This site is intended as a sampler for visitors. Volume I, Chapter 3, offers a preview of what every chapter will contain for those who purchase the books and the Roadmaps. See the order forms for purchasing details.

Syllabus Volume I

Sample Syllabus for America: The Last Best Hope, By William J. Bennett
One-Year U.S. History Course Using Volume I  Colonial Contact Through Reconstruction

The following syllabus is meant only as a suggested timeline for a teacher using William J. Bennett’s America: The Last Best Hope. Along with the topics suggested, teachers are reminded that the Roadmap to Last Best Hope includes lesson plans, plays, debates, Podcasts by Dr. Bennett, maps and map exercises, PowerPoint presentations, and suggested resources for further student learning and exploration (films, books, primary sources, websites). Teachers and students will also find timelines, glossaries, key historical points and chapter summaries that can be used as tools to deepen students’ understanding of the material.  Teachers will want to pick and choose from the ample resources on the Roadmap to find activities and tools that best meet the needs of their class.  

But despite the quality and variety of the resources included in the Roadmap, the members of Team HOPE, who created the Roadmap, believe that the strength of Last Best Hope comes from the fact that unlike virtually any textbook, it is a book students will actually want to read. Teachers should begin with this premise – that students will be engaged by Bennett’s narrative. The Chapter Summaries in the teacher section of the Roadmap highlights key points in each chapter, and also gives teachers suggestions for critical issues to highlight as students read the material, as well as stimulating questions drawn from the reading that can enliven class discussion and get students thinking more deeply about issues in their nation’s history.

Semester One:

Week 1: Intro/Meaning of History

A.    According to Bennett’s introduction, why did he write this book?
B.    What is the role of history in our culture?
C.    Who are your heroes?
D.    Why does history keep changing?
E.    What is the difference between “the past” and history?
F.    In what ways is America’s story an exceptional story?
G.    Define “informed patriotism.”

Weeks 2 through 4:  Volume I, Chapter 1, “Westward the Course” (1492-1607)

A.    Columbus:  hero or villain?
B.    How did the “Columbian Exchange” impact peoples on both sides of the Atlantic?
C.    European/Native American contact.  Was conflict inevitable?
D.    What role did the Catholic Church play in new world settlements of Spain?
E.    Who were the great explorers of the age and what motivated them?
F.    Why the Spanish dominated the Indian kingdoms of Latin America.
G.    How did Elizabeth I lead the English to supplant Spain as the dominant power in Europe?

Weeks 5 through 7: Volume I, Chapter 2, “A City Upon a Hill” (1607-1765)

A.    What key successes and failures did England experience in settling the new world?
B.    Jamestown: What were its key struggles and turning points?
C.    Separatists and Puritans: What were their most important goals and visions?
D.    Virginia and Massachusetts: What does each experience mean to the American character and culture?
E.    What role did the English, Dutch, and French play in the formation of other colonies in North America?
F.    English conflict with Native Americans: How did their experience differ with that of the French and Spanish?  Why?
G.    The Great Awakening and The Enlightenment: What groups in the colonies did these movements impact?
H.    In what ways was the French and Indian War a turning point in the relation between England and its American colonies?

Weeks 8 through 11: Volume I, Chapter 3, “The Greatest Revolution” (1765-1783)

A.    Why the British changed policies on taxes and trade regulation after the French and Indian War? Were they justified?
B.    How did British and American views differ on representation and rights?
C.    Why was the Stamp Act Crisis a critical turning point on the road to rebellion against England?
D.    What key crises and events led to a spiral toward war?
E.    How and when did Americans begin to think of independence as a goal in the war against Britain?
F.    Did Jefferson really mean all men are created equal?
G.    What key battles in the North and South turned the tide of the war?
H.    To what degree was the revolution a civil war; loyalists vs. patriots?
I.    Evaluate George Washington’s leadership: What were his strengths and weaknesses?
J.    What was the role and importance of French aid?
K.    Why did the new nation veer toward near chaos after the Revolution?
L.    How did the Americans manage to defeat the greatest army and navy in the world?

Weeks 12 through 14: Volume I, Chapter 4, “Reflection and Choice: Framing the Constitution” (1783-1789)

A.    What were key weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?
B.    What were key achievements of the Articles?
C.    How did American traditions of religious freedom begin to take shape during this period?
D.    What led to internal discord within the new states during the Articles period?
E.    What key roles did Madison, Washington and Franklin play in the writing of the new Constitution?
F.    What were the basic sections of the new Constitution?
G.    What philosophies lay behind the three branches of government and checks and balances between those branches?
H.    How did the new government differ from that under the Articles?
I.    What compromises did the founders make on slavery?  Were they necessary and what was their impact on the future?
J.    The battle over ratification: What key arguments were made by both the Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists?
K.    What were the origins of the Bill of Rights and how crucial was this addition to the ratification of the Constitution?
L.    What amendments have been added since the original ten?

