The Knowledge to Decipher the Message

February 06, 2009 1 min read

Many civic education experts and historians have touted the potential for tapping into the enthusiasm surrounding the recent presidential election and the inauguration to get students interested in related school lessons.

All well and good, but only if students have the background knowledge to understand the process and the rhetoric, Robert Pondiscio writes in this Ed Week commentary.

As the communications director for the Core Knowledge Foundation, Pondiscio is hitting on the message the foundation has long promoted about the importance of rich content. But this piece brings a compelling and relevant twist.

“President Obama’s inaugural address placed us—all of us—in the flow of history. With its references to the ‘rights of man,’ our ‘common defense,’ ideals that ‘light the world,’ and a generation that ‘faced down fascism and communism,’ the address was surely met with either nods or blank stares,” he writes in “A Stirring Speech, Lost Upon Too Many Students.”

“If our children do not know the events and phrases to which Obama referred, they cannot fully appreciate the significance of this moment or even what this president is asking of them. How is it possible for them to be ‘the keepers of this legacy'—why should they value it and seek to keep it at all?—unless they understand the thing they are being asked to keep?”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.