In the section of History 67 that this portfolio describes there were twenty-three who students finished the course, distributed by class level as follows: eight freshmen, seven sophomores, four juniors, three seniors, and one student for whom such information was not available. The most common majors were education (10), journalism (5), and psychology(3).
History 67 can be a difficult course to teach. Given the nature of its clientele, the instructor must be prepared to overcome some resistance from the students. That the course treats the early rather than the recent history of the United States only makes it that much more important for the instructor to find ways to spark the students' interests. In planning my section of this course for fall 1996 I was acutely conscious of the need to involve the students in the work of the class as early in the semester as possible. Having taught History 67 at Temple's suburban Ambler campus during the preceding fall, I felt very comfortable with the textbook I chose and was able, even on short notice (I was reassigned to this class barely a week before the start of the term), to construct a syllabus that required the studentsto use it to prepare for each class. To that end I built into the syllabus a series of questions drawn from the assigned reading in the text for that week. I also set aside each Friday for the discussion of interpretive articles assigned from a reader chosen for this purpose or distributed to the class as handouts. I asked my Teaching Assistant to take primary responsibility for this part of the course. During the semester he prepared a question sheet for each Friday class that we distributed at the beginning of each Friday's lesson. We then divided the class into subgroups for discussion, and on most occasions reassembled them to report their findings about ten minutes before the end of the hour.
William Cutler Fall, 1996
Mission and MethodThis course will introduce you to the history of the United States from pre colonial times to 1877. It will cover basic facts, concepts, and themes, concentrating on migration, diversity, and individual freedom as special features of the early American experience. It will teach you what it means to study history and why history is an important subject in modern times. At the end of the course students should be able to recognize a historical argument when they see one, be familiar with the most important people, ideas, and events of early American history, and understand their significance for today.
Students in this course will participate actively in their education. They will engage the instructor and each other in classroom discussion and write regularly about what they are studying.
Requirements1) Reading: A textbook and an introductory reader will comprise the common readings for this course. The instructors will also distribute handouts from time to time. Students will be expected to complete the assigned chapter or chapters in the textbook by Monday of each week. Students should come to class on Monday and Wednesday prepared to discuss the text. Handouts and chapters from the introductory reader must be prepared by Friday, and students should come to class on Friday prepared to discuss the text, the assignments in the reader, and any handouts for the week.
2) Short Paper: Each student will read at least one other book chosen from a short list of relevant selections. S/he will write a brief paper (4-6 pages) about it. The paper should summarize the main theme(s) in the book and comment on their importance to our understanding of American history and contemporary affairs. In writing this paper you should ask yourself:
3) Journal: Every student will keep a weekly journal on the class. Entries in the journal are to take one of two forms:
Form One: Students may choose to write in response to one or more of the questions about course themes and content that appear in the Schedule of Classes below. These questions are geared to the material in the textbook, America Past and Present, that will be covered in class that week.
Form Two: Students may choose to write a summary and critique of a chapter assigned in the introductory reader or, when applicable, the handout for the week. In writing such an entry students should answer two or more of the following questions: (1) What is the reading about (2) What is theauthor's thesis or main point? (3) What kinds of materials does the author use to make his/her point? (4) How does the reading speak to us today? Journal entries of this kind may serve as practice for the short paper due in November.
Each journal entry should be about 200-250 words in length (the equivalent of one double-spaced, typewritten page). Journal entries will be due each week on Friday, and the first journal entry will be due on Friday, September 6th. You may not do all your journal entries in the same form. At least five of your fourteen entries must be in one form or the other. In other words, you may not do more than nine journal entries in any one form.
Students are encouraged to connect journal entries to contemporary events. Try to reflect on the relevance of the past for the present in a concluding paragraph. The 1996 presidential campaign should give you ample opportunities to do so.
4) Examinations: There will two examinations, a mid-term on October 21, 1996 and a final examination on a date to be announced.
