Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Teaching the Declaration of Independence

Teaching the Declaration of Independence. This is a decent essay on the history of the Declaration of Independence and ways to teach about it.

From the site:

The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States of America. It is part of the social studies core curriculum in schools throughout the United States. Students, by the time they graduate from high school, are expected to know the main ideas in the Declaration of Independence and their significance in the American heritage. This Digest discusses (1) the origins of the Declaration of Independence, (2) the structure and key ideas of the document, (3) how to teach the document, and (4) World Wide Web sites on the document for teachers and learners.

ORIGINS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

During June and July of 1776, the main question facing the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia revolved around independence: should the American colonies represented at this Congress declare their separation and freedom from the United Kingdom of Great Britain? After intense debate, the delegates voted on July 2, 1776 in favor of Richard Henry Lee's resolution for independence. On July 4, the Congress discussed and approved, with a few changes, the formal Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson on behalf of a five-person committee appointed by Congress (Maier 1997; McClellan 1989).

During July and August 1776, the Declaration of Independence was printed and distributed throughout the newly proclaimed United States of America. Americans recognized immediately that this document expressed widely held ideas about the proper purposes of government and the rights of individuals. George Mason expressed the same ideas about government and rights in similar words in Articles I-III of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was drafted and approved a few weeks before the Declaration of Independence. Many years later Jefferson acknowledged that the Declaration of Independence was "intended to be an expression of the American mind" and not an original or innovative statement (Schechter 1990, 138-145; Spalding 2002, 79).

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