at Cannon Falls Junior/Senior High School, a rural school 35 miles south of the Twin Cities. For many years a government teacher, she now also covers Advanced Placement US history. We asked her how TAH programs supported her development as a teacher.

Heather Loeschke with the colleague who nominated her for her award, Alan Amdahl of Albany Senior High School. Amdahl’s students have competed with Loeschke’s in “We the People” events that test students’ ability to practically apply their knowledge of the Constitution. “I have seen her kids in action. She does an awfully good job of preparing future citizens,” Amdahl said. “She brings the content of history and government to life.”

What is your philosophy of education?

 I believe education is like life—one never fully achieves knowledge, or finishes learning. Teachers get kids when their knowledge glass is fairly empty, so we provide them with information; but we must also provide them tools to become lifelong learners.

 Why did you enroll in the MAHG program?

 I was a history major in college. Then for many years I taught civics, developing a profound love of that subject—but I felt I needed more content knowledge, especially in history. I would be picking up the APUSH course at my high school when a colleague retired. You can’t fool a kid. If you don’t know the content, they know that you don’t know it, and you lose their attention and focus. Pedagogy is important, but that’s mostly smoke, bells and whistles.

When I was awarded the James Madison Fellowship that would fund my second MA (my first was in education), I called the University of Minnesota and universities in Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Iowa. I found that I could get an MA in history, but in political science, departments offered only PhD programs.

I had been part of a 2006 Teaching American History program, the Presidential Academy, where I met professors who teach in MAHG today. So I knew that MAHG was a serious program. It also fit my schedule and covered the content I needed: both history and government.

How did the MAHG program support your goals as an educator?

The MAHG experience is invaluable. Every single class I took in the program has benefitted me in some way. The course offerings allowed me to choose classes that would make me a stronger teacher in the areas I teach. I use documents we used in MAHG in APUSH, in government classes, and to help kids prepare for the We the People competition. I’ve even had friends I’ve met through MAHG get online and talk through speakerphone to my kids about different subjects.

People ask me, is MAHG a degree in history or a degree in government? I say, it’s a degree in both, but it’s all infused with Constitutional studies. It’s a nice blend.

This spring at our state social studies council meeting, recipients of teacher awards were asked to sit on a panel. We spoke to a standing-room only crowd about our philosophies as educators and about teaching approaches that we’ve found effective. Then we took questions. Teachers asked us, “What practices make you an excellent teacher?” All the other awardees talked about their lesson plans. I said that I’d earned two Masters and whenever possible attended seminars and conferences. I’ve visited historic places, met several Supreme Court justices, visited the White House, talked with Senators and been on the House floor, been in the Pentagon—really interesting places most people never get to visit. Going to conferences, I’ve met some extraordinary people.  I told teachers, “Sign up for a Teaching American History weekend seminar. You’ll read and discuss primary documents with extraordinary professors. You’ll network with other great teachers and see historic places. It will have a profound impact on your teaching.”

Do you need to know American history in order to understand US government?

Yes—and the reverse is also true. In order for our history to make sense, you have to understand our government. A teacher told me, “When I get kids in AP US Government, they have never in their entire lives taken a government class.” In her district, those who don’t take the AP option leave high school without any civics instruction. I asked, “How does your school district justify that?” She said, “They feel they get enough government content in their history classes.” Well, perhaps—if the teacher is well versed in both. We do kids a disservice if we don’t require government. Many problems in politics today arise because voters have never read the Constitution and never taken a look at American history.  Citizens argue the Electoral College should be abolished, not knowing why the Founders created it; or they don’t see that our system of checks and balances is being eroded, as Congress fails to use its Constitutional powers to keep the executive branch in check.

What did you find most challenging in the MAHG program?

We not only had to read documents carefully; we also wrote careful analyses of them. I became a much better writer and a much better reader by going through the MAHG program.

