The View from Afar

Writings by retired newspaper publisher Stephen Waters

Educating Stability

Recovering from Social Studies August 12, 2015
newspaper cutout people holding hands


Educating stability:

Recovering from social studies


By Stephen B. Waters

[Editor’s Note: This “book” was not published, but in its draft form led to a series of columns run in the Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel. The columns can be found here. Because of space constraints, the back-up evidence were not included in the editorials. Scroll down to find them here. It’s eye-opening what authorities were going to attempt to pass off as education.]

2015 DRAFT

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   August 12, 2015


Table of Contents


Preface v
Executive Summary vii
Part 1: Social Studies requirements fall short 1
Social studies requirements overlook what matters 1
Chronological requirements distort history 2
Distorted views became the standard 2
To whom does an education belong? 3
The Social Studies requirements are politically expedient 3
The choice is not between the requirements or educational anarchy 3
Centralized Social Studies is cumbersome and overwrought 4
Redressing social studies requirements 5
A positive approach to education 6
Sifting education from current habits 6
Approaches to learning 8
Part 2: Reviewing the Social Studies frameworks 11
Summarizing reasons for concern 11
Frameworks: Timeline and layout 13
The social studies frameworks timeline 13
A layout of the frameworks 13
The general framework structure: 15
Frameworks: Key Understandings are of minimal significance 15
“Key Understandings” are cultural, not key 15
“Key Understandings” confuse the popular with principles 15
Frameworks: Inquiry Arc of vague questions 16
Fogging out over compelling questions 16
Frameworks: Themes don’t unify 17
Subject themes are a programmed distraction 17
Subject themes miss useful historical lessons 20
Frameworks: Key ideas are not compelling 23
Concepts may not be principles or virtues 23
Democracy isn’t a principle 24
Principles matter 24
Frameworks: Content Specifications misdirect 24
Implementations arrived in full bloom 24
Implementations are the point of the sword 24
ELA: Grade 2 samples misrepresent democracy 25
ELA: 6-12 Grade samples are non–evidence-based 26
History matters 27
Frameworks: Social studies practices 28
Practices don’t make perfect 28
Participation can be manipulated 28
Economic systems aren’t a practice 28
Frameworks: Conclusions 29
Integration of Common Core Standards is distracting 29
The Social Studies name gets in the way 29
Promoting civic competence undermines it 30
Knowledge, patterns, and process 31
Poorly vetted frameworks serve special interests 32
Political theory 33
Moving on to individual excellence 33
Part 3: Individuals & Society: Self–interest 35
Where to find education 35
Developing humility 37
Building society 37
Only one question matters 38
Minimums of society 38
Experience fosters respect and responsibility 38
Individuals & Society: Why society 39
Individuals create society 39
Individuals create ethics 39
Understanding creates its own traction 40
Simple wisdoms are scalable 41
Concentric circles of individuals, journalism, and society 41
Morality in society 42
Advancing society 42
Power threatens society 43
Individuals & Society: Generating traction 43
Discover that you matter 43
You in the universe 44
Self–interest leads to a character-centered life 46
Dynamic process tools 48
Metaphors from experience motivate 48
Fixed rules are incomplete 49
Skills to weigh the quality of ideas 49
Individuals & Society: Where character comes from 50
Ethics is a creation of thought 50
Morals are for personal protection 50
Ethical participation is by choice 50
Character development follows from education 51
Approaches to morality 51
Deducing morality 51
Virtues change over time 52
Validation is everyone’s task 53
Individuals & Society: Approaches to character 53
How to teach character is an old problem 53
Teaching vocabulary doesn’t teach character 54
Emulation doesn’t build character 55
Teaching character requires a better method 55
Character requires developing society 56
Individuals & Society: Conclusion 57
Governance has failed us in the past 57
Ethics did not mature in the 20th century 57
What matters has been distilled out of education 58
The exceptional 58
In summary: Alone and with hope 59
Making your own hope 59
Wrapping up Common Core frameworks 60
The emperor’s new clothes 60
Appendices 61
Appendix I: NYS 8th Grade Social Studies Requirements 61
Appendix II: Improving the Common Core model lessons 74
Appendix III: Grade relevant opportunities 74
Appendix IV: Integrating simple wisdoms into subjects 76
Appendix V: Global Studies Regents Exam, August 2010 79




Elementary schools used to teach about ancient Greece:

  • Sleek ocean-going triremes manned by scores of men pulling oars together to speed along their course,
  • Soldiers organized by phalanx and armed with spears, swords, and shields marching shoulder to shoulder to defend each other,
  • Plays with plots advanced by dramatic choruses singing in unison.

Rowing, marching, singing — each required practiced loyalty from fellow citizens. An oar out of sync pulls a trireme off course. A soldier’s shield pulled too close opens a chink in the row of armor. An off-tempo note distracts attention from the play’s storyline. Such life skills were virtues that Greeks were taught.

Unity may seem virtuous for the government, but not the individual. Who does education belong to— the government or the individual?

New generations revalidate virtues according to recent life experience. Teachers teaching teachers spent little time validating what students ought to learn. In the belly of the present–day educational trireme educators have been pulling oars in sync because that is how they were trained and that is what they are told.

Occasionally some poor fool sticks his head out of the hatch, looks around, and yells down into the ship’s hold, “Hey! Do any of you realize where this thing is headed?”

Welcome aboard.



Executive Summary

Teachers are not historians any more than sports writers are athletes. Their category error designing the Social Studies Frameworks presumes learning about history can pass for history itself. Their material may be well–ordered and popular but it won’t engage, prepare, and mature students enough to shoulder responsibility.

They miss even simple concepts of representative democracy that protect us against their own overreach. They omit essential concepts of history, economics, and political theory:

  • They oversimplify democracy in second grade, eighth grade, and elsewhere.
  • They overlook elected officials are provide essential dampening that representative democracy depends on to temper the tyranny of the majority manipulating the passions of the masses.
  • They forget that experts are only expert insofar as they explain themselves to the public.

Frameworks designers don’t sell citizens why their proposals should be validated. “College and career ready” is a verbal sleight of hand that masks gutting classes of what matters. Teaching expertise dwells on how to teach, not what to educate letting others inject what to teach. Social Studies a hundred-year-old husk that does little justice to constituent subjects. Emotion–laden histrionics replace history, economics, geography, and civics. Clear eyes and a fresh mind see where “Requirements” and “Themes” dismiss substantive content to push social transformation.

Citizens have every reason to peel the frameworks apart, demand elected officials redress their concerns, and hold them accountable for their judgment.

Frameworks designers authored their version after the Governors Association, sponsors of the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) Standards, declined to produce a social studies curriculum. What the associations created was neither common nor core but has been peddled to states under the Common Core banner. Their approach also leaks into ELA and Math to corrupt ostensibly informational “real world” readings by ripping them out of context.

An overabundance of ELA standards and pedantry leave students rudimentarily skilled to read, write, and speak but historically unanchored and naïve. Their view of what is good for the country turns on its head, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” They induce students to conform rather than master knowledge, analytical skills, and wisdom that lead to independence.

They answer incorrectly, “Does an education belong to the government or to the individual.” Their post-modern views hollow out America with notions that would mold students to be easier to herd. Imposing order does not encourage long–term creativity, opportunity, and social stability. Their social transformation promotes group identity over individuality as if individuals were anti-social loners. True independence fosters teamwork because mature individuality embraces dynamic community.

In a triumph of style over substance, the frameworks flash graphic organizers, technology, and trendy methods that overwork teachers and students. The smattering of knowledge passed on is absent principles, patterns, and processes. Students are exposed to research techniques but not history itself. The frameworks emphasize primary sources, but shun worthwhile secondary sources that significant historians labored to create. They elbow the practical development of character that seeks to master the dynamics of context and consequences.

What follows is divided into three sections:

  • Illustrate the problem using New York Frameworks Requirements,
  • Expose the shallow baroque nature of framework levels, and
  • Suggest a practical alternative for Individuals and Society.

Self-regulated learning is the proper goal of education that reunifies history, economics, political theory, and character, too long treated separately. Individual character and society share common interests.

In their version of civics that promotes order, the frameworks promote limited rhetorical skills without inoculating students to defend against official cognitive manipulation.

Unpacked from bottom to top, each framework layer exposes potential for scholastic mischief:

  • Requirements at the classroom level repeat so many points they become pointless. The microscope lens of primary sources reinforces past cultural conflict rather than celebrate growth.
  • The Content specification level sets general guidelines as if local districts can afford the manpower, time, and expertise to create implementations. In truth, unsupervised privileged outside vendors create content and command the market.
  • The Inquiry Arc promotes questioning as a worthwhile skill for students absent knowledge and context to formulate significant questions.
  • Themes are subjects melded with trendy clichés that foster post-modern deconstruction of multiple meanings to cheapen words. History becomes events. Economics becomes statistics. Absent basic insight and wisdom, both are mined for cultural dissatisfaction.
  • At the top level, Understandings called “key” are, at best, only popular. Absent any foundation, what should be re-verified as principles, remain unprincipled.

Centralized authorities in favor of using schooling for social transformation hitched their plans to Common Core Standards because they could, ignoring that proper education flourishes when it is open, innovative and competitive. If the social studies frameworks meant to show why tight centralized coordination is desirable, the results show why not. We are the poorer for it when kids trained conceptually, and not factually, are limited to the officially desired conceptual goggles to interpret the world.

Salvaging educational stability will depend on citizens, school districts, and state education departments distancing themselves from the frameworks by recommending a social studies moratorium. Creative local initiatives competing in local educational marketplaces can then offer practical options more likely to generate graduates “college and career ready.”





Part 1: Social Studies requirements fall short

Social studies requirements overlook what matters

The arguments for and against Common Core overlook what is made clear by the state social studies framework requirements based on the recent College, Career and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards.[1] The standards keep students, teachers, and testing teams so busy they obscure that what matters is not what is taught. Taken individually, social studies requirements sound credible and even significant. When dozens of social studies requirements are aggregated, repeated, tested, and assessed, the requirements overwhelm useful patterns of experience and principles derived from them.

Whatever dark chapters may exist in American history, they should not become the entire book. Mandated social studies requirements[2] repeatedly demean America. They suffocate awareness and appreciation of the progress that parents, grandparents, and ancestors worked hard to achieve for their children. Students are left embarrassed for their country instead of proud of progress and proud of the country’s standing compared to other parts of the world.

New York’s 8th grade social studies program, presented in table form in the Appendix, contains powerfully charged ammunition:

  • 44 shoot Identity Politics, Class Conflict and Culture Wars
  • 12 shoot Business Oppression
  • 19 shoot Internationalism, Anti-War, and Imperialism
  • 4 shoot Environmental Issues
  • 5 shoot the advantage of Centralized Government

Eighth grade social studies covers a century and a half of the American experience, from the close of the Civil War to the present. Over that span of time, only two requirements stand independent from the objective of social transformation.[3] No amount of local programming can avoid the mandated culture war.

Classes deserve an accurate map of American experience. Cultural conflict cards belabor the obvious that some people across history have been poorly treated by the politics of the day.

  • Example 1: three of the 44 describe cultural displacement of people by those with different views. [4] An accurate history would cover issues yet to be resolved, like institutional fraud, government cronyism, property and political rights, and ask how to resolve inter-cultural conflict.[5]
  • Example 2: 19 requirements foster anti-war internationalism[6] that is political nationalism by another name. Contrary to the implication that peace is the absence of war, peace is the absence of the need for war.
  • Example 3: 12 requirements magnify entrepreneurial oppressiveness[7] implying a need for further governmental intervention.

Chronological requirements distort history

The social studies requirements march chronologically onward, leaving students little opportunity to reinforce how far the United States has come in history, or measure how much positive that the country has to offer compared to other nations throughout the world.

Chronology imposes distortion much like looking through a magnifying glass distorts a map. The lens distorts the relationship of the subject to other objects that surround it that appear smaller and out of focus. As eighth graders march through time, all they feel is discord, as if teachers misapply current cultural standards to complicated decisions made long ago.

Distorted views became the standard

Historiography, the history of the study of history, has been elbowed aside by trendy requirements. Teachers, students, and administrators don’t display the pattern recognition skills to detect what is missing. Popular views have overtaken substantive lessons. You cannot value something you cannot see.

Over the centuries, history has been colored by the cultural context in which the narrative was written. Historiographically, beginning in early American times, events were successively interpreted as:

  • God’s will
  • The action of great men
  • Manifest Destiny
  • Forged by frontier circumstance
  • Economic self-interest
  • Chaos

Since the 1960s, it became politically expedient for scholastics to promote the “social justice” view.[8] Social justice puts a political thumb on the scale of justice, adopting George Orwell’s Animal Farm insight that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Social justice weighs characteristics beyond the individual to manufacture more “rights” for a group than individuals are owed. It gives weight to the blunt instrument of statistical interpretation to “prove” validity that is no more than an isolated opinion. If statistics are to be believed, the social studies requirements focus on group characteristics that present a limited interpretation of history that misrepresents the full American experience.

To whom does an education belong?

“Does an education belong to the government or to the individual?” To put the question more succinctly, “Is the government a user of people?” Has the point been reached that validates Italian political and social theorist Antonio Gramsci’s belief that the way to defeat a nation short of war was for a political elite to hijack schooling to push an approved point of view to engage in a long march through the culture.

Proper education arms independent individuals with the analytical skills to participate fully in both culture and society. Instead, the framework has set simplistic contemporary views for teachers to repetitively hammer into eager young minds to produce the next army of obedient soldiers.

An army of docile and compliant “good” citizens is more likely to march to the tune of a power elite. Negative requirements repeated often enough strip individuals of analytical independence. If authorities can’t get students to think “right”, get them to believe “right”. Educational guru John Dewey promoted the behavioral view following early soviet class development techniques before such techniques were misused by the state.

The Social Studies requirements are politically expedient

To cover their tracks and lend legitimacy, framework authors lavish responsibility for their achievement on many credentialed authorities. Scholars who mistakenly believe they have been empowered to force children into social transformation orchestrated this march through American culture.

  • They powdered the nose of their creation with platitudes that contain unfounded clichés that mask the absence of principles.
  • They inserted flawed repetitive representations of sound thinking.
  • Their replaced analytical techniques with socially approved critical thinking.
  • They engaged in collective activities that promote conformity at the expense of individuality.
  • They push identity politics as if the social groups somehow have greater privilege than individuals.
  • They diminished this country that, of all others, learned to overcome the urge for hegemony that undermines most superpowers.
  • They undermined the good accomplished by individuals who, despite their conflicts and differences, cooperated across centuries of American experience to create wonderful progress for not just Americans, but all mankind.

The curriculum is not, as authorities posture, a general representation of salient points that leaves lessons entirely in the hands of local districts. There is no leeway to present any other view than that for which students and their teachers will be tested.

The choice is not between the requirements or educational anarchy

Enthusiasts for and against Common Core want to commit the fallacy of binary questions where that the answer seems either to commit to the frameworks or do nothing. It would be a mistake to reject out of hand the opportunity to improve, but a greater mistake to replace education with social transformation. Some schools do have:

  • Poor teachers in need of improvement,
  • Poor techniques in need of replacement,
  • Poor goals in need of revision,
  • Poor curricula in need of rewriting,
  • Poor courses, in need of updating,
  • Poor administrators in need of mentoring,
  • Poor metrics used for evaluation of students,
  • Poor tools for assessment of teachers,
  • Poor centralized educational micro-management in need of withdrawal, and
  • Poor legislative meddling in need of embarrassment.

Centralized Social Studies is cumbersome and overwrought

Unified centralized regimentation “science is settled for science, economics, political theory and history when education is better served through cleansing competition. In the crucible of competing ideas, the sunlight of thousands of onlookers can reveal any number of successful alternatives and toss a similar number of silly options by the wayside.

Centralization admits to no hubris. Misplaced uniform schooling has undermined previous cultures. Academics dare not teach students of their own failings lest they undermine their own programs.

  • Ancient Greek civics killed Socrates when he dared ask whether an education belongs to the government or the individual.
  • Centralized rigid schooling brought down several Chinese dynasties unable to defend themselves from outside pressure.
  • Tightly focused scholastics in medieval Europe lost Aristotle and the lessons of Greek philosophy for a thousand years.

Proper education enables students to defend against words others use to chew people up for food — even words used by teachers and other school authorities.

Goals should be simple:

  • The purpose of history is to help people recognize patterns from experience the better to make decisions today.
  • The purpose of geography is to keep the relationship of people and environment in perspective.
  • The purpose of economics is to discover that new wealth can come from cooperation, that wealth can buffer us from nature, and that experience can help differentiate what works from what does not.
  • The purpose of political theory is to help people come to understanding.
  • The purpose of civics is to nudge students to develop their own character.

As the loose thread gets pulled from the fabric of the several state and national social studies frameworks, the whole cloth — the overall organization falls apart.

  • Chronology undermines cohesion.
  • Themes are disruptive.
  • Primary sources cheat students of lifetimes of insight crafted by experienced historians.
  • Group class work stunts individuality necessary for useful community cooperation and integrity.
  • Cultural differences are piled so high students are left ill–equipped to resolve differences in a culturally independent fashion.
  • Principles are not acknowledged to exist, nor are students nudged to revalidate them for themselves.
  • Civics is morphed into populist dockyard activism.

Civics is the elephant in the classroom. It is required to be taught, but what values are considered important and why? No authority seems confident enough to take responsibility, and yet they are taught and tested.

The world is blessed with countless cultures, but how many civilizations? What makes a civilization civil? What is the place of violence in a civilization? When can violence be legitimate within or without? What is the responsibility of government? Who controls the economy and how much?

Redressing social studies requirements

Social studies requirements prove superficial, political, and self-serving. They are the operational level of the frameworks where content meets students. Succeeding chapters consider positive classroom experience and then examine how other frameworks levels undermine educational goals.



A positive approach to education

Sifting education from current habits.

Before examining the Social Studies frameworks from the top down, a quick overview is worthwhile. Much of the battle for or against Common Core has been misdirected insofar as much of what is objectionable is not Common Core but attached peripherally to it.

Common Core Standards themselves do focus attention on the need for techniques, content, and even assessments to overcome, among excellent teachers, some questionable teachers who damage students and whom local administrators either had not mentored to success or drummed out of the classroom.

Others used the mantle of Common Core as cover for a social studies framework to take advantage of public interest in quality education. Under that cover, they inserted material quite different from that used to school generations of diverse individuals responsible for unparalleled American success.

Most state and local educators and officials were not tuned to see the social agenda or what the agenda was designed to accomplish.[9]

Parallel to the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and for Mathematics was an effort to establish equivalent social studies standards. The National Council for the Social Studies released their effort called College, Career and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards [10] and known as the C3 Framework. State frameworks were derived from it.

This paper reveals patterns that show the social studies frameworks, for all their complexity, are unfocused and shallow. Magicians distract with subterfuge and frameworks intricacy similarly insinuates, obscures, and re-labels schooling to become something that voters would neither countenance nor approve.

Other Common Core offerings besides social studies have been co-opted, unnoticed, perhaps, because narrow teaching expertise makes it less likely patterns would be recognized.

Underneath the complexity of the Common Cores, success in the classroom depends upon:

  1. Teachers who engage each student individually and positively.
  2. Content that gives traction because it registers self-interest individual by individual.

Administrators are now preoccupied with how to teach students operational skills. Historically, that focus on teacher training has had consequences. Ancient Romans schooled their children with operational skills so they would become good citizens who spoke well. Such schooling didn’t prevent Romans from losing their republic.

Common Core has presented the opportunity to affirm the engagement of teachers with students individually and positively. Content should give traction because it registers individual self-interest.

Frameworks proposals may be popular, but they are inadequate and misdirected. Better options exist. An individual–based education nudges students to recognize what matters in such a way that it arms them to defend against even their teachers. Students learn to deduce for themselves behavior that is positive, instructive, and constructive. That defines character.