GRADINGTo pass the course students must complete all of the assignments and attend class regularly. For purposes of grading, assignments will be weighted as follows: general classroom participation, 10%; journal, 20%; written book report, 25%; mid-term examination, 15%; final examination, 30%. Assignments that are handed in late will be marked down one third of a grade for each class meeting. After two weeks (six class meetings), the grade for any late submission will automatically be F.
REQUIRED BOOKSRobert A. Divine, et al. America: Past and Present. Volume One to 1877. Fourth edition.
Leonard Dinnerstein & Kenneth T. Jackson, American Vistas: 1607-1877. Seventh edition.
SELECTED READING FOR SHORT PAPERSJames Axtell, The Invasion from Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. (1986)
Bernard Bailyn, The Origins of American Politics. (1968)
John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Ante-bellum South. (1972)
Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissembaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. (1974)
James C. Curtis, Andrew Jackson and the Search for Vindication. (1976)
John Demos. A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. (1970)
Thomas Dublin, Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860. (1979)
John M. Farragher, Daniel Boone, The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. (1992)
David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride. (1994)
Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. (1970)
Winthrop Jordan, The White Man's Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States. (1974)
James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. (1988)
David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. (1976)
David Rothman, The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic. (1971)
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. (1982)
Back to Portfolio Table of Contents
Special Topic: Is the Past a "Foreign Country"?
Reading: Divine: ch. 1 & 2, 9/9
Dinnerstein & Jackson: ch. 1 & 2, 9/13
Reading: Divine, ch. 3: 9/16
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 3, 4 & 5: 9/20
Reading: Divine, ch. 4: 9/23
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 6 & 7: 9/27
Reading: Divine, ch. 5: 9/30
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 8: 10/4
Reading: Divine, ch. 6: 10/7
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 9 & 10: 10/11
Reading: Divine, ch. 7 & 8: 10/14
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 11: 10/18
10/23-25 Economic Expansion
Reading: Divine ch. 9: 10/23
Dinnerstein & Jackson, no assignment
Reading: Divine, ch. 10: 10/28
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 12: 11/1
Reading: Divine, ch. 11: 11/4
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 13: 11/8
Reading: Divine, ch. 12 & 13: 11/11
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 14 & 15: 11/15
Reading: Divine, ch. 14: 11/18
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 16 & 17: 11/22
Reading: Divine, ch. 15: 11/25
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 18: 11/27
Special Topics: The Republican Party and the South
Reading: Divine, ch. 16: 12/2
Dinnerstein & Jackson, ch. 19: 12/6
Special Assignment: Write a question
for the final examination. The class will review submissions for their
suitability as determined by such criteria as: clarity, scope, relevance,
On Friday, Mr. Wilson returned to the theme of freedom, focusing his teaching on the question in the syllabus about the sources and limits of freedom in the American colonies. He stressed the importance of the regional differences in their approach to religious freedom. For the second week in a row we used breakouts for the first 30 minutes. There was general student involvement in the small groups and a good cross-section of participation in the reconvened class of the whole.
WEEK THREE Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week ThreeDuring Week Three we emphasized two themes in our teaching: freedom and diversity. On Monday I asked the students to interpret the geography of a 17th century New England town for the lessons it might teach about the relationship between the individual and the group in Puritan society. Using overheads that show the nucleated layout of an open field town (e.g. Sudbury and Andover, Mass), I was able to elicit from the students the conclusion that by placing their houses so close together, the Puritans discouraged individual freedom in favor of group conformity. I pointed out that the strong inter-generational relationship between the nuclear household and the extended family contributed to the sense of community. We then examined how and why the residents of nucleated towns dispersed over three or four generations, and we discussed the ramifications of this dispersal for the Puritan concept and practice of community. Using the textbook as our source, we also contrasted New England town and family life with that in the Chesapeake where high rates of mortality and a plantation economy made it more difficult to maintain a sense of community.
