Eighth Grade Assignment: Translating Jefferson's Declaration!
How do we know what Thomas Jefferson meant in his famous 1776 "Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen united States of America" and what do we think George III and Parliament thought about it? Just ask a Speyer eighth grade writing student!
The eighth graders and their writing teacher, Head of School Dr. Tischler, spent some time deciphering Jefferson's complicated grammar (Which truths are self-evident anyway?) and discussed this important piece of writing. Dr. Tischler then challenged the students to write their own versions of this revolutionary document.
What did they come up with? Students wrote poems, rap pieces, essays, letters, and diary entries. Many a "Dear George" letter articulated the reasons that 13 rag-tag colonies considered themselves to be "free and independent states," ready to assume a leadership role in world politics. Really?? In 1776???
One translation was actually an excerpt from George's diary in which he decried the chutzpah of the upstart colonies that thought they could go it alone in the world without Mother England. In a similar vein, an alien observer who scoffed at the foolishness of the colonial experiment cried out, "Why don't they just get a leader?" What a typical alien response!
According to Dr. Tischler, this was an exercise not only in writing but also in careful reading and understanding of Jefferson's text. "Many Americans," she noted, "think the Declaration was the foundation of the American national government. It was much more revolutionary than that – it was a cry to get rid of a tried and true monarchy in favor of a democracy that no one had successfully tried before."