The frameworks approach might have been rejected had society not traditionally often been confused with culture. Separate the two and society’s simple elegance becomes clear enough to sell others the personal advantage society offers. Insight generates the courage to defend society against those who, resigned by their actions to living the law of the jungle, would destroy it.

Focusing on culture is like looking at a photograph without the depth of field to see it against the fabric of society in the background:

Flowers with no depth of field Flowers with depth of field


Focused on foreground activities alone, People miss the society people create for their own self-interest. Not seeing the background, people overlook that individuals, journalism, and society form interrelated concentric circles.

School subjects currently taught offer fascinating detail, but don’t convey the lessons that help students mature and integrate into society. Teaching by subject was developed centuries ago. In the 700s, Charlemagne appointed Alcuin the monk to establish a sweeping educational system for kings and commoners. The system taught students to think using the Trivium. After that, they practiced their thinking on subjects. Centuries later it was warped to where they taught subjects and hoped students learned to think.

Subjects are not enough. Suppose you want to drive a car:

  • If you study the history of cars — that in 1885 Karl Benz invented the motorcar or that the economics of cars — that Henry Ford’s division of labor made automobiles affordable even to his workforce or that the geography of cars — that wide terrain of the United States made cars more practical than railroads for individual transportation, do you know enough to drive?
  • If you study physics or chemistry of cars — that rapid oxidation of complex hydrocarbons releases energy against a piston, or study the language, math, or art of cars, do you know enough to drive?
  • Suppose you study teaching techniques — that graphic organizers and testing rubrics improve the success of studying cars — or critical thinking — that meta-cognitive strategies increase one’s understanding of cars.
  • At the end of the day — through layers of educators, administrators, certifications, mandated curricula, standardized testing, whole language learning, classroom directives, contract provisions, political correctness, and lunch menu restrictions — do you know enough to drive?

The car you need to learn to drive is you. Self–interest generates traction in school. Today officials are more interested in molding students to be “college and career ready” as if that were the end goal, regardless whether parents and students agreed.

College teaching programs and district professional development spend considerable time teaching teachers how to teach. What or why something should be taught is not revalidated. Teachers enter the classroom directed by authorities what students will learn. Textbooks and teaching materials provide content vetted by highly credentialed “expert” mandarins.

Methods and content always can improve, but the new social studies frameworks impose disturbing complexity and order. Underneath concepts well worth practicing are social studies frameworks arranged in levels:

  • Questions are presumed to be the key to learning when the reverse is more likely.
  • Understandings called “Key” are only popular.
  • Themes meld trendy concepts with federally–approved subjects.
  • The Inquiry Arc wanders.
  • Content specifications are purposely superficial.
  • Implementations represent vendor–approved notions driven from elsewhere.

Frameworks designers appear to have lost confidence in what experience has to teach. They dismiss the very advantage the founders brought to the table. Losing the value of experience examined makes the same mistakes previous “forward-thinking” educators made. Charles Dickens reflected the problem in his 1854 book Hard Times that describes attempts to rigidly control education according to the best technical understandings of the day. In 1885, Daniel Owen wrote Rhys Lewis in Welsh to reclaim heritage from the mechanistic hand of British central government.

Common Core social studies frameworks and the parallel intrusion into English Language Arts (ELA) implementations have educators trying to turn students into good citizens by every means except familiarizing them with the continuum of history and how America emerged from it.

Approaches to learning

Coasting on contemporary feelings as if they were scholarship, proposed social studies frameworks presume that if “Enduring Understandings” and “Key Ideas” are popular, they must be important. That makes no sense. Absent scholarship that conveys why something matters, classroom experience becomes a charade.

For example, the C3 Framework proposes to tease out a formless “Key Idea” using a sample question it considers compelling: “How will an increase in the minimum wage affect local job opportunities for teens?”[12] That question is tedious, fog–inducing, and pedantic.

A more coherent approach, offered by Economist Mark J. Perry posted on his blog, Carpe Diem, presents a Venn diagram of overlapping circles that induces strong traction students can use regarding minimum wage.[13]

Venn diagram on minimum wage and tobacco

In the Venn diagram:

  • The right circle illustrated, “People who believe raising the minimum wage will have no effect on employment.”
  • The left circle represented “People who believe raising taxes on alcohol will reduce consumption of those products.”
  • The area where both circles overlap is labeled, “People who do not have a strong need for intellectual consistency.”

Perry’s minimum wage lesson is teachable in different ways:

  • Economic point: “It you tax something more, you get less of it.”
  • Philosophical lesson: “Sometimes you think you are right only because you think you are right.”

The first point is verifiable through economic research and the second adds useful patterns that reinforce personal experience.

Patterns help one master the essential benefit of humility. Recognizing one’s mental map of reality might be mistaken leads to doubt that fuels a persistent quest to learn. It leads to respect for others similarly aware who recognize the benefit of cooperating to understand things more accurately. Later discussions will help explain the importance why.

That NCSS sample question was generated at the behest of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) who parented creation of the social studies frameworks. They took a cliché that sounded good and presumed they had stumbled upon a fact: “Questioning is the key to student learning.”[14] As the CCSSO explained, “Students will develop questions as they investigate societal issues, trends and events.”[15]

To expect students to develop questions from thin air is unreasonable. More likely the case is that, “Learning is the key to student questioning.” That didn’t stop the CCSSO from dictating questions to be the heart of their curricular guidelines. Their frameworks follow the structure:

  • Questions in an Inquiry Arc . . .
  • Organized by Themes . . .
  • Lead to Key Ideas and Compelling Understandings . . .
  • Fleshed out with Content Specifications

Darned few questions really motivate people, and those tend to reflect profoundly individual concerns:

  • What can I know?
  • How should I behave?
  • How should I interact with others?

The job of education is to help students reach for mastery of what is worth knowing and why, embrace a process of continuous reflection, and tie it all together without dogma or conviction. One need not read completely the NCSS report either in the original “College, Career, and Civics” (C3) Framework or the numerous state-sponsored derivatives[16] to see the many ways they miss the mark.



Part 2: Reviewing the Social Studies frameworks

Summarizing reasons for concern.

The Social Studies frameworks are yet another grand educational scheme designed by committee and built to fail:

  1. Centralized frameworks are designed for the government’s view of what constitutes common community interest, not for the students’ view of what constitutes common individual interests that also serve society.
  2. The design–by–committee approach,[17] supposed to lend credibility instead created lack of accountability and the opportunity for the frameworks to be shaped to serve outside interests.
  3. Sweeping assumptions, made early in the vision process, rippled down into implementations to the detriment of the learning.
  4. Four pages of frameworks contributors make unwieldy assumptions of common cultural experience, democracy, a stable economy, and beneficent government.
  5. “College and career ready” ought to be a secondary goal. Schooling should not program a CNC machine to shape students into a centralized idea of where and how one should fit.
  6. “Themes” are superficial and misleading, giving the appearance of striving for education when they mask the lack of it. They present a false façade of rigor whereas they are less themes than habits of presentation fallen into over time. Not coherent, they do not follow one to the next; accordingly, they offer little traction for students. They meet what they set as relevant standards, but those standards are not germane.
  7. “Key understandings”, selected because they were popular rather than well–founded or important, offer little traction other than what comes from required repetition.
  8. Dependence on current questions leaves students the mistaken impression their generation is more capable and better than earlier ones. They lose their sense of history because of it.
  9. Principles aren’t paper. Free speech may be enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. But only the timid justify action using the parchment of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence rather than the principle behind it.
  10. Justifying selecting an understanding to be “compelling” is the equivalent of an old fashioned ruler-waving schoolmarm’s “because I said so!” Dogmatic selection leaves real education as an exercise for students to pursue later in life.
  11. The frameworks proposed to create something culturally independent but unsure how, create content independence instead. What they thought to be politically and socially enlightened it turned out to be incomplete.
  12. Framework authors confess to habituation — to be able to survey consensus — but not to be able to deduce or convey the roots of society in such a manner that others can re-verify.
  13. Framework virtues are static, not extracted from experience, and promoted only because they sound worthwhile.
  14. In the 1920s, John Dewey pushed “social studies” instead of geography and history and “Language Arts” to replace English literature and grammar. Dewey believed its purpose was to produce “good citizens” where what constituted “good” was defined by authorities. Today, concepts seem overlooked or purposely left out by authorities interested in social transformation that international organizations yearn to achieve.
  15. Lessons were produced using pedagogy designed by 1930s soviet behavioralist Lev Vygotsky implant a social integrationist view of language and learning because the goal was not to make students understand, but to make them behave the way that was in the state’s interest. Vygotsky believed in distributed intelligence. Tests measure pedagogically induced habits, not the acquisition or application of knowledge. In real education, how to teach has to be treated like a loaded weapon because it can go off pointed in the wrong direction.
  16. Project-based learning is experiential rather than mental. The interaction becomes the measurable quality rather than individual mental development. The subject of the class becomes secondary to behavior.
  17. Common Core has become the justification for inclusion whether or not a specific change was required by some authority. That makes it hard to recognize a shift away from knowledge and mental skills toward behavioral skills and developing habits. Standards have become the flag under which social change is carried out.
  18. Experts came down on the side of centralization, presuming that “college and career ready” trumped other desirable options. History has not been kind to that approach, as ancient Chinese dynasty dependence on mandarins attests. Credentials are not required to produce useful curricula. Sometimes they are a disadvantage. Ancient Chinese mandarins were highly credentialed in areas that ended up not to matter.
  19. State–based framework derivatives beget vendor-provided implementations. Failure cascades through them. Generalities in the original framework become not liberty, but license for distributed frameworks to do worse, all in the name of a centralized presumption of the public good.
  20. Understanding should be reached through competition and individual agreement, not top-down imposition that expounds unchallenged ideas, tested by uniform exams, “validated” by administration approved accreditors.
  21. Without deduction, there is not education but indoctrination. Schooling becomes drilling, losing traction and wonder.
  22. Once having captured a culture through schooling, a government leviathan will use the institutions of culture to perpetuate itself.

The frameworks strive for the abstract but achieve the abstruse. Their processes are academic and although they drill some useful tools, they don’t offer the underlying dynamic process concepts that, once discovered, lead one to create society, value, and defend it.

Dynamic process concepts, once understood, lead to the characteristics that help make people successful as individuals and active positive participants with others in society that together they create.



Frameworks: Timeline and layout

The social studies frameworks timeline.

A 2008 survey on the disparate nature of the way social studies was taught across the 50 states led the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) to create the Common Core Initiative.

In 2010, work was commissioned by the Social Studies Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction (SSACI) collaborative of CCSSO to create the Common Core State Standards.

In 2012, CCSSO asserted the premise that questioning is the key to learning. Their vision statement described the heart of the proposed C3 Social Studies Framework to be an “Inquiry Arc” consisting of dimensions “1) developing questions and planning investigations; 2) applying disciplinary concepts and tools; 3) gathering, evaluating, and using evidence; and 4) working collaboratively and communicating conclusions”

  • Teachers and students would formulate a question (Dimension 1).
  • Then they would then determine the kind of content to address their questions (Dimension 2). Content would cover four federally mandated core disciplines of Civics, Economics, Geography, and History.
  • Teachers and students would accumulate evidence to give explanations and make persuasive arguments (Dimension 3).
  • Finally, (Dimension 4) Students would present their ideas.

When the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math were released, the CCSSO dropped plans to replicate the exercise for Social Studies. That is when the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) stepped in.

In 2013, The NCSS and a plethora of other contributing associations released The College, Career & Civic Life Framework For Social Studies State Standards. (C3 Framework)

The C3 Framework integrated and extended ELA Common Core State Standards in social studies standards.

A layout of the frameworks.

The C3 Framework proposed that state standards identify the knowledge and skills students need to know and be able to do — suggesting “purposes worth caring about, processes worth engaging in, and knowledge worth knowing”[18] be organized as:

  • Questions for Exploration
  • Knowledge — the learners will understand...
  • Processes — the learners will be able to...
  • Products — learners demonstrate understanding by...

Lastly, the NCSS advocated that the civic mission of social studies promote civic action.

To consider “big ideas” or “enduring understandings” the C3 Framework established ten “themes” for social studies discussion. They proposed, more than content knowledge, to develop skill sets and a disposition for critical thinkers.

Like other states following the C3 Framework, New York State produced a field guide, an introduction, and grade-specific social studies frameworks that followed Inquiry Arcs, Unifying Themes, Common Core Literacy Skills and Social Studies practices, Key Ideas and Conceptual Understandings presumed to be principles, and, finally, Content Specifications.

The NYS Social Studies Framework Introduction established standards for:

  • History of the United States and New York
  • World History
  • Geography
  • Economics
  • Civics, Citizenship, and Government

New York also emphasized Instructional Shifts in its framework:

  • Focus on conceptual understanding rather than facts.
  • Foster student inquiry, collaboration, and informed action rather than have a teacher as disseminator and learn facts from textbooks.
  • Integrate content and skills purposefully rather than discretely.

The NYS K-12 Social Studies Field Guide introduces “various Social Studies practices” that are not part of the C3 Framework structure:

  • Gathering and Using Evidence
  • Comparisons and Contextualization
  • Chronological Reasoning

The NYS K–8 Social Studies Framework revised and expanded those Social studies practices:

  • Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence
  • Chronological Reasoning and Causation
  • Comparison and Contextualization
  • Geographic Reasoning
  • Economics and Economic Systems
  • Civic Participation

NYS massaged the ten C3 Framework Themes but essentially follows them in a nominally chronological approach to social studies according to this schedule:

  • Kindergarten Self and Others
  • Grade 1 My Family and Other Families, Now and Long Ago
  • Grade 2 My Community and Other United States Communities
  • Grade 3 Communities around the World
  • Grade 4 Local History and Local Government
  • Grade 5 The Western Hemisphere
  • Grade 6 The Eastern Hemisphere
  • Grade 7 History of the United States and New York – I
  • Grade 8 History of the United States and New York – II
  • Grade 9 Global History and Geography – I
  • Grade 10 Global History and Geography – II
  • Grade 11 United States History and Government
  • Grade 12 Participation in Government; Economics, the Enterprise System, and Finance

The NYS Framework also lists Key Ideas tagged with the applicable themes, then Conceptual understandings, followed by Content Specifications. This is followed by rubrics, organized by social studies practice, with columns selecting grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

Details of content were left to commercial textbook and program implementers. New York State Education Department posted sample lessons from different vendors at their website.

It is in the NYS Frameworks itself that the heavy overlay of Common Core Literacy Standards becomes the tail that wags the dog.

The general framework structure:

A more detailed examination of concerns follows social studies frameworks sections:

  • Key Understandings
  • Inquiry Arc
  • Themes
  • Key ideas
  • Content Specification

If the summary has raised sufficient concerns about the frameworks, skip the detailed examination and summary and page on ahead to the chapters on Individuals & Society for a refreshing look on validating background for society.

Frameworks: Key Understandings are of minimal significance

“Key Understandings” are cultural, not key

The Frameworks mistakenly consider Key Understandings to be compelling. The concept of Key or Enduring Understandings commits the logical fallacy of circular reasoning: Understandings are considered valid because they endure and because they endure, they are considered valid.

The frameworks claim, “Meaningful social studies builds curriculum networks of knowledge, skills, beliefs, and attitudes that are structured around enduring understandings, essential questions, important ideas, and goals.”[19] When educators teach traditions simply because they are popular it is only coincidental to call them “enduring”, “essential”, or “important”.

Key understandings are cultural. The C3 Framework defines culture to be, “a human institution manifested in the learned behavior of people, including their specific belief systems, language(s), social relations, technologies, institutions, organizations, and systems for using and developing resources.”[20] Since they are cultural, they won’t necessarily travel across cultural boundaries, and are a tacit admission of moral relativism. Limited to their own cultures, they are unable to establish persuasive connections with other cultures or individuals and visa versa. Unable to transfer foundations able across cultural boundaries, they are susceptible to being undermined by outside ideas.

Ideals that boil up from homegrown cultural traditions offer no basis to be believed over those from neighboring cultures. The frameworks are caught in an unseen contradiction where they presume a uniform cultural experience that doesn’t exist while they promote diversity that presupposes multicultural experience.

Framework authors assume a uniformity of cultural thought non-existent in the United States, at the same time they fail to notice the uniformity implicit in the underlying fabric society that, across cultures, binds all civilized people together. They interchangeably misuse culture and society without understanding there is a difference between them. The result is cross-cultural incompatibility underneath the notion of cross-cultural diversity it purports to support.

“Key Understandings” confuse the popular with principles.

The frameworks examine popular notions they call “enduring understandings” and list what they feel are “key concepts”. Popular understandings appear enduring only because they have been popular with teachers, perhaps over several generations. Popularity only means they are well–known. Popularity offers neither validation nor justification. Modern packaging of bad ideas won’t make them any more significant.

History is littered with popular bad ideas. Separate but equal was popular. The slavery denounced in lessons today might have been considered an Enduring Understanding in the frameworks of 1859. Imagine teachers told to use then modern pedagogical techniques to drill slavery into yesteryear’s inquiring and eager young minds.

Some traditions came to be called principles out of habit, not because they were distilled from experience, postulates, or proofs. Culturally–based “enduring understandings” offer students no path other than habit to deduce their foundation. Tradition is not enough. Because a culture believes something doesn’t verify it as worthwhile or worthy of respect. Feelings that well up into consciousness may become popular and feelings that are popular are often wrongly presumed well reasoned.

Unexamined popular traditions imbedded into frameworks leave students substantially ungrounded. They don’t offer students paths to determine from whence they spring or why they have value. Platitudes aren’t principles. Beliefs aren’t principles. Clichés aren’t principles. What they call principles are convenient fictions used to avoid principles. They don’t explain why notions matter or justify them with reasoning others could follow and possibly accept as their own.

To earn cachet as principles, ideas with potential grow from wisdom distilled from hard experience. Patterns that appear significant are then projected into hypothetical futures. Some imagined futures would be silly — Utopian models that collapse, unworkable even in dreams. Others show potential. Those that stand up against both the past and future serve as acting principles that are useful until fresh experience teaches otherwise.

Students develop maturity as they examine why certain ideas are considered principles. As they become confident in their mastery, they can entertain challenges to them. Teachers likewise become practiced enough to guide free ranging discussions in collaborative classrooms.

Revalidation is the responsibility of every individual. Each generation is obliged to revalidate the principles accepted as fundamental by previous generations in light of more recent experience. It is too important a task to be assigned to elite experts. The frameworks offer no path other than habit for a student to deduce their value or revalidate for the current generation their importance. Revalidation is not even a consideration. Any worthwhile framework would teach the principle behind the enduring understanding. Students would revalidate the principle that validates the understanding.

The frameworks should ask, “Why are traditional understandings foundational?” That they don’t ask sends the message framework designers don’t themselves know.

Frameworks: Inquiry Arc of vague questions

Fogging out over compelling questions

The frameworks don’t ask significant questions. They don’t nudge students to consider answers measured against experience extracted from history by those who turned their keen intellects toward addressing the simple daily problems of living.

Frameworks suggest as possible compelling questions, “Was the American Revolution revolutionary?”[21] or “Was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s a success?”[22] They offer possible supporting questions like, “What were the regulations imposed on the colonists under the Townshend Acts?” The frameworks revert to pedantry and petty detail.

The simpler, straightforward compelling question is “Why would people living in pre-revolutionary America wish to revolt?”

The frameworks fog people out when they try to sell, “a developmentally appropriate, scalable, and assessable set of ideas through which students can demonstrate their increasingly independent facility with recognizing, developing, and articulating powerful questions.”[23] Frameworks overlook pivotal questions like:

  • What are foundational concepts?
  • What makes concepts foundational?
  • What are the processes and tools that lend themselves to promoting and perpetuating effective society?
  • Who nourishes and protects society?
  • Does protection come from the center, from the edge, from above or from below?
  • What are ethics and were do they come from?
  • Should students learn virtues?
  • Where would virtues come from and what makes them virtuous?
  • What constitutes a good citizen?
  • Why do nations fail?
  • What helps nudge individuals toward mastery of what is worth knowing and why?