On Wednesday I talked about the Puritan concept of covenant to reinforce the conclusion reached on Monday that individual freedom was not valued in 17th century New England society. I also intended my remarks on Puritan social and religious thought to place the Salem witch trials into a historical context. Based on what they had read in the text, the students discussed the meaning of these trials by considering questions that required them to try their hand at historical thinking. Were they the result of a growing economic tension in Salem between the progressive Town and the conservative Village? Did anxiety about change over time express itself as animosity toward women or people who were viewed as outsiders?
The lecture/discussion format of the Monday and Wednesday classes was once again replaced on Friday with discussion. Mr. Wilson distributed a handout that summarized the main conclusions about diversity in each of the week's readings (both text and reader). We asked the five small discussion groups to examine one of the entries on this handout which they did for about twenty minutes. When we reconvened into a class as a whole, we had enough time to consider the first two entries on this handout, focusing on the contest for cultural supremacy in the colonies among the English, the Africans, and the different tribes of Native Americans. The students had no difficulty relating to the concept of cultural identity that we were teaching. There was active participation by all students during the breakouts and about half during the general discussion.
The second class of the week was devoted to a consideration of immigration and internal migration. We looked at how the American people became more diversified in the eighteenth century thanks to the coming of settlers from Scotland, northern Ireland (Scots Irish), Germany, and London. I talked about the institution of indentured servitude that both limited and enhanced opportunity for those willing to assume the risks of trans-Atlantic relocation. As a result of increased geographic mobility, Americans were not only more diverse but also more aware of each other as they broke or at least stretched the bonds of localism. On Friday Mr. Wilson and I tried to tie these strands together by introducing the concept of identity. He pointed out that as Americans from different regions came into contact with each other more and more and as they reshuffled their religious loyalties and associations, it began to become apparent that they had more in common with each other than with those in the mother land.
We used another handout to give the small discussion groups something to focus on, but unlike the week before, we used short questions instead of long quotes on the handout, making it easier to work with. He and I also sat in on two of the four small group discussions that took up the first 25 minutes of class. We plan to rotate among the small groups throughout the rest of the semester. In the small group with which I worked, we discussed the differences between the political cultures in England and America. I wanted them to analyze the concept of a"political culture," and to see how American political culture in the eighteenth century was less deferential and more prone to conflict than that in the mother country because the English system of mixed government made less sense in America. In the colonies the power of the Crown was more abstract than real, and there was no established nobility. The development and recognition of an American political culture strengthened the identification of Americans with each other even as it estranged them from Britain.
In Monday's lecture I used Gary Nash's Urban Crucible as my principal source to explain why Boston was more inclined to revolt than Philadelphia by 1760. In addition, I wanted to introduce the students to the importance of social class as a measure of diversity in American society and as a way to understand political and economic developments in the past. By arguing that between 1690 and 1763 Boston's working men and women experienced far more hardship at the hands of Britain and her colonial representatives than their peers in Philadelphia, I also made a case for understanding the coming of the American Revolution in terms of the differences as well as the similarities among Americans.
The discussion of sovereignty on Wednesday was designed to teach the students about the assumptions shared by British and American subjects on the subject of government in the 18th century and to show how the Americans gradually reached the conclusion that the Crown and Parliament no longer deserved their allegiance. We revisited the concept of virtual representation to see how the British believed the Americans to be part of larger polity in which there was no need to distinguish between minority rights and majority interests. We also looked at the writings of John Locke to understand how the patriots borrowed from English precedent to justify their ultimate decision to break with England.
Because I was not satisfied with the class, I asked the students to write a one minute paper on Wednesday. This feedback revealed that more students than I anticipated were confident that they understood the lesson. But some admitted to being still in the dark, especially on the meaning and significance of sovereignty. In Friday's review Mr. Wilson began by asking the students to define sovereignty (legitimate authority) and explain why the Americans eventually decided that the Crown and Parliament could no longer be considered sovereign in America (because of their unjust, even tyrannical policies after 1765). He also reviewed the idea that Americans were beginning to acknowledge the need to recognize minority rights. He did this by having the students rethink the importance of the Great Awakening and the debate over virtual versus actual representation, both of which suggest the beginnings of a more individualistic world view. Following this question and answer session, we broke into small groups to consider the two questions for the week. In private conversations earlier in the week Mr. Wilson and I decided that we needed to make the questions for the subgroups as simple and direct as possible. Hence the handout we distributed listed only two questions, one from the syllabus and the second written by Mr. Wilson. In the subgroup that I joined we considered the question from the syllabus which read: Did the Americans consider themselves to be revolutionaries? The students came up with the thought that the Americans were really "reluctant revolutionaries" because they wanted to work within the British political system and decided in favor of independence only when it became apparent that they could not do so.
