I wish I had a time machine that would take me back to fourth grade, so that I could have this to look forward to next year. ”
Students who participate in Why America Is Free change profoundly.
- Develop self-control, self-respect, and respect for others.
- Gain strength, unity, and pride from their American identity.
- Aspire to develop good character and responsible citizenship.
- Recognize the importance of the American founding principles
and form of government.
- Realize the importance of preserving, protecting, and building upon America’s heritage.
- Understand that the American heritage is equally owned by all citizens.
- Learn to value Duty, Honor, Country.
There are currently more than 165 schools with this curriculum in 15 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington.
Of these, approximately 40% are private or parochial, and 60% are public, including Title 1, International Baccalaureate, community, and charter schools.
Why America Is Free creates lasting beneficial effects on student intellectual excitement, attitudes, and behaviors.
- Builds the foundation of knowledge of the world of 18th century America and the founding documents so that as their study of American history progresses, they understand the evolution of the nation’s struggle to achieve social equality for all citizens.
- Develops in students lasting, in-depth knowledge, rather than
fleeting rote memory, of the founding period and its world-
- Instills principle-based decision skills and habits that utilize high-level, critical thinking and apply the world-changing ideas of the Enlightenment.
- Provides students with life skills as they apply Enlightenment reasoning techniques to 21st century problems.
- Teaches students how to analyze, understand, and appreciate the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
- Improves students writing skills as they directly apply what they are learning to journal writing and to many other lesson plan activities.
- Teaches students how to reason and question logically when making principle-based decisions.
- Unifies students by instilling a deep understanding and appreciation of their shared national heritage.
- Awakens students to their ownership of the nation that they share equally with all Americans. They experience the strong bond this creates and become acutely aware of the importance of equal treatment for all.
- Develops in students an understanding that with our rights as citizens come serious responsibilities.
- Inspires students to become good citizens.
- Develops lasting social and emotional skills, self-control, appropriate behavior, and respect for others’ rights as classes use Enlightenment techniques to create significant classroom rules with which they govern themselves and deal with inappropriate behavior.
The combination of respectful behavior, practice in principle-based decision-making, vision of self and others as potentially noble individuals, and shared ownership of national heritage quickly builds unity that crosses socioeconomic and cultural divisions.”
Finding her Voice
“You might not guess what will spark most with any particular child—but it will happen. One girl who comes to mind was very shy, and academically an average student. For her, the [Language Arts] lesson in oratory, the one in which students learn about and then try to deliver Paine’s essay that inspired the troops before the crossing of the Delaware totally changed her. The narrative brought home how pivotal Paine’s words—both what he wrote and how they were spoken—were to the men who heard them and ultimately to the course of the war.
It must have resonated with her because surprisingly she was among those who volunteered to deliver the words orally as movingly as she could. I was again surprised and both she and I were thrilled when it turned out she was extraordinarily good at it. She immediately understood the importance of the skills involved. This one lesson changed her, and not just during the time we were doing Why America is Free. She is a very different student, involved and achieving.”
Creating a Better Learning Environment
“The biggest thing is it unified the children. Briargrove has become a very diverse population. We have maybe 20 – 25 different nationalities at this school. The curriculum helps minimize racism. It helps minimize having negative thoughts about a culture or a people, and, it continues. You see the effects of this program months and months down the road.
Being here 17 years, I am seeing things that were never present before this program. This program is just excellent! It is just outstanding!”
Standing Up for Principles
“The program engages learners like no other I have seen. When given the opportunity to create their own character, the students jumped at the chance, because eleven-year olds still love to pretend. They each imagined a family, a home, and a father’s occupation.
Throughout the unit, they wrote journal entries responding to the events of the Revolution and how the behavior of the people reflected their character. Also responding in a 21st century journal, they talked about life today, but interpreted experiences based on what we had been discussing about values and character.
The story of the Boston Massacre became an opportunity to discuss mob behavior. Had they ever witnessed an example of bullying or been a victim of it? It also gave them a forum to discuss what a person of character would do in that situation.
Out of these discussions came a community decision to stand up for a student who was the victim of teasing. I witnessed a change in my children. Rather than silent bystanders, they became active advocates of compassion and my class became a cohesive group of children who could count on one another for support. The character education they received changed them in ways that I feel will be lifelong.”
Impacting the Community
“And the interesting thing is, it was not just an education for the child. The parents learned. The children took it home so it was an education for whole families. We—including many of our friends—learned important things that we all need to know about our history.”