Education should:

  • Spread methods that encourage self-improvement
  • Create a mature humanity where possible
  • Instill courage to defend society against those who would undermine it

Frameworks: Themes don’t unify

Subject themes are a programmed distraction.

The C3 frameworks present ten mostly mundane themes[24] that fail for two distinct reasons.

They represent mostly habits fallen into over time rather than coherent threads that encourage deeper understanding. [New York State’s framework twiddles the order].

The subject themes that follow are then compared historical lessons from expert historians to show real traction can be offered students.

The C3 themes make the frameworks complicated. The following table juxtaposes frameworks theme descriptions next to more useful views. [The NYS number and rubric reference code follow the C3 framework theme]:

Theme 1: Culture [NYS: 1. Individual Development and Cultural Identity (ID)]

Framework presumption: “Through the study of culture and cultural diversity, learners understand how human beings create, learn, share, and adapt to culture, and appreciate the role of culture in shaping their lives and society, as well the lives and societies of others. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with geography, history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as multicultural topics across the curriculum.”

More useful view: By giving culture primacy in teaching, the NCSS accepts that a culture based on popular traditions or natural law, interacting with other cultures, is obliged to resign itself to persistent and intractable moral relativism absent an agreed-upon framework for peaceful problem resolution. The only fallback position for inter-cultural problem resolution is the Machiavellian concept that might makes right.[25]

Theme 2: Time, Continuity, and Change [NYS: 3. Time, Continuity, and Change (TCC)]

Framework presumption: “Through the study of the past and its legacy, learners examine the institutions, values, and beliefs of people in the past, acquire skills in historical inquiry and interpretation, and gain an understanding of how important historical events and developments have shaped the modern world. This theme appears in courses in history, as well as in other social studies courses for which knowledge of the past is important.’

More useful view: Separating then and now, the NCSS presumes the present day to be an end point rather than another ordinary point along a continuum with others from the past, through the present, to the future. The view from that pedestal makes institutions, values and beliefs only clinical, distant, abstract considerations. In fact, one’s place in time is an essential tool to check whether what one thinks makes sense.

Theme 3: People, Places, and Environments [NYS: 4. Geography, Humans, and the Environment (GEO)]

Framework presumption: “This theme helps learners to develop their spatial views and perspectives of the world, to understand where people, places, and resources are located and why they are there, and to explore the relationship between human beings and the environment. In schools, this theme typically appears in courses dealing with geography and area studies, but it is also important for the study of the geographical dimension of other social studies subjects.”

More useful view: Physical maps are tools that serve as metaphors for mental representations every individual uses to make decisions. To become more accurate they continuously must be updated. The critical metaphor for social studies is that “Sometimes you think you are correct, not because you are correct, but simply because you think you are correct.” That engenders humility and respect for others that is the cornerstone of society.

Theme 4: Individual Development and Identity [NYS: 2. Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures (MOV)]

Framework presumption: “Personal identity is shaped by family, peers, culture, and institutional influences. Through this theme, students examine the factors that influence an individual’s personal identity, development, and actions. This theme typically appears in courses and units dealing with psychology, anthropology, and sociology.”

More useful view: Rather than external training of socialized behavior, the individual should be the primary theme, framing the issues of life from the personal perspective because

  1. it is the only framework within which one can operate and
  2. basic questions that give traction include: What can one know? How should one behave? How should one interact with others?

Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions [NYS: 5. Development and Transformation of Social Structures (SOC)

Framework presumption: “Institutions such as families and civic, educational, governmental, and religious organizations, exert a major influence on people’s lives. This theme allows students to understand how institutions are formed, maintained, and changed, and to examine their influence. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, and history.”

More useful view: The classical Greek view was that the culture as a group defined individuals. Similarly, framework implementations encourage group activities to help students develop good citizenship. They misunderstand that when individuals recognize their limits, they have compelling reason to socialize. Education is incomplete if students fail to discover for themselves the personal value of society.

Theme 6: Power, Authority, and Governance [NYS: 6. Power, Authority, and Governance (GOV)]

Framework presumption: “One essential component of education for citizenship is an understanding of the historical development and contemporary forms of power, authority, and governance. Through this theme, learners become familiar with the purposes and functions of government, the scope and limits of authority, and the differences between democratic and non-democratic political systems. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with government, history, civics, law, politics, and other social sciences.”

More useful view: The distinction between culture and society is not made in the frameworks, yet it is the single understanding required to overcome moral relativism between cultures. When one considers the minimum requirements for behavior at the edge where any two individuals or any two cultures meet, it defines the relationship required to legitimize governments, understand limits, and recognize abuse.

Theme 7: Production, Distribution, and Consumption [NYS: 8. Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems (ECO)]

Framework presumption: “This theme provides for the study of how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, and prepares students for the study of domestic and global economic issues. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with economic concepts and issues, though it is also important for the study of the economic dimension of other social studies subjects.”

More useful view: One must be careful of the concept of economic “systems.” If individuals decide to do what they are good at and swap surpluses to mutual benefit, that is a fact, not a theory and not a “system.” Economic effects are in play, observed from experience, whatever a government might plan. The premise that structure must necessarily be governmentalized misapplies economic experience to suggest people consciously organize for trade. This framework theme might have been called economics except that the experience of Adam Smith and others seem shunted to the educational sidelines. Adam Ferguson explained these are the result of human action but not of human design. F. A. Hayek showed that actions often have unexpected consequences. Nor is consideration is given to whether regulators have the information necessary to make good regulations. It also presumes that effective redistribution necessarily must be governmentally driven.

Theme 8: Science, Technology, and Society [NYS: 9. Science, Technology, and Innovation (TECH)]

Framework presumption: “By exploring the relationships among science, technology, and society, students develop an understanding of past and present advances in science and technology and their impact. This theme appears in a variety of social studies courses, including history, geography, economics, civics, and government.”

More useful view: Science and technology may speed interactions and multiply power, but they do not change the underlying society itself. They reaffirm the necessity to understand the mechanisms of society, the tendencies that affect it, and the need to encourage others to discover society for themselves. The theme curiously juxtaposes process, knowledge, and organization without explanation or justification.

Over time, cataclysmic change can be caused by a variety of vectors. That science has caused impact over time is obvious, hardly worthy of a major theme. Time is better spent understanding recursive feedback loops, relaxation cycles, and the compelling appreciation that knowledge of Mother Nature’s laws has put such power in the hands of anyone who cares to use it that we are in a race for civilization since previous protections are no longer adequate.

Technology appeals to the guild of educational authorities because it adds complexity that looks like magical sophistication to outsiders. Real education can create an inquiring mind with only the tools Abraham Lincoln needed, sitting before the fire with charcoal and a shovel to write on. That and a harvest of books. Books give insight. Books give perspective. Books give hope. Books give companionship. Books nudge toward a way out. Books give clues to what is wrong. Literature helps one become sensitive to patterns and the consequences of them. Literature compresses experience into concentrated points that help manufacture a way to bust out of our limitations. The frameworks give books short shrift.

Theme 9: Global Connections [NYS: 10. Global Connections and Exchange (EXCH)]

Framework presumption: “The realities of global interdependence require an understanding of the increasingly important and diverse global connections among world societies. This theme prepares students to study issues arising from globalization. It typically appears in units or courses dealing with geography, culture, economics, history, political science, government, and technology.”

More useful view: Global connections are presented as different than those between individuals, even though behavior at the edge where any two individuals meet is scalable to groups, cities, states, nations, cultures, and civilizations.

Theme 10: Civic Ideals And Practices [NYS: 7. Civic Ideals and Practices (CIV)]

Framework presumption: “An understanding of civic ideals and practices is critical to full participation in society and is an essential component of education for citizenship. This theme enables students to learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizens of a democracy, and to appreciate the importance of active citizenship. In schools, the theme typically appears in units or courses dealing with civics, history, political science, cultural anthropology, and fields such as global studies, law-related education, and the humanities.

More useful view: Releasing millions of political change agents who are unanchored to society by the lessons of history is not in the best interest of all our culture has accomplished in many hundreds of years of development. For instance, in the frameworks, one learns about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy but, bizarrely, democracy, in the frameworks, is an unexamined and assumed given. Frameworks authors are careful not to distinguish between statistical inequality, the opportunity for individuals to achieve greater equality, and the attempts of political elites to play off perceptions of inequality to buy power with Other People’s Money or to stifle upward mobility through middle class entrepreneurship.

Subject themes miss useful historical lessons

Teachers who teach methods often overlook that history coaches through experience, not technology. Abstraction can squeeze content empty. Compare the difference between the subject-based frameworks “unifying” social studies themes into social transformation and the lessons historians Will and Ariel Durant extracted from 5,000 years of experience.[26] They plumbed history for the nature, conduct, and prospects of man and concluded that competition is the life of trade and the trade of life, peaceful with plenty, violent when not, and, above all, that man, not earth, makes civilization.

That puts responsibility on the shoulders of students. Despite cycles of continuous dynamic tension between political, social, economic, and military haves and have-nots, the only real revolution “is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionists are philosophers and saints.[27]

The overriding theme of history is that manipulative communication is the tool even of schooling requiring more than ever that students be able to defend against it. “From Solon to the Roman conquest of Greece (146 B.C.) the conflict of oligarchs and democrats was waged with books, plays, orations, votes, ostracism, assassination, and civil war.”[28]

Those who lust for power always claim barbarians are at the gate. When stampeding the public, never let a crisis go to waste. Frameworks requirements focus the classroom lens on culture wars in ways that push the official view of popular opinions of the day.

Rather than discrete themes, history and economics are interrelated. “History, according to Karl Marx, is economics in action— the contest, among individuals, groups, classes, and states, for food, fuel, materials, and economic power. Political forms, religious institutions, cultural creations, are all rooted in economic realities.[29] [30] Non-economic passions like religious and nationalistic beliefs can also motivate, but wealth, ill-defined and misunderstood, still concentrates energy.

Plato reduced political evolution to a sequence of monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and dictatorship.[31] The Durants lay the blame, “not . . . through the perversity of the rich, but through the impersonal fatality of economic development, and through the nature of man.”[32] The frameworks and their themes ignore both the revelation and its dynamic nature.

Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government “since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign.”[33] Ignorance lends itself to manipulation by the forces that mold public opinion. Frameworks enforced ignorance toys with schooling, as if it were a game of minor consequence where newly–minted activists are schooled for political ends.

Across history[34] as rascals persistently infiltrate institutions, individuals unprepared for nuance are repeatedly obliged to “choose” between capitalism and socialism, private plunder and public graft, order and opportunity, personal choice and government allocation, public demand and government decree, the individual and the collective, and serfdom and competition. In the cyclical contest between capitalism and socialism, “every economic system must sooner or later rely upon some form of the profit motive to stir individuals and groups to productivity. Substitutes like slavery, police supervision, or ideological enthusiasm prove too unproductive, too expensive, or too transient.”[35]

Inequality is implicit in any dynamic culture, but using communication and schooling to manipulate the magnitude and obscure rthe cause of inequality tools the message for socio–political advantage. To phrase the question as binary — either redistributing wealth by legislation or distributing poverty by revolution — is a logical fallacy. Real education facilitates mobility through economic quintiles across a single generation.

Far more useful than the frameworks magnifying instances of oppression would be recognize, first, that concentration of wealth is natural and, second, classes cane explore the consequences of managing social order, for example, as exercised in Athens by Solon.[36]

The Durants apply Hegel’s thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. From the thesis of technological revolution, and the antithesis of capitalism versus socialism, comes a synthesis of the two melded together.[37]

If the new card in the deck of early America was the commercial middle class, the new card aching for study in the classroom today is the Internet–driven liberation of information from the media elite and educational overlords. Authorities still attempt to corral control through political correctness, campaign finance control, and taxation.


The themes of history are not simple, static subjects presumed by the social studies frameworks. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are tied by collective lessons about how individuals seek social stability that institutionalizes equitable opportunity. That may have passed over the heads of those who plod through the frameworks. Worse, it may not have been part of their public school intent.

In their snapshot worldview, the frameworks’ event-based rubrics miss the ebb and flow of how dollars are brought into households. French economist Fernaud Braudel described the structures of everyday life that intertwine technology and economy as it evolved through manual labor, mechanization, and digital signals to test laws, morals and mettle.

The Durants conclude, “There is no significant example in history, before [1968], of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion. France, the United States, and some other nations have divorced their governments from all churches, but they have had the help of religion in keeping social order.[38] Almost 50 years later, multiculturalism challenges what inertia remains of religious morality, offering little to replace it. The frameworks bypass the issue, and yet schools must engage it. Part 3 of this paper offers to resolve the multicultural dilemma.

The times are as uncertain as they ever were, and the consequences of failure more sweeping, yet the wealth that causes envy is the same wealth to buffer us from the arbitrary consequences of nature.

Proper traction for students will not come from the frameworks, yet it must come. “If equality of educational opportunity can be established, democracy will be real and justified. For this is the vital truth beneath its catchwords: that though men cannot be equal, their access to education and opportunity can be made more nearly equal. The rights of man are not rights to office and power, but the rights of entry into every avenue that may nourish and test a man’s fitness for office and power.”[39]

Every student is obliged personally to revalidate social order. “Would we really prefer the Athenian agora or the Roman comitia to the British Parliament or the United States Congress, or be content under a narrow franchise like Attica’s, or the selection of rulers by a praetorian guard? Would we rather have lived under the laws of the Athenian Republic or the Roman Empire than under constitutions that give us habeas corpus, trial by jury, religious and intellectual freedom . . .”[40]

Those who established frameworks themes didn’t sufficiently exert themselves to distill material that could gain traction in a young mind and gain traction for advancement and stability of the country.

Frameworks: Key ideas are not compelling

Concepts may not be principles or virtues.

Imbedded in Key Ideas and Compelling Understandings, the frameworks bandy about concepts erroneously considered principles. Those the frameworks follow with still others considered virtues.

Traditions are not principles. What does make principles principles? Where do they come from? What distinguishes a true principle from a false bloom? How has the American culture arrived at these particular principles? How should principles resolve when in competition with other principles from home or different cultures?

Frameworks examples of principles include adherence to the social contract, consent of the governed, limited government, legitimate authority, federalism, separation of powers, equality, freedom, liberty, respect for individual rights, and deliberation.

Democracy isn’t mentioned as a principle, but it is treated as one. According to the C3 Framework, a Democratic principle is one “that should guide the behavior and values of institutions and citizens in a democracy.”[41]

The New York framework asserts the United States is founded on democratic principles it enumerates to be dignity for all, equality, fairness, and respect for authority and rules.

Virtues enumerated in the frameworks include honesty, mutual respect, cooperation, and attentiveness to multiple perspectives. How behavior becomes distilled and elevated to become a virtue is not discussed.

Similarly, Civic virtues are traits of character that enable citizens to contribute to the common good by engaging in political and civil society.

Concepts tread dangerous ground. Diversity is popularly encouraged to a degree that suggests groups have privileges beyond that extended to individuals.

The frameworks suggest experts know principles when they see them, even if you don’t, as if they are the authorities authorized to determine the common good.

Democracy isn’t a principle.

The NCSS social studies executive summary tenth theme, Civic Ideals and Practices, wants students to learn the “rights and responsibilities of citizens of a democracy.”[42]

The C3 framework proposes coursework should explain how a democracy relies on people’s responsible participation.

They propose to examine the requirements for living in a democracy but leave unexamined why one should want to do so. This is not new. Americans have come to promote democracy as if it were a good in itself that they wield almost like a club. The framework then digresses into a superficial travelogue about how government keeps people safe, that voting is an example of democracy, and examining what symbols of the country might be.

Democracy is treated as a principle when it is only a process. More dangerously, political habit has come to treat democracy as if it legitimizes policy. It does not. Approval by a majority only signifies that something is popular, not reasonable or justified.

Democracy doesn’t validate a proposition; it is a way to discuss it. Democracy codifies the humility that what people think just might be wrong. It codifies that even the smallest voice might suggest a better way to an audience tuned to hear it.

Principles matter.

The problem NCSS framework attempted to solve isn’t the problem that needs to be solved.

A major theme of education should be to teach students to detect the difference between a real principle and a false bloom. Anything less is schooling, not education.

As stated before, the frameworks consider principles to be “enduring understandings” and “key concepts” selected because they have been culturally popular. Because they blossom from cultural experience, they are the equivalent of natural laws. Natural laws don’t explain where principles and ideals come from or explain why they should be held.

“Key understandings” substitute for mastering concepts, tools, and methods worthwhile for any individual who needs to work with others.

The framework propagates not enduring understanding, but an enduring flatland. Restricted to culture, the entire framework fails to address the underlying society that holds different cultures together or explain how to deal across cultural boundaries.

Frameworks: Content Specifications misdirect

Implementations arrived in full bloom.

Vendors state level implementations arrived replete with copious expert behavioralist representations of the best pedagogical techniques.

Their complexity, probably by design, makes them a barrier to entry to competing representations of what to learn and how to learn.

Implementations are the point of the sword.

The frameworks meet implementations like binary chemical weapons. Two different non-toxic chemicals bind together in chemical weapons to create a dangerous reaction.

That is a way to say that the frameworks argument that content is up to local authorities is not sincere. Implementations are left up to individual districts that seldom have the time, curricular expertise, or funding to create the classroom material necessary to meet standards. Districts are left no practical alternative but to accept approved vendor implementations that express a pre-established voice.

Complete social studies framework implementations have yet to become widely available to the general public. However, vendor-provided misrepresentations of social studies content already infiltrate the sample content for English Language Arts Common Core grades 2-12 lessons. Vendors have followed the lead of federal Department of Education leaders and worked closely with those who created the frameworks.

The samples are sufficient to expose concerns.

ELA: Grade 2 samples misrepresent democracy.

The Grade 2 ELA read-aloud pushes a pasteurized “Democracy Good” Athenian notion that even in an early grade level representation undermines what is important about American principles. Half-truths presented as conventional wisdom promote acculturation that directs impressionable students toward the administration’s favored conclusions.[43]

The ELA sample content directs teachers to tell students that “people in ancient times often developed religions as they sought explanations for how things came to be or how things happened in nature . . .” as if gods were fanciful fairy tale creations instead of sturdy beliefs by which ancient youngsters lived and died. Today’s youngsters learn names of ancient gods, but not the lessons they offer. Today’s youngsters form beliefs that are different, but no less sturdy and no less mythic than ancient youngsters.

Non-fiction makes a contract with the reader to present a full and accurate representation of facts to flesh out a narrative arc. The Second Grade ELA text breaks that contract:

  • The authors claim Athens favored education while Sparta favored military training — omitting that in Athens girls were not educated while Sparta educated girls to the same level as boys.
  • The authors claim Athens invented democracy, while Sparta was a monarchy — omitting that, before Athens created its democracy, Sparta created a balanced constitution incorporating monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy with checks against all three.
  • The authors claim Athens favored peace and Sparta, war — omitting that city-states including Athens respected Sparta because of its concept of justice and willingness to fight to defend it.
  • The authors claim Athens favored individualism and Sparta did not — yet in Athens marriages were arranged while Spartans married for love.
  • The authors claim Athens was the seat of reason — omitting that demagogues in Athens drove their democracy to overreach and collapse, while Spartans, sensitive to democratic flaws refused to participate in the war.
  • On the other side, the authors omit that enforced equality of Sparta, where private wealth was banned, left it without the wealth Athens’ economic engine generated that allowed creation of naval power strong enough to take on Sparta.

