by Les Lynn, Gerald Graff, and Cathy Birkenstein
There is a growing wave of educators and education leaders making the case that argument and debate, as key learning tools, should become much more central than they are in the American K-12 curriculum. They maintain that classroom instruction organized around argument and debate across all the academic subjects and grades would engage and educate students far better than the existing curriculum does. It would go far toward clarifying what academic work is essentially about, for all students but especially those from less privileged backgrounds. The Common Core, for example, goes so far as to assert that ‘argument literacy’ is the key to college and career readiness and that the Standards themselves give argument a prominent place in all subjects and grades.
Yet despite the endorsement by the Common Core and the growing acceptance of the critical thinking and higher-order literacy skills, argument is still too often a vastly under-utilized strategy in K-12 teaching and learning. To speak plainly: the vast majority of classroom teachers currently lack the training, the instructional resources, and the support to effectively implement rigorous structure argumentation activities or debating formats adapted to their curricular content areas.
One of the key gaps in K-12 education today can be summed up this way: new standards (and their assessments) are in agreement that our classrooms should be college-directed and immersed in critical thinking and evidence-based argument, but our schools do not have the capacity or the technical support to succeed in making this instructional upgrade. Progress has therefore been slow.
It is to solve this gap – and to effect measurable and lasting improvement in educational outcomes across districts, networks, and full schools – that one of the founders of the national urban debate movement and the founding director of the Chicago Debate League partnered with university thought-leaders in argument pedagogy to create Argument-Centered Education. Learn more about What We Do to transform and upgrade student performance, and Who We Are working for schools and school leadership to achieve real results.