I developed these themes in class by discussing the ideology of utopian republicanism that, according to Gordon Wood, shaped the first generation of state constitutions written between 1776 and 1780. I was particularly interested in teaching the students that this ideology emphasized a communal rather than an individualistic or interest group concept of government. I did this by explaining how most states gave more power to legislatures or assemblies and less to governors in their first constitutions. I also pointed out that the writers of these first state constitutions did not believe that the people (i.e. the majority) could be just as "tyrannical" as the King. However, when they discovered their mistake, they revised their thinking in the second generation of state constitutions, restoring some balance to governmental design. This lesson led us to consider how Americans replaced mixed government by the idea of checks and balances and how a concept of popular sovereignty was a prerequisite for the separation of powers. To show that Americans now invested sovereignty in the people, I pointed out that they relied on constitutional conventions ("the people out-of-doors") to establish their new governments. I taught these classes via a combination of lecture and discussion (mainly question and answer). I asked Mr. Wilson to review the main points in class on Friday when I would attending the Oral History Association's convention.
WEEK SEVEN Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week SevenThe themes of freedom and diversity were incorporated into the first two classes this week through a consideration of American politics in the 1790s. I wanted the students to learn how and why a competitive political environment emerged in the new nation, leading to the formation of two political parties, the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans. We began by identifying the organizational features that distinguish parties from factions such as having a recognizable ideology and a broad base of support. The students also learned that political parties perform certain functions (e.g. nominating candidates or managing the government if elected) and must have a structure or bureaucracy to survive. I argued that for political parties to form in the United States Americans had to become aware of the differences among them, a realization that the Constitution and the new federal government help to develop. By the same token, I pointed out that Americans in the 1790s were suspicious of diversity, fearing that those who didn't see the world just as they did were a threat to political stability. In other words, at this stage in American political history there was no concept of the "loyal opposition."
On Monday and Wednesday I quizzed the students about the different political philosophies of Hamilton and Jefferson. They had read the textbook just carefully enough to come up with the observation that Hamilton favored a stronger central government than Jefferson, a point that we fleshed out by contrasting their views on the role of the federal government in the economy (e.g. assumption of the state debts and funding the debt at par). We also discussed Hamilton's and Jefferson's feelings about relations with Britain and France. This discussion centered around a question on the syllabus that asked the students to explain the role of these two nations in American domestic and foreign policy in the 1790s (e.g. Jay's Treaty and the Alien and Sedition Acts) . Running through both these lessons was the idea that in the new republic there was an ongoing debate about the ramifications of political independence and economic growth for civic virtue and individual freedom. America was moving further and further away from its communal past toward a nation that would value economic self-interest and practice capitalism. In anticipation of the preliminary examination scheduled for the following next Monday, Friday's class was devoted to a reconsideration of the three basic themes of the course: freedom, diversity, and migration. We divided the class into three subgroups and assigned one of the themes to each. In the subgroup with which I worked, the students rediscovered the most important measures and sources of diversity in colonial America (religion, region, class, race, and ethnicity) and tried to assess the significance of each. Mr. Wilson's group talked about the growth of individual freedom in the 18th century, looking in particular once again at the Great Awakening. We also made a special effort to give each subgroup a chance to report on their findings in the last two minutes of class. The students seem to find this task daunting because it requires some of them to speak for others, a task which may be difficult because they are so accustomed to being treated as individuals. They are not bad reporters but they resist doing more than just giving an account of what went on.