The authors’ misrepresentation of material facts massages partial truths into a preferred narrative. Peace becomes the absence of war rather than the absence of the need for war. Athenians become lovers of peace, arts, and learning and while the Spartan approach valued different less-positive lessons. Athenians invent democracy, considered by the authors to be laudable while Spartans are not praised for their concern about democracy’s potential for overreach. In business, intentional misrepresentation commits fraud; in education, it commits social change.

ELA: 6-12 Grade samples are non–evidence-based.

ELA reading materials for grades 6-12 purport to teach students about “Evidence-based claims.” The seven-year program drills students to scan readings for “evidence” of claims, even though such claims out of context are impossible to validate. Unable to be checked, they encourage students to cite things that are not true without any way of knowing it. They prepare young minds to put blind trust in oratory easily hijacked by demagoguery.

In one ELA reading, an American tennis player pleads for equal prize money for women. Never mind that her criticism was directed at a different country and that equal prize money had been awarded 32 years earlier to American women.[44] Readings out of context imply an unfounded narrative arc suggesting something is wrong with America. Incomplete lessons perceived to be real are real in their consequences.

  • In the EngageNY Common Core Grade 8 sample reading, American tennis star Venus Williams argues for equal prize money for women who compete at Wimbledon, but students are left unaware that Wimbledon is in Great Britain, not the United States, and that the U.S. Open already had offered equal prize money for both men and women three decades earlier in 1973.
  • Throughout the EngageNY website lessons, Common Core chapter headings drive readers toward a preferred dramatic narrative. Segments in the Grade 7 sample reading for Cesar Chavez are, “Living under savage conditions,” “We organized,” “California grapes,” “Our accomplishments cannot be undone,” and “La causa.” A 30-year-old reading from 1984 does not imply a contemporary problem. No alternative evidence is provided to assess the assertions Chavez makes. No defense is offered about his accusations.
  • Supplied texts wrapped as Common Core gospel serve as the unchallenged foundation for learning about evidence-based claims. Lesson plans tell students an evidence-based claim, “States a conclusion you have come to... and that you want others to think about.” The textual evidence isn’t necessarily true, but repeated often enough, it can easily become believed.
  • The lessons’ wizardry sounds so academically technical: “[L]earning the thinking processes associated with developing an evidence-based claim: reflecting on how one has arrived at the claim; breaking the claim into parts; organizing supporting evidence in a logical sequence; anticipating what an audience will need to know in order to understand the claim; and, eventually, planning a line of reasoning that will substantiate the claim.” But each Common Core “evidence-based” claim is out of context and based upon a single tenuous unsubstantiated opinion.

Lessons that purport to teach how to make a claim hide a second level subtext that inoculates students with a preferred interpretation of history.

  • Chavez asserts, “Thousands of acres of land in California have already been irrevocably damaged.” Really? Irrevocably? The lesson reinforces the claim, asking students to, “Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.” But is the unsubstantiated assertion from the text true? Does it matter?

Common Core ELA lessons adopt the erroneous premise of the motion picture The History Boys that assertions are as good as fact.

One misrepresentation might be happenstance, two a coincidence, but consistent superficiality spread through every year of middle and high school lessons represents either incompetence or calculated plot.

History matters.

If one were charitable, one could suggest the frameworks discount history as a practical tool perhaps because historiography — the history of the study of history — leads to the conclusion that since past interpretations have been colored by the present of the historian, any present use of history must be equally suspect.

Mythology teaches us to be cautious of the past but not discard it entirely. The EngageNY Grade 2 CoreKnowledge sample explains mythology by saying that people in ancient times often developed religions as they sought explanations for how things came to be or how things happened in nature.[45]

Missed entirely, and, as mentioned earlier, more significant to the ancients and to students today, is that myths were used to transmit life lessons to individuals. The myth of the killing of Medusa is much more than a magical tale.

There is more than one way to interpret Medusa, the gorgon, who represents the past — an underworld creature, with hair of writhing snakes — amorphous, constantly moving, changing shape, ready to strike at the inattentive, and equally deadly to those who fixed their attention directly at her.

Tale of Medusa offers useful, workable value. The Gorgon’s deadly head, according to mythologists like Jane Ellen Harrison, “was made out of terror, not the terror out of the Gorgon.” History is filled with writhing, senseless terror, waiting to be repeated.[46] Perseus slew Medusa, with the help from the gods Athena and Hermes who provided a mirrored shield, winged sandals, a helmet of invisibility, and a sword.

  • Looking directly at Medusa could kill just like the rage and despair of looking too closely at the past could poison the reader. With history only softly reflected in Perseus’ mirrored shield, hope and invention remain intact to negotiate a more solid future.
  • History is another country. We don’t live there, but Perseus’ winged sandals take us there, even though it’s located far away.
  • Invisibility offers the chance that we can learn enough about the need to defend ourselves before we actually have to do so.
  • The sword reminds us that the past, the present, and the future require us to find the courage to stand up for ourselves.

Was Perseus born courageous, or did he discover along the way some source of courage? Some would treat courage as a vocabulary word. Others would tell you stories of courageous people for you to emulate. While they mean well, wisdom seldom works that way. The pattern worth learning from experience is that mastery begets understanding that begets courage. History helps one discover patterns of practical use either sharpening thinking or helping label practices tried before and found wanting.

Generations forget themselves and go stupid over time. Hubris grows. “Hey! I’m the center on my universe and must be right!” Literature calls people to refocus the magnifying glass of consciousness to remind humanity that the lessons of history are there for their benefit and, if forgotten, will attack them.

History and literature are not simply part of cultural heritage. They are how to plumb the past to discover its weakness and marshal its strengths. Seeing Medusa as history teaches how to use the tool to better one’s own future.

The frameworks don’t use history this way. They tie the past to the present for students to develop evidentiary skills and judgment according to present-day standards when its best use is to help recognize life lessons and their parallels in the timeline of life.

Frameworks: Social studies practices

Practices don’t make perfect.

The New York State Field Guide[47] proposes half a dozen social studies practices it chooses to encourage.[48] The first is “Gathering, Interpreting and Using Evidence.”

Evidence, while perhaps authentic, is slippery, susceptible to be taken out of context, and certainly overwhelming in quantity. Yet the frameworks want their charges to work well with primary sources. In so doing, by their disregard of authoritative historians, they deemphasize useful patterns that history can offer.

History, as in hamburger, can be cut many ways and still be considered meat. Slicing one way may not be as useful for students as slicing another way. Students deserve that which is most useful for them, not for the state. The issue again asks about the frameworks, does education belong to students or the state?

History requires vigilance. Well-meaning do-gooders and villains are revisionist at heart. Leftist social theorist Antonio Gramski said that the war to remake society would take a long march through cultural institutions. Schools are among those cultural institutions susceptible to low intensity warfare to shape the battlefield. Unarmed with the patterns history can offer, good people easily become gullible enablers of misgovernment that shows little, if any, respect for citizens.

Participation can be manipulated

Another social studies practice frameworks encourage is “Civic participation.”

Participation is not always worthwhile. It is said of editorials that “Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but you don’t have to know anything to have one.” A young or immature mind can easily be manipulated. It is dangerous for the frameworks to promote democracy as a principle without at the same time promoting caution because of the ease with which democracy can be hijacked.

As an example, the framework considers equality a principle.[49] Equality would be something that one could support with a demonstration. But which equality: equality of opportunity or equality of result? Too often demonstrators want delivered what enforced equality has never delivered — not just ‘a’ thumb on the scale of justice, but want their thumb on the scale of justice because their thumb is the only true thumb.

Economic systems aren’t a practice

The frameworks considers “Economics and Economic Systems” to be a social studies practice. As mentioned earlier, if individuals decide to do what they are good at and swap surpluses to mutual benefit, that is a fact, not a theory and not a “system.” Economic effects are in play, observed from experience, whatever a government might plan. It also presumes that effective redistribution necessarily must be governmentally driven. Neither is the question considered whether economics should be evaluated from the benefit of government or, as Bastiat said, from the point of view of the consumer.

Frameworks: Conclusions

Integration of Common Core Standards is distracting.

Integration of Common Core Standards into social studies frameworks obscures how thin is practical social studies substance.

The mass of Common Core Standards — 1) Reading for Informational Text, 2) Writing, and 3) Listening and Speaking — clutters, confuses, and overwhelms critical analysis included in the social studies frameworks. The standards are important, but as adjuncts to social studies, not as central purpose.

The standards don’t validate the clarity and usefulness of social studies foundational understanding, dynamic process concepts, skills, and evidence that students need to arm themselves to face the world. By posturing to be non-judgmental, frameworks’ judgment leaves students unpracticed at weighing substance. They leave real education until after schooling has been completed.

Those fighting for or against Common Core commit the logical fallacy of bifurcation in their presumption that only two options are available:

  • Education has failed and Common Core is the only way to fix it, and
  • Common Core is worse than the problem and schools should continue what they are currently doing.

Common Core is the symptom not the problem. Poor teaching is intolerable with or without Common Core. Teachers who do not engage students positively need to be mentored to success or, if still not successful, removed from the classroom. Human Resource officers and administrators need to assure that teachers have excellent human and practical skills before the first time they set foot in a classroom. It is for good reason that Common Core ELA guidelines assure students do not leave the 3rd grade without writing, reading, and inquiry competency.

Beyond that, the parties on each side of battle for and against Common Core seem to overlook that the real battle is over content that dictates whether education belongs to the state or to the individual. It unequivocally belongs to the individual. Of course students perform poorly today. They resist orchestrated complexity designed to school them into faceless features of an American flatland.

The test for teachers, school districts, state education authorities, and academia will be whether they choose to recognize their obligation to individual education or only increase the volume of their current chant in favor of top-down uniform schooling, hoping to drown out obvious insights that expose fatal flaws.

The Social Studies name gets in the way.

Social studies examines history, economics, politics and culture to learn how people have interacted with each other through the years, to consider how the past can be applied to improve current and future interactions.

The National Council for the Social Studies has turned the subject into the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Their frameworks promote nationalism in the form of docility and order and call it enabling.

The crux of the problem is that the definition of civic competence has changed over time and the definition promoted by academics through centralized government and purported state understanding and support is not necessarily what parents would want for their children.

By design, civics has supplanted history, economics, politics and even core lessons about social interaction. This is the desired outcome of decades of repeated attempts to commandeer education along the lines promulgated by national and international organizations with financial and policy interests in removing education from local hands and transforming it to serve their particular interests.[50] Plans for mental disarmament have reached the point we might better return to teaching subjects rather than support the centrally approved version of civics.

What is properly taught should be presented in a manner that allows each student develop conclusions and defend against even the teacher.

Promoting civic competence undermines it

The social studies frameworks are flawed and self-defeating. Social studies content disciplines include civics, economics, geography and history. In their sausage factory of subjects, as the meat gets squeezed out, the casing gets packed with filler rubrics[51] called enduring understandings, key concepts, and themes. Although framework designers claim they will “guide, not prescribe”[52] they do prescribe content that translates to:

  • Civics means how to get along with others.
  • Economics considers how to maximize well–being with well–being defined by government.
  • Geography means diversity presented through cultural travelogue.
  • History means disconnected events that support preconceived notions about civics.

The authors claim the aim of social studies “is the promotion of civic competence”[53] described as “the knowledge, intellectual processes, and democratic dispositions required of students to be active and engaged participants in public life.”[54] Unfortunately, rubrics at the national level and teased out at the state levels[55] elbow aside concrete knowledge, encourage superficial intellectual processes, and overlook exploring foundations.

The frameworks obscure “the importance of educating students who are committed to the ideas and values of democracy”[56] because they offer no compelling rationale why one should commit to democracy. Either they believe students are born committed to democracy, or they do not know themselves how to encourage commitment.

The NCSS admits their goal is to mold citizens. They quote,

“As Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewey and other great educators understood, public schools do not serve a public so much as create a public.[ N. Postman, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (Vintage Books, 1995), 18.] The goal of schooling, therefore, is not merely preparation for citizenship, but citizenship itself; to equip a citizenry with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for active and engaged civic life.”[57]

The frameworks goal seems contrived to produce good citizens rather than citizens who act responsibly. It drills in so much to know with so little worth knowing.

Education of that stripe belongs to the State and not to individuals. A “good citizen” becomes one schooled to be orderly, docile, and compliant, rather than one grounded in experience, clear–thinking, and well–spoken. Proper education belongs to the individual student, not the government. Classes should examine patterns across time about how virtues considered good citizenship have evolved would inoculate students to defend against indoctrination.

The frameworks speak to process, but confuse processes of learning with processes of governing, and still other processes of thinking. They don’t investigate ideas; they simply repeat preferred ones often enough instill habit, whether they are sound or silly, constructive or destructive. They fall into the trap of post-modern relativism where, simply because that culture’s ideas are popular, they are comfortable within any culture, whether builder or destroyer, proponent of peaceful problem resolution or user of individuals.

Frameworks overflow with material, but selected by a process that makes them profoundly empty. That educational vacuum sucked in notions that don’t belong there. When one doesn’t know what to teach or why, the culture becomes easy pickings for those with their own agenda. A jumble of thought selected according to the fads of the day, grouped but not structured, all too easily appears significant. Teachers, even good ones, may no longer be masters of what matters.

The frameworks inherent complexity masks the lack of horsepower underneath the social studies framework hood. The cliché “college and career ready” sounds good. Like a spritz of new car smell, it appeals to shoppers, but covers up what is lacking underneath. What is missing is hard to pin down because multiple levels of social studies frameworks spread accountability wide, such that addressing concerns is like playing a game of Whack-A-Mole.

Cluttered but empty, the social studies frameworks leave unarmed to defend themselves against those who take advantage of selective recollection and use words to club the living into food.[58]

Knowledge, patterns, and process.

Students find traction when history is treated as a core of today’s issues framed in experience.

A solid basis of facts provides patterns that lead to dynamic analytical thought processes to that lead to mastery of what matters. Mastery empowers individuals with the strength to create society, value it, and defend it from those who would destroy it from within through poor ideas or from without through force. An arsenal of learned experience called facts in the storehouse of one’s mind is powerful fuel when one has the skill to reason to an independent position that separates one from the herd. That very independence makes one an asset to the rest of the herd.

We are all animals trying to elevate our humanity. Once one figures why society matters, one can advocate for it. Once one learns why society matters, one becomes armed to defend it.

Frameworks authors don’t appear to understand how to use history. Worse, they don’t appear to believe in history. Even worse, they want to impose their say in the study of history to make it transformative.

The authors seem prejudiced against the experiences of historians, economists and such. They prefer instead that students develop participatory contemporary experience. They prefer students not evaluate and value what others who have gone before have learned, digested, understood, and proposed for others to consider.

At state levels, frameworks hand off curricular substance to financially interested outside providers. Crony vendor alliances consume taxpayer dollars and are completely invested in the K-12 reforms. Their implementation packages review content, test content, and create assessments for achieving standards their packages ostensibly meet. Throughout it all, framework authors throw a veil over citizenship education that obscures content by suggesting that a vague goal is good enough.[59] They have decided to engage in social and economic transformation they were never authorized by voters and taxpayers to undertake.

Poorly vetted frameworks serve special interests

Frameworks authors toss bouquets to associations and educators to suggest many people have examined the content. Perhaps they fogged out before they could summon enough attention to reject it. Absent consent or objection, many well-meaning people lead students astray because they have consecrated the frameworks.

Authorities may not have paid attention to the material. Worse, perhaps they were convinced by it.

History repeatedly warns that one cannot leave important decisions to those who claim special expertise. A real expert is someone who does not set great store in credentials, but who is skilled enough to explain things so clearly even ordinary people can follow. Yet the frameworks have been left to those who claim expertise.

Like a magician, the standards misdirect attention away from that material provided offers social studies content following no particular standards, to no particular end, selected by no particular authorities, but effecting results quite disconnected from individual personal development.

So where did the content provided in examples come from? How was the content selected? It appears to reinforce in students certain habits that go beyond ELA standards. Where are the directions implementers followed? According to what criteria were those directions set? Who approved them? They point to committees and the trail stops there.

New school revisionism comes from national educational associations and education schools following Global Competency prescriptions for education.[60]

The Competency-based Education that CCSSO pushes aligns with the recent federal workforce developmental emphasis that said that it too was using those reports as the basis for the classroom curriculum.[61]

The federal Department of Education has created the Learning Registry where teachers can obtain activities, projects, and assignments that encourage desired social changes in students. Linda Darling–Hammond encouraged the Performance Consortium’s focus on assessments to which schools should transition.

When one is schooled but not educated, the naïve have been hijacked because they are susceptible to it. Those who are naïve will join any chain gain when promised their prison will have a new name.

Who stands to benefit from the proposed social studies frameworks:

  • Not children: Kids are smart. They won’t be beguiled by behavioralist pedagogy. They quickly turn off when social studies frameworks offer little traction and no direct interest.
  • Not teachers: Stressed and stretched teachers object to operating in a tightly woven box of new and complicated standards that define student success very peculiarly.
  • Not colleges or businesses: College is only one step along several available paths, and forward-looking businesses recognize that schools are not CNC machines fashioning graduates according to a precise set of instructions, measured for compliance at each turn. Both colleges and businesses are confident in the vitality offered by a well-rounded individual.

Two groups have a vested interest in the frameworks as they have been proposed:

  • Textbook and computer program package vendors expect to profit from insinuating their technology and pedagogy as tinkering desperately continues.
  • The political elite who would mold a generation of malleable civic activists they can rhetorically manipulate through mass media to man their barricades in their quest for power.

Economist and philosopher Adam Smith extracted a valuable pattern from history that warned us not to trust government, groups, or convenient associations of governments or groups. President Dwight Eisenhower agreed, concerned about collusion between elected officials, government bureaucracy, and outside organizations.

Political theory

Authors would have people believe the frameworks and implementations contain no political theory, but they do. Underneath the “consciousness” of the inquiry, themes, understandings, content specifications, rubrics, charts, and examples of what is proposed, there is no history, no economic laws, and no appreciation for those who have gone before to focus their great intellects on detecting patterns to address the simple daily problems of living.

Frameworks designers don’t ever have to admit their intent. Ayn Rand called such educationists comprachicos — child-buyers: a mythical allusion to those who, for their own ends, would manipulate the minds of children. Educationists embraced John Dewey’s model of learning, his “learn by doing” approach that promoted real world experiences, not just reading and drill. They distilled out the process of analytical thinking, in favor of more dogmatic critical thinking. Education became very ‘now,’ encumbered by a restrictive set of blinders.

What worked in classical education became passé because it ostensibly favored those of higher socioeconomic class. They promoted group work and cooperative learning rather than nudge students to think for themselves. They educated for social responsibility and democracy even if strong individual thinking is how one can deduce what society is, what responsibility one has to society, and what processes in democracy are valuable.

They ostensibly left content to districts, but most vendors with products for social studies have been working on content that mirrors the preferred version of Swiss cheese with large holes. Non-fiction ELA lessons convey their own Swiss cheese — not false, but misleading and other directed.

It has been a slow process, this long march through culture. When parents attended school in the 1970s and 1980s, they would have been taught by the boomer generation teachers, flower power kids who escaped the Vietnam War by becoming teachers—confident of themselves while cynical of others.

If, when they were in school, today’s teachers didn’t learn enough to see the pattern of what was coming, their social studies classes failed. If students today don’t learn enough to see the patterns of what was coming, then social studies still fail.

If social studies has been unsuccessful, then another frameworks fix by those whose expertise created the problem makes it even less likely the frameworks can defeat the ongoing long march through the culture.

Moving on to individual excellence

Participation public affairs is down, journalism is failing, and the fog is rolling in. One would think that would be a call to action, except that the schooling proposed continues the long march through the culture. While the long march promises to motivate the public by encouraging “civic participation,” its promises are rainbows and unicorns.

