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American History Revealed through Literature

Created by distinguished teacher-scholars Amy Kass and Leon Kass, the What So Proudly We Hail literary-based e-curriculum is a rich source of materials compiled to aid in the classroom instruction of American history, civics, social studies, and language arts. This collection of classic American stories, speeches, and songs is based on the Kasses’ critically acclaimed anthology of the same name. It seeks to educate both hearts and minds about American ideals, American identity and national character, and the virtues and aspirations of our civic life.

The Power of Stories

What does it mean to be an American? What do we have in common, and what unites us? What do we look up to and revere? For what are we willing to fight and to sacrifice? And finally, how can we produce good citizens?

What So Proudly We Hail speaks directly to these questions. But unlike other efforts to improve civic knowledge and virtue, it assumes that developing robust American citizens is a matter of the heart as well as the mind, and requires more than approving our lofty principles or knowing our history and institutions. Making citizens requires educating the moral imagination and sentiments, and developing fitting habits of the heart—matters both displayed in and nurtured by our great works of imaginative literature and rhetoric. For these reasons, What So Proudly We Hail takes a literary approach to making citizens, centering on classic American short stories.

Many of us love to tell stories, and most of us love to hear them. But to hear—or read—and discuss the best stories told by the best storytellers is more than a way of passing time. It is a way of deepening time, by taking us to the profoundly humanizing truths contained in the ordinary surfaces of our experience. With the help of a great storyteller, we can see in the commonplace the things that really matter. Stories are entertaining, but at their best they inform and reform us by dramatizing belief and rendering feeling thoughtful.

Learning through Inquiry

As any reader knows, good books do not teach themselves. Informed by their three decades of teaching experience at the University of Chicago, Amy and Leon Kass believe that the best way to learn is through a conversation—one grounded in a rich and engaging text, and guided by experienced and wisdom-seeking teachers.

Through video discussions and in-depth study guides, What So Proudly We Hail seeks to recreate the experience of a seminar classroom. Listen and learn as the Kasses discuss some of the greatest works of American literature with noted commentators David Brooks (on Mark Twain) and Yuval Levin (on Nathaniel Hawthorne) and scholars Eliot Cohen (on Michael Shaara) and Wilfred McClay (on Herman Melville), among others. These 45-minute conversations help to illuminate and clarify the questions raised in the anthology—augmenting a general education or refreshing an education now forgotten.

What So Proudly We Hail is also ideal for reading and discussion groups. Each text is introduced with observations and questions to promote more active reading and to help direct deeper conversations. Our discussion guides include useful background materials as well as a series of thematically arranged questions for thinking about the story and for thinking with the story about larger American themes.

Get started today with our ten-part curriculum, The Meaning of America. What So Proudly We Hail is the next best thing to gaining a coveted seat in one of the Kasses' University of Chicago seminars.