Ashland history teacher earns summer fellowship

An Ashland High School social studies teacher is among 30 teachers chosen nationally to study with a Harvard University historian on the international significance of the Declaration of Independence.

Paul R. Huard won a fellowship from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes the study of U.S. history. The organization, an affiliate of the New York Council for History Education, sponsors scholars, funds exhibits and supports high school history programs throughout the nation.

Huard will attend a four-day seminar from July 31 through Aug. 3, led by David Armitage, author of "The Declaration of Independence: A Global History" and a professor with The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard. The fellowship pays for the program, books, lodging and travel expenses.

The seminar will be held at the University of Virginia and at Monticello &

both are creations of Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.

"Jefferson ranked his creation of the University of Virginia as important as his authorship of the Declaration of Independence," Huard said, "and Monticello was both a beloved home and intellectual retreat for him. It will be a heady experience to study with one of the nation's best scholars in the very places where the author of the world's most important political document lived and thought."

The summer experience will provide new ideas on teaching American history for Huard to bring back into his classroom, he said.

Competition for the fellowships is intense, according to Sasha M. Rolon, seminar and fellowship coordinator for The Gilder Lehrman Institute. The institute receives several thousand applications. Roughly 300 teachers are selected for the various seminars sponsored by the institute and held at universities such as Brown, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.

To apply, Huard submitted several essays, a list of his recent efforts to develop as a teacher, recommendations from his supervisors and descriptions of the curriculum used for American history courses he teaches at the high school.

Huard says the seminar views the Declaration of Independence from three global perspectives: First, by placing 1776 into the context of contemporary, international and global connections; second, by examining the legacy of the Declaration in the century after 1776; and third, by analyzing other declarations of independence since 1776 for their debts to (and divergences from) the American model.

"The influence of the Declaration is imense," Huard said. "It was a political manifesto, declaration of war, even a statement of what the Founders were willing to risk in the name of creating the first nation based on the idea that ordinary people could govern themselves. I look forward to what I will learn and how I can help students learn more about this nation's unique political legacy to the world."

Huard will also spend the summer revising a 40,000-page manuscript of a book he is writing about the Declaration of Independence. Huard believes research indicates students who know the basics of American history and political culture are more inclined to be civically engaged and politically involved.

"I am idealist &

I plead guilty to the belief that we can have a better citizenry if they know the history of their nation," Huard said. "A teacher with solid content knowledge and passion for the subject can show students that they can change their world if they understand human events, ideas, and actions."

This is the second time Huard has been selected for one of the Gilder Lehrman summer seminars. In 2005, he was at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., where he studied methods of interpreting the U.S. Constitution and teaching constitutional history with Jack Rakove, coe professor of history and American studies professor of political science and a 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner.

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