Argument is the core of the Common Core. Education writers such as Mike Schmoker and Deanna Kuhn have made this point, but the authors of the standards reveal it themselves. Argument is ‘the soul of an education,’ says the CCSS Research Appendix, because when students are engaged in argument about an issue of importance, ‘something far beyond surface knowledge is required: students must think critically and deeply, assess the validity of their own thinking, and anticipate counterclaims.’ College is, they quote Gerald Graff, an ‘argument culture;’ rigorous college preparation demands first and foremost that students are taught ‘argument literacy,’ in Graff’s phrase. This is why argument must be given ‘special’ and ‘particular’ attention and ‘emphasis.’
The constituent components of argument-centered instruction are all over the CCSS. The anchor standards for reading ask students to ‘cite specific textual evidence . . . to support conclusions drawn from the text.’ They ask students to ‘delineate and evaluate the argument . . . in a text, including the validity of reasoning’ and the strength of the ‘evidence.’ The anchor standards for writing require students to ‘write arguments to support claims’ and to ‘draw evidence from . . . texts.’ For speaking and listening, students must ‘evaluate a speaker’s . . . reasoning and use of evidence and rhetoric.’
Argument-Centered Education has a rich wealth of instructional resources – structured argumentation activities, exercises, lessons, and units; and debating formats and projects – that it works collaboratively with teachers to adapt to their curriculum and to implement effectively. Through argument-centered instruction, students learn content more deeply; they learn to think critically and independently about the issues under study; and perhaps most importantly, they have the academic modality of argumentation from textual evidence clarified and made familiar, improving their academic performance and college readiness.