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The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine - Reading Guide

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An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages

Mark Wilensky

Format: Paperback, 216 pages
Price: $18.95
ISBN: 978-1932714-36-4
eBook: 978-1-61121-028-6
On Sale: March 2008

Activities, glossary, answer key, original illustrations, photos, graphics, bibliography, and index

Mark selected as top 5 finalist for National History Teacher of the Year


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Reading Book Guide

The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages, by Mark Wilensky

Few books or pamphlets have had as much influence on the course of human history as Thomas Paine's Common Sense. The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine, a remarkable interactive version adapted for young and old alike, makes Paine's words and the concepts he espoused widely available to everyone. We hope these thought-provoking questions lead to some lively book discussions.

  1. The first page in the book shows a young colonist looking at a sign that points to opposite directions. If you were the person in that picture, what would you be thinking?
  2. Common Sense came out as a pamphlet. Having no cover or binding, tied together with either coarse string or leather, it was affordable to publish and could be sold cheaply so that most people could afford to buy a copy. Do you think this was the author's purpose? Why or why not?
  3. In Chapter Two, Paine writes that "Youngsters can be taken advantage of, or betrayed." Do you think a young king could be taken advantage of? How?
  4. Today, how old do you have to be before you can be president? Senator? Representative? Governor? Why do you think that the "framers," who constructed our government, put in minimum ages to run for office? (You can use an on-line almanac.)
  5. Thomas Paine reminds us that in absolute monarchies, kings are in charge of everything; business, civil, and military matters. Even if the king had no experience in these areas. Of the three, which do you think having experience in is the most important? Why?
  6. At the end of Chapter Two, we learn how much money the king is paid each year. What do you think a king spends his money on?
  7. Looking at the portraits of King George III and Thomas Paine, which of the two would you borrow a winter coat from? Why?
  8. Kings in 1776, we know, lived in palaces or castles. Visualize the King's office. What does it look like? Draw a picture or cartoon of the king in his office.
  9. Paine says the king "thirsts for unchecked power." What is unchecked power? Why would a king want it?
  10. Look at the cartoon on page 40 of the adaptation. In 1776, why do you think it was important that new citizens immigrated to the colonies?
  11. "Europe is too thickly planted with kingdoms . . ." Paine loves comparisons. What other metaphors can you find in Chapter Three?
  12. Look at the coins on page ___. After the colonists won the War of Independence, George Washington became our first president. However, he refused to allow his face to be put on the nation's new coins. Why do you suppose he did that?

Mark Wilensky

Mr. Wilensky is a fifth-grade teacher in Jefferson County Colorado, where he has been accused of teaching his Colonial America and Revolutionary War classes with enthusiastic zeal. Read More...

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