Don’t bet on rainbows and unicorns. The long march delivers what it wants, not what you thought you would get. They promise excellence but excellence to them means something different. Words in the academic lexicon are often re-crafted to mislead. To social education theorists, excellence has become “the formation of abilities, dispositions, habits, and traits of character in each student to create a desired mindset that governs how the individual student sees life, the world, and an obligation to other people.”[62]

Their version of excellence seeks to undermine individual autonomy to become a means of control at the expense of liberty. Such “progress” is voluntary. For the greater good, students are required to collaborate, apply knowledge and skills, integrate content, and use technologies. For the greater good, students need never learn and never analyze. When schooled but not educated, the naïve become susceptible to hijack. The naïve will join any chain gain when promised his prison will have a new name.

When education belongs to a student, what matters is refining perception of reality by learning facts, distinguishing falsehood, and discarding what is flawed. These capacities belong to each individual. They are not for modern education to take possession of to mold and exploit.

Government that proposes to control education to make them “good citizens” is not of the people, by the people, or for the people.

The frameworks would be considered “a bridge too far” except that students taught in a social studies frameworks class are unlikely to appreciate the analogy. Students would protest their ignorance if only they knew why they should.

One need not despair. Despite federal bribery to facilitate fundamental transformation, the burdensome nature of the proposed social studies frameworks so weighs down teachers and students in the classroom that they clamor for a simpler, more elegant model that will reclaim what matters from educationist encumbrances. Educators will have to shed their cumbersome technique of teaching static fixed virtues to master the dynamic process concepts that lead to virtuous behavior.

Frameworks authors selected clichés from national experience that support a state-approved future, labeled them “enduring understandings”, and, with overwhelming complexity, proposed to compel teachers to navigate their intricate framework, holding their job in the balance should they get it wrong. That happened not because Common Core took social studies south but, that, almost unnoticed, social studies has been south for some time now.

Still, although overgrown, there is room in the classroom for subjects. Present day pre-Common Core History and English are encumbered with their own barnacles for not really recognizing how they can tie the present to the past and project into the future.

The goal of education is to spread knowledge and understanding, not evade it or make it the province of a particular domain. The further goal of education is to break out of the guild of credentialed authorities that generates the complexity insiders and outsiders alike mistake for magical sophistication. There is hope. Social studies is not so complex as the frameworks made it seem. The next section shows even non-experts can model understandable practical alternatives focused on what matters. Once you discover that you matter, you are in a position to assure you are up to the task.



Great Wave of Hokusai

Part 3: Individuals & Society: Self–interest


Where to find education

To generate greater traction and engagement, one has to break out of the social studies that has passed for schooling and weave three factors together:

  • Define relation of the individual to culture.
  • Discover why individuals need others.
  • Tease out from that how education becomes meaningful.

Traditionally, there has been a legacy of cultural assumptions that has discounted the importance of individuality relative to one’s host culture. Ancient Greece considered the individual to be subsidiary to culture. More recently, philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan (1651) believed in the necessary supremacy of government in culture because life in a state of nature was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[63] Believers in the social contract assert that those born into a culture owe their heritage to that culture for the quality of life they enjoy.

Unfortunately, it isn’t safe to embrace a culture and its government without reservation. Ibn Khaldun, (1332-1406), a great Muslim polymath, a sociologist, historian, and author of Muqaddimah, was more circumspect than Hobbes. He described government as “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself.”[64] It is too easy for a culture to become a user of people. Government, too, can become a user of people.

Neither is culture an ultimate authority. Culture fails with those who do not share that culture’s background.

For safety and effectiveness individuals need a sturdy and dependable framework supported by meaningful education that recognizes it. Past education that people have depended upon has proved no longer up to the task of providing stability. That which has been taught has become overgrown.

  • History, caught up in historiography, felt it had lost its objectivity.
  • Philosophy became disillusioned because it could not reach ultimate truth.
  • Political Science lost its way in moral relativism.
  • Literature lost itself in self-reference.

Since the 1950s, shaken by uncertainty, education began to repeat what it had always taught only louder. Good teachers need to find a way to nudge students toward the knowledge and processes to work this out.

Traditional education is good at what it does, but what it does well isn’t all people need:

  1. Core studies represent educators’ best reflection on materials crucial for an educated person to be exposed to, if not fully cognizant of.
  2. Core reflects judgment that such and such a background is an important common fabric for all educated persons and the common background for subsequent development of diverse skills and knowledge.
  3. Courses should shoulder responsibility to address where useful tools meet the simple daily problems of living and the problems of society.
  4. Studies should also leave at the least an imprint of that which tends to bind and unify — in the face of later fragmentation of experience and activities.

Little consensus has been reached to address essential understanding that is missing, such as:

  • Humility that comes from thinking about thinking,
  • Essential thinking techniques,
  • Simple wisdoms from those who turned their intellect to the simple daily problems of living.

The three can be summarized this way:

  • Humility: We often think we are right, not because we are right, but simply because we think we are right. That is hubris. As a habit, people concede greater beauty, strength, or speed, but no one concedes better judgment. It is humbling to realize that rationality is not how one thinks, but rather how one checks one’s work.
  • Trivium: Classical education used to consist of the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts, known as the Trivium — Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric: Grammar to put your thoughts in order, Logic to see those thoughts were consistent, and Rhetoric to convey those thoughts to others and back.
  • Attention: That suggests another concern where, in a way, we lose attention and fog out. Consciousness is a sometime acquired trait. Think of it as recognizing you are unaware when peripheral vision vanishes. Or, if you walk into a room, shine a flashlight at one corner and then other corners, when you leave the room, you can’t tell from the experience if the whole room was lit. Consciousness is ours only when we have it and no one considers that it might ever go missing. When one draws our attention back we think we have never lost it.
  • Character: As another concern, when it comes to character, Socrates felt it could be taught, not like geometry, but in a way he did not, or could not, explain, perhaps because of the limitations of his ancient Greek. We have new metaphors, tools, and language that can reach beyond Socrates to make accessible concepts he could not.
  • Wisdoms: A handful of simple wisdoms help make character more accessible because, rather than teach fixed virtues, they encourage dynamic process to which Socrates could only allude.

As children connect language and thought, they are empowered and motivated by simple wisdoms that underlie their conversation.

Developing humility

When one discovers that cultures and society are different, it changes the relation of individuals to everyone else. Cultures are like the pile of a carpet, varying in color, shape, texture, length, thickness, and material, while the minimum requirements for society are like the warp and weft of the carpet beneath the pile that hold cultures together.


Close-up illustration of carpet weave

The warp and weft provide the structure for stitching together society. Without the warp and weft threads supporting the carpet, all that exists is a pile of pile. Nothing else holds the carpet together.

Below we will show humility and reciprocity ar the warp and weft threads. Nudged to see why, individuals will recognize they are worth defending because absent society’s supporting threads citizens risk either serfdom or slavery.


Today, many seem recognize that ethical bases are challenged, but few seem to say so. Look at society. Society doesn’t know why it should be decent. All of the current generation is asking why. Why should I do this? Why should I believe in that?

Building society

Society is edge where any two individuals or cultures meet. Society requires no religion, no shared experience, and no natural law.

People build society because everyone is alone in their own consciousness. Even people together are alone, buffeted by a sea of sense experience. You can’t hug someone close enough not to be alone inside your mind, adrift in a sea of sense experience, not sure what to trust, with only the skills of pattern recognition to help. That is okay. Even alone, individuals can build society with others. We are obliged to, for our own self-interest.

People are like ships, alien, alone, and adrift on uncertain seas of sense experience, with only the pattern-recognition skills with which one was born, and the rationality developed over time. Yet, from simple threads fashioned from humility and a shared sense of need, a sturdy fabric can be fashioned between individuals, that stands independent of their cultures, to lift them above the rest of the animal kingdom and embrace a peaceful process of problem resolution.


U.S.Navy firing Lyle Gun


Society can be built projecting forward, in an exercise like linking two ships on a storm-tossed sea.

One ship uses a messenger gun to send a thin light line between ships that the second ship uses to return a stronger line. The process is repeated until the ships are lashed together.

The messenger line is simple: “Can you recall an instance from your personal experience when you thought you were correct but later events painfully proved you to be mistaken?’

Only one question matters

Repeating the question: “Can you recall an instance when you thought you were correct and later discovered you were mistaken?” The question nudges one to reflect on patterns of personal experience. Not your experience. Not religious teaching. Not natural laws specific to a culture. The question encourages society with others when question asker and answered discover that they share the common understanding that if sometimes you think you are right not because you are right, but only because you think you are right, that indicates you are not dependent on fallible thinking.

To recognize a pattern of error in one’s own past invariably leads to the conclusion that decisions are made not based on reality, but on a mental map of reality that is abbreviated and necessarily incomplete. The question creates doubt.

Doubt about the accuracy of what one thinks is humbling and a compelling reason to engage others similarly inclined, for the benefit of each. Self-interest and community join.

Insight is a powerful and compelling force. Someone who lies to you does not respect you or your efforts to improve the accuracy of your mental map of reality. Lying is anti-social. The liar has violated the basis for society. Once detected, one has no reason to trust a liar ever again. The insight causes one to recalibrate experience with politics and friends.

This is not a religious doctrine, natural law, or a cultural standard. Yet it is a conclusion invariably reached, even across cultures. While not universal, it might as well be. It is, if anything, a good idea.

Good ideas like this are viral. They easily travel across national and cultural boundaries, generating traction with anyone inclined to consider them. Society transcends culture. Insight about society creates a background by which all actions are measured.

Minimums of society

Doubt and the humility it causes are complimentary. One who recognizes doubt becomes humble. Humility comes to those who recognize doubt. René Descartes ostensibly said, “I think therefore I am”, but he was really saying “I doubt, therefore I am.”

Once humbled by doubt, the incentive to manufacture society with others and to the threads of wisdom that are the warp and weft that hold the fabric of cultures together:

  • Processes that foster humility — the understanding that there may be a better way of doing things, and
  • Reciprocity — the understanding that others can help us find that better way as we can help them

Understanding society encourages creation of processes of peaceful problem resolution. Manufacturing society itself allows us to lift ourselves slightly above the rest of the animal kingdom to improve the odds of survival.

The idea that learning literary skills is sufficient for an education is as absurd as suggesting that learning to press the accelerator to make the car go is enough learning for one to drive.

Experience fosters respect and responsibility

People can deduce shared concepts of Respect and Responsibility from experience. Respect is directed inward towards ourselves and towards our treatment of others. Responsibility is directed outward towards friends, school, community, and world.

Tuned to watch for them, constructive patterns of behavior almost leap out of the past. Such threads of wisdom can be labeled and projected as options for the future to help learn to improve next time. From simple wisdoms garnered from experience, people can deduce that their long-term interests are served by a character-centered life.

These are different from natural law or culture because they come from each individual’s personal experience. These observations are accessible to everyone across cultural and religious boundaries. They foster virtues, a compelling framework for civilization, and a path to honorable decision-making.

Individuals & Society: Why society

Individuals create society.

Individuals create society for their benefit and humility is as important for groups in society as it is for an individual. Humility represents commitment to the continuous and repeating opportunity for improvement.

Governance with institutionalized doubt has been tried in one form or another in ancient Greece and today. They were not successful in ancient Athens because those governments, instituted for other reasons, fell in part because of hubris: they lacked understanding of its underlying advantage.

Democracy was instituted as a check on consolidated power in Athens. Their faith in democracy was based on one person–one vote and majority rules. The real strength of democracy is that it codifies humility into a permanent appreciation that there might be a better way. It represents a commitment to freedom of speech because the least of us, given the opportunity, can attempt to convince the rest that, whatever the present decision, there may be a better way.

Democracies are susceptible to tyranny of the majority and to buying votes for political advantage. In fact, every form of government can become tyrannical. In a democracy, the capacity to make individual decisions matters. Democracy assures the ability to challenge veracity in front of an audience tuned to judge the accuracy of the argument.[66] Brought to consciousness by the charge, individuals choose one side or the other. And, in the end, the penalty for poor reasoning is to have what is said discarded from further consideration.

For those unable to work out the advantage of the minimal behavior of society, a figurative ‘friend-or-foe’ indicator should flash in warning. Society depends on the liberty to laugh at any foolish idea put forward by anyone who chooses to speak. It is not a constitution or a law that protects the laughter, but simple good sense open to anyone who cares to work it out.

A representative democracy, when supported by an education system that works, is able to put forward political candidates with enough character to stand up to a misguided crowd long enough to educate them about what matters. We are prepared to make accessible in classes what matters for students to discover, verify and use.

Individuals create ethics.

Recapping, good reasons for being decent and honorable can be built from a foundation of the few ideas already deduced from personal experience. The warp and weft that hold the carpet of cultures together are few — the minimums required for social interaction are few:

  • The possibility that one just might be wrong, and, the humility that falls out of that doubt,
  • The possibility that communication with others who are equally involved can help.

Ethics are derived from those understandings. There is nothing more to ethics than that individuals matter.

Likewise, from the two minimums of society, simple wisdoms can be deduced. Simple wisdoms, although common and everyday, are not currently central to curricula and catechisms. While they have been written about for millennia, they have not always been universally taught. Perhaps that’s because teachers are themselves only former students from the same schools.

Dynamic thought processes are the type of thought that matters. Dynamic thought processes help prune what does not work and reinforce what does. If drops of water in a river represent that which is understood, then boulders along the shores that guide the flow of knowledge represent the dynamic processes of thought. Half a dozen simple wisdoms accessible to anybody channel the flow constructively, but we don’t habitually teach such things. They include:

  1. A sense of self;
  2. A sense of time and one’s place in it (Represented by the power of narratization);
  3. A sense that sometimes one sometimes might be wrong;
  4. A sense that other people live their lives as acutely as I do (That the pain another person feels is no different than the pain I feel);
  5. A sense that my mental map of reality might be more accurate if I enlist the help of others;
  6. A sense that one is responsible for oneself;
  7. A sense of the power of recursive thought (That thinking about thinking is a process that can be useful when under control);
  8. A sense of the power of tools for thought;
  9. A sense that experience can be mined for patterns to help plan;
  10. A sense that we are mortal–that just as surely as close as nightfall is we shall be that close to our own deaths;
  11. A sense that each person’s fundamental purpose is to negotiate his way through life with decent quality of life;
  12. That the difference between fantasy and reality is a boundary that must be understood. When you deny what is, you are possessed by what is not.

Understanding creates its own traction.

Themes in social studies and frameworks come a point of view that gives students little traction. Students see little in it for them. Across all grade levels and subjects, current courses already contain teachable moments to which simple wisdoms easily attach. Simple wisdoms refine processes used to make decisions. Process matters because, as Robert Heilbroner pointed out, when you master logic, logic masters you.[67] It becomes compelling and unavoidable. When you understand that two plus two equals four, nothing will entice you to believe it equals five.

The courage to defend what is important springs from mastering why something is important. Herodotus believed the Greeks at Thermopylae found courage because they valued liberty so highly that they would rather sacrifice their lives to try to preserve it than live any longer without it. Socrates was a tenacious soldier during the Peloponnesian War because he understood his duty. Defending Little Round Top against all odds at Gettysburg during the Civil War, earned a grammar teacher from Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Educators are committed to incredible depth and insight, which they then test with astounding precision: where were these words used in the readings; why were these quotations significant; write an essay on such and so. They test for, and show the course covers material that is fascinating, delightful, complete, in-depth, but nevertheless information, not news. Information may be correct, but news adds context to plan your best future. If core studies leave to chance that which you need to know to plan your best future, you go into the world unarmed.

Simple wisdoms are scalable.

Basic deduced concepts of society are scalable. They apply to individuals, small groups, large groups, states, and nations.

After the clash of progressively larger groups, estates, states, nations, and civilizations, expect a shift toward the clash of core ideas because those ideas are viral. They can travel across geo-political boundaries with ease penetrating borders of nation-states that are porous to them.

Simple, practical, common wisdoms have been with us for all of our written history. They are found in the works of great thinkers like Confucius, Seneca, Mohammed, Jesus, Locke, Marx, and others. Simple wisdoms are concepts that help us understand where great thinkers made mistakes and why, within the limits of their time, they might have done so.

These dynamic process metaphors apply to our simple daily living. Confucius taught the sense that other people exist, “Don’t do to anybody else what you wouldn’t have them do to you” in the form of the Golden Rule phrased as a negative, and much more practical way of expressing the idea. Karl Marx followed Hegel’s notion that we must constantly evaluate where we are. He fostered a process by which we can examine the way things are; the way we can use time. Unfortunately, and to the pain of millions, after he developed the tool his successors mistook a single iteration, rather than continuous review, to be process.

Concentric circles of individuals, journalism, and society.

Adam Smith said that we enter into society. In practice, if you master why you as an individual need society, it is society that enters into you. Individuals create society — and journalism, too — out of sheer need. Journalism and society extend out from individuals like concentric circles, and sometimes those creations contain flaws that mirror the flaws of individuals. Those flaws seem to pass almost unnoticed because people don’t see the behavior as flawed.

Concentric circles of Individuals, journalism, and society

What is worthwhile for an individual is equally important to journalism and society. Developing the skill to detect the patterns of bad journalistic habits helps detect similar misbehavior for individuals and society. Studying journalism exposes “gotcha” techniques, style over substance, ignorance, misuse of statistics, gullibility, historical amnesia, double standards, misrepresentation, misplaced tolerance, misplaced judgment, silence, politics, overused and underused language, rhetorical games, and logical fallacies. Similarly, the purpose of a discussion is not to win, but to come to understanding.

Dorothy Sayers, the 1930s mystery writer and medievalist said, “For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.”[68]

Morality in society.

Moral relativism’s ambiguity more often leads to amorality than immorality. Immorality requires conscious opposition to what is moral and why. The only mechanism that has a chance to guide understanding for an individual is kept honest by conversation with other individuals in society.

We have the models, metaphors, and experience to succeed, but we don’t seem to value such tools as highly as previous cultures have. It recalls the Roman Peace — the Pax Romana from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. that imposed the rule of law by force. Actually, it imposed the rule of authority that evolved into a rule of law never matched before or since. They kept the peace, in part, by training people to be good citizens. For Romans, a citizen was defined as a good person speaking well.

Freedom is often mistaken to be a principle. Like other words it has become a cliché used to stop thinking. What kind of freedom are you willing to trade for security? How much of your life do you want a self-obsessed political class deciding for you? Students have to learn enough not to take a teacher’s word for anything. When you lose the meaning of freedom you lose both the reason for freedom and the will to work for it.

Romans had the appearance of freedom. Economically, they were given great latitude, but not at the political level. But other freedoms were at risk:

  • Individual freedom is where others are tolerant of behavior.
  • Economic freedom allows one to own what is earned.
  • Political freedom allows people to select a type of government and governors.
  • National freedom allows one live independently of foreign rulers.

As with the Romans, who lost their culture, we are busy but have lost our focus. Governance has extended into other areas than the minimal concerns of defense, whether people can exchange ideas and goods with simple contracts that assure the transactions, and a process of peaceful problem resolution.

It is not freedom that we would wish for others and ourselves, but the opportunity for individuality. Freedom is the result of individuality, not individuality the result of freedom. The rest is incidental. It is the freedom to laugh at abuse of power so that others might recognize it and laugh with you until that abuse can get no traction.

Advancing society

Viral ideas transmit experience and history that tempers one’s wisdom and culture. That’s why governments registered typewriters in some pre-computer Balkan states and why later the Soviet state came to realize that a country with computers could not be restrained.

Individuals motivated by strong ideas can influence both people and great nations. That’s good because the future of humanity does not depend on the success of one country but on the preservation of sound ideas and sound processes to think about them, until soil somewhere is ripe for germination. Some Confucian ideas engraved 3500 years ago in scraps of ivory projected good sense into the future. That can happen again.

We must remain alert, since every moment is a potential pivot point — for you, for cultures, and for society. We touch others with sound ideas. Change will more likely turn around a different axis than the pundits expect. One can be touched by ideas as far away in time and place as Confucius whose insight can telescope across unimaginable generations, ricocheting off other minds, to change minds today.

