“By any measurable standard, we are failing to teach civic knowledge to the next generation,” writes Robyn Verbois, a teacher of American history and government at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her capstone project for Ashbrook’s Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) proposes to correct this failure by teaching the American Founding.
The design of the Ashbrook’s MAHG program for social studies teachers supports this approach to teaching civics, Verbois says, with its core curriculum beginning in America’s Revolution and the process by which we arrived at our Constitution. Teachers need help in presenting this period, which standard textbooks often slight. “Many gloss over” the Founding “in a page or two and then jump into ‘Your Rights and Liberties,’ as though these appeared out of thin air.”
Ashbrook’s Masters program helps teachers rely less on textbooks and more on original historical documents. Verbois’ plan for teaching the Founding entails a careful reading of the Declaration and Constitution. These founding documents use some language that is unfamiliar in our day, and Verbois’ lesson plans include a long a list of vocabulary words students must look up and define. Yet her approach helps students discover that the documents address the problems democracies always face.