Reasoning With Democratic Values 2.0

Dear reader

Dear Reader,

Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0: Ethical Issues in American History, comprising Volumes 1 and 2, is intended to enrich your study of American history. We have written true stories showing people making difficult decisions. These decisions involved basic values such as authority, the common good, diversity, equality, liberty, life, loyalty, promise keeping, property and truth. We invite you to follow the stories of these decisions and make judgments about them.

Volume 1 contains 20 chapters. Each presents a story that brings you in contact with an ethical issue from U.S. history. For example, you will face the petition of freed Massachusetts slave, Belinda Royall, to receive income from the estate of her former owner. You will encounter lawyer John Adams’s decision to defend the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre. You will witness Thomas Jefferson’s struggle with slavery, including his own enslaved children. You will be a bystander as Henry David Thoreau protests the Mexican War. You will assess Juan Seguin’s decision to fight with Mexico against the United States. You will consider the decision to exile the Cherokees to Oklahoma. You will observe as Robert E. Lee makes a fateful decision at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Volume 2 contains 19 chapters. You will follow as journalist Nellie Bly falsifies her identity to investigate conditions for mental patients at Bellevue Hospital in New York. You will decide whether President Woodrow Wilson should have brought the United States into World War I. You will be a bystander as Michigan Governor Frank Murphy grapples with the General Motors sit-down strike. You will witness film director Elia Kazan’s testimony during which he identified communists in the Hollywood film industry. You will accompany Bonnie and John Raines as they burglarize an FBI office in Pennsylvania. You will consider whether the U.S. government should pay reparations to African Americans.

Although these events took place in the past, the values they entail continue to influence our lives. We believe that citizens of today must often make decisions involving the same values. That is why we have written this book.

Rational, responsible citizens face value issues and think carefully about them. Therefore we have presented you with questions and activities that will engage you in such thinking. We also think the stories will help you gain a deeper understanding or the nation’s remarkable history. Answers to these activities are presented in the Instructor’s Manual for Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0 available as an ebook from Teachers College Press.

More information about the Instructor’s Manual, including samples of its content, and other aspects of Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0 is available on this website.

We hope you find the stories interesting and our questions thought provoking.

David Harris, Anne-Lise Halvorsen, and Paul Dain

Do ethical judgments belong in history classes? See the following article on the study of the philosophy of ethics, history education, and students' historical ethical judgments: