Saturday, July 3, 2010


For this year's Fourth of July, I happily offer up two causes for delight.

First,  from our history, consider the thoughtful, disciplined thinking behind our national push to independence:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. 
Second, from our present headlines, know that in Kentucky and at least nineteen other states, we are now agreed on a new principle.  Graduates of our high schools should all study, and be well equipped to study, our founding documents.   Quite specifically, they must be prepared to:

  • Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S.documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

We are further agreed that each and every graduate should be well prepared to master text as demanding and powerful as Mr. Jefferson's immortal prose, with the skills they need to:
  • Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  • Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.
  • Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
The work we have done this year and the work ahead to deliver on the Common Core Standards will matter, not least because it marks a new commitment to preparing future citizens for challenges we know are coming and others we cannot yet imagine.

I count that a fine development, worth a happy moment of reflection amid the music, food, and fireworks tomorrow so richly deserves.

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