Last night, I had a great idea to do a review for the 4th of July on my favorite history books. Books that were easy to read and really informative. I would still like to suggest that you read through Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. It is a great book and easy to read. Although I would like to point out that when I have taught history I never lied to my students. The textbook and curriculum were other stories. Whole sections of history were just skipped over and while others were only just skimmed over.
But one thing that really helped my students this year was when we read the Declaration of Independence in English class. Students were all familiar with the preamble which they have read over and over again, but none of them had really examined it.
The Declaration of Independence
The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
The whole text can be found at www.monticello.org among other places or you can have it read to you at NPR.org (my favorite) If you do read the whole thing, read it like it is a Dear John letter addressed to the King of England. It really helped my students (and me) delve deeper into it.