Book Review – 50 Core American Documents


As a student at Ashland University majoring in American History and Government through the Ashbrook Center, I have been required to read a variety of books and papers on the history and people of the United States.  I feel fortune to have had this opportunity that many across the country do not have. Now the Ashbrook Center has put out a book called 50 Core American Documents, Required Reading for Students, Teachers and Citizens. This is an excellent book that should be required reading in every high school American History course.   Starting with “The Declaration of Independence” and ending with Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing,” this book covers some of the most important documents in American History that will give the student and average citizen an inside view to what this country was founded on and the people who tried to change that foundation but met resistance along the way.  From the ideas of liberty and freedom, which our country is founded on,  to the 19th century idea of progressivism or faith in government which prevails in some circles today, this book has it all when it comes to understanding the people who shaped and tried to reshape our country. Through their own words we learn what it is to be an American, what it takes for good government and what to be a progressive means. But most of all through these documents we learn the good and the bad aspects of government.  What it is suppose to do and what it shouldn’t do along with the idea that government can’t  solve all problems and has a proper place in society.

In addition, we learn what freedom of religion means, what the Constitution is suppose to do as proposed by Abraham Lincoln in the Fragment on the Constitution and through two Court cases, we see the disturbing cases of racial inequality and then we follow up with the progressive ideals of government and end with Ronald Reagan and his critique of the current government stressed mantra that people were incapable of self government.  This is a great way to see the broad spectrum of ideas concerning government and allows the student and citizen to make an educated decision on what government is suppose to do and what it is not suppose to do without dismissing government as entirely antithetical to society.

I encourage all teachers whether in high school or not but especially American History teachers to pick up this book and have it available to your class so they can see the words that leaders throughout our history have put on paper.  This is truly a book that will help in creating an environment where the citizen is educated enough to participate in our political process and carry out the duties of civic minded individual.

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