Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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“Summer Camp for History Teachers”: Weeklong Intensive Courses on America

The tenth annual summer session of the Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) will open on June 22. Affectionately called “summer camp for history teachers” by many in the program, the residence option of MAHG allows secondary school social studies teachers to earn credit toward a Masters degree in each week of intensive study. Courses examine America’s history and political institutions through the window of original historical documents.

During the four weeks of the summer program, faculty from a range of American universities will lead thirteen courses. These include core courses on major historical eras, such as a course on the Founding led by Ashland University professor Christopher Burkett and featuring guest sessions by Gordon Lloyd, Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. With the help of the Ashbrook Center, Lloyd created four interactive websites on the Founding, including a comprehensive exploration of the Constitutional Convention that receives more visits than any other website on this subject.

Three “Great Texts” courses will cover major works on America and its politics: The Federalist, written during the ratification debate over our Constitution (this section is taught online); Democracy in America, a French observer’s account of our early republic; and the collected writings of Abraham Lincoln. Themed courses will include a new course on three American statesmen—Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Ronald Reagan—taught by two Reagan biographers, Steven Hayward and Stephen Knott.

Another new course, “The West and America,” will examine the history of the western United States from the frontier days to the present. One part of the course will cover the Indian Wars, weaving together two narratives we tend to view separately—the story of our Civil War and the story of how the western lands were claimed by an expanding American population. Other sessions will explore the role of the West in the industrialization of America, in generating reform movements such as women’s suffrage and direct democracy, and in presaging coming political conflicts between American political movements on the left and the right.

David Wrobel, Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, and Gregory Schneider, Professor of History at Emporia State University, will teach the course. Wrobel has authored three books on the American West, most recently Global West, American Frontier: Travel, Empire, and Exceptionalism, from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression (2013). Schneider has written and edited books on the history of the conservative movement as well as a study of the rise and demise of a major railway company: Rock Island Requiem: The Collapse of a Mighty Fine Line (University Press of Kansas, 2013).

John Moser of Ashland University and Dan Monroe of Millikin University will offer the core course “Sectionalism and the Civil War” in a novel classroom format. The course covers the national debate from 1820 to 1860 between those who would permit slavery to expand westward as the nation expanded and those who would limit or abolish it—a debate that climaxed in our Civil War after Southern states tried to secede from the union. As they examine primary documents in this debate, each student will assume the role of a member of the Kentucky legislature of 1861 as it deliberated whether to stay in or secede from the Union. Students will make speeches and write newspaper editorials in the voice of the historical characters they portray, while competing in teams to sway the final vote for or against secession. Like the study of original documents, role-playing exercises help students understand the past as experienced by those who lived through it.

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