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What Should Every Citizen Know?

Session 5
Dan Callahan — Burlington Public Schools

Given that the President of the United States has gone on record as stating that "education is an economic issue," it feels as if the nation focuses on schools' role only in terms of producing the next generation of workers. What about creating an informed nation of citizens and voters? For the most part, the political consensus seem to lean in the direction of a move toward increasingly shared standards, as seen in the wide adoption of the Common Core. Alternatively, as seen in Sudbury and Montessori schools as well as the unschooling movement, some will make the case that largely unfettered individual choice will produce a more fully-developed adult than traditional school models. Based on these two very different points of view, the way forward seems murky at best. As Louis Menand traces in his book "The Marketplace of Ideas," the very concept of General Education on the college level has shifted over the past few hundred years, but, for the most part, the core idea of a liberal education has been "preparation for life." Assuming that this idea will not go away any time soon on the primary and secondary levels, this session should focus on honest discussion by practitioners about the role they play in forming our nation's citizenry, trying to figure out the most important things we want our educational system to pass on to our children as they grow to take their place in the fabric of our nation.

Conversational Practice

I see this conversation as having four phases: 1. A very brief overview of the big ideas that inform this discussion, including the direction of education policy over the past 30 years and opposing perspectives. (~10 minutes) 2. A discussion to see if we can come to some sort of consensus about the broad strokes of determining the basics of what we want our citizens to know. This would most likely start with a brief journaling exercise for participants to write down their own views, then move on to a sharing of those views. (~20 minutes) 3. Based on the sharing of views, participants can then gather into groups to draft an outline of what they see as the most important things that students should know upon graduation, using Google Docs or similar. (~40 minutes) 4. A sharing of the group outlines and opportunity to provide feedback. (~20 minutes)

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Presenter Profiles

Dan Callahan
Dan Callahan
Massachusetts Teachers Association


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