It is hard for teachers and parents to fit everything in. Really, just think about everything we hope for kids to learn! Quick, easy and painless (yet quality) shortcuts are a godsend. History teachers use this particular movie as a shortcut, and I'd like to share it with you today-it's one that I think every home in the United States should own. I know that's a strong statement, but it's true. (Plus, it's pretty cheap-less than most other movies you could buy.) Schools are a wonderful tool, but important things should also be reinforced at home.
A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation is a fantastic way to teach U.S. History, patriotism and specifically, the creation of the Constitution. It was released in 1987 to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States of America, so it is kind of old school, but still really, really great. Researched and filmed by a conservative university, it details the process and events that led to the ratification of the Constitution.
History teachers love this movie because it was filmed on location, is accurate, and tells in a story format what is sometimes hard to understand. The hero of this tale is James Madison, a small and quiet man. He knew, as everyone else did, that the Articles of Confederation were not working. The country that everyone had fought so hard to free and build was falling apart-quickly! So James Madison read, researched and finally came up with a plan.
This movie explains very clearly where he got his plan from, why he believed it to be the best, and how he got it passed. (It also gave me one of my personal mantras: "The person with a plan always wins.") Slavery and the Great Compromise are clearly explained, founding fathers have personalities, and by the end of the movie, everyone who watches it will have renewed appreciation and understanding of the careful thought, prayer and care that went into helping our nation function and prosper.
Some people may think, "Big deal, the Constitution is boring. I let other people handle politics. It's all just a mess, anyway."
But here's the thing: if we don't have the vision of what our country was created to be, we risk wallowing in mediocrity. Instead of living up the greatness that was fought, argued and patiently deliberated for, we could misuse our power. If we lose a sense of the sacrifices that were made, we fall away from gratitude, and freedom and opportunity are lost.
That is why A More Perfect Union is important. It's not the most entertaining movie you could ever watch, but it is one of the most meaningful. Please watch it with your family this week.
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Family Discussion Guide
-What sacrifices were made by these men?
-If they hadn't been willing to sacrifice, what could have happened to our country?
-Do you think compromise is a good thing or a bad thing?
-What does it mean to "make the perfect the enemy of the good"? Give examples of how this happened in the movie.
-What do you think of how Congress handled the slavery issue?
-What does "the person with a plan always wins" mean? Do you agree or disagree?
-James Madison was not flashy, famous or important. He was small, sickly and quiet. But what would our country be like without him?
-What made Madison work so long and hard? What drove him? Why is research important? (You could also talk about how it is possible to work hard in a variety of ways, not just physically.)
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