The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country by Howard Fineman.

I haven’t read the book but it is on my Shelfari list. I plan on getting to it, really. Sometime . . . soon. For sure before winter break. It looks like a great book and I’ve heard good things, so I’m all over it.

The bad news? The book’s been on the list for a while now.  I added it just over a year ago after reading about it on Mike Halsey’s Henricus site. And promptly got caught up in the crush of events and forgot about it. It resurfaced while visiting my son’s government teacher during this fall’s Meet the Teacher festivities. He has Fineman’s 13 Arguments up on his wall and plans to use them as a modified scope and sequence.

I really do need to read the book. Because from my quick skimming of the book and online reviews, it seems incredibly relevant. From the proposed mosque in NYC to the scheduled Qur’ an burning in Florida to immigration discussions to Supreme Court justice debates to the 14th Amendment to . . . well, just about anything.

These questions, in one form or another, have been argued and discussed since before 1776. What better way to tie current events to the past? The more I think about the questions below, the cooler they become.

I’m curious to know how you would use these. Would you pick just a few? Tie them to the Bill of Rights? Which ones could you ignore? Have kids reword them? Help students identify the folks on both sides of each question?

1. Who is a person?
2. Who is an American?
3. What is the role of faith?
4. What are the limits of individualism?
5. What can we know and say?
6. Who judges the law?
7. What do we do about debt and the dollar?
8. What is the balance between state and national authority?
9. What powers should the president have?
10. What should be the terms of trade?
11. When do we go to war and when do we use diplomacy?
12. What is the role of the environment?
13. What does a fair, “More Perfect” union mean?

I plan on following the discussion in my son’s class. Will keep you posted.

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