Shortly after I began the MAHG program, they offered the final comprehensive exam as an alternative to a thesis or capstone. I thought, “There’s no way I’m doing that! How can I retain all the information implied in the word ‘comprehensive’”? Yet when it came down to it, I realized the exam would allow me to develop my ideas in smaller chunks, even though I would do as much writing for the exam as I would for a thesis. Also, opting for the exam meant that I would take three more classes. When I say that, people look incredulous. I explain, “I got to go back to campus, be immersed in that world, be with professors I enjoy and friends I love being with.”

How did writing for the MAHG degree benefit your teaching?

When I took over the APUSH course, it was being dramatically overhauled by the College Board to incorporate a lot more writing. My MAHG experience helped me teach the LEQ (long essay questions) as well as DBQs (document-based questions). Everything that we wrote for MAHG was a document-based question: our essays reflected on the readings we’d been discussing all week.

In order to become a good writer, you really have to practice. You also have to read lots of good writing—and all the documents we read are well written.

What is the most important thing your students need to learn in order to become participating citizens in our democratic republic?

They need to learn how government works and how it affects them. I tell students, “Government will affect your life whether you learn about it or not. But whether it is a positive or negative impact is entirely up to you. If you don’t know the right questions or whom to ask, the wheels of government will roll right over you.” In class, I refer to the words of statesmen I read in the MAHG program. I quote Madison, who said in Federalist 51 that the Constitutional provisions for checks and balances can only go so far; ultimately, “Our dependence is upon the people.” Citizens must thoughtfully exercise their right to vote.

Summer 2017 History and Literature Seminar 

This July, introduces a new program for teachers of American history and American literature. Our three-day History & Literature seminars will examine key themes in American history through study of both historical documents and literary texts. Each cross-curricular seminar is open to both social studies and English/language arts teachers at any level, and each will be co-taught by a literary scholar and a historian or political scientist.

The program addresses two needs spoken of by teachers in our programs: the social studies teacher’s need of fiction and poetry to bring historical issues alive; and the language arts teacher’s need to understand the historical context of fiction and verse. Since we are hearing that secondary schools increasingly use cross-curricular methods, even pairing social studies and language arts teachers in related courses, we hope to encourage conversation between the two disciplines. Part of that dialogue necessarily includes teaching strategies. Hence, two high school teachers experienced in integrating history and government content with literature will help to facilitate our first course in the interdisciplinary program.

Our first course in the series is:

Equality and Liberty in American History & Literature

Tuesday evening, July 11, 2017 to Friday, July 14, 2017

 Lucas Morel, Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University in Virginia will co-teach the seminar with Kathleen Pfeiffer, Professor of English at Oakland University in Michigan.  Morel, a long-time Visiting Professor in the Master of Arts in American History and Government program at Ashland University, specializes in American government, political theory, Abraham Lincoln, and black American politics. His publications include Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government as well as Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man. Pfeiffer teaches and researches African-American literature (especially that of the Harlem Renaissance), as well as the biography as a genre. Her publications include Brother Mine: The Correspondence of Jean Toomer and Waldo Frank and Race Passing and American Individualism

This seminar will be held on the campus of Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. For information on fees, on-campus room and board, and to register for the course, please visit our website.

To show how a thoughtful political theorist can shed light on a literary text, we offer an interview with Lucas Morel, speaking about the novel that last month won the Pulitzer: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Morel has already taught the novel at Washington and Lee.

Lucas Morel on Teaching Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”

Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, which won the 2016 National Book Award for fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, presents teachers of American history and literature an opportunity to immerse students in the harsh reality of slavery, but it also presents pedagogical challenges. The Pulitzer committee called the novel “a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.” Not an ordinary historical novel—some have called it an example of “magical realism”—it aims at symbolic rather than literal historical truth. Whitehead invents an actual subterranean railroad, with a variety of trains, train stops, and conductors, to dramatize the varied and threatening social terrain an escaping slave had to cross before attaining freedom. This is only one of many liberties Whitehead takes with history as he tells the story of Cora, a young woman fleeing a Georgia plantation with a savagely cruel owner.

