We must not leap to the conclusion that there is a “true democracy” which is a natural amalgam of good government as representative government, political justice, equality, liberty, and human rights. For such volatile ingredients can at times be unstable unless in carefully measured and monitored combinations. Is “good government” or “social justice” unequivocally democratic, even in the nicest liberal senses? Probably not. Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s of the inevitability of democracy, but warned against “the dangers of a tyranny of the majority.” Well, perhaps he cared less for democracy than he did for liberty. But even Thomas Jefferson remarked in the old age that “an elective despotism was not what we fought for”; ... John Stuart Mill whose Essay on Liberty and Considerations on Representative Government are two of the great books of the modern world, came to believe that every adult (yes, women too) should have the vote, but only after compulsory secondary education had been instituted and had time to take effect.
The distinction between nationalism and patriotism is often overlooked. Unlike the United States, most countries were nations long before they became states. And nationalism has traditionally been an ideology that advocates the aggrandizement of particular national groups—not whole countries inclusive of minority ethnicities and nationalities. The word nationalism was first used in this sense in 1772 by the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, and it came to be embraced as an animating ideology by Germans in their response to the ideals and invasions of the French Revolutionary era. They rejected the liberal ideas of political citizenship and universal rights and instead embraced a unifying vision of a German volk rooted in ethnicity, language, blood, and mythology. German nationalism predated the creation of the German state by a century.
If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets . Finally, History Matters offers pages on “ Making Sense of Maps ” and “ Making Sense of Oral History ” which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.