by Linda Barrett
Like many educators, I have been diligently studying the Common Core State Standards this summer, and I was delighted to find I could visit www.corestandards.org and download PDFs of the standards to a USB drive for reading on my Wi-Fi-free vacation. When it was too hot to be out in the sun, I would make use of my computer's highlighting and sticky-note features to create my own annotated version of the standards, before moving on to my other reading or listening to the radio.
As I sat in the shade trying to follow the various national and global issues that were playing themselves out this summer, the phrase "using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence" kept coming to mind. This phrase comes from the Common Core anchor standard that says that students should be able to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” Time and again I found myself wishing the adults involved in topics I was following could be held to the same standard.
I would have appreciated more valid reasoning and evidence to support the arguments being presented, instead of the circular arguments and semantic games. How can one expect to understand the complexities of important questions like the role of the free press in a democracy or the global implications of the U.S. bond rating? How can we analyze where we stand on "substantive topics” without sufficient and relevant evidence?
Once I had engaged in my strenuous exercise for the day (moving from the bow of the sailboat to the stern) I would fall into one of those wonderful summer daydreams that can seem so realistic—in August. In this particular daydream I am hopeful that as we help students meeting the standards, we will not only better provide them with the college- and career-readiness skills that the Common Core State Standards were developed to address, but we will also be giving them the tools they need to engage in and evaluate the public discourse around the substantive topics of their day.
Now that it is September, I have to get to work planning what I can do this fall as I work with school administrators, teachers, and students to make this daydream more of a reality. I will explore these ideas further in future posts as I work with schools who are using Great Books programs to help their students meet the Common Core State Standards.
Linda Barrett is a senior training consultant for the Great Books Foundation. She teaches professional development courses in the Great Books Foundation’s Shared InquiryTM method of learning, which emphasizes the use of evidence to support ideas.