Unit Author - Mark Swiger

The Great Textbook War PBL Unit Plan

This Project Based Learning unit has been administered using 10th, 11th, and 12th grade Content Standards and Objectives and the “Entry Event” customized for a basic American History course, a 20-21st Century Studies course, and an American Civics Course. The unit will be revisited by 10th grade students in the 2011-12 school year. This unit was utilized in the 2010-11 school year with 10th grade students.

Foundations of Freedom: Driving Question: How is the United States a product of the Enlightenment and reflected in everyday life in the 21st Century?

Entry Event:

You and your friends have been noticing a disturbing trend around your homes, the school, and in your community concerning the attitudes between those supporting a variety of political parties and recent movements that have seemed to make the community a bit chaotic. You find it difficult to understand.

This year, you’ve become aware of an event that your teacher described as the beginning of the “modern culture wars” in 1974 in Kanawha County, West Virginia. This year, a Peabody Award and Edwin Murrow winning audio documentary has been making the rounds on public radio stations around the country. The same issues that arose in 1974 are beginning to reappear around the nation in places like Texas, where some state board of education members are recommending that some American figures be left out of published textbooks.

Your teacher has asked that you listen to the audio documentary written and produced by West Virginia native, Trey Kay athttp://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/textbooks/index.html and read the New York Times article: “How Christian Were the Founders” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?_r=1&emc=eta1. Historian Stan Bumgardner also put together a traveling exhibit “Books and Beliefs” that showcases Kay’s documentary shown at the same site. Also, a wiki for this project has been established in order to register and view possible field trips where panelists discuss these issues at the “Great Textbook War Wiki”http://greattextbookwar.wikispaces.com.

As a result of your curiosity, you’ve decided to produce a multimedia project outlining the truth behind how the United States was conceived, particularly in the area of religion. In the project, you’ve decided to investigate how the Enlightenment has impacted the establishment of the United States.

Your teacher has agreed to let you present your ideas to the class as long as you open the presentation to teachers, parents, and other students. You have two weeks to investigate the topic and present to a group of your peers, teachers and interested community members, and post your presentation to the Internet if you choose. Because you are working with people outside of your classroom, you must abide by all intellectual property laws. If successful, you will be asked to complete more projects that search for the truth around controversies that exist in U.S. History.

The following files can be utilized for teaching Project/Problem-Based Learning in all instances for this unit:

If you’re having trouble downloading and reading the files on these pages, you should visit:


From there, download and install Acrobat Reader. The files on these pages should then be viewable.


For questions or concerns about this page or have technical issues, please send an e-mail to Mark Swiger.