Foundations of American Democracy

Brutus I- In the Trenches

As I’ve started to work through the redesign, as we all have, I’ve noticed how document heavy the first unit is. I warned my students this week that it was Document Week {like Shark Week but less scary… and with donuts}. We are hitting the trifecta of Brutus I, Fed 10, and Fed 51.

Today is Brutus I. To be fair, I’m still working my way through this document. I have not spend as much time on the Anti-Federalists as I have the Federalist papers. I worried about giving this whole thing to my students. Once again, I was wrong. My students continually surprise me.

Prior to this, students have had their knowledge from APUSH or US History. I show them a quick graphic on the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist the day before in their notes on ratification.

We looked at Brutus_No_1. (From the Bill of Rights Institute)

It looks scary at 11 pages, but there are annotations which take up half the page. I gave the students a quick reading at the beginning of class (15 minutes) from their textbook so they have a solid background on the Anti Federalist point of view. (I used the high school We the People books, pages 92-96 because of it’s sole focus on the Anti-Federalist. I also have the 2016 Presidential Election Edwards book. That’s a quick read on page 44-45)

Students worked in groups using Brutus I and guiding questions (from Bill of Rights):

  • Which form of government (a large national republic or a confederation of small republics) is more likely to preserve and protect personal liberties and why?
  • Can a larger republic, based on the principle of consent of the governed, sufficiently protect the rights and liberties of the individual states and people, or is a confederation the only method of securing such liberty?
  • Should the federal legislature be able to repeal state laws in order to impose federal laws for the purpose of promoting the general welfare or common defense of the nation? If so, why? If not, why?
  • Brutus argues that in a republic, “the manners, sentiments, and interests of the people should be similar…if not, there will be a constant clashing of opinions and the representatives of one part will be constantly striving against the other.” Should a republic be made up of a small group of like-minded people? Or, is diversity of opinion beneficial to the success of a federal government?

I wanted them to do this in class so that they could have classmates to discuss with, and to also have the content expert (me… most days) to help guide them through it. For my students, giving this to them to take home would not have the same value as working in groups in class.

Having annotations already helped the students to further annotate and dig deeper into the document.

A few tips:

  1. Have the students preview the questions before they start to dig into the document.
  2. We had a 56 minute class period. I gave the remainder of it for homework with the caveat that any questions need to come back to class tomorrow. I want a firm understanding of what Brutus was getting at before we move on to Madison.
  3. I’ve already modeled how to annotate at this point with the Declaration of Independence, so they know what I expect from them as opposed to just highlighting the entire document. Here are my annotations that I go over for Declaration of Independence.
  4. I let my students know in advanced that this document was challenging and that we would work though it together. I don’t want my students to think that I expect them to know absolutely everything.
  5. In 2016, I attended the Founder’s Fellowship sponsored by the Bill of Rights on Liberty and the Constitution:Federalists and Anti-Federalists which allowed me to go over the documents. Teaching American History had one this year on The American Founding, which went over the Declaration, Federalist 10, and Federalist 51. They have a good stash on the Anti-Federalists. 
  6. Do your homework too. This was the first time {yikes} that I really dove into this document.

For the next day, we dove right into Federalist 10 to see Madison’s response. I’ve stressed that I want them to see the connections between Locke, the Declaration, Brutus, and Fed 10 because that will be a part of their Unit assessment.

 

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