The world is a severe schoolmaster,… and it is a difficult task to keep in the path of wisdom”

—Phillis Wheatley

First American slave and person of African descent to author a published book of poetry

Why America Is Free is for 4th and 5th grade, the time when most states teach the American Revolution and the founding of the nation for the first time.

At this age, students are old enough to think abstractly, analyze rationally, apply ideas, and make emotional connections.  Equally important, they are still uninhibited enough to play freely and imagine themselves in the world of the 18th century.

Musnat Couder Planning

4TH AND 5TH GRADERS…

  • Grasp abstract concepts
  • Role play unselfconsciously
  • Identify emotionally with principle-based decisions and actions

Why America Is Free

Builds character based on civic values and principle-based, rational evaluation and decision-making.  Students live according to a code based on self-respect, respect for others, and self-control.

Meets or surpasses state academic standards.  The standards are met in Social Studies as well as all other subjects.  Correlations included.

Teaches critical thinking and principle-based problem-solving.  Students use Enlightenment-based scientific reasoning for evaluation and decision making every day, in every class.

Integrates learning.  Because we learn best when we can connect new knowledge to things we already know or are interested in, nothing is taught in isolation.  Connecting the disciplines leads to lasting retention.

Focuses on revolutionary ideas and principles.  The founders saw this nation as an enormous social science experiment. Students use key Enlightenment ideas and reasoning techniques to examine and debate elements of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Is inclusive.  Why America Is Free is not taught solely from the 18th century male Patriot perspective, but rather from multiple points of view.  The experience is highly successful in schools whose demographics rage from the most privileged to the most challenged.

The Why America Is Free curriculum is what I have dreamed of during all the decades of my professional career. I never thought I would see it created. This quality of cross-subject integration and experiential learning should be the model for all educational programs. We need this in all schools.”

—Oklahoma State Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Mapping

Seven themes form the foundation of Why America Is Free

  1. Our national history and unique heritage is a treasure owned equally by all Americans.
    It is this shared history and heritage of evolving civic values and principles that binds us together as a people, despite our individual differences.
  2. All Americans own this legacy and the rights and duties of citizenship equally, without regard to race, gender, religion, origin, financial status.
    For the purpose of qualifying for this equality of rights and responsibilities, only citizenship matters.
  3. History is a weaving of personal stories, the lives of people and their beliefs, and great ideas and events by which their lives were influenced.
    There are far too many people at all periods of history to mention everyone. The people mentioned here responded to their circumstances with principle-based decisions and actions that had great impact and changed the pattern of events.
  4. History provides character training and role models.
    Some historical figures accomplished great good and are revered.  Others are remembered for the harm they caused.  We can learn from both to discern admirable character traits.
  5. Every child can grow into a person of great character.
    Character is a matter of deciding to live according to noble principles and then doing so, one principle-based decision at a time.  In every classroom, there is a very good chance that many will become people of great character.
  6. Understanding the American Revolution, Founding, and the foundational civic principles of the nation is critically important.
    Our history and civic principles form the bedrock of our national identity, form of government, civic responsibilities, rights, and unity.
  7. Events can only be truly understood in the context in which they take place.
    To understand the Founding, it is necessary to know what the world was like for the diverse peoples who lived then: physical realities; , social structures, civic principles, beliefs, art, and world views.
Mapping

1st – Every action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”

—From Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation,

A book of 100 rules that George Washington learned in childhood and followed

Principles and Values

Why America Is Free emphasizes the civic and behavioral values generally held and depended upon for American society to function well. These values are neither political nor religious. Why America Is Free acknowledges the historical fact that 18th Century American colonists were primarily Christian or Jewish, and that religious beliefs were important in the lives of most colonists.

Students

Values of Good Citizenship

The students live every class day according to a simplified set of 18th century manners and discipline, in the process learning self-control, self-respect, and respect for others.

  • Be honest
  • Be trustworthy; keep your word and fulfill your obligations
  • Obey the law
  • Be fair in treatment of others
  • Treat others with respect, even when disagreeing
  • Respect for the property of others
  • Take responsibility for one’s own actions
  • Be kind and compassionate toward others
  • Help others and serve the community, working for the good of all
  • Stay informed, and acting responsibly for improvement
—Lead 5th Grade Teacher, Private, Ligonier, PA

Governmental Principles

The curriculum also covers the basics of a solid civics program.

  • The supreme law of the United States government is the U.S. Constitution.
  • All people are created equal under the law and have unalienable rights.  Each right has corresponding responsibilities and limitations.
  • Government derives its power from the people it governs, and its purpose is to serve and protect the rights of all citizens equally.
  • Rule of Law: Laws must be set openly, respect fundamental rights, be applied equally, and be followed uniformly until they are changed through an established process.   
  • Representative Democracy/Republic: Representatives elected by citizens make the laws.
  • Federalism: Under the Constitution, the federal government controls some matters, and state governments or individuals retain control over others.
  • Separation of Powers: The government is divided into three branches, each with separate powers.
  • Checks and Balances: The different branches each also serve as watchdogs over the behavior of other branches.

It is a fabulous multi-sensory approach. Every student learns differently and this curriculum reaches everyone.

—Assistant to the Executive Director, Private School

The students acknowledge the change, the parents appreciate the change, and the teachers applaud the change.

—Head of School, Private School for students with mild to moderate learning disorders, Annandale, VA

Students who have been taught early American History through this program retain the core knowledge of our early founding to a much greater degree than students who were not exposed to the program. Additionally, we have discovered that Why America Is Free students possess a deeper awareness and understanding of citizenship and the principles of American democracy than do their counterparts.

—Social Studies Middle School Instructional Coach and Head of Department, Humble ISD, Humble, TX