Let's have an argument!

After the Easter weekend I plan to kick off a series on past education reforms — their consequences and especially their unintended consequences. My inspiration, as I’ve mentioned, is Frederick Hess’s excellent (and short!) new book, The Same Thing Over and Over.

But as I opened up my daily Education Week email an article jumped out at me. The authors are criticizing the proposed English core standards for focusing too little on teaching students to evaluate and structure arguments.

Amen!! I’ve been, well, arguing for years that one of the reasons students can’t write coherent essays is that they don’t understand the fundamental structure of argument: making a claim, supporting it with evidence, ensuring the evidence really DOES support the claim (the warrant), acknowledging and answering possible rebuttals, etc. One reason I volunteered to teach AP Language and Composition was that I found my AP European History sophomores woefully unprepared for the challenge of analytical essay questions that asked them to take a position and defend it. (For example, “explain the ways in which Italian Renaissance humanism transformed ideas about the individual’s role in society.)

I just finished putting together a freshman unit on argumentation (the question they’re addressing is, “do social network sites like Facebook make teenagers sadder?”) And I’m going to be teaching an online writing course this summer that focuses on argumentation. So if you’re following this blog, brace yourself. I’ll probably have more to say about this later. For now, I encourage you to check this link out: www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/04/20/28schmoker.h30.html?tkn=LRNF3VzAFxCof4Jm6ooMgSQGwEqgRldYR6Mn&cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS1.

By the way, if anyone is interested in some boring, talking head podcasts I prepared on argument theory, send me an email, MMcConnell@desnews.com, and I’ll pass them on.

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