What Spectacle...?

Lesson Launch

By Dr. Paul E. Binford
President, Mississippi Council of the Social Studies

It is a crisp (high 30s) mid-April morning—in Mississippi we would say “cold morning!”—in Washington, DC as I commute from my Arlington, Virginia hotel to the Library of Congress. This day, for me, like that of so many Capital City commuters, requires using the Metro system--a fixture in this walking city.  Previously, this mode of travel seemed foreign, distant, and distasteful to this native Hoosier and current Mississippi resident.  Over the last couple of years, this 22 minute subway ride has become surprisingly comfortable and familiar. 

Emerging from the underground tunnel to the city’s South District reveals the U.S. Capitol Building in early spring splendor.   


The Madison Building—a stone’s throw from the Capitol Building—is part of the Library of Congress (Library).  The Library doors open at 9:00 am and the public is not allowed to go through security until 30 minutes before the opening, as a security guard bruskly reminded a few of us, who had the audacity to attempt to enter the slightly warmer environs of the foyer at 8:27 am.  Near the entrance of this impressive structure is this James Madison quotation:

What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable than that of liberty & learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?

So, members of the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Consortium, sponsored by the Library of Congress, assemble from all over the nation this spring day and gather on the sixth floor. From this perch, we have a beautiful view of the city, but we have come—almost as if we are responding to the fourth President’s rhetorical question—to learn, to share, and to broaden the use of the rich, digitized resources of the Library, so liberty can be maintained and advanced among our citizenry, specifically our school children. 

Mississippi State University’s (MSU) involvement in the TPS Consortium is the direct result of the efforts of the College of Education, specifically the work of Dr. Kenneth Anthony, Dr. Nicole Miller, and myself along with a cadre of graduate assistants, support staff, and administrators.  The main focus of MSU's grant is providing professional development for the teachers of Mississippi, so they are aware of the Library’s digital collection and to encourage responsible and skilled handling of these resources, which come in a variety of formats including letters, journal entries, memorandums, musical recordings, newspaper articles, photographs, political cartoons, and video clips—to name just a few.

Our group is Teaching Primary Sources Mississippi:  http://www.msstatetps.org.  Through the joint efforts of teachers from the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and MSU, curriculum work has also been done.  Specifically, lesson plans, using Library resources, have been created and can be accessed, reviewed, and downloaded through this link: http://www.msstatetps.org/curriculum-lesson-plans/

When considering the efforts and sacrifices of my consortium colleagues and teachers throughout the state, I am encouraged.  Honestly, however, when I think about our self-absorbed and self-indulgent culture, another Madison reminder surfaces, more sober in tone, about the misuse of freedom so disturbingly evident in our society, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty [bold mine], as well as by the abuses of power.”

For more information about this Lesson Launch blog entry, or if you are interested in arranging professional development or a speaking engagement, please contact the author at: theringoftruth@outlook.com