The United States of America has been led by forty-three different individuals since George Washington took the reins of the country in 1789. Our current President, Barack Obama, is the nation’s forty-fourth president. Now, over two-hundred and twenty years later, a large number of Americans can more easily name top celebrities through history than can name the men who have led this great nation. Enter the History Channel. The network will release the most recent update to its hit documentary mini-series, “The Presidents: The Lives and Legacies of the Leaders of The United States.”
“The Presidents” is based on the book To The Best of My Ability. The book was edited by Pulitzer Prize winning author James M. McPherson. This new four-disc set examines the lives of each man who has taken the oath of office from George Washington to George W. Bush. As an added bonus, the documentary includes an episode of Biography that centers on current President Barack Obama. That addition is the only extra bonus to the set this time out. The remaining bonus features have been carried over from the set’s previous release. Being that seven years have passed between the upcoming re-issue of this set and the last release–and 2012 being an election year–it’s a welcome refresher for audiences of all ages.
“The Presidents” is a great refresher for audiences of all ages. In watching it, it’s obvious that it’s especially suited for a classroom setting. Each President is introduced via a trading card style profile. Each one notes the main focus points of each President’s life. This allows educators to stop the documentary, and allow students to take notes. It’s an ingenious tool for students who may be visual learners. The trivia segments are also great for visual learners. What’s more, those segments provide solid stopping points for teachers. It would allow for discussion time in the classroom, before returning to the documentary.
Speaking of dicussion, “The Presidents” is loaded with discussion topics during each president’s time in office. Those topics range from the obscure to the controversial. For example, one little known fact included in the presidency of James Madison was that his wife, Dolly, had a taste for oyster flavored ice cream. Real appetizing, huh? Being that the nation is in the midst of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, teachers can add in discussions that New England had actually threatened to secede from the Union nearly a century before the Civil War.
“The Presidents” doesn’t throw any punches with any of the presidents. Through interviews with experts and academics, it touches on the good, the bad and the ugly with each President. For instance, it touches on the 1828 race between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. That election is known today, as the dirtiest election in history. It also goes into the Bank War of 1832, and the resulting fallout for Martin Van Buren. This sort of issue has happened with every presidency since, in America’s political history. It’s just one more important fact that both students and general audiences will find eye opening.
This update to History Channel’s docu-series is loaded with more information than can be discussed here. It’s enough for a semester long college class, or even a year-long high school course. But the educational content isn’t all that makes this set so impressive. The set’s packaging is worthy of applause, too. It directly affects the discs’ longevity. Each disc in the set has its own spot on “plates” in the case. This is being increasingly done with multi-disc sets. It virtually eliminates the risk of the discs being scratched when being placed in or removed from the case. In turn, that increases the overall life of the set. So kudos to the History Channel for this. What’s more the case itself is the same size of a case ofr a single dvd. This is ergonomically smart in itself.
“The Presidents” has so many high points. To note them all would be to ramble on endlessly. So suffice to say that whether during this election year or an off year, “The Presidents” is a great addition to the library of any educator or general viewer.