Professor Lucas Morel taught the novel to students at Washington and Lee last fall. We asked him about guiding students through the fantasy aspects of the novel toward the historical reality it depicts.

  1. We expect historical novelists to vividly evoke a time period. Whitehead seems to lift incidents and trends from across three centuries and transplant them all into one decade. Why does Whitehead depart from fact in this way?

Historical novelists face a problem. The closer the history depicted is to the facts, the greater the challenge to keep the reader suspended in his disbelief and to let the plot, characters and dialogue do their work. Instead of just following the story, the reader wonders if this or that episode really happened.  (Just as with Spielberg’s Lincoln movie, in which Daniel Day Lewis acted his way to a record 3rd Academy award for Best Actor, every historian is asked, “Did Lincoln really say that?”)  The reader begins to treat the novel as a documentary rather than a tale that uses a mixture of fact and fiction to tell a larger truth. Colson Whitehead actually has a character say, “Sometimes a useful delusion is better than a useless truth.” No clearer statement of the grand aim of his novel could be made!  This remark occurs near the end of the book, as if to answer an objection in the mind of the reader who knows the story has played fast and loose with American history. It’s just one of several heavy-handed statements put in the mouths of characters to make sure the reader gets a lesson Whitehead wants them to learn. These statements depart from the usual rule of fiction-writing: “Show, don’t tell.” Still, Whitehead’s novel—even though I disagree with some of its teachings—raises questions about such important issues in American history and political development that I believe it’s worth reading.

Regarding his compression into a decade historical events and incidents that actually took place across a few centuries, I’m guessing Whitehead wanted to deal with race and America in one fell literary swoop.  Race still matters, still infects how Americans relate to one other socially and especially politically, even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th-15th Amendments, not to mention the achievements of the modern Civil Rights Movement and the election (and re-election) of a black president. Whitehead must think that it needs to remain a subject of discussion that extends beyond the domain of politicians.  He does present events of which most Americans are probably not aware.  One wonders whether his readers will be shocked more by his depictions of these events or by the subsequent discovery that they actually occurred!

Does this work as a story?  For the most part, yes.  That’s due to Whitehead’s craft, e.g., the way he gets the reader to invest in his protagonist, Cora, who attempts to escape from a plantation through an actual underground railroad—the greatest conceit of the book, but one I also believe works.  It invites discussion and reflection upon the nature of the American regime and how an individual or society can move from expressing mere will, self-interest, and force to pursuing justice, self-government, and civilization.  The great political question of right versus might is a central theme of the novel.  Although I disagree with Whitehead’s rendering of the meaning and significance of America and her development as a nation, he does prompt readers to ponder these things.

  1. How might teachers deal with the historical background of the novel?

In interviews, Whitehead indicates he researched extensively American slavery and the slave trade. He wouldn’t need to draw much from outside the long American experience with slavery and accounts of what the worst enslavers and overseers did to maintain control over large numbers of slaves.  One particularly garish event of torture in the beginning of the novel struck me as almost beyond credulity. But perhaps the author meant to convey that, because the law and social practice sided with the enslaving class, there was little that a master could not do when it came to enforcing his will. It’s true that slave owners occasionally set ghastly examples to ensure the strict obedience of the rest of their slaves. Whitehead depicts a contest between the brutalization of human beings and the spirit of freedom, showing how the humanity of the enslaved expressed itself in the most trying situations, even in the pecking order slaves imposed upon themselves—a semblance of culture—and in Cora’s resistance to injustice even in the slaves’ internal affairs.

Whitehead gives the devil his due, that’s for sure, but he also shows the tremendous ingenuity, improvisation, and agency of human beings subject to the near-absolute control of legal masters.  Here he has learned from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which illustrates how those treated as second-class citizens and considered inferior by nature display their humanity in ways that are misunderstood or simply overlooked by those in power. For example, Ellison’s invisible man is able to power 1,369 light bulbs in his apartment without the Monopolated Light and Power Company tracing that current drain to his hole in the ground! In a very similar way, Whitehead shows us an incredible underground railroad, an engineering feat accomplished apparently by the black slaves themselves. In this Whitehead asks the question, “Has this country been built by hands and minds that we don’t have a clue about—or deliberately left out of our histories?” And this work is heroic. As free human beings, they risked their lives to build something they themselves may never have gotten the chance to use.

