Editor’s note to educators:
The American Revolution and the Early Republic is intended as a lecture/discussion-based introduction for young students of approximately ten to fourteen years of age. It was designed to be compatible and comprehensible for fifth through eighth-graders in public school, promising students of younger ages, home-school students, and curious older students (and even adults). Each lesson can be done efficiently in about thirty minutes, but can also be expanded with the encouragement of questions and discussions with students to last about an hour.
The curriculum is written in a direct and concise way that does not pander or overly condescend to younger students and deals with historical aspects of the United States that may be challenging for students who are entirely new to some of the subject matter. Though controversial and provocative material is never presented in excess, the lesson plans do not shy away from important features of American history that students (and even some teachers) may find somewhat difficult. History is a classroom in and of itself, and its role is to present life as it really was in order to better understand both the past and the present.
This suite offers a user-friendly approach for educators. It begins with a slideshow, “American_Revolution_Introductory_Slides,” which acts as a primer for students to begin to understand the world of late eighteenth-century North America. These slides allow students to become familiar with the ideas, occupations, technology, ways of life, and fashions of those who would transform themselves from colonists of British America to citizens of the United States. The curriculum then unfolds simply through twenty lesson plans which consist of two-page word documents for the teacher and brief slideshows to be presented to the students while covering the relevant material. The lesson plans are simply framed and easy to follow, allowing educators to leave room for questions and comments from curious students. Each lesson plan ends with a few quick questions regarding the material covered, or occasionally includes a list of important vocabulary words. One lesson plan also provides for an exercise for students to participate where they are asked to wrestle with questions of representation and democratic fairness, probably for the first time. The curriculum ends the same way it begins, with a slideshow that includes no word document (“Jefferson_Conclusion”). Thomas Jefferson is discussed a number of times throughout the curriculum, but a spotlight of his life and career acts as an appropriate end to this compendium. Jefferson’s role as a slave-owner who penned the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence (that “all men are created equal”) is emblematic of the complex and contradictory history of the United States. Jefferson is the personification of the mixture of these high ideals and moral failings that make up the history of the nation.
The focus of this curriculum is to introduce (or reinforce) historical knowledge of Colonial America, the American Revolution, and the Constitutional era of the early republic. After the introduction slides, the focus soon centers on the events of the French and Indian War and how these events brought the colonies together in a cultural context for the first time in the 1750s. It moves on to the causes and events which drove the American rebellion against the British Crown in the 1760s and 1770s. It concludes with the creation of a new form of constitutional government in the 1780s and early 1790s and reveals how these historical events are relevant to us today.
-James M. Masnov