Weeks 15 through 17: Volume I, Chapter 5, “The New Republic” (1789-1801)

A.    Washington as president: How effective was he?
B.    Was Alexander Hamilton more important than Washington himself in the early republic?
C.    How can we see the early seeds of partisan discord in the rise of Jefferson’s Republicans?
D.    When considering the Bill of Rights, how important is each amendment to Americans today?
E.    Why did Hamilton’s economic policies led to such resistance by Jefferson and his followers?
F.    Why did the revolution in France lead to such political turmoil here?
G.    What should we remember about Washington’s farewell and what is his legacy?
H.    What were the most important challenges faced by President John Adams and how did he respond?
I.    How did Republicans resist Adams’ policies?
J.    The remarkable election of 1800: Why does Bennett call it a “Revolution?”

Week 18: Review and Final Examination

Semester Two:

Weeks 1 through 3: Volume I, Chapter 6, “The Jeffersonians” (1801-1829)

A.    Who made up the “Virginia Dynasty” and what should we remember about each?
B.    What was Jefferson’s attitude toward religion and what can we learn from him today?
C.    Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase: How did this momentous event transpire?
D.    Lewis and Clark: Was their trip America’s greatest adventure ever?
E.    The notorious Aaron Burr: What accounts for his notoriety?  Was he guilty of treason?
F.    What impact did the War of 1812 have on the new United States?
G.    How did the Battle of New Orleans make Andrew Jackson a national hero?
H.    Why is the post-war period called the Era of Good Feeling?
I.    The Controversial Election of 1824: What accounts for the rise of Andrew Jackson?

Weeks 4 through 6: Volume I, Chapter 7, “Jackson and Democracy” (1829-1849)

A.    Some historians have called the election of 1828 “The Plowman vs. the Professor.”  What do they mean and why did the “plowman” win?
B.    What factors increased mass participation in politics and the rise of democracy?
C.    Calhoun, Clay and Webster: What did each of these “giants” bring to the political scene?
D.    What growing seeds of secession were seen during this era?  Could they have been stopped?
E.    The tragedy of Indian Removal: Why did it happen?
F.    Jackson and the Bank: What were the sources of this dispute and what did it say about Jackson’s values?
G.    What led to the rise of the Whig Party and how did they win their first major election (1840)?
H.    How did Polk use “Manifest Destiny” to win the presidency?
I.    What forces led Americans to move west?
J.    What key factors led to the Mexican War?  Was it a war of expansion?
K.    Why many northerners thought the war with Mexico was a war to benefit “Slave Power.”

Weeks 7 through 9: Volume I, Chapter 8, “The Rising Storm” (1849-1861)

A.    How did calls for California statehood help trigger the Compromise of 1850?
B.    What issues led to the rise of southern “fire-eaters?”
C.    What role did abolitionists in the North (such as Garrison and Douglass) play in shaping northern attitudes?
D.    How did railroads affect the expanding national economy?
E.    What factors led to a growing call for women’s rights?
F.    What key reform movements dominated the era and what did they say about northern vs. southern cultural values?
G.    How did the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas lead to the rise of a new Republican Party?
H.    How did the Dred Scott case further the growing national divisions?
I.    Why were the Lincoln-Douglas Debates a focus of attention for the entire nation?
J.    In what ways were Harper’s Ferry and the Election of 1860 “final straws for the South?

Weeks 10 through 12: Volume I, Chapter 9, “Freedom’s Fiery Trial” (1860-1863)

A.    What debates did southerners themselves have over secession?
B.    What led to events at Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War?
C.    Lincoln’s strong executive measures: Were they constitutional?
D.    What southern advantages or northern weaknesses led to struggles on the battlefield for the North early in the war?
E.    What important roles did African-American troops play during the war?
F.    Lincoln as a military strategist: What were his strengths and weaknesses?
G.    Why did Lincoln struggle so long to find a successful general?
H.    How and why the war became a war to end slavery?

Weeks 13 through 15: Volume I, Chapter 10, “A New Birth of Freedom” (1863-1865)

A.    How and why was the Battle of Gettysburg a turning point in the war?
B.    How realistic was Lee’s strategy of wearing down the North’s will to resist southern independence?
C.    What issues led to the New York City draft riots?
D.    Why is the Gettysburg Address considered our nation’s greatest speech?
E.    What toll did the war take on President Lincoln?
F.    How important was U.S. Grant to the North winning the Civil War?
G.    Who were the “Copperheads” and how dangerous were their efforts to the Union?
H.    What is “total war?”  
I.    What crucial points did Lincoln make in his Second Inaugural Address?
J.    How did Grant’s treatment of Lee and his men set the tone for the postwar period?

Weeks 16 and 17: Volume I, Chapter 11, “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds” (1865-1877)

A.    What key foreign policy issues arose after the Civil War?
B.    What key factions within the Republican Party fought over Reconstruction?  What were their goals?
C.    What issues led to a battle between President Johnson and the Congress?
D.    Why does Bennett consider Johnson to be among the worst presidents in our history?
E.    Johnson was impeached: Should he have been convicted and removed from office?
F.    Many remember Grant’s presidency for its corruption.  Is this fair?  What did he do well as the nation’s leader?
G.    Why did the passion of northerners to insure justice in the South wane?  What resulted?
H.    How did the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 give a window into the status of the nation just a decade after the Civil War?
I.    How was the election of 1876 resolved and what did it mean for the fate of Reconstruction policies?

Week 18: Review and Final Examination