Week 1: Understanding Lincoln, The Railsplitter

Participants debate whether Lincoln was self-made or self-invented and discuss close reading strategies

  1. (June 10-11, 2014) The "Understanding Lincoln" online graduate course began its first full week of class sessions with a closed seminar discussion about Lincoln as "The Railsplitter" and a special Livestream pedagogy session on the Common Core and close reading strategies with Gilder Lehrman education director Tim Bailey.
  2. The five featured documents for The Railsplitter section included the following:
  3. The seminar discussion ranged widely but the participants were clear about one thing --they ranked Lincoln's autobiographical sketch, far and away, as the "most teachable" of these five documents.   It is a great document and at the House Divided Project, we've created a special new multi-media resource for this eminently teachable document.  At our YouTube channel, you can now find a "document video" version of the sketch, with Lincoln's voice reading the text (via actor Todd Wronski) while dozens of period images from our research engine help fill the screen. Check it out here:



  4. Lincoln's Autobiographical Sketch (1859)
  5. In terms of general teachability, the participants discussed how short, important documents usually serve most classrooms well, but Pinsker also pushed for a recognition that documents should offer a powerful gateway into different types of historical context.  He also urged educators to be careful not to limit responses to essential questions.  Establish a range of plausible answers, Pinsker advises, don't just offer or seek snap opinions. Here's how Megan VanGorder summarized these pedagogical discussions in her notes / tweets:
  6. The next day, pedagogy expert Tim Bailey took over the course and offered a very useful summary of the Gilder Lehrman approach toward the Common Core, which they label, "Teaching Literacy Through History."  The full presentation is available via Livestream.