Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Government: What I Taught

My section of summer government dealt with primary sources: reading them and interpreting them.

This is the same the same thing I did last year, but with some tweaks.

Last year we FLEW.  I wanted to hit as many of "the greats" as possible: The Magna Carta, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, Federalist 10, Federalist 58, Bill of Rights, Gettysburg Address...

I also wanted to show that there was so much more out there: truly riveting reads - for instance, a letter from General Pickett to La Salle Corbell, where Pickett is coming to grips with the thousands of death's he is responsible for:

"Even now I can hear them cheering as I gave the order, “Forward”!  I can feel their faith and trust in me and their love for our cause.  I can feel the thrill of their joyous voices as they called out all along the line, “We’ll follow you, Marse George.  We’ll follow you – we’ll follow you.”  Oh, how faithfully they kept their word – following me on – on – to their deaths, and I, believing in the promised support, led them on – on – on – Oh, God!"

The class went well, and I was glad to be able to introduce the students to so much.

I gave a survey at the end, though and a respectable number said they wished they could have spent more time focusing on "the greats," as we moved so quickly over them, some students still weren't sure what was in them.

So THIS year, that's where we stayed.

We started by reading 1 Sam. 8 and moved to the Magna Carta.

In 1 Sam. 8, the Israelites are warned about what will happen when they get a king.  The king will take their children, their crops, their cattle, their donkeys...  It was truly a "hide your wife, hide your kids" moment.  ...Because the king was coming for everybody.

So, we had a king with unlimited power.  For our next reading, we moved to the Magna Carta - which limited the King's power.  Good news of the day?  The Magna Carta's 800th Birthday came the week after we read it.

Spoiler alert: We had a party.

800* Donuts.  Happy Birthday, Magna Carta!!!

Students Brought in Cake and Other Dishes

A Good Time Had By Almost All

And by party, I mean we had snacks before the day started.  Still: Success.

After the Magna Carta, we read The Declaration of Independence.

For those of you following along, here's the narrative structure:

  1. The King will be (and was) bad.
  2. Limit the power of the king.
  3. Get rid of the king entirely.

We then went back and read Patrick Henry's famous, "Liberty or Death" speech (AKA "The War Inevitable.")  It's true this is a little out of order now, but what can you do?  It is a fine piece of speechifying.  Perhaps the finest.  (I love that in the opening paragraph, Henry doesn't vilify those who disagree with him.)

We skipped the Articles of Confederation, and moved on to the Constitution.  And here, we buckled down.  I should add that this year, I tried out Google Classrooms.  For this assignment, students commented on/ summed up every clause of every section of each of the articles of the Constitution.  All online.  They turned in work that looked something like this:

Constitution Commentary: Student #1**

I read through all of them.  They averaged about 9 pages.  There were 120? 130? of them.  #GoMe.

When they were finished, I passed them back with my comments, and recommendations.  It looked something like this:

Constitution Commentary: Student #2***

Before students received credit, they went through and addressed all the comments I made.  ...And I made comments, believe you me.

We spent a goodly amount of time on the Constitution.  ...I mean... It is the basis of our government.

After that, we moved on to The Gettysburg Address and read some of the writings of William Lloyd Garrison.  There was a controversy over the Confederate Flag, (please, no history lessons about the Battle Flag, etc...  We all know the flag I'm talking about, right?) so that took up a little time as well, as we looked at the reasons Mississippi gave for secession, and the reasons South Carolina gave for secession.

And we did a math problem: Subtract four score and seven from 1863.

My section didn't cover the judicial branch*+, but as much of the argument in Roe v. Wade hinges on when life starts, the Civil War/ Declarations of Secession/ Gettysburg Address hinges on when our nation was conceived or born - when life started.

(Take this line for instance: "...a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal..."  Lincoln's Gettysburg Address goes back Four Score and Seven Years... to the Declaration of Independence - not just to the Constitution.

Yet, we celebrate our first president as George Washington - who became president in 1789 - and not John Hanson, who was president in 1781.  ...But we recognize the birth of the nation as July 4th, 1776, even though the inappropriately named "War of 1812" was really The Revolutionary War Part II.)

At any rate, the next to the last full day, we had a guest speaker - State Representative Timothy Wesco - come in and address the class.  He spoke about the legislative process, the difference between Indiana's Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, as well as other topics the students grilled him on.  It went really well, and was very informative.

The last full day we debriefed about the visit, and studied for the final.

...And that was it.

This was as much for me as it was for you.  I hope you found it helpful.

*If there were only 260 donuts, the world will never know, right?  
**I hope you read that as "Student Hashtag 1."
***Similarly, I hope you read that as Student Hashtag 2.
*+It was covered though, don't you worry.  Every day students had 4 one hour sections.  My section lasted an hour.  Another teacher focused on the Judicial Branch.