Words Aptly Spoken: American Documents 2nd Edition
Wholly unlike the other study guides in this collection, American Documents studies the history of American government through the lens of the documents that shaped her. The book opens with a chronological list of U.S. presidents and vice-presidents, with their portraits. There are seventeen speeches by famous statesmen such as Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln; poetry adds to the historical record with the accounts of Pocahontas by William Thackeray, Valley Forge by Thomas Read, the Battle of the Alamo by Joaquin Miller, and Panama by James Roche, to name a few. Essays include two of the Federalist Papers by founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison; and finally, the legal documents that evolved the U.S. national government, boundaries, and rights of her citizens are reproduced. All forty-three selections include questions for review and further thought to aid Challenge I students, as well as illustrations and photographs culled from the U.S. Library of Congress to further enhance the historical record.
The newly revised Words Aptly Spoken*: American Documents will serve as an excellent resource to supplement your Cycle 3 American history studies. In Challenge I, WAS: American Documents serves as aspine for the American government class so that students are exposed to the original documents that have framed and informed our nation. This well-rounded resource can be used in three ways with Foundations students: as a reference book for parents and students; as a resource for presentations; and as a means to inspire heroism and patriotism in our children.
Parents and students can use the materials in WAS: American Documents as a supplement to the Foundations Cycle 3 memory work. The first section contains pictures of the presidents and their vice presidents and the dates of their terms. The book also includes the Preamble to the Constitution, a list of the seven Articles of the Constitution, and the complete text of all twenty-seven Amendments to the Constitution. All of these can be used at home to reinforce the memory work.
There is much value to reading the original documents of American history as opposed to just reading about these documents. During week two of Cycle 3, try reading the Mayflower Compact aloud as a family to start a conversation about the Pilgrims and their plan to form an orderly society in the New World. Parents and older students can also read the complete texts of the Missouri Compromise (week eight), the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dred Scott decision (week nine) and the Brown v. Board of Education ruling (week twenty) as a means of delving into issues of slavery and civil rights.
In the classical, Christian model of education, students progress from knowledge (grammar), to understanding (dialectic), to wisdom (rhetoric). In the classical sense, rhetoric is defined as finding the means of persuasion best suited to the audience and situation. The speeches in WAS: American Documents provide the best examples of American rhetoric—speeches which stirred patriots to form a new nation, healed a fracturedpeople, honored the sacrifices of fallen soldiers, and roused a citizenry to action. All American schoolchildren should be exposed to these historic words . When grammar students hear, memorize, and recite the passionate appeals of American leaders, they are being prepared to become great leaders themselves—leaders who will be able to persuade others with their own excellent words.
Foundations students can begin by memorizing short American speeches and documents or excerpts from longer pieces. Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech makes an excellent presentation. Students will enjoy treating their classmates to this fiery oration. Who could fail to be moved by his words?
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!”
-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps
from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren
are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish?
What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at
the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course
others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
Take the opportunity to use Patrick Henry’s speech during week four as a discussion of the rising desire for liberty that resulted from the Continental Congresses.
Every American student should know the poignant words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address , words which reminded a divided America of the importance of unity and offered prayers for the fallen soldiers: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” When students inscribe these words in their hearts and minds, they will possess powerful reminders of the distinctive ideals that set America apart from the rest of the world.
Students should also be familiar with the words of FDR’s “Pearl Harbor Address:” “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” They can read and memorize this speech in conjunction with the week eighteen history song . Finally, expose students to the famous words of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address:
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-
ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but
what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of
us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With
a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our
deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
Finally, families can use the poetry in WAS: American Documents as an antidote to the flatness of revisionist history which tends to destroy the reputations of the Founding Fathers and other American heroes . In contrast, we must inspire our grammar stage students with the amazing and heroic deeds of Americans from previous generations. Students can thrill their classmates by reciting the thrilling adventure of Pocahontas and John Smith as recorded in Thackeray’s poem “Pocahontas.” The repeated refrain of “Five Kernels of Corn” makes this poem easy to memorize and gives children an appreciation for the sacrifices of those who forged a way in the New World. Boys will delight in recounting the life of Nathan Hale, a Revolutionary War spy hanged by the British. Or, they may relish reciting the last moments of the “Defense of the Alamo.” Enrich your child’s understanding of immigration to America (week sixteen) with the moving words of Emma Lazarus “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”
Recreate the past for your children as you read, reflect, and recite!