At one of Argument-Centered Education’s partner schools, Daniel Hale Williams College Prep in Chicago, I have been working extensively this year with a young and rising-star English teacher by the name of Thom Connor. Mr. Connor has been absorbing argument pedagogy and he has been making it his own, innovating a series of activities and assessments with his English I (9th grade), English II (10th grade), and AP Language & Composition (11th grade) students. I have been collaborating with him on revising and refining these resources. What is coming out of his inventions, and our collaborations, is having an increasingly apparent big impact on the teaching and learning in his classrooms. One such resource innovation is the activity we’ve called Analyzing a Model Interpretive Argument.
World War I was cataclysmic not only in the death and destruction it wrought on the battlefield (with more than 10 million killed), but also in its shattering in the Western world (certainly in Europe) of certain kind of belief in the nobility of civilization and the inevitability of progress. “The war to end all wars,” in H.G. Wells’ immortal phrase, and the war that would “make the world safe for democracy,” according to President Woodrow Wilson — the idealism that inspired these phrases sounded bitterly ironic after the War, and by 1918 sardonic clouds had settled over the European psyche to stay.
This argument-based project teaches World War I through debates about the deepest causes of that conflict. It brings together primary and secondary textual and video sources to teach content through the framework of academic argument.
Not every meal we prepare (or eat) at home is elaborately planned, prepared, and presented. Sometimes we cook “quick & easy” meals, but even these we generally aspire to make nutritious, balanced, and appetizing, too. Similarly with our classrooms: though we strive to be planned, ready, and prepared every day, we are not always implementing finely wrought, meticulously developed curriculum. But we should make these lessons college-directed and academically nourishing, too. What follows is an example of just such a “quick & easy” piece of curriculum, argumentalized.
One of our partner high schools recently took students to see the wonderful production of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. So I suggested an easy-prep argument-based seminar on the day after the trip (with possibly some de-brief and short writing for follow-up the next day).
The SAT suite of assessments have emerged as probably the leading tool for measurement of secondary school learning and student achievement. The SAT, of course, is one of the two national college admissions exams, which makes it an inherently important test for high schools committed to preparing all of their students for college. The PSAT 9th and 10th grade assessments help keep students on track for the continued development of the skills that the exam, and its College Board designers, believe are essential to be college-ready. And for a growing number of states – twelve right now, including Illinois – the SAT suite is used for required assessment of all public high school students, in many instances as a replacement for the Common Core assessments PARCC or SmarterBalanced, with the reasoning that the SAT is CCS-aligned and thus administering it covers both college-entrance and CCS assessment in one test.