As citizens of a democratic republic, it's important that our children understand the machine that is the United States government. If you're like most of us, however, you don't have a firm grasp of the subject yourself and attempts to teach are likely to degenerate into watching the History Channel and maybe C-SPAN. Tim Spickler recognizes the difficulty of providing sound government education (and the need for Christians to join the fight against immorality and spiritual decline), and A Noble Experiment is his answer.
How Does This Work?
A Noble Experiment is a student-directed course intended for use during one high school semester. 48 lessons (including tests) provide material for 16 weeks, and other than grading students' work parents really don't need to be involved. Students watch Spickler's 24 lectures on five DVDs and then complete the appropriate reading and exercises in the consumable student text. An extra CD for teachers includes PDF files with answers to all written assignments and tests, a course outline and syllabus, a grade book, and transcripts of each DVD lecture with important parts highlighted.
Workbook exercises include defining terms, reading primary source documents (from the obvious Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution to more obscure titles and selections from The Federalist Papers), essay and short answer questions, and pretending to rule on cases as a justice of the Supreme Court. Video lectures simply feature Spickler standing in front of the camera and talking, with artwork and photographs intercut at appropriate moments. The lectures and activities form the entirety of the course.
There is an emphasis on the history of our governmental system, though not its ideological history—students will be well-versed in the facts behind the Constitution, the three branches, the composition of the House and Senate, etc., but they don't spend much time investigating the philosophical and economic foundations of our nation's unique system. Spickler approaches his subject from an unabashedly conservative Republican position, and while many readers will share his views, they do at times color his presentation of the material and his objectivity is questionable.
Our Honest Opinion:
The best aspect of this curriculum is it's self-contained nature and the fact that students can complete the entire course on their own. Spickler doesn't have an unpleasant voice, but his robotic movements and condescending tone will be major turnoffs for most high schoolers. He's pretty nerdy, and while his approach might work well for 5th graders, it's hardly appropriate for teens. We recommend the much more thorough and balanced Exploring Government from Ray Notgrass. If you want something quick and easy, however, you might want to give this a shot.
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