The novel should motivate those unfamiliar with the history of race in America to learn more about its role in our social and political development. In classrooms using the book, students might research and report on incidents in the novel that appear historical. It would take a student only about 8 seconds on the Internet to discover that the Underground Railroad was not a literal railroad, and then he could research what it actually was. Other students might research incidents that did occur in our past yet not in such a short space of time.  A reminder at the outset that Whitehead’s novel is a work of fiction would be in order, and that by working upon our imaginations, the author seeks to engage us in important questions regarding the human condition—and how our founding and development as a nation may have reflected, improved, or retarded that condition.

The novel prompts us to ask: what would it take for Cora not simply to flee from oppression but also to find safety, security, and prosperity for herself and those she loves? Is true community possible? What are its requirements, and what are obstacles to it? And can these thrive generation over generation?  Lincoln addressed these questions pretty much throughout his public career, from his Lyceum Address of 1838 to his most famous speech at Gettysburg.

  1. By the end of Whitehead’s novel, Cora seems the lone survivor of the many who sought freedom and the few who tried to help them gain it. Does Whitehead think you have to be a person of extraordinary character and will to free yourself from an unjust political and social system?

Only a small percentage of slaves attempted to escape, and fewer were successful in the attempt. (Resistance most likely took other forms.) Whitehead illustrates the tremendous difficulty of escape, especially for those furthest from a free state border. In part, he’s countering those who, imagining that they themselves would never have allowed themselves to become enslaved or to remain in slavery, claim that African American slaves were somehow content with their misery (this seems a veiled form of white supremacy, analogous to those who wonder why Jews did not do more to avoid or escape their plight under Nazi Germany, a question Hannah Arendt discussed in her controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil).

Still, I think Whitehead fails to offer a completely honest account of America.  While illustrating the ways slavery contradicts America’s highest principles, he gives short shrift to the power of those principles and the individuals of various races who struggled—ultimately successfully—to bring those principles to bear on America’s development as a nation, both politically and socially.

I keep using the word “development” because America is and remains a work in progress—and this not because its principles are flawed or its people any more deficient or vicious than those of any other nation.  As President Bill Clinton remarked in his First Inaugural Address, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” Yet for Whitehead, the distinctive aspects of America are its flaws. The character Lander, an orator, writer, and escaped slave residing on Valentine Farm in Indiana (a former slave state), seems to speak for Whitehead in observing that “America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. . . . This nation shouldn’t exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty.”  He then adds, “Yet here we are,” suggesting that good happens despite America, not because of it.

For me, the most redeeming feature of America is the clearest expression of its noblest ideals and aspirations: the Declaration of Independence.  This document appears twice in the novel, first as the memorized speech of a slave (Michael) who gets trotted out to amuse the guests of the vicious slave-owner Terrance Randall. Later, a more favorable rendering of the Declaration’s principles occurs on the Valentine Farm, where Cora finds sanctuary.  But even here, its principal truths, declared to be “self-evident,” are not taken as such, but rather likened to “a map”: “You trust that it’s right, but you only know by going out and testing it yourself.”  In the end, Whitehead seems to say that freedom is what you make of it. President Obama liked to say, “that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing” and “while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.”

But what test does Whitehead envision to prove the truth of the Declaration’s claims?  How would one refute the argument made by Ridgeway, the novel’s slave-catcher par excellence and Cora’s nemesis, that freedom is simply the will of the stronger?  “The American imperative,” Ridgeway calls it, declaring, “If the white man wasn’t destined to take this new world, he wouldn’t own it now. Here was the true Great Spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavor—if you can keep it, it is yours. Your property, slave or continent.”

  1. Would you say Ridgeway represents one pole of American thinking about liberty: that it resides in a particular people’s “manifest destiny”or that free government is simply a matter of “popular sovereignty”?

