The Common Core will teach kids to be good citizens, argues Ross Wiener in The Atlantic. The new standards aren’t just about college and career readiness. Common Core is “deeply and explicitly focused on preparing students for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
The Common Core identifies three texts—and only three texts—that every American student must read: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution (Preamble and Bill of Rights), and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
. . . Acknowledging the explicit prioritization of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution can re-center the political debate on the merits of Common Core. These documents are embraced across the country and across the political spectrum because they represent the common ground and shared commitments that unite us as Americans. Understanding them is at the core of why public schools were created in the first place. Closely reading and deeply comprehending these documents is essential to Thomas Jefferson’s vision that public schools should enable every American “to understand his duties to his neighbors and country” and to scrutinize the actions of public officials “with diligence, candor and judgment.”
High school English Language Arts standards call for students to analyze the historical and literary significance of foundational U.S. documents and speeches, Wiener writes. Examples include Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech and King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Students are expected to “understand Supreme Court opinions and dissents and decide for him or herself whether the Court arrived at the right decision.”
“Common Core articulates standards for speaking and listening that develop students’ ability to participate in democratic debate,” writes Wiener.
Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a fair hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
These are college, workforce and citizenship skills, Wiener concludes.
High school graduates will be able to evaluate the merits of U.S. Supreme Court decisions? “O brave new world that has such people in’t.”
I was in Junior Great Books from fifth through ninth grade. We started each year by discussing the Declaration of Independence. It took us three years to get past “all men are created equal.” We never made it past the “pursuit of happiness.”