Minds are not always changed constructively. Sorting out unsound ideas becomes every individual’s responsibility. Unfortunately, citizens schooled today often seem unprepared to weigh what they think.

Then again, many ought not trust what they think. Too many people with degrees have not the skill set, attention span, or interest to recognize everyday flaws in themselves, journalism, or society. People like to think they are rational, but fresh evidence arrives every day to question that. Besides, people are not so much rational as learn to use rationality to check ones work.

As explained earlier, we are adrift on a communal sea of individual ideas clawing at each other to grow and survive. Most ideas will be lost, and many should be. The way forward is to sift down not to the true, but to the useful. The purpose of logic and rhetoric, the way it used to be taught, is to serve as a sieve.

Individuals today have the advantage of a world of experience that those in the past did not have. That makes it easier to avoid the tar pits others in philosophy attempted to explore and got caught in. Our predecessors did heavy lifting, but we have incentive others before did not have — the need to act before all society is undermined.

Power threatens society.

It is too dangerous to be ignorant about judgment in our age. As powerful weapons become more readily available, this becomes a race between civilization and Armageddon.

Mother Nature doesn’t care if we succeed, but we do — we care for ourselves and for our children. Nor can we put off our work, now that isolation no longer offers protection. As Jacob Bronowski noted, science has put the power of knowledge in the hands of anyone who cares to learn, so that no longer will a strong box protect our wealth or barred door protect our families.[69] We are in a race that there is no guarantee civilization will win. The competition is to inoculate ourselves to recognize and defend against others who would destroy rather than build society; a race to expand civilization with an accessible, compelling message others might decide to value and adopt as their own.

Happily, civilization has a better chance today than ever before, because all it takes to inoculate people to defend themselves is a change of mind. All it took for the villagers to see that the emperor had no clothes, was a change of mind.

The core of Core is knowledge that leads to patterns from experience. Patterns nudge us to embrace the compelling process to engage in life-long learning mastering the tools by which to proceed.

Individuals & Society: Generating traction

Discover that you matter.

You matter and you need to discover how much you matter. Then you need to learn to defend yourself. Once you discover that you matter, you can shoulder the responsibility to make sure you are up to the task. The resolve not to be taken in by ignorant, selfish game-players depends on you developing process, pattern recognition, defensive rhetorical skills, experience, and a will to work at it, to resolve. The tools are simple, yours to discover, and yours to own:

  • You plan decisions using a map of reality, not reality itself. That’s humbling, because you understand limitations leave the possibility of being wrong.
  • You value reciprocity because you recognize others in a similar situation live their lives as acutely as you live yours.
  • You have a sense of time and your place in it.
  • You value critical judgment.
  • You value constructive habits.
  • You separate your ‘self’ from your ideas.
  • You disdain facades as unfair to others as others’ facades would be unfair to you.
  • You value what is possible.
  • You value perspective that gives you balance, consistency, and simplicity.
  • You value tools like recursion and continuous re-evaluation but recognize their limitations.

You in the universe

Stephen Dedalus in Joyce’s Ulysses was introverted and cerebral, thinking, thinking, and thinking, but not of useful things. He was spent internally, confronting a hostile universe, admitting, ‘History is a nightmare I’m trying to forget.’

Fuse together C3 Frameworks themes 2. Time, Continuity, and Change, 4. Individual Development and Identity, and 8. Science, Technology, and Society, and it is possible to create traction in a single lesson accessible to seniors and even, to a degree, elementary school students who are concerned about what they should do. People often wonder where one should invest time and wealth. As a parallel, one wonders where one learns the equations to balance one’s life.

For context, consider that there are some 6.8 billion people on Earth. Each one is the most acutely interested person of them all from a personal point of view. The universe revolves around each of them. Each experiences the universe through personal senses. But where do others — and everything else — fit in? This calls for perspective, but without reeling and buckling knees. What is one’s responsibility to these 6.8 billion people?

One’s shoulders are not broad enough to carry them all. So, does one give up? How many does one help? Should one help as many as someone else helps? Should everyone tithe?

Socially imposed altruism has others pressure individuals into what to do for those in need while charity is how one decides for oneself what to do. Altruism gives no practical way to answer the question, ‘Do you help one, two, ten, or ten thousand?’ But if altruism is unworkable, one needs to come to personal terms with generosity to create a reasonable, human alternative that puts one’s today, one’s life, and that of others in context.

Charity comes from the one heart and one home, not from government. Dress it up as they might, the tyranny of the few who sway a gullible majority is coercion even when they claim it is for good cause. Worse than a socialist is someone who wants the power to control others to get certain results ‘for the good of the disadvantaged,’ for they are socialists who don’t know their own disease.

Absent government direction, how should one discover a personal charitable balance? From where one stands in space-time, place yourself between the very, very big, and the very, very small. Then, place yourself between the long, distant past, and the unimaginably distant future.

The universe is, perhaps 156 billion light years wide and 13.7 billion years old. Consider where an individual fits in:

  • In the book, Powers of Ten, at 1025 meters — that’s 10 to the power of +25 or ten with 25 zeros after it — most of the universe can be seen. Each number increase or decrease in power is ten times more or ten times less than the previous number.
  • At 1022 (to the power of +22) you can see the entire Milky Way.
  • At 1014 the Sun is clearly visible and the solar system begins to resolve.
  • At 109 the view contains the Earth and the orbit of the moon.
  • At 107 the Earth fills the frame.
  • At 106 1,000 kilometers would cover the state of New York.
  • At 102 100 meters would cover a football field.
  • At 100 or one meter, would cover from your nose to your fingertips. This is where you fit in.
  • At 10-3 a millimeter, would cover several human hairs.
  • At 10-4 cells would be visible.
  • At 10-6 a cell nucleus would be visible.
  • At 10-8 DNA’s helix structure would be visible.
  • At 10-10 the electron cloud of a carbon atom would be visible.
  • At 10-14 10 femptometers, the nucleus would be clear.
  • At 10-15 a proton would resolve itself.
  • And 10-16 puts you at the level of quarks. And maybe, if you go smaller, superstrings become visible.

Humbling, isn’t it, to know your consciousness fits in between 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 meters and 0.000,000, 000,000,000,1 meters, and between 13,700,000,000 years of history and an infinite future, among a world of 6,800,000,000 people, many of whom are in need of help.

That could make one feel small, but it puts each individual in charge of that single point in the universe that is the center of their unique consciousness at this one instant in time, gifted with the will to make decisions. Whatever its physics, the center of the universe is here, now, where an individual meets it.

Just as you are in charge of your point of consciousness, and I of mine, others are in charge of theirs. It is your responsibility to defend your point and path from others, and, reciprocally, resist the temptation to impose your trajectory on them. You can teach, but you cannot rule, except insofar as they violate the minimums of society. Now, consider how one decides what to do.

Decide first whether to give up on altruism. Altruism is a premise whose time has never come and never will because it is too easily used as a club by others for their own interests. One has no obligation to help others — although those who would take advantage of an individual for their own reasons may try convincing them that they do. Instead, recall Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge after his epiphany. Scrooge’s new perspective on his own existence led to reverence for the situation of others. More alert to one’s own journey, one is more sensitive to others, which presents opportunity and personal interest in charity.

Few people, if any, read Adam Smith‘s first book, Theory on Moral Sentiments any more, but he recognized that altruism was not an effective virtue. Self-interest brings the truth of experience and, ironically, can be more effective at prompting people to help others. That may sound ridiculous and contrary to observation in today’s selfish world, but Smith described a principled position not to be confused with unthinking consumerism.

  • Consider Dr. David Livingstone, the explorer, missionary, and physician once thought lost in Africa in Victorian times — of the “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” fame? He worked to abolish the slave trade, educate Africans, and improve their health care. While his efforts may have encouraged colonization at the outset, his educational efforts fostered independence movements later on.
  • Consider Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer was a theologian, philosopher, musician, physician who organized clinics in west equatorial Africa, and who sought a universal ethical philosophy. Schweitzer said, ‘Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.’
  • Of course, everyone has heard of Mother Theresa. In Calcutta, she ministered to the poor, sick, and terminally ill for almost 50 years.

So who did Livingstone, Schweitzer, and Mother Theresa do their work for? Not the poor. That’s the conventional wisdom, but they worked for themselves. Joseph Campbell advised people to follow their bliss. That’s what Livingstone, Schweitzer, and Mother Theresa did. They put themselves where they felt they belonged.

Central Africa, India, or our poorest neighborhood may not be where you belong. Your teacher can’t tell you. Neither can your parents. It is not a role someone else can press upon you. Not altruism, but your own inquiry into yourself will lead to your particular answer.

Approach it from a different way. For each of these questions, figure how far along a continuum you’d place yourself:

  • Are you most comfortable when you are busy or idle?
  • Are you most comfortable with physical work or mental work?
  • Are you most comfortable solitary or social?

Along the X, Y, and Z axes an individual can, respectively, place answers to those questions. There is only one location in the graph that describes one’s unique comfort zone for today. It will be different on other days and different for other people. Certainly there are more questions and axes possible, and all of them challenge one to be responsible for setting the mean between the extremes, one’s balance point Aristotle called the virtue between the vices. For an individual, the balance point for each question can change over time. The task is not to put oneself at the center of one continuum or another, but to understand where, along each continuum, is the healthy, comfortable place for one to be.

And if, among the considerations, one finds bliss tending to a garden, tending to family, tending a neighbor, tending to community, or tending to the world, at that moment, that is where one belongs. If it is in the heart of Africa, at a soup kitchen at the Welcome Hall, teaching, writing, or coaching Little League, or simply loving family or friends, go for it! It is not the job of someone else to shame one into altruism. How dare they try!

When you are at peace with your place in the universe, when you are in balance, one will find that Kant’s concept of duty is not the powerful motivator. Reciprocity — the sense that others live their lives as acutely as you live yours — is a powerful motivator to help and share, and you’ll find great joy in it.

Self–interest leads to a character-centered life

This is a recap of material mentioned above, but worth the repetition: In your own experience can you recall painful experiences that occurred because you thought you were right and later discovered you were mistaken. These points are accessible to everyone across cultural and religious boundaries. Using them we can fashion virtues, a compelling framework for civilization, and a path to honorable decision-making.

Point 1: Sometimes we think we are right, not because we are right, but simply because we think we are right. It’s possible for you to be wrong, even when you think you are right, because your brain — the tool you use to plan your very best future — decides what to do using not reality itself, but its very own internal map of reality. If that map of reality is inaccurate, you can get hurt.

Point 2: Your long-term self-interest depends on maintaining the very best map of reality to work with. Even though other people have different experiences from yours, they can recall their own painful experiences that invariably lead them to the similar conclusions about humility and reciprocity.

Point 3: Those other people live life as acutely as you do. They have the same needs with reason to join together in society. Society becomes mutually beneficial so we can help each other refine our individual mental maps of reality.

Point 4: Reading, writing, and conversation hone skills used to better individual futures. Language is the tool we use to maintain our map of reality, to check it, to refine it, and to represent it on paper so that tomorrow we can look back and see if it makes as much sense then as it does to us today. They capture our expressions of concepts to convey them over immeasurable distance and time to others. Quality of language and its tools matter. The Trivium — the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts — refine our tools.

  • Grammar is how we express our thoughts clearly.
  • Logic is how we check our language for consistency.
  • Rhetoric is how we express what we think to others and check what others express to us.

Point 5: A sense of time and one’s place in it provides a check on one’s map of reality and decision-making.

Point 6: Thinking about thinking is a powerful tool that needs to be harnessed to be constructive.

Point 7: people are responsible for themselves and need to take that responsibility. As children connect language and thought, they are empowered and motivated by Simple Wisdoms that underlie their conversation:

Dynamic processes are the type of thought that matters. They help prune what does not work and reinforce what does. If drops of water in a river represent that which is understood, then boulders along the shores that guide the flow of knowledge represent the dynamic processes of thought. A handful of simple wisdoms accessible to anybody channel the flow constructively, but we don’t habitually teach such things. They include:

  1. A sense of self;
  2. A sense of time and one’s place in it (Represented by the power of narratization);
  3. A sense that sometimes one sometimes might be wrong;
  4. A sense that other people live their lives as acutely as I do (That the pain another person feels is no different than the pain I feel);
  5. A sense that my mental map of reality might be more accurate if I enlist the help of others;
  6. A sense that one is responsible for oneself;
  7. A sense of the power of recursive thought (That thinking about thinking is a process that can be useful when under control);
  8. A sense of the power of tools for thought;
  9. A sense that experience can be mined for patterns to help plan;
  10. A sense that we are mortal–that just as surely as close as nightfall is we shall be that close to our own deaths;
  11. A sense that each person’s fundamental purpose is to negotiate his way through life with decent quality of life;
  12. That the difference between fantasy and reality is a boundary that must be understood. When you deny what is, you are possessed by what is not.

These are processes kids understand, admire and wish to emulate in a deeper way.

Dynamic process tools

The evidence of writing is that humans acquired consciousness over time and not in a single cataclysmic event. Some acquired it, some did not, and, unbelievably, some cultures lost the skill. While there are a lot of things that consciousness is not, Julian Jaynes holds consciousness to be a very simple thing that includes:

  1. The idea of self and the possibility of self-reflection with which we can create a concept of ourselves, and
  2. A sense of time for the self we create.[70]

Douglas Hofstadter suggests that the emergent phenomena of the brain–those are ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will–are based on a ‘strange loop’ that we have learned to call recursion, an interaction between the top level reaching back into the bottom level and influencing the thought process for succeeding iterations.[71] M. C. Escher’s Print Gallery is a visual representation of the recursive process.


Thinking as we have been talking about it — conscious thought — is acquired. Self-reference is acquired. Narratization — the ‘I will do this, then I will do that’ — is acquired, reinforcing the concept of time, one’s place in time, and the concept of recursion. Narratization is what Lucy Calkins teaches in her Writing Workshop, even to students in Kindergarten.

Experience, process, pattern recognition, defensive rhetorical skills, practical experience are all dynamic tools one uses to make more accurate one’s mental map of reality the better to make decisions and the better to defend oneself against what is destructive that people, including oneself, might propose.

Metaphors from experience motivate.

Useful processes and experience can be mined from what has gone before. Ibn Khaldun wrote on historiography, discovering in the flaws of earlier historians the need for humility. He emphasized Hegelian or Marxian dialectic — feedback loops — a process of continuous re-evaluation necessary because — and this is the keystone of wisdom — sometimes we think we are right simply because we think we are right.

Negotiating our way through life, we are interested in the simple daily problems of living such as dealing with people and dealing with the loops that we get into in our own minds. Loops that we have described happen every day in thought. We’ve learned not to blindly trust what we think simply because we are the ones who think the thought.

Seneca, writing about 50 AD admitted he read the opposition because he presumed he had no lock on truth. To disagree with one’s opposition, one has to know why and to have reasons that stand up to scrutiny for the positions one takes. Rationality was a standard during Voltaire’s Enlightenment. It proved insufficient. We need to be more than rational. Rationality is a tool to encourage consistency in what we have thought. Simple wisdoms from experience encourage process and perspective to help make the simple daily problems of living more manageable.

Our goal is to lift ourselves just that much above the rest of the animal kingdom and the law of the jungle, to manufacture an umbrella to protect us using a process of peaceful problem resolution that others learn to trust and embrace in their self-interest as their own.

Fixed rules are incomplete

The frameworks consider rules and law to be an enduring understanding. Confucius considered that the last refuge.

Confucius believed there were three kinds of people:

  • Saints, who intuitively knew ‘the way’ to behave — called li in Chinese;
  • Others who could learn how to behave — and he considered himself one of those; and
  • A third group who could never learn the way but who needed instead fixed laws he called ritual.

Because the frameworks value order and following rules so highly, they fail to encourage others to achieve higher understanding. They play to only the lowest capabilities, supporting order imposed rather than order individually understood and voluntarily applied.

Skills to weigh the quality of ideas.

One needs to tell constructive ideas from destructive ones. Then one needs to inoculate people to defend themselves sensibly.

That first calls on Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, who reminded people that science is not about truth, but about doubt. Science is a test for falsity that helps prune ideas that don’t stand up to experience. Otherwise, in one kind of arrogance, people become convinced that their own ambitions are worth the suffering of others. What is true one cannot know, but science helps one understand what is not true.

One ought not be wedded to one’s own ideas. Be wedded to sound ideas. It is important to learn where one might be mistaken. That allows one to make decisions based on the best information available. Michel de Montaigne, inventor of the essay as a literary form in 1585, said he would run to embrace truth from others when he saw it coming.[73]

The problem is systemic. People used to learn to discuss in schools, once upon a time, when it was taught in the seven Liberal Arts as the Trivium — Grammar to put your thoughts in order; Logic to see if those thoughts were consistent; and Rhetoric to explain those thoughts clearly to others and analyze their replies.

Individuals & Society: Where character comes from

Ethics is a creation of thought.

We hinted at morality earlier. The traditional foundations of ethics and morality need not be found in religion or natural law. They may get in the way. The foundations of religion and the so-called eternal truths are the business of cultures that operate on top of the framework of society. Morality springs from the minimum behavior required for society. Mother Nature will not care if our schools do not see that. But we do — for ourselves and our children.

Among the things that distinguish between ourselves and others of the plant and animal kingdom are the skill to communicate complex ideas to each other and the potential to project the ramifications of plans for the future. If we do not exercise these skills, we revert to the level of others in the world of nature — governed by the rules that nature requires and nothing more. Be human or be no more than an animal. The choice is individual.

Most other animals are outside the framework of morality. Morality is purely a creation of thought. A seal that snips off the fins of a fish, leaving it a terrified, living, helpless toy to be batted around until boredom and hunger make it lunch, has no conception of good and evil. Good and evil don’t exist in the world of seals and fish; life is simply the way things are.

Morals are for personal protection.

Morals are integrally tied up with the immediate practical protection of one’s own life. My proper concern is my own life. Your proper concern is yours. The future safety of any individual is integrally tied up with convincing as many other people in the world as one can the value of living under a moral umbrella that is equitable and valuable for wellbeing, and by actions that decide under what conditions they will be treated. Our own best interest is to encourage the kind of thoughtfulness to understand the ramifications of individual actions.

Ethical participation is by choice

Not everyone will be convinced. No compelling reason in the laws of nature or mankind will irrefutably justify morality to any and all men. One who chooses to act by the laws of the lion need not even consent to listen to the arguments in favor of morality. He need not choose to heed anything but that which compels itself to be heard by the laws of nature, if even that. People cannot be forced to join together under the protection of a moral umbrella; we can only encourage them to do so by presenting its advantages and encouraging them to develop the thought processes necessary to weigh them. Our own best interest demands we help as many as possible to become so thoughtful they clearly understand such things. Our security depends upon it.

People don’t have to sign up as if it were a contract. An individual does not so much explicitly subscribe to protection under the moral umbrella as reject it by an explicit act. The minimums of society are few. Restriction of the freedom of communication, such as muzzling free speech or press, or hostage taking amongst the diplomatic community casts one out from the umbrella’s protection to put them at the mercy of the laws of nature. By such action one opens oneself to any response in the arsenal of the laws of nature we may choose to take. He has chosen the battlefield, not us. We, in turn, are subject to the laws of nature in our response. We need not reply using the standard of the moral umbrella the offender has rejected, although we may choose to do so. Pacifists and generals of quality understand that war is a nasty place to be and should be avoided, if possible. But those of us who understand morality reserve the right to protect themselves by any means necessary. And one might survive or both might die. Nature does not care.

Character development follows from education.

If students of today are to escape from moral relativism to establish minimum standards of behavior then they have to go beyond the language that limited the brilliant Socrates. Where Socrates had only the word polis, today’s students can differentiate polis from ‘city,’ polis from ‘culture,’ and polis from ‘society.’ Our language lets us see more clearly than Socrates could. His notion was that if one looked at the polis that mankind created, one could project backward to gain insight into the make-up of an individual. The single word polis did not differentiate between culture and society, which led to notions about the individual that do not follow. Because individuals create society, notions deduced about the individual do provide insight about society.