WEEK EIGHT Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week EightWeek eight began with a mid-term examination, the purpose of which was to determine how much the students are learning from their journal writing and how well they could manipulate the major course themes. The results were not very reassuring. Taken directly from the syllabus, the four questions in Part I were among those most often answered by students in their journals, and while most have managed to deal with such questions fairly well in their journals, they had much more trouble with them on the exam. For example, about half chose to answer the question that asked if history was just about dates and facts; many responded by saying that it was much more than that, but they had difficulty explaining why. Only one or two said that history was about continuity and change over time, and even though most understood that historians interpret the past, they seemed largely unaware that interpretations also change over time. In Part II the students were asked a question that required them to apply one or more of the three course themes to a quote from the textbook about the Great Awakening. Most recognized that freedom and diversity were more important to understanding the Great Awakening than migration, but once again the vast majority could not explain why. They need more practice at interpretation.
After the mid term I began a short segment on economic expansion. On Wednesday I asked the students to consider how the transportation revolution before the Civil War encouraged the development of a market economy in the United States and how this affected women, blacks, immigrants, and native Americans differentially. The point of the lesson was to explore the relationship between the rise of American capitalism and the uneven course of personal freedom. An essay about the Dartmouth College case from the Dinnerstein and Jackson reader formed the basis for Friday's discussions. It was the purpose of this lesson to show how important education was becoming to economic growth and how the incipient distinction between public and private corporations was important for American social and economic institutions. In an increasingly heterogeneous and open society distinguishing between public and private was not so much a matter of choice as necessity.
We then turned to an examination of the degree to which Jacksonian politics can best be understood as an exercise in opportunism or a contest between meaningful alternatives for American society. Historians have long debated whether the new political parties that emerged in the 1830s were more alike than different, and we took up this question by looking at their attitudes about the role of government in the life of the nation. To get this discussion started I asked the students to come prepared on Wednesday to say what was important about the presidential elections of 1824 and 1828. I used these elections to show how and why the Democratic Party emerged in the 1820s and as a lead-in to a discussion of John C. Calhoun and his support for states-rights and nullification. On Wednesday it quickly became apparent that the students knew the facts about the two elections far better than they understood the meaning and significance of nullification. To give them a better grasp of the similarities and differences among the political parties in the Age of Jackson, we divided the class into two discussion groups on Friday and asked one to think about the Whig position on government involvement and the other to work on the Democrats' views about the same question. We also decided to split the class into only two groups because in response to a questionnaire about the strengths and weaknesses of the course to date that we asked the students to complete on October 28th, some said that the Friday discussion groups worked best when one of the instructors was participating. In general, the students reported that they liked the class, both the lectures and discussions, but that they wanted the two teachers to provide leadership in the small groups, making certain to keep them focused and to involve everyone.
On Friday, the class broke into two groups and discussed the essay in Dinnerstein and Jackson by Thomas Dublin on the women who worked in the Lowell textile mills as well as the larger question of personal freedom in ante-bellum reform. In my group there was a lively conversation about the relationship between freedom and order. At what point, we asked ourselves, does individual freedom become license? When do group norms become oppressive? The essay by Dublin led us to consider how the solidarity of the women workers in Lowell enabled them to have more control over their own destiny than would have been the case had each acted on her own.
WEEK ELEVEN Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week ElevenWork this week began with a class devoted to the origins of the Mormons. I chose to feature them because their early history exemplifies all three themes in the course: freedom, diversity, and migration. In my lecture and through the questions that I posed to the students during my presentation I emphasized the geographical mobility of the Mormons, an important part of their early history that was in part forced on them. Their distinctive ways prompted disapproval by their neighbors and ultimately induced them to isolate themselves in a remote desert kingdom. One point of the class was to demonstrate that in the United States there were (and are) limits to the practice of religious freedom. In the Reynolds case that was argued in the 1840s the Supreme Court ultimately decided that religious freedom (i.e. polygamy) cannot violate general community standards. In the class I also pointed out some of the dualisms in Mormon thought and institutions that arose from their belief in individual perfectibility and their practice of group cohesion. For example, the Mormons acknowledged the free will of the individual while accepting at the same time the idea of spiritual equality.
