Through the eyes of two young apprentice reporters named Sarah and James, viewers of Liberty's Kids will go on adventures in search of the real stories of the American Revolution. Sarah is a proper British girl right off the ship from England and James, a fifteen-year-old apprentice, sees things from a cocky colonist's perspective. They meet famous historical figures such as George Washington, plus other figures that should be, like Phillis Wheatley - a published poet while still enslaved. Although the setting is Colonial America, Liberty's Kids' characters find themselves in the middle of a revolution that confronts issues that still fill the newspapers today - gun control, downsizing government, lower taxes, freedom of the press, and race relations.
Sarah and James are followed around by eight-year-old Henri, a spirited immigrant from France. Moses, a former slave who freed himself, watches over them for his employer, the remarkable Benjamin Franklin, with whom we travel to Europe as he fights for recognition and assistance for the young nation.
It's easy to interest kids in things when they see connections to their own lives. Some youngsters will see themselves in Liberty's Kids. For others, the connection will not be so obvious. After all, most American families immigrated to the United States after the Revolutionary War was long over. And even for those whose relatives lived in Colonial America, prejudices at the time meant that Blacks, Native Americans, and women played only supporting roles at major events like the Continental Congress. So, not everyone will see themselves in stories about the American Revolution.
But everyone has been influenced by the ideas that were the foundation of the American Revolution. The founders didn't include slaves or Indians or women when they said "all men are created equal," but their ideas about equality eventually sparked the campaign for women's right to vote, the civil rights movement, and more. Current calls for justice and equality around the world still echo the ideas that transformed the thirteen colonies into the United States.
It's those ideas that will help young viewers connect the events featured in Liberty's Kids to their own lives. You can help by pointing out the freedoms we enjoy today thanks to the wisdom of the country's first leaders. You can also help kids see that achieving ideals like justice and equality require ongoing effort. Help children see where we've fallen short in applying those ideals to everyone, and let them know how they can help their communities live up to the country's founding principles.
THE BIG IDEAS
What, exactly, do we celebrate on July 4th? The United States was founded on two key issues: that people have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that people should have a say in the government that rules over them. Those issues can be summarized as being about "freedom" and "representation." The bullet points below can help you to guide youngsters to think more deeply about those issues. Other words that kids commonly encounter are "independence" and "revolution." Once everyone understands what the words mean, you might help them explore what the Patriots were declaring their independence FROM. What changes did the Revolution bring to the way the Colonists were governed?
FREEDOMChildren who have grown up in a free country may think that certain kinds of freedom are natural or automatic. But citizens have freedom only because the government says they do. Show kids which freedoms are listed in the U.S. Constitution. You might start with: Freedom to say what we want (speech), and freedom to follow whatever religion we want.
Today we have additional freedoms that weren't always guaranteed by law to everyone. For example, we now have the freedom to marry anyone of the opposite sex, but there used to be laws prohibiting whites and blacks from marrying. Today we have the freedom to live wherever we choose, but there used to be restrictive covenants saying that certain neighborhoods or towns could keep out Jews, immigrants, or Black people. What other things are we free to do? Has everyone always enjoyed those freedoms? Does everyone enjoy those freedoms now?
Freedom doesn't mean that "anything goes." For a free society to be successful, there have to be limits. For example, you can say what you want unless what you want to say is harmful to others. You can follow the religion of your choice as long as your practice doesn't interfere with other people's rights. How do rules and restrictions, which might seem to restrict freedom, actually enhance our ability to exercise our freedoms?
We sometimes talk about our freedoms as "individual liberties." But we also live in communities. How do we guarantee our own choices while also allowing that right to people whose choices may be different from our own?
REPRESENTATIONWe call the United States a "democracy," but it's actually a republic. In a pure democracy, every citizen would get to vote on every issue. That can work well for a small group, but it can't work for a nation. So instead of voting on every issue, we elect people to represent us and they speak for us. Help children find out who represents them in the Senate, the House of Representatives, state government, and local government. If possible, show them how people vote.
We ensure equality within the government by following the one person, one vote rule, except in the Senate. In the Senate, the rule applies to each State rather than each person. But the right to vote hasn't always been granted to everyone in the U.S. Help youngsters learn how women and African Americans won the right to vote. And help them explore how democratic forms of government try to be fair to all people.
Democracy only works when citizens participate. Help children find ways to participate in their communities. And help them to think about what kinds of responsibilities people who live in a democracy have.