Approaches to morality.

Plato proposed rules 2300 years ago but no one could prove their universality. Churches, which typically depend on rules and examples demonstrating them, have difficulty getting the message across to others beyond their faithful who already are convinced. Campaigns based on religions don’t convince, they compel, with no less power than Machiavelli proposed 600 years ago to coerce people to behave. The conundrum of how one should behave has thrown us into a downward spiral of moral relativism that resigns ethics to “might makes right.”

Some believe, as St. Augustine wrote, virtues are written on the fleshy tablets of the heart as some kind of natural law. Natural laws are culturally dependent and cannot be proven to be absolute.

  1. J. O’Rourke referred to Richard Brookhiser’s biography of George Washington, Founding Father to explain how people looked at things differently 200 years ago. ‘We worry about our authenticity — about whether our presentation reflects who we “really” are. Eighteenth century Americans attended more to the outside story and were less avid to drive putty knives between the outer and inner man. “Character” . . . was a role one played until one became it; “character” also meant how one’s role was judged by others. It was both the performance and the reviews. Every man had a character to maintain; every man was a character actor.’

Children and adults today can live by the 18th century standard where character was a role the immature would play until they discovered through life experience what constituted real character. The alternative is to establish a solid foundation of process concepts that lead to character among those capable of grasping it. Experience can reveal patterns that, if we choose to recognize and think about them, can give us insight into a more advantageous way to think.

Deducing morality

Humility and reciprocity are the foundations from which to deduce morality.

Real morality is not culturally dependent. That is yet another instance where one word represents two flavors of behavior. Separate words do not exist to distinguish between culturally dependent traditions called morals, and process concepts — morals deduced from humility and reciprocity that are the minimal requirements for society.

Concepts considered virtues map to process concepts:

  • Humility, of course, maps to humility, but so does forgiveness.
  • Benevolence, compassion, generosity, gentleness, tolerance, justice, loyalty, and others map to reciprocity and a sense of otherness.
  • Responsibility, truthfulness, sensitivity, dependability, alertness, and sincerity all map to regard for the accuracy of one’s mental map of reality.
  • Contentment, initiative, joyfulness, patience, map to a sense of time and one’s place in it.

Other so-called virtues are skills like rhetoric or worthwhile habits like creativity, orderliness, or endurance. Still other useful understandings are important to know but are not usually classified as virtues:

  • Balance, consistency, and simplicity come with perspective.
  • Understanding facades and what is possible separate ideas from one’s self.
  • Recursion and continuous re-evaluation are processes useful for problem solving.

If one were to try to find a word to distinguish cultural mores from societal morals, the word “character” fits the morals deduced from humility and reciprocity. Character represents the processes one mind uses to decide how to act toward others.

Also consider where the courage represented by the Hobbits in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings might come from. Characters in books find a well of strength to draw from as surely as they find it in real life. Thomas Mann’s hypothesis in Magic Mountain does not have to play out, that our culture creates people that are docile and compliant. Docile and compliant isn’t courageous. Joshua Chamberlain at the battle of Gettysburg was courageous, not docile and compliant.

Virtues change over time.

Suppose that virtues like kindness, wisdom, and integrity do develop character, one has to decide what virtues should be taught.

  • Looking back to Homer, the virtues the poets favored were warlike qualities — legends and fictions that were oracular.
  • Romantics after the Enlightenment, and perhaps of the 1960s wanted to get in touch with feelings. Those qualities were once taken as the exercise of virtue.
  • Socrates argued that perhaps one could find a more rational approach. That challenge to the livelihood and power of poets did not sit well, so some, like Aristophanes, misrepresented Socrates as someone who would present the worst case as the best.
  • Seneca saw justice, moral insight, self-control, and courage as the cardinal virtues in Rome 2000 years ago.
  • Others in the early Roman republic saw slightly different virtues at the heart of citizenship. These were the actions that made you a man, or vir, in Latin, the root of virtue or virtus:

o   Piety, because they felt they were a chosen people.

o   Honesty, because they could be trusted.

o   True, because they kept their word.

o   Just, because they believed in equitable application of law.

o   Vigilant, because they would fight to protect that which they believed.

  • Literature uncovers interesting observations about virtue. In Sir Gawain and the Green Night, Gawain represented the ideals of the Round Table. The tests of desire and the fear of death faced in Gawain are the same tests that Buddha faced.
  • The medieval pentangle stood for the five chivalric virtues: fidelity to others, promises, principles, faith, moral righteousness, and personal integrity. Elsewhere they are recorded as generosity, loyalty to and love of others — sometimes called piety, temperance or freedom from lust, courtesy, and benevolence.”
  • It is possible to overlay in what different cultures consider virtues. Confucian virtues were very similar to those of Socrates in ancient Greece or Mohandras Gandhi in India — wisdom, justice, moderation, courage.

The nagging question is how to know for certain that the virtues one would teach are true virtues. Wealth or fame are popular yet not likely to be considered virtues.

Virtues have been described as those traits cultures value. To discover them, one could go with what has worked and accept what has gone before as gospel. But which gospel from hundreds of conflicting religions and sects should one accept on faith? Perhaps the one you believe in, simply because it’s yours? George Bernard Shaw sarcastically asked in 1919, in Heartbreak House, “Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England simply because you were born there?”

World War I dashed any vestige of belief that liberal values and technological advancement in natural sciences would lead to steady, civilized society. The world was left in wreckage with cultures in conflict.

Suppose one decides to adopt that which other cultures discover to be virtues if they add value — however that would be measured — or that further a culture. One still would have to fashion a virtue detector.

Validation is everyone’s task.

Reflective judgment is called for, not compliance, to remain continuously open to new information to review that which we have learned regarding what has gone before in light of what we might better understand now. Since politics has become cutthroat competition, people to develop the skill to test its claims. Philosophers say that all knowing comes:

  • Authority,
  • A priori understanding, or
  • The contest of science.

People need to recognize the authority that underwrites the knowledge and value it accordingly. We may not be able to decide what is ‘true’ but we can consider what might be ‘workable.’ To draw on the canvas of the new century, all we have are recollections and patterns recognized from them, massaged by language within its limitations, we can use to project consequences of proposed actions into the future.

You can only discover if what is asserted as true does not match patterns of experience. As was said earlier, Karl Popper explained that science is not about deciding what is true, but embracing a continuous process to identify and reject what is demonstrably false. Phrased another way, society is at risk without the freedom to say something someone may not care to hear. That said, the freedom to offend does not imply the necessity to do so or determine the form it might take.

When deducing morals, process concepts encourage thinking about yourself, your place in society, and life itself. A path seeded with process concepts offers practical help that people can easily embrace that ultimately leads to virtuous behavior. Process concepts ignite the spark of self-regulated learning that just this easily pass Socrates’ torch on to the next generation.

Journalism is the perfect vehicle to make these essential concepts accessible, and is a division of labor that, for usefully serving individuals and society, would have pleased philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece, sociologist and historian Ibn Khaldun in the Islamic empire, and economist Adam Smith after the modern industrial revolution. As a surrogate for the individual, journalism fits neatly in a concentric circle between the individual and society.

Individuals & Society: Approaches to character

How to teach character is an old problem.

One could defend frameworks for not answering every moral concern, but doing their part to help. That is as if their boat is turning in circles, with oarsmen rowing only on one side, but they are satisfied with their progress.

The problem of how to teach character is very old. Socrates died for it in 399 B.C. In the 1700s, Immanuel Kant wondered, why it was that moral instruction accomplishes so little. Yet, he observed, even little children understand that you should do a thing just because it is right. Our challenge is to go beyond rewarding good behavior, which Kant recognized was ineffective, to do that which Socrates called not ‘teachable, like geometry,’ but teachable in a way, that we might produce not docile sheep but responsible, growing, inquiring citizens.

Some 2500 years ago, around the dawn of civilization, Confucius thought about the way one should behave. He called it li, which is Chinese for the way. He determined there were those who intuitively knew the way to live — natural saints, as it were. Then, he believed a second, larger group of people could learn the way. He considered himself in that group. The remaining group of people required fixed rules of behavior he called laws or ritual.

Fixed rules are directed to the third and least capable group, leaving others without instruction to master the more useful skills. As many people as possible should be encouraged to join the group that learns how to figure out the way — the group that isn’t just told the way to live, but constantly considers whether their personal choices are honorable.

Everyone deserves to be put the question why they should choose a character-centered life. That question really asks why is such a life in one’s own long-term best interest. Professor Peter Kreeft in What would Socrates Do? pointed out other questions, too.

  • Why do people assume that what is popular will be effective?
  • Why is character education an effort even for adults?
  • Why do youngsters not embrace character education as easily as other things they see to their benefit?
  • Why do people teach the result they want but not the skills to get there?
  • Why should I be consistently moral?
  • Why not be moral only when it pays to be moral?
  • Why not be immoral if you can get away with it?”

Teaching vocabulary doesn’t teach character.

One approach still in use is to teach the vocabulary of character. Promoters of the rote learning of virtues in the classroom proudly show videos of small children happily singing about character. Happiness in the classroom does not guarantee success. Sometimes children are just entertained. The net result in later years shows no great progress.

The question is whether having respect develops character or whether character lead to respect. That raises the question does obedience result in character or does character result in obedience.

If virtues are what should be taught, then there should be a clear path to explain how one gets from the vocabulary to character. If teaching virtues does not effectively develop strong character, another method is needed to develop strong character more effectively.

Virtues may be laudable and rote learning is easy to teach, but to teach someone to ‘Be this way’ or ‘Be that way’ attempts to teach the result you want to achieve, absent the process to get there.

People who know the vocabulary don’t necessarily act with character. Complicating that, the virtue presented doesn’t necessarily apply to the situation. Virtues like ‘respect’ and ‘obedience’ sometimes lead to the wrong result. Suppose ‘respect’ is not deserved. Suppose, authorities demand action that would be unethical, in which case blind obedience would not be a virtue. ‘Obedience’ is important, until it comes into conflict with other virtues. If teaching just virtues leads to lack of character, there needs to be a way to determine the difference.

Those in favor of social studies will suggest people need to learn to exercise judgment, but courses propose to teach vocabulary, not judgment. The practice of teaching the vocabulary of virtue may not develop character by any means other than chance. Learning virtues is different than developing virtue.

The long track record of teaching virtues shows that children react positively to such a program. It’s delightful to see schools of smiling children happily singing along in the promotional videos. Teachers vouch for participation, but that doesn’t indicate success. Teaching that way is immediate and easy. Downloadable lesson plans promote the vocabulary of virtues. Definitions are easy to test. Essays that explain why a role model demonstrates one virtue or another are easily graded.

Character certainly isn’t promoted through character vocabulists plastering posters in public places. Consider the posters that are hung:

  • Loyalty – Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to those I serve.

That is a platitude that masquerades as wisdom. Who are those served, and why should one commit to them? Commitment became a liability during the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

  • Wisdom – Making practical applications of truth in daily decisions (versus foolishness)

That is stretching to find both the vocabulary and the definition.

  • Integrity – The moral excellence in my life as I consistently do what is right.

To decide what is right is left as an exercise to the student.

  • Vigilance – To be conscious and consistent requires constant vigilance and community.

Character vocabulists can walk right by insight, never notice the gold mine, and manufacture trivial tributes for any fine sounding adjective. New ones can be manufactured that are as fact-based as anything else offered:

  • Voluptuousness – Using one’s beauty to best advantage!

Far from promoting ‘Character’, virtue-promoters want the warm feeling they get when they convince themselves they promote character. Results don’t matter. The number of posters posted matters more. If enough posters are posted, those who need character must get indoctrinated.

They think mastery of the vocabulary of virtues is character. Virtues to them are like numbers trying to substitute for mastery of arithmetic. ‘Seven! Seven is a good number! Learn seven and arithmetic will certainly follow. Five! Five is another worthwhile number. Master seven, five, and several more and arithmetic will magically appear.’

Numbers and arithmetic are not the same thing. For character vocabulists, if one learns to define the words of character, mastery must be just around the corner.

Emulation doesn’t build character.

If to encourage character, one holds up exceptional people to emulate, like Luther Burbank, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, should one emulate their actions or emulate how they decided to act?

“How does one decide who to emulate or what trait to emulate? Emulating virtues leads to the appearance of virtue, not to the solid processes that lead to virtue. Solid thought processes lead to compelling understanding why virtuous behavior is worthwhile. Persistence shouldn’t be emulated because Washington had it. Persistence comes from understanding what is important and why. Teach virtues alone and we risk overlooking the need to nudge people toward recognizing for themselves critical processes of thought. People teach the result they want but not the skills to get there.

Teaching character requires a better method.

Perhaps character education is only taught the way that it is because alternatives have not been clear. Virtues are the result of thinking about yourself, society, life and your place in it. Our job is to seed that path with a handful of process concepts that allow people to help themselves.”

A virtue is a shorthand label for the result of thoughtful analysis about a general concept that is, itself, easily acceptable and easily understood from one’s own personal experience. Process concepts help people decide what to do so they can plan for their better future.

People insist on trying to push character onto others when much of the real work — the work inside their own head — remains unfinished. If you think you know what to do but don’t know why, then you don’t know character, much less how to convey it to someone else.

Youngsters may have to be guided by rules until they mature enough to come to see the practical value in it for themselves. They need to develop the skill to consider points of view, and to value thinking as a tool for self-protection. Such thinking is only now reentering the curriculum. They also need an opportunity to practice and to see it in practice. Character is not a habit but, rather, a skill honed with practice.

Those who want order teach people to behave — to follow the law — but that does not promote character.

Socrates’ Apology was about order versus responsibility and discipline versus free speech. Those who are afraid of speech don’t trust people. They don’t trust anyone other than themselves, and yet we are supposed to trust them? For what reason?

Socrates asked the question ‘Who has the right to educate students?’ which is really the question ‘Who governs?’ You call it order, but it is about who governs, and order is not judgment. What are these children to do when you are no longer present to exercise your judgment for them? Character is not about applying rules. It’s about being able to make complex life decisions — and to understand and justify them. This is not easy.  Sure, people can fake character by following rules for one reason or another, but Descartes called rule-based living a magnificent temple built on a foundation of mud. Those who live by rules have no certain criteria for determining good and evil. Kreeft reminds us that an act is good because of the principle that motivates it, but rules aren’t principles.

This stew caught recent philosophers who resigned themselves to believe morality is relative and therefore ineffective for organizing society. Relativity is irrelevant if views are expressed in a framework that others recognize will hold equally true for themselves.

Frames of reference, constructed from similar experience, while not universal, are as effective as if they were universal. How to act can then be explained in terms even the culturally distant understand and can believe.

Character requires developing society.

Developing character has to be a two-step process.

  • First, stimulate the distant party to examine their own personal experience for useful lessons.
  • Second, compare their lessons from their experience with your lessons from your experience to extract shared observations that could lead to a common framework for decision-making.

For example, it is possible to identify with Montaigne who wrote, “If a man remembers how very many times he has been wrong in his judgment, will it not be foolish of him not to mistrust it ever after?”

Given such embarrassing and sometimes painful similar personal experiences, that would that lead one to mistrust one’s judgment. So cultural relativism does not preclude developing that shared understanding.

Montaigne’s personal experience certainly is distant from ours, but one can identify the same pattern in your personal unique experience. Montaigne shares a frame of reference despite extreme differences in religion, language, upbringing, culture, time-shift, and almost everything else. Montaigne and people in general can go beyond the traditions that only carry them so far.

People seem adrift, infected by moral relativism — the idea that moral judgments are founded in cultural background which implies that what is considered proper behavior for another person differ from our own opinion. What appears as lack of morality is the hollow framework of earlier philosophers crumbling under the heavy weight of more recent criticism like Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘God is dead’ and Jean Paul Sartre’s nausea at discovering a universe both Shakespeare and Faulkner called “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” They found nowhere to turn.

That left authorities to beat the same drum louder and harder, with no greater expectation of success, to hand out binders full of character notes that miss the mark. They trundle out credentialed experts whose lofty and traditional words mask their limited success. It is easier but less useful to drum into our students a fixed set of rules, or we can help our students develop a process by which they can decide how to respond honorably. That takes more effort, but it produces better citizens. They are better able to recognize the ethics of a situation they find themselves in, and to decide how to respond appropriately to those circumstances.

Individuals & Society: Conclusion

Governance has failed us in the past.

Across the better part of a millennium, the institutions of governance challenged to raise human society have instead sown the seeds of their own destruction. Look at what has not worked over the centuries:

  • Politicized religions in the 16th century,
  • Absolutism in the 17th century,
  • Abstract rationalism in the 18th century,
  • Industrialized nation states in the 19th century, or
  • Media-manipulated central control in the 20th century.

Each refinement of governance failed to clean up the mess left by the previous century and left a different mess for the succeeding century to deal with. In our time, and most unsettling of all, institutional subjects like history, philosophy, art, science, language — the subjects traditionally used to compose alternatives — have themselves become suspect.

The 20th century was an incredible century advancing the sciences — chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, geology, and archeology, engineering, electronics, set and graph theory, gaming, and computation. But socially, we deal with each other much the same as we have for a hundred years: unable to explain that a different culture was destructive or explain why. In the 1990s, in a Post-colonial world, we failed to detect threats when challenged, answer objections to facing those threats, or frame our conclusions in a culturally independent fashion. Our forefathers tried to codify John Locke in the American Constitution, but, until now, the reasons why we ought to preserve those principles have remained elusive.

Ethics did not mature in the 20th century.

In the 20th century, morality never grew beyond Machiavelli and politics became what you can get away with. The ‘-isms’ that come to mind — Libertarianism, Conservatism, Classical Liberalism, or any of the political parties — have not inoculated individuals to defend themselves. Nor have they countered the political class with an alternative that values the individual and explains the tie between individuals and society.

You cannot value what you cannot see. If you can’t see why individuals need society, manufacturing society will remain unimportant. It’s not hard. It’s just not habit. A person keyed to search for a pattern in personal experience is more likely to recognize when that pattern shows a useful way to behave.

A pattern gives you a tool, not a rule. It does not insist how you should behave. The puzzle exercised the notion that practice to recognize patterns in personal experience is also useful with governance, thought, language, ethics, and culture. Practice and you’ll learn to project the consequences of actions into the future and learn to put yourself in the position of others.

But there is more. People trust their own judgment, when they know it has failed in the past and will likely fail again. They trust thinking machinery that jumps to conclusions and that tries to justify those conclusions by the flimsiest of means. If one can’t trust oneself, how can one trust others equally likely to jump to their own conclusions? Conversely, how can they trust you?

It’s humbling on all counts, and for their mutual safety leads honest brokers to invest in society and the tools for clear thought.

If we eliminate what has never worked and never will, it leads us to conclude that, individuals alone, adrift on the storm-tossed sea of experience, are obliged to discover who else, also adrift and alone, might, by their actions and not by contract, participate in a social safety net strong enough and reliable enough that, while imperfect, can lift participants modestly above the rest of the animal kingdom. The odds that fortune will bestow its gifts need to improve only slightly to give realistic advantage.

What matters has been distilled out of education.

We have filtered the best of what has been said and thought out of education. Where do you learn to work the complexity of life? Montaigne, when he despairs of making sense of himself speaks to the internal complexity with which every individual must cope. “All contradictions may be found in me — bashful, insolent; chaste, lascivious; talkative, taciturn; tough, delicate; clever, stupid; surly, affable; lying, truthful; learned, ignorant; liberal, miserly and prodigal: all this I see in myself to some extent according to how I turn — I have nothing to say about myself absolutely, simply and solidly, without confusion and without mixture, or in one word.”