On Wednesday I moved the class on to a consideration of the ideology of Manifest Destiny. We defined it and then examined its meaning for the economic and political life of the nation. Central to this discussion were the Oregon and Texas questions. I used an overhead of the disputed territory in the northwest to facilitate a consideration of the role of Manifest Destiny in American foreign relations. We then turned to the story of Texas's annexation. I asked the class to explain why the United States ultimately chose not to absorb all of Mexico after the Mexican-American War which led us to look at the relationship between Manifest Destiny and racism. As one student pointed out, the United States decided that it would not be easy to assimilate the Mexican nation. This led us in turn to look at the role of slavery in westward expansion. I showed an overhead which illustrates the migration of slavery south and west between 1820 and 1860, a movement that was driven by the concomitant spread of cotton cultivation.
In our breakout discussions on Friday we used the text's treatment of slave institutions (e.g. religion and the family) and an essay in the Dinnerestein Jackson reader on the Florida slave codes to examine the extent to which slavery dehumanized its victims. One group focused on the fact that the codes limited the freedom of masters as well as slaves while the other considered how the codes recognized the reciprocity involved in slave master relations.
WEEK TWELVE Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week TwelveOur examination of the politics of slavery began with a look at the two great compromises of 1820 and 1850. Using overheads to illustrate the geographic terms and political ramifications of these deals, I asked the class to describe the details of the two compromises and explain their meaning. The students managed to come up with most of the particulars for the Compromise of 1820 but they were much less knowledgeable about the Compromise of 1850. At the end of class on Monday I asked them to come on Wednesday prepared to say what the South got out of the Compromise of 1850 in exchange for its concessions on the admission of California as a free state and the use of popular sovereignty on the slave question in the New Mexico and Utah territories. What I had in mind, of course, was the Fugitive Slave Law that Congress enacted in 1850. In teaching the course theme of freedom I also tried to show how the Democratic Party, beginning in the 1830s, tried to finesse the issue of slavery in order to develop and maintain a national constituency. I wanted the class to understand that in American politics values like freedom sometimes get sacrificed to political expediency.
On Wednesday the class did not come prepared to discuss the Fugitive Slave Law and had to be educated about its role in the Compromise of 1850. In my presentation I used this law as a segue between the work of the abolitionists before 1850 and the events (Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott decision, and election of 1860) that carried the nation to war between 1850 and 1861. In speaking about the abolitionists I concentrated on the difference between reformers like William Lloyd Garrison who tried to bring about the demise of slavery by characterizing its practice as a sin and those like James Birney who believed that the problem of slavery required a political solution. This distinction is important to the course theme of freedom because it shows how even the abolitionists differed when it came to deciding whether the slave holders should be persuaded or forced to abandon the peculiar institution.
The Friday discussion focused on the 1850s and asked the students to consider why the differences that would eventually lead to war came to a head in the 1850s. After thirty years of keeping the lid on the slavery question, why were Americans no longer able to do so in the 1850s? This is a sophisticated historical question that gave the students trouble. Most had not identified one explanation offered by the text that the collapse of the Whig party and the old two party system opened the door to regional parties (e.g. the Republicans) and inter-sectional confrontation. But some students were prepared to defend the text's other argument that cultural differences between the north and south could no longer be ignored by the 1850s. The students also had before them a variation on this interpretation in an article by Paul Finkelman about slaves in Illinois that was assigned for the week in the course reader. It demonstrates how jurists and legislators in Illinois began to disagree in the 1850s about the status of fugitive slaves and slaves brought by their masters to Illinois from slave states. In a swing state like Illinois legislators were unwilling to jeopardize their careers by taking a controversial stand but jurists were no longer willing to tolerate the kidnapping of blacks or slave ownership even by masters who were only visiting.
