Just the Facts (If You Want An F) – History at Libertas Academy

Today I have a guest post by Jacob Phillips.  Jacob is joining Libertas this coming school year to teach Western Civilization.

What was the Missouri Compromise?

Bad answer: The Missouri Compromise was a federal statute, passed in 1820, that regulated slavery in the western territories. It was passed mainly because of the efforts of “The Great Compromiser,” Henry Clay, and it established a line north of which were “free territories” and south of which were “slave territories.”

Good answer: The Missouri Compromise was an example of how 19th century politicians continually employed stopgap measures to resolve conflicts regarding slavery, and was arguably the first concrete sign that war was inevitable.

The preceding example is used to illustrate a point – perhaps the least important thing about history courses are the specificity of facts. Nobody should care if the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 or 1819, and if you put a gun to my head, I would still not be able to tell you the longitude and latitude of the Mason-Dixon line. History is about significance; to the extent that the who, where, how and what of a situation are important, it is only to provide meaningful context for why a given event was significant.

If you have a child who is an advanced middle school or a high school student I invite you to join my Western Civilization class this coming school year, not because I think your kids should be more knowledgeable about historical facts. I invite you to join because history is a collection of stories; stories of redemption, hope, fear, longing, ambition, temptation, cowardice, courage, cleverness, betrayal and manipulation. The importance of history is not that we learn about it, but that we learn from it. That’s why the best history courses begin not with “Here’s what happened…” but with “Once upon a time…”

Our goal will not be merely to learn that William Wilburforce was courageous, but to learn what it means to be courageous, and the effect our courage can have on the world around us. Our goal will not be merely to learn about the what and where of World War II, but to discover how uncritical patriotism can make the world burn.   It might not be important to know what crusade happened in which year, but it probably is important to analyze how political leaders use religious pretexts to being about their own, selfish goals.

My goals is that at the end of the school year, students will be better researchers, better equipped for college courses, and have a richer understanding about why we got to where we are today, not just how we got to where we are today.   If I do my job right, then while I can’t promise you they’ll know how many wives Henry VIII had, I can promise you they’ll know why England is Protestant.


Homeschool graduate, Jacob Phillips, graduated with his B.A. in History from the University of Central Florida. His senior thesis paper analyzed the impact that Pope Leo X and Catholicism generally had on the development of Nazism and the ease with which the Holocaust was accepted in Germany particularly and Europe more generally. He is graduating this spring with a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin School of Law. He has worked with a public policy think tank on improving the provision of education in juvenile detention facilities; their suggestions are currently being presented to Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Education. He also interned with Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization committed to defending religious freedom that has represented litigants before the Supreme Court, and clerked with Judge Eric F. Melgren, Federal District Court of Kansas, the last judicial appointee of President George W. Bush. He has a passion to see high school students better equipped and prepared for undergrad courses and to envision students as to the importance and significance of studying humanities.

For more information on this, or any other classes at Libertas Academy, email libertasacademyorlando@gmail.com or visit http://www.LibertasAcademyOrlando.com.


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