That view has been maintained by Stephen Douglass and by Southern Confederates, but it is not the view expressed at our founding. I see equality and liberty as in a way the same thing. According to the Declaration, to speak of liberty is to speak of that which we possess equally. I have no more and no less liberty than you do—that’s the meaning of American equality. The potential conflict is between equality and consent. We possess equality and liberty by endowment from our Creator, or by nature. What we are not given is the security to enjoy and exercise them. That’s where human beings have to do their work. It’s as if God says, “Here’s liberty; good luck with that!” Jefferson reflects the Lockean view: people first understand what they have by God’s endowment or by nature, then they realize they are vulnerable without a way to protect this. That’s why it is also self-evident “that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed.”

Jefferson’s slaves had the same amount of liberties naturally as he did, yet they were being deprived by law and practice of the free exercise of it. The question is, did the Founders set us on a course where the structures of society, as well as the ideals, could work together so that over time, as Lincoln said, we could press into reality that which was true but wasn’t being respected? American political development is a long effort to get people to channel their consent to the equal protection of what we all possess.


Apply for July National Seminar for High School Educators

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) invites you to apply for the 2017 National Seminar for High School Educators on July 16-18 and July 19-21 in Washington, DC.

The 24-hour professional development program is free to middle school and high school educators interested in teaching about the history of communism and its collectivist legacy.

Registration is open to all educators currently teaching at the middle school and high school levels. Lunch is provided all three days; there is a reception on the first evening, and a dinner on the second evening. There is no cost to attend the seminars. Teachers, however, are responsible for their transportation to and accommodations in Washington, DC, and may apply for scholarship support of up to $1,000 to offset travel expenses.

The applications for the program and scholarships are available at the link below. Early registration is encouraged, as remaining spaces are limited.

If you have additional questions, please contact or 202.629.9500.


Coming Summer 2017: American History Toolkits

Beginning in early August, will add a series of American History Toolkits, which are topically-focused collections, each made up of resources from around the site, and organized to provide for easy access to a variety of materials for teachers. Our initial collection is made up of the following topics, which address some of the major eras and issues in American history and government.

  • The American Founding – trace the development of the American Idea of government from the years leading up to the Revolution through George Washington’s terms as president
  • Expansion & Sectionalism– the country grew swiftly during the first half of the 19th Century, and with that growth came opportunities, challenges, and eventually problems that drove the country to turn on itself.
  • Civil War & Reconstruction – 1861-1877, some of the most pivotal in America’s history, as faction tried to tear the country apart, and attempts to build a new sociopolitical order after military victory yielded mixed results.
  • The Progressive Era– more dramatic change, economic and social, motivated Americans to seek equally dramatic political changes, in search of solutions to problems not only new to Americans, but novel in world history.
  • The Great Depression and World War 2– another pair of potentially existential challenges to America and its system of government, addressed and resolved by American means.
  • Civil Rights– MLK and others sought to cash the check written by the Founders, and their work changed the political, economic, legal, and social status of millions of American minorities, all the while bringing America closer to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.

Each Toolkit will include:

  • Guiding Questions for the topic as a whole, with criteria for good answers
  • A curated list of 10 essential documents from our Library
  • WebinarsPodcasts, and YouTube videos
  • Other documents-based resources from around
  • Lesson Plans that complement the documents and other resources

Documents in Detail Webinar Archives has completed the pilot season of Documents in Detail, with five episodes now available in our archives. Teachers, students, and citizens from around the country have downloaded podcasts or watched the YouTube videos from these five episodes a combined total of over 1200 times since January. 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.

We will begin our 17-18 season of Documents in Detail on 30 August, with the Declaration of Independence.

Register for the 2017-18 Season

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.

iTunes podcast YouTube Channel

Podcast Feed (for folks who don’t use iTunes)


Landmark Supreme Court Cases Webinars Archives’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.

iTunes Podcast YouTube Channel

Webinars for 2017-18 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, 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. is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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