WEEK THIRTEEN Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week ThirteenWith only two classes this week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I tried to focus the students' attention on the political problem of slavery by returning to the question posed on Friday about the timing of the sectional crisis and the coming of the Civil War. In my presentation on Monday I argued that the 1850s was a pivotal decade because the Whigs and the Democrats could no longer accommodate the growing intensity and diversity of opinion on the subject of slavery's westward expansion. I made this point by talking about the political groups that came together during the decade to form the Republican Party and by asking the students to identify the border states that played such an important role both before and during the "War of the Rebellion." Once the students had named those states, I asked them to tell me about their role in the war and the Emancipation Proclamation. Most were not aware that the Lincoln did not include the border states in his order freeing the slaves.
On Wednesday Mr. Wilson showed selected sections of the Ken Burns' film The Civil War as a prelude to a discussion of what the term "total war" means. We wanted to get the students thinking about the tragedy of the Civil War as military event and as a prelude to a consideration of the long term impact of the war due to the successes and failures of Reconstruction. What did the war and its aftermath mean for equality of opportunity in the United States over the long term?
WEEK FOURTEEN Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week FourteenReconstruction was the topic for Week Fourteen, and my main objective in Monday's class was to make three generalizations about Reconstruction, all of which spoke to the course themes of freedom and diversity. First, I argued for the centrality to Reconstruction of African Americans. Reconstruction was all about trying to integrate them into American society and offer them opportunities comparable to those available to the white man. Second, I argued that race and class were interdependent in Reconstruction because equal opportunity for blacks was intimately tied to their economic situation. Finally, I argued that the federal government expanded its power over American life during Reconstruction, thereby transforming the relationship between the states and the national government and changing the meaning of American freedom.
On Monday the class also began to examine the major civil rights acts and constitutional amendments adopted during Reconstruction. We looked in particular at the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1866 and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Based on this overview we proceeded on Wednesday to look in depth at the Fourteenth Amendment both as a watershed in constitutional history and as a reflection of its times. I emphasized the long term importance to civil rights of Section One by which states were prohibited from denying citizens due process and equal protection of the laws. We considered how Section Two forced the southern states to accept either reduced representation in Congress or offer the suffrage to black male citizens. This class emphasized in particular the paradox of forcing "freedom" on the South and the problems associated with reconciling freedom and diversity in American society. In Friday's discussion I picked up on this theme by asking the class toconsider whether the South lost the Civil War but "won" Reconstruction. One student said that the South had indeed won Reconstruction because despite the best efforts of the radicals in Congress power relationships in the South did not change while others said that the South lost because the war not only brought an end to slavery but also cost the South many of its men and much of its property.
WEEK FIFTEEN Back to the Schedule of Classes, Week FifteenAt the end of Week Fourteen I asked the students to prepare questions for the final examination that they were to bring to class this week. These questions would form the basis of class discussion. My objective in making this assignment was to encourage the students to begin studying for the final assoon as possible. In addition, I wanted spend some time in class reinforcing the idea that history is not about memorizing facts but about making meaning. That many of the students had learned this lesson is apparent from the questions they wrote, many of which appear in Appendix D.
The final grade distribution in the course was five F's, five C's, fourteen B's, and four A's. Among the B's, there were six B-'s, four B's, and four B+s. This preponderance of B's is interesting and worth a comment. Perhaps the moderate size of the class accounts for this skewed distribution, but I think it resulted from giving the students many different ways to show what they could do. Those who excelled on exams generally did well in every aspect of the course. Four of the seven who received A's on the final exam received A's for the course. But there were many students who did better on some assignments than others. For example, seven received at least one grade at three different levels (A, B, C, or D). Four students achieved a B- or better in the course because they offset low grades on exams by doing well on their journals.
Finally, the students took well to the structure that the three themes of the course provided. They used them in writing their journal entries and their book reports. For evidence of this, see Appendix D. However, the best indication that these themes helped them to organize their thinking is to be found in the final examination questions that they wrote many of which were built around one or more of these themes, and in their answers to Part II of the final examination (see Appendix E).