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A Noble Experiment: The History and Nature of the American Government Review by Debra Brinkman & Kathy Gelzer

Tim Spickler, M.Ed.
Zeezok Publishing
PO Box 1960
Elyria, OH 44036-9494

One course that I hadn't quite figured out for high school transcripts was Government. Maybe that is just a mental block because of how much I did not like my own U.S. Government course in high school. I knew it was something my students needed to take, but everything I looked at was either; a) a full year course, b) too intensive, or c) as dull as my high school class.

A Noble Experiment: The History and Nature of the American Government provided a wonderful answer for my, "What to do?" question. This is a half-credit government course, taught with DVD lectures and plenty of original documents, and it covers all of the national standards for a high school government course. That is important to me.

One thing I love about this course is that it isn’t hugely time-consuming. There are a total of 48 lessons, intended to be completed at a pace of three per week for a semester. The lessons are clearly laid out, and most have both “class time” and some homework. We opted to move a bit slower, completing two lessons per week instead.

The topics covered include:

  • Foundational Principles (What is government?)
  • Two Types of Government (limited and unlimited)
  • American Political Heritage (covers government history up through the Declaration of Independence)
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Constitutional Convention
  • The Constitution
  • The World Order and US Government
  • Citizenship
  • State and Local Governments

The video sessions cover lessons 1-36, and there are lectures to go with two-thirds of the lessons. On other days, the kids might be completing a project, taking a test, or reading sections of the constitution or other such document. The final portion of the course includes studying for and taking a final exam (lessons 37-40), completing a fun study of the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (lessons 41-42), and doing State and Local Government projects (lessons 43-48).

I have two high school students, a 9th grader and an 11th grader. They are working on this together, which makes things easier for me. It truly is something that can be self-directed. I rarely have to do much besides ask them if they have done their government yet, or correct worksheets and tests.

The video lectures are well done, but they cannot be described as exciting or entertaining. For kids used to fast-paced learning DVDs with lots of eye-catching graphics, this will take some adjustment. I found the content to be far more interesting than my high school US Government instructor, and my kids do find it interesting, most of the time. We tend to watch the video together, discuss it, and then they do whatever additional assignments need to be completed.

All the source documents are reproduced in the student text, so I do not have to go searching for copies of anything—it is all included with the program.  Occasionally, there are some additional reading suggestions made in the video, and my oldest has looked into some of those.

The final sections of the course require you to obtain a copy of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” and the students are doing their own research into their own state and local governments. (Due to the regional nature of this, the resources cannot be provided.) There are six separate projects in the State/Local section, and these are also well thought-out, and easily adaptable to your location.

One of the things I truly love about this course is that it gives my children a taste of more traditional schooling. Lectures, quizzes, final exams, and research projects—these are things that I do want them to be familiar with. I am also very impressed with the ease and thoroughness of this course.  The price is great too—at $89.98 for the complete course, and another $19.99 for each additional student workbook.

Product review by Debra Brinkman, Assistant Director, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, March, 2014

Another Review:

As homeschoolers with a high school student, we were very interested in reviewing this American Government curriculum. A Noble Experiment is a conservative, Biblical 16-week, semester-long course in video and workbook form. I received five DVDs, a teacher CD, and a consumable Student Activity Book. This course is "designed around the national civics standards," and the videos "cover all the major topics in the National Standards for Civics and Government at the high school level." It can be used individually by homeschool students or in a homeschool co-op setting.

The course has 48 lessons divided into nine units: Foundational Principles, Two Types of Government, American Political Heritage, Articles of Confederation, The Constitutional Convention, The Constitution, The World Order and U. S. Government, Citizenship, and State and Local Governments. I found it a little unclear which lessons belonged to which unit. I wish that had been clearly spelled out on the course outline pages.

Twenty-four of the lessons utilize video lectures that run approximately six to 30 minutes. This technology is only part of the teaching. The student workbook contains 28 different primary source documents, such as Magna Charta excerpts, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Monroe Doctrine. For almost every lesson there are activity sheets covering these documents and the video lessons consisting of short-answer, fill in the blank, and completing charts.

The organization and ease of use stand out. The student course syllabus in the front of the student activity book lays out a specific plan for the 48t lessons. A normal high school student would certainly be capable of taking responsibility for this class. The pages in the workbook come three-hole-punched and perforated to facilitate good organization and record-keeping. It is an attractive book as well, with an old fashioned cursive font for lesson and document titles and parchment-like backgrounds for the primary source documents.

Two special projects make up the last 2 1/2 weeks of the course: watching the classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with lots of interesting activities (in the appendix), and a state/local government research project. Both of these look like they would be fun as well as worthwhile.

There are nine quizzes, a test after every one or two units which covers those units, and a two-part final exam. These are in the back of the student book. The answers to all of these and answers to the student activity worksheets are found on the Teacher Resource CD. This CD also has the complete scripts for all video lessons with bolded key points and Web links. These transcripts would be useful for both the student and the teacher to review. Two other thoughtful inclusions are a grading rubric page and a course description page for your child's high school transcript.

My 15-year-old son and I watched two of the video lessons, Lesson 4 and Lesson 17. Although they were touted to be more like "conversations than lectures," we found them a bit dry, although Mr. Spickler does inject his quirky sense of humor from time to time. Although there are some subscripts, my son and I thought the video lessons could be improved with the inclusion of some PowerPoint slides or the use of a white board to enumerate some important points. For example, Lesson 17, which explains what happens to a bill, would lend itself beautifully to a flowchart. Adding these sorts of visuals would provide three benefits: 1) it would add more variety for the viewer, 2) it would make it easier to explain some material, and 3) it would help the visual learner.

Another couple of notes on the videos: there are two camera views of Mr. Spickler during his lectures; we found it distracting to keep switching back and forth. We prefer the wider view that includes all of the background. We also wish the sound quality had been better.

I'm looking forward to using this with our high schooler this coming fall. I think it will be an excellent way to fulfill his U. S. Government requirement.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2011