About the Program

Our Presidential Academy for American History and Civics led secondary school teachers in a careful study of the pivotal turning points in American history memorialized by the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the "I Have a Dream" speech. Participating teachers spent five days in Philadelphia, six days in Gettysburg, and six days in Washington, DC, studying the American Revolution and Founding, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement, respectively. The Academy thereby exposed participants to the ideas and arguments that shaped these three great American epochs, the documents that make up our history, and the places where the history was made. During their stay in each of these cities, participants were surrounded by the streets and halls, the battlefields, public places, and private lodgings where the history they were studying took place.

Our study was based on the rich heritage of primary documents from each of these great epochs in American history. The famous words in the three core documents raise, with a distinctively American poetry, the most significant issues of self-government in our constitutional democracy. Many of the texts the teachers read and discuss are speeches and debates from American history that are thought-provoking and inspiring examples of civic participation. By entering into these great debates, participating teachers became better equipped to invite their students to enter the great debates of their time.

The story that links these three pivotal turning points together is the American story. In 1776, proclaiming that all men everywhere possess by nature equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the American founders undertook the historic effort to secure these rights, so far as they thought they could then be secured, to a small group of people at a particular place and time. They were acutely aware of the limits of their ability to secure these rights and of the significance of their effort. When they were able to establish a Constitution, a "more perfect union," they understood full well how far from perfection they remained. It was all the new republic could do in the first century of its existence to keep their experiment in freedom from collapsing in abject failure. Having survived the great crisis of the Civil War, it would take the American people another century to begin to secure the fruits of victory.

Proclaiming at the beginning of their history what Lincoln later called "a standard maxim for free society"—the principle of "liberty to all"—the American people struggled to live up to what Booker T. Washington called the "American standard." Many times they fell beneath it, strayed from it, forgot it, became confused about it, even repudiated it. The civics dimension of our study of these three great epochs of American history will aim to accomplish what Jefferson, Lincoln, and King sought to accomplish in these three famous documents: to re-establish in the "American mind" what Jefferson called "the common sense of the subject," what Lincoln called the American "proposition," and what King called the American "creed." So that, as Lincoln said, it "should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere."

Beginning with three documents, studying in three cities, this Presidential Academy aimed to understand three great turning points in American history. We saw how these key events, infused with fundamental ideas, shaped and continue to shape our national identity, our public institutions, and our public discourse. Participants in this Academy joined in a conversation across time about the most important issues facing America in 1776, 1863, 1963, and today—a conversation participating teachers will be better equipped to continue with their own students.

Presidential Academy 2006. The 2006 Presidential Academy was held from July 16-July 30, 2006 in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC. A list of the 2006 participants is available on-line as well as audio from the 2006 Academy.

Subscribe to the Presidential Academy Podcast and listen to audio from the 2006 Presidential Academy! To get started, all you need is podcasting software, such as iTunes. Once you have downloaded and installed the software, you can subscribe to the TAH podcast. In iTunes, this is done by selecting "Advanced" in the toolbar along the top of the program window and then selecting "Subscribe to Podcast." This will bring up a window with a text box for the podcast's URL. To subscribe to the PA 2006 podcast, simply paste in the following:

Presidential Academy 2007. The 2007 Presidential Academy was held from July 15 to August 2, 2007 in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. A list of the 2007 participants is available on-line.

Presidential Academy 2008. The 2008 Presidential Academy was held from July 13 to July 31, 2008 in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. A list of the 2008 participants is available on-line.

Presidential Academy 2009. The 2009 Presidential Academy was held from July 12 to July 29, 2009 in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. A list of the 2009 participants is available on-line.

Presidential Academy 2010. The 2010 Presidential Academy was held from July 11 to July 29, 2010 in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. A list of the 2010 participants is available on-line.

Participants. Sixty teachers, one from each state, the District of Columbia, an American territory, and eight others selected from the nation as a whole, were selected to participate in the Presidential Academy. Teachers selected were a combination of new and veteran, middle and high school, and American history and civics teachers.

With the exception of travel to and from the Academy and personal purchases, the Presidential Academy was available at no cost to the teachers. Participating teachers received a $1,500 stipend to cover the cost of travel.

Graduate Credit. Teachers could choose to receive four hours of Master's degree credit from Ashland University. This credit can be used toward the Master of American History and Government offered by Ashland University or may be transfered to another institution.

Developing Lesson Plans. One way the Academy helped to improve student achievement in American history and civics was through the creation of model lesson plans. Each participant created two model lesson plans based on the materials studied in the Academy. A Master Teacher worked with the teachers during the Academy to help develop these exemplary lessons. The Master Teacher was present throughout the entire Academy to work with teachers on an individual basis to develop the lessons.

Teachers all used a common template for the lessons—a variation of one used by the National Endowment for the Humanities for their Edsitement web site—and all of the lessons incorporated the use of primary documents. Teachers were required to submit lesson plans within one month following the completion of the Academy.

The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. This Presidential Academy was developed by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, an organization experienced in offering content-based summer institutes for secondary social studies teachers. The Ashbrook Center's mission is to teach the meaning and significance of America.

The largest program at the Ashbrook Center is a series of professional development institutes and seminars for American history teachers. Originally funded by the Commission of the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, the Center first offered these intensive, content-based summer institutes in 1990. The Ashbrook Center has also offered these institutes in collaboration with eighteen school districts in Ohio, West Virginia, South Dakota and North Carolina, under grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher American History Grant Program. Over the past two decades, more than 1600 teachers from all 50 states have participated in the Ashbrook Center's programs.

These intensive institutes encourage history teachers to deepen and broaden their understanding of American history. The programs hosted by the Ashbrook Center always focus on historical topics that social studies teachers need to understand to be well-prepared. Unlike most professional development programs for teachers, which focus almost exclusively on teaching methods, these seminars emphasize substantive themes of American history. Their discussions revolve around primary source documents and their use in the classroom as a way to engage students and increase student achievement.

An important element of the Center's programs is a web site for teachers: TeachingAmericanHistory.org. This user-friendly web site features many interactive tools, including an extensive library of original historical documents, an audio archive of previous Summer Institutes, links to other archives and resources, and special exhibits, including an interactive exhibit on the Constitutional Convention.

At the suggestion of many teachers, the Ashbrook Center has worked with the Department of History and Political Science at Ashland University to create a Master of American History and Government degree program. The academic program and schedule have been designed with junior high and high school teachers in mind. The courses are offered primarily during the summer, a unique feature of this program, making it convenient for teachers from across the nation to enroll. While the program is designed for teachers, the program's coursework is in the substance of history and government rather than in teaching methodology. The program is taught by faculty from colleges and universities nationwide. Additional information about the program is available on-line at: mahg.ashland.edu.

The Ashbrook Center provided a strong and vital institutional home to the Academy with a tradition of emphasizing the importance of American history and civics, complete office support and highly qualified supervisory and organizational capabilities, and extensive experience in providing classroom and on-line resources for American history and civics teachers.

The Presidential Academies for American History and Civics Education Program. Originally introduced in the United States Senate by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the Presidential Academies are a part of the American History and Civics Education Act of 2004. This program supports the establishment of Presidential Academies for the Teaching of American History and Civics that offer workshops for both veteran and new teachers of American history and civics to strengthen their knowledge and preparation for teaching these subjects.

This Academy was administered by the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University as a result of a 2005 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Senator Lamar Alexander announced the grant in this speech (audio of speech) at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in March 2006.

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