Obama: ‘The most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels’


750x422by Michael Schaub

President Obama is worried that Americans don’t read enough novels.

The president voiced his concern that fiction writers “have been overwhelmed by flashier ways to pass the time” in the second part of his interview with novelist Marilynne Robinson, which was published this week on the New York Review of Books website. The first part of the interview was published two weeks ago.

Obama asked Robinson if she was concerned that Americans don’t read enough fiction. “When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels,” he said. “It has to do with empathy. … And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”

CLICK: LA Times article

5 Steps to Argumentalizing Instruction



by Les Lynn

I founded Argument-Centered Education in order to achieve college-readying rigor and engagement in K – 12 classrooms by helping teachers build instruction around argument. Argument-Centered Education is in the capacity-building business. We work to ensure that a school can meet its academic objectives by expanding teachers’ professional skill set and approach. We work with teachers directly, closely, collaboratively, in professional relationships that result in their own heightened professional satisfaction and effectiveness, and their classrooms attaining more higher-order and college-directed learning for all students.

Argument-Centered Education believes in and strives for education transformation. We are committed to making a deep and lasting positive impact on every teacher, every classroom, every administrator, every network, every district with which we partner. Our model for transformation is organized around three education services: collaborative professional development, curriculum design and adaptation, and implementation coaching.

These services were designed around our core pedagogical move: argumentalizing instruction.

Argument-Centered Education builds argumentational components into its partners’ curriculum in collaboration with its partners’ teachers. ACE makes existing curriculum argument-centered; it argumentalizes it. ‘To me it is a hugely important that ACE is working with the curriculum maps, units, and resources that we have in place at our school,’ one of our current partner school principals recently testified. ‘In addition to ensuring full buy-in among our teachers, this approach is helping them learn how to apply student argumentation and debating to all that they teach and whatever they teach, even when it changes from one year to the next.’

Argument-Centered Education believes that there are five standard, basic steps to argumentalizing instruction. Becoming masterful in the use of these steps enables educators to infuse rigorous and college-directed academic argument throughout their instruction.

Step 1: Organize the Unit around a Debatable Issue or Problem

Argument-centered instruction takes the formulating of debatable issues or problems much more seriously than is very often the case in 6th – 12th grade classrooms. Rather than coming up with a couple of essential questions that appear on a unit plan, and possibly on a final assessment, debatable issues or problems have an organizing influence over all of the teaching and learning in a unit.

In a recent post on The Debatifier (our blog), we identified the five criteria for an effectively formulated debatable issue:

  • Openness – the issue has to be an open question rather than a closed-ended or settled matter
  • Balance – the issue and its attendant evidence set is roughly balanced between two or more sides
  • Focus – the issue is limited enough to engender clashing points of view
  • Authenticity – the issue is discussed or debated in the real-world, academically or outside academics
  • Intellectual Interest – the issue is of interest to students or the teacher or (preferably) both


CLICK: con’t at Dave Stuart’s blog

CLICK: The Debatifier

Why Americans Can’t Write


Natalie Wexler chairs the board of trustees for the Writing Revolution.

It’s no secret that many Americans are lousy writers. Just ask any college professor or employer, including those at prestigious institutions. With the advent of e-mail, writing ability has become more important than ever, and writing deficiencies have become increasingly apparent.

Surely one reason so many Americans lack writing skills is that, for decades, most U.S. schools haven’t taught them. In 2011, a nationwide test found that only 24 percent of students in eighth and 12th grades were proficient in writing, and just 3 percent were advanced.

If students get writing assignments at all, they’re usually of the “write about how you feel” variety. There’s value to that kind of exercise, but it doesn’t provide kids with the tools they need to write analytically.

The Common Core education standards, adopted by more than 40 states and the District, attempt to address this deficit. They require that students learn to write fluently about the meaning of what they’re learning — not just in English class, but also in history, science and maybe even math class.

That makes sense: When students put what they’ve read into their own words, they’re more likely to absorb and retain it. And learning to write clearly requires learning to think clearly …


CLICK: Washington Post article