Ashbrook’s MAHG Program: The Choice for Madison Fellows

December 24, 2020

An elite group of dedicated history teachers have become enthusiastic recruiters for Ashbrook’s Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) program. They have won fellowships for master’s study from the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. Created by Congress in 1986, the Foundation awards 50 to 60 fellowships per year—usually one per state—to teachers committed to teaching Constitutional principles in their classrooms.

Since the MAHG program began in 2005, 45 Madison Fellows have earned degrees in Ashbrook’s program. Another 85 are currently enrolled. The goal of the Madison Foundation, to help teachers transmit to their students “the spirit and practical wisdom of the Constitution” so that these might “guide the actions of future generations of American citizens,” align with Ashbrook’s mission. Fellows spend a summer month in Washington, DC, taking an intensive lecture-based course at Georgetown University on “the principles, framing, ratification, and implementation of constitutional government in the United States.” They must extend this study through courses on the development of American constitutional government since the Founding.

Competition for the $24,000 grants is intense. Winners must then find a practical program of study. Few teachers can afford to take leave from work. Reviewing evening programs at local institutions, teachers find few that cover the full range of American history, and fewer still that offer history along with Constitutional study, considered the domain of political science departments.

Madison Fellows who have started master’s programs elsewhere often learn about Ashbrook’s program when they attend the Madison summer institute in the second year of their award. They learn of its summer residential program and online courses throughout the year, all taught by excellent faculty drawn from history and political science programs across the country. They discover course offerings covering American history from the colonial period to the present, American political institutions, and great texts in American political thought

Many Madison Fellows have transferred into Ashbrook’s program after getting this news. Steve Hansen, who teaches at Winter Park High School in Orange County, Florida, transferred from a local program where “20th Century American History,” he’d found, might only cover the instructor’s specialty: sports culture. Ashbrook’s program is far more serious, Hansen said. “I’m taking the Progressive Era course now, and it contrasts the principles of the Constitution to those of the Progressives.” Cathy Alderman, a Madison Fellow who teaches at Anderson New Tech High School in northern California, added, “You can’t leave the MAHG program without being grounded several times over in Constitutional studies.” Alderman herself wrote a capstone project on the evolution of the Commerce clause. So far, at least half of the 50 theses and capstone projects submitted for the MAHG degree have focused on issues pertaining to the Constitution.

Today many Madison Fellows state an intention to study with Ashbrook when they apply for the grant. They value the conversation about primary documents that characterizes even online classes (the latter use an interactive webinar technology). Trish Everett, another Madison Fellow from Florida, sought “a program that would allow me to discuss, debate, interact with others. It’s social studies, after all—social’s right in the name!” During the school year she “really looked forward to that Tuesday night from 6:30 to 9 pm when I could kick ideas around with others. On Wednesdays I’d come into my classroom babbling excitedly about what I’d just learned. The program kept me at a heightened level of enthusiasm, which was good for my students to see.”

Highly motivated teachers like these Madison Fellows are working with Ashbrook to revive Americans’ understanding of our Constitutional system, the foundation of our enduring democracy.