A Lesson in Our Republic

This is my first “official” post as a contributor to the Doing Social Studies blog.  As I type it, I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana.  But a block from where I am sitting, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in February, 1861 on his way to the White House.  A nice historical marker gives the location of the speech and quotes a line from the speech which I would like to share with you.

In all trying positions in which I shall be placed, and, doubtless, I shall be placed in many such, my reliance will be placed upon you and the people of the United States; and I wish you to remember, now and forever, that it is your business, and not mine; that if the union of these States, and the liberties of this people shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of 52 years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming time. It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union, and liberty for yourselves, and not for me.

What an amazing defense of what we do in teaching the social studies.  It truly is the role of the people to rise up and preserve the Union for all.  It is our job to put students in a position to understand that there is a role for them to play both during these formative years, but also throughout their life as citizens of this country.  President Lincoln was correct at the time of his speech and it echoes true today that citizens have to be active citizens, regardless of their political leanings.  We are to teach activeness and engagement as citizens of our republic, to promote a dialogue, and most importantly, have our students be participants in our republic.

The conference I am attending here has been fantastic and much in line with Lincoln’s address.  The conference, held at IUPUI, focused upon service learning.  The academic institution of providing service to one’s community as part of a class.  It is an idea that has a lot of potential for promoting civic engagement in our students.  This will be a theme I will touch on in future posts, but it should cause pause for us to think…what can we do in our social studies instruction to promote the concept of engagement in our students?

Best wishes,

The New York Times provided coverage of the speech – get it here.

About bradburenheide

I'm an Associate Professor at Kansas State University's College of Education. Currently I am the program coordinator for secondary social studies education. My research interests include instructional gaming, history education, and creative pedagogy.

2 thoughts on “A Lesson in Our Republic

  1. The best part of teaching 8th graders is they want to actively be involved. The old joke about Government is like watching sausage being made…they’re fascinated by the process. Had a discussion of Tinker v Des Moines a couple weeks ago that was the stuff teacher memories are made of. I wish I could bottle it for their late teens and young adulthood.

    1. Dave,

      Thanks for the comment! Tinker v Des Moines always seems to get kids riled up. And you’re right, actively involved is the key and Tinker puts the Constitution right in their world.


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