And where do you learn to struggle? The myth of Sisyphus tells how the gods condemned him for all eternity to roll a boulder up a mountainside only to have it tumble down again just before it reached the top. The myth is a metaphor — a fiction that tells a truth. In his interpretation of Sisyphus in Once and Future Myths, Phil Cousineau reminds us of something every generation has to learn for itself: It is not what happens to us that matters; what matters is our attitude towards what happens.[74] The story doesn’t ennoble suffering, it ennobles struggle. Struggle is inevitable, and those who learn to see it as an obstacle rather than a burden make life a lot easier for themselves. Cousineau concludes, ‘the secret of the creative life consists in taking the next step, doing the next thing you have to do, but doing it with all your heart and soul and finding some joy in doing it.’ If you forget all the facts and formulas you learn in school, you will nevertheless have grown to be an educated person if you shun the self-absorbed, downward spiral of suffering and develop in yourself, instead, the will to apply yourself each time you approach the mountain.

We clutter the curriculum when the central subject worth teaching is how to live.

The exceptional.

Our country is exceptional because it has confidence in its citizens. Confidence in “We, the people” was and remains the singular most important revelation about the founding of our country. As a corollary, education is not used to achieve power or to maintain it.

Until now.

It is disturbing to hear the most powerful advisers in government to suggest that manipulation of citizens by government is okay.[75]

Yet that is precisely what K-12 frameworks appear to do. The giveaway is the studied integration of social studies examples into the ELA program replacing the use of literature that also examined the relationship of individuals to cultures and society.

It is an inversion of the relationship of citizens to their government from which the founders of the country sought to insulate us.

The goal is not to mold students into being “college and career ready” nor is it to become “good citizens.” The goal is to develop maturity and independence that lead one to value and guard society.

In summary: Alone and with hope

Making your own hope.

The Greeks valued liberty, and for that liberty were willing to sacrifice everything rather than give up. Too many today would casually trade in liberty for the empty promise of security and the certain slavery of a free lunch, never appreciating its true price. Ours is a generation so free that it has lost the meaning of freedom, the reason for freedom, and the will to reach for it. As surely as people who have no liberty yearn for it, the people who have liberty handed to them lust for absence of risk.

Politics wrestles with the question, “Is there room for the individual in society?” That question was put to bed a century ago, and certainly put away during Ronald Reagan’s confrontation with the Soviet Union. After years of dullness and lack of vigilance, the question has been resuscitated. Rephrase the question and people become uncomfortable: “Is society a user of people?” and “Should individuals be suppressed for the advantage of society’s powerful?” Individuals need to carve out space in a dominating society. Technology has blinded you; you are connected but not social.

Philosopher Erik Erickson asked the meaning of life. Say to anyone who asks, “You selfish, egotistical bastard! You sit there, surveying the world from a very pretty perch, indeed, provided you by everyone who has ever gone before. And you dare to break the gift they have given you. You contemplate abstracts self-indulgently, complain how hard you have it, and that there is nothing to live for, when you cannot see the gift you have been given. You rush to escape, into drugs, alcohol, television, hedonism, small talk, self-pity — anything to stop looping in your head or facing the reality of the meaninglessness of it all. Oh, the horror! Well, grow up! You may not find meaning, but meaning can find you. Your job is to get out of bed, no matter where that bed may be, and say, ‘Damn! This is a wonderful day, and I’m going to make the most of it. I am going to laugh, cry, and work myself until I’m happily tired. And, by God, when I die, someone will be able to look back on what I have done, and say thank you for clearing my path just a little more.’”

Uncertainty — that is what we are given. Certainly, we are alone, but we are also together. Sartre reminded us that, although alone, we still have those that we love on whom to practice loving.

Society is so simple, but I is not understood easily or often because appreciating ‘why society’ takes more steps to independently deduce than it takes steps to see clearly once society’s simple elegance is pointed out. Besides, as you have already seen, society is easily and often confused with culture.

Once you do figure why society matters, you can sell the personal advantage society offers others, and, furthermore, you are armed with the tools and the courage to defend it against those who, resigned to living just the law of the jungle, would destroy it.

To protect society, you need to know what it is and what it does. That arms you to detect and label behavior that would undermine it. The first weapon of choice is laughter, but every weapon in the arsenal is available to those who would use every weapon in the arsenal against you. Speak softly, but carry a big stick. Keep the big stick but keep it sheathed if possible because you can’t predict its unintended consequences. In the end, use the tools you’ve got. As explained earlier:

  • Books give you insight.
  • Books give you perspective.
  • Books give you hope.
  • Books give you companionship.
  • Books nudge you toward a way out.
  • Books give you clues to what is wrong.
  • Literature is the way to become sensitive to patterns and the consequences of them.
  • Literature compresses enough experience into a concentrated point that one can manufacture a way to bust out of limitations.

People have every reason to hope. Just as Confucius’ carvings on some ivory could reach out to touch someone 2500 years later, any insight recorded now can reach out to touch someone else in the unimaginable future.

Congratulations! Individuals get to disperse the creeping fog — now that they can survey the past centuries in coffeehouses, work, journalism, art, education, character, individuality, politics, economics, advertising, history, academia, religion, literature, language, community, and culture. Now, you make your own hope.


Wrapping up Common Core frameworks

The emperor’s new clothes

In summary:

  • Americans have legitimate concerns about recent education.
  • Educators and politicians embraced Common Core and the Social Studies Frameworks.
  • Others bloated Common Core as they hitched an untested wholesale restructuring of American education to a wagon of legitimate concerns.
  • That restructuring attempts social transformation that voters never approved and never would approve.

Social studies is a hundred-hundred-year-old mistake that has done justice to none of the constituent subjects in public education. Local school districts have been handed a pig in a poke. The pig has been gussied up with lipstick in the form of some needed attention to basics.

While teaching techniques have been refined over the years, with or without Common Core, content has been pedantic, cumbersome, disorganized, and shallow. The resulting disaffection opened the opportunity for revisionists to slip in pedagogy and content that promotes unapproved social transformation.

The tactic is not new. Ibn Khaldun sniffed it out 700 years ago:

  • Throughout history many nations have suffered a physical defeat, but that has never marked the end of a nation. But when a nation has become the victim of a psychological defeat, then that marks the end of a nation.[76]

The good news is that labeling the condition sets the stage to defend against it. If locals reclaim education from mistaken over-centralization, the resulting competition of ideas could be very positive.

In the fable, it was the voice of a child in the company of the professional entourage who suggested that the emperor, parading in what he supposed was his finery, was wearing no clothes. As common folk recognized the case, all the fancy crumbled under the weight of laughter.

Laughter is wonderful. It means we have discovered a better way of seeing our world. It means we have learned enough to do better, if we have the spittle for it.




Appendix I: NYS 8th Grade Social Studies Requirements




8.1 RECONSTRUCTION: Regional tensions following the Civil War complicated efforts to heal the nation and to redefine the status of African Americans. (Standards: 1, 4, 5; Themes: MOV, SOC, CIV, ECO)



8.1a Different approaches toward and policies for Reconstruction highlight the challenges faced in reunifying the nation.




Students will compare and contrast the differences between Reconstruction under Lincoln’s plan, Johnson’s plan, and congressional (Radical) Reconstruction.

Culture wars

8.1b Freed African Americans created new lives for themselves in the absence of slavery. Constitutional amendments and federal legislation sought to expand the rights and protect the citizenship of African Americans.




  • Students will examine the Reconstruction amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) in terms of the rights and protections provided to African Americans.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the Freedmen’s Bureau’s purpose, successes, and the extent of its success.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the effects of the sharecropping system on African Americans.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the reasons for the migration of African Americans to the North.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the rise of African Americans in government.

Identity politics

8.1c Federal initiatives begun during Reconstruction were challenged on many levels, leading to negative impacts on the lives of African Americans.




  • Students will explore methods used by Southern state governments to affect the lives of African Americans, including the passage of Black Codes, poll taxes, and Jim Crow laws.

Identity politics


  • Students will explore the responses of some Southerners to the increased rights of African Americans, noting the development of organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and White Leagues.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the ways in which the federal government failed to follow up on its promises to freed African Americans.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the effects of the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling.

Identity politics

8.2 A CHANGING SOCIETY: Industrialization and immigration contributed to the urbanization of America. Problems resulting from these changes sparked the Progressive movement and increased calls for reform.(Standards: 1, 2, 4; Themes: MOV, SOC, TECH, EXCH)



8.2a Technological developments changed the modes of production, and access to natural resources facilitated increased industrialization. The demand for labor in urban industrial areas resulted in increased migration from rural areas and a rapid increase in immigration to the United States. New York City became the nation’s largest city, and other cities in New York State also experienced growth at this time.




  • Students will identify groups of people who moved into urban areas, and examine where they came from and the reasons for their migration into the cities. Students will explore the immigrant experience at Ellis Island.

Identity politics


  • Students will compare and contrast immigrant experiences in locations such as ethnic neighborhoods in cities, rural settlements in the Midwest, Chinese communities in the Far West, and Mexican communities in the Southwest.

Identity politics

8.2b Population density, diversity, technologies, and industry in urban areas shaped the social, cultural, and economic lives of people.




  • Students will examine the population growth of New York City and other New York cities and the technologies and industries which encouraged this growth.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the living conditions in urban areas with a focus on increasing population density and the effects that this growth had on the social, cultural, and economic lives of people.

Identity politics

8.2c Increased urbanization and industrialization contributed to increasing conflicts over immigration, influenced changes in labor conditions, and led to political corruption.




  • Students will examine nativism and anti-immigration policies, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Gentlemen’s Agreement, and immigration legislation of the 1920s.

Identity politics


  • Students will explore the growth and effects of child labor and sweatshops.

Business oppression


  • Students will explore the development of political machines, including Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.

Business oppression

8.2d In response to shifts in working conditions, laborers organized and employed a variety of strategies in an attempt to improve their conditions.




  • Students will examine the goals and tactics of specific labor unions including the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor, and the Industrial Workers of the World.

Business oppression


  • Students will examine key labor events including the Haymarket affair, the Pullman Strike and the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union strike.

Business oppression

8.2e Progressive reformers sought to address political and social issues at the local, state, and federal levels of government between 1890 and 1920. These efforts brought renewed attention to women’s rights and the suffrage movement and spurred the creation of government reform policies.




  • Students will examine the Populist Party as a reform effort by farmers in response to industrialization.

Business oppression


  • Students will investigate reformers and muckrakers such as Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, W. E. B. du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Ida Tarbell, Eugene V. Debs, Jacob Riis, Booker T. Washington, and Upton Sinclair. Student investigations should include the key issues in the individual’s work and the actions that individual took or recommended to address those issues.

Business oppression


  • Students will explore leaders and activities of the temperance and woman’s suffrage movements.

Identity politics


  • Students will investigate the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the legislative response.

Business oppression


  • Students will examine state and federal government responses to reform efforts, including the passage of the 17th amendment, child labor and minimum wage laws, antitrust legislation, and food and drug regulations.

Business oppression

8.3 EXPANSION AND IMPERIALISM: Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, economic, political, and cultural factors contributed to a push for westward expansion and more aggressive United States foreign policy. Standards: 1, 2, 3, 5; Themes: GEO, GOV, CIV, ECO)



8.3a Continued westward expansion contributed to increased conflicts with Native Americans.




  • Students will examine the effects of the transcontinental railroad on the movement toward westward expansion.

Identity politics
Business oppression


  • Students will examine examples of Native American resistance to the western encroachment, including the Sioux Wars and the flight and surrender of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine United States and New York State policies toward Native Americans, such as the displacement of Native Americans from traditional lands, creation of reservations, efforts to assimilate Native Americans through the creation of boarding schools, the Dawes Act, and the Indian Reorganization Act and the Native Americans’ various responses to these policies.

Identity politics

8.3b The Spanish-American War contributed to the rise of the United States as an imperial power.




  • Students will examine examples of yellow journalism that contributed to United States entry into the Spanish-American War, including the portrayal of the sinking of the USS Maine.



  • Students will explain how the events and outcomes of the Spanish-American War contributed to the shift to imperialism in United States foreign policy.


8.3c Interest in Pacific trade contributed to an increase in United States foreign interactions. Students will assess the events surrounding the annexation of Hawaii.




  • Students will examine the purpose and effects of the Open Door Policy.


8.3d The Roosevelt Corollary expanded the Monroe Doctrine and increased United States involvement in the affairs of Latin America. This led to resentment of the United States among many in Latin America.




  • Students will evaluate the United States actions taken under the Roosevelt Corollary and their effects on relationships between the United States and Latin American nations, including the building of the Panama Canal.


8.4 WORLD WAR I AND THE ROARING TWENTIES: Various diplomatic, economic, and ideological factors contributed to the United States decision to enter World War I. Involvement in the war significantly altered the lives of Americans. Postwar America was characterized by economic prosperity, technological innovations, and changes in the workplace. (Standards: 1, 2, 4; Themes: SOC, GOV, ECO, TECH)



8.4a European militarism, the alliance system, imperialism, and nationalism were all factors that contributed to the start of World War I.




[ European militarism, the alliance system, imperialism, and nationalism were all factors that contributed to the start of World War I.]


8.4b International, economic, and military developments swayed opinion in favor of the United States siding with the Allies and entering World War I. Domestic responses to World War I limited civil liberties within the United States.




  • Students will examine an overview of the causes of World War I, focusing on the factors leading to United States entry into the war.



  • Students will examine examples of war propaganda and its effects on support for United States involvement in the war.



  • Students will examine the restrictions placed on citizens after United States entry into the war, including the Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918).


8.4c New military technologies changed military strategy in World War I and resulted in an unprecedented number of casualties.




  • Students will examine the effects of the changes in military technologies used during World War I, including trench warfare, chemical weapons, machine guns, and aircraft.


8.4d Following extensive political debate, the United States refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. The United States then sought to return to prewar policies by focusing on domestic rather than international matters.




  • Students will examine Wilson’s Fourteen Points and investigate reasons why the United States Senate refused to support the Treaty of Versailles, focusing on opposition to the League of Nations.


8.4e After World War I, the United States entered a period of economic prosperity and cultural change. This period is known as the Roaring Twenties. During this time, new opportunities for women were gained, and African Americans engaged in various efforts to distinguish themselves and celebrate their culture.




  • Students will investigate the efforts of women suffragists and explain the historical significance of the 19th amendment.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the reasons for and effects of prohibition on American society.

Social unrest


  • Students will examine examples of World War I and postwar race relations, such as the East St. Louis riots, the Silent March, and the Tulsa riots.

Identity politics


  • Students will explore the changes in American culture after World War I, including an examination of the Harlem Renaissance and other changes in New York City.

Identity politics

8.5 GREAT DEPRESSION: Economic and environmental disasters in the 1930s created hardships for many Americans. Amidst much debate about the appropriate role of government, President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped to create intensive government interventions in the United States economy and society. (Standards: 1, 3, 5; Themes: TCC, SOC, GOV, ECO)



8.5a Risky investing, protectionism, and overproduction led to the collapse of the stock market, a wave of bank failures, and a long and severe downturn in the economy called the Great Depression.




  • Students will examine how the economic practices of the 1920s contributed to the coming of the Great Depression.

InequalityBusiness oppression

8.5b The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl affected American businesses and families.




  • Students will examine the effects of the Great Depression on American families in terms of the loss of jobs, wealth, and homes, noting varying effects based on class, race, and gender. Students will explore the conditions in New York City and other communities within New York State during the Great Depression.

Identity politicsInequality


  • Students will explore the man-made and environmental conditions that led to the Dust Bowl, the economic as well as cultural consequences of the Dust Bowl, and federal government efforts to address the problem.


8.5c President Roosevelt issued the New Deal in an attempt to revive the economy and help Americans deal with the hardships of the Great Depression. These New Deal reforms had a long-lasting effect on the role of government in American society and its economic life, but did not resolve all of the hardships Americans faced.




  • Students will identify key programs adopted under the New Deal, including the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the adoption of the Social Security Act.

Pro Govt.

8.6 WORLD WAR II: The aggression of the Axis powers threatened United States security and led to its entry into World War II. The nature and consequences of warfare during World War II transformed the United States and the global community. The damage from total warfare and atrocities such as the Holocaust led to a call for international efforts to protect human rights and prevent future wars. (Standards: 1, 2, 3; Themes: TCC, GOV, TECH, EXCH)



8.6a Worldwide economic depression, militant nationalism, the rise of totalitarian rule, and the unsuccessful efforts of the League of Nations to preserve peace contributed to the outbreak of war in Europe and Asia.




  • Students will examine how the worldwide economic depression and militant nationalism resulted in the rise of totalitarian rule.

Culture wars

8.6b From 1939 to 1941, the United States government tried to maintain neutrality while providing aid to Britain but was drawn into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States fought a war on multiple fronts. At home, the economy was converted to war production, and essential resources were rationed to ensure adequate supplies for military use.




  • Students will examine American involvement in World War II, including the American strategy in the Pacific and the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.



  • Students will examine the role of the Tuskegee Airmen within the segregated military during World War II.

Identity politics


  • Students will investigate the effects of the war on the American economy and day-to-day life.



  • Students will examine the decision in Korematsu v. United States (1944) to intern Japanese Americans in light of perceived national security concerns versus constitutional rights.

Identity politics


  • Student will examine the role of New Yorkers in World War II, focusing on local institutions, such as the Fort Ontario Refugee Center or the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Loss of jobs

8.6c The nature and consequences of warfare during World War II transformed the United States and the global community. The damage from total warfare and human atrocities, including the Holocaust, led to a call for an international organization to prevent future wars and the protection of human rights.




  • Students will examine the role of air power by the allies, including the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.



  • Students will investigate the Holocaust and explain the historical significance of the Nuremberg trials.



  • Students will examine the structure and work of the United Nations.


8.7 FOREIGN POLICY: The period after World War II has been characterized by an ideological and political struggle, first between the United States and communism during the Cold War, then between the United States and forces of instability in the Middle East. Increased economic interdependence and competition, as well as environmental concerns, are challenges faced by the United States. (Standards: 1, 2, 4, 5; Themes: TCC, GEO, ECO, EXCH)



8.7a The Cold War was an ongoing struggle between the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War shaped the reconstruction of national boundaries and political alliances across the globe.




  • Students will locate on a map the nations that were aligned with the United States, those aligned with the Soviet Union, and the non-aligned nations.



  • Students will examine the term nuclear superpower and the threat of nuclear weapons as a cause and as an effect of the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.


8.7b The United States based its military and diplomatic policies from 1945 to 1990 on a policy of containment of communism.




  • Students will examine the policy of containment and its application in the postwar period, including the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Vietnam War.


8.7c Following the end of the Cold War, the United States sought to define a new role in global affairs, but the legacies of Cold War actions continue to affect United States foreign policy today.




  • Students will examine the changing relationships between the United States and foreign countries such as
    -- China beginning in 1950,
    -- Afghanistan beginning in the 1980s,
    -- Russia beginning in 1990, -- Middle East (Israel, Palestine, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq),
    -- Countries in the Western Hemisphere, focusing on NAFTA, Cuba and Mexico, European Union Countries


8.7d Terrorist groups not representing any nation entered and reshaped global military and political alliances and conflicts. American foreign and domestic policies responded to terrorism in a variety of ways.




  • Students will examine the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, its effects on national security and the United States responses to it, including the USA Patriot Act, the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the War on Terror, and military attacks on suspected terrorist locations.

Culture wars

8.7e Increased globalization has led to increased economic interdependence and competition.




  • Students will examine the increased economic interdependence in terms of globalization and its impact on the United States and New York State economy, including the workforce.



  • Students will examine the roles of multinational corporations and their influence on the world economy.

Business oppression

8.8 DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE: After World War II, the population of the United States rose sharply as a result of both natural increases and immigration. Population movements have resulted in changes to the American landscape and shifting political power. An aging population is affecting the economy and straining public resources. (Standards: 1, 3, 4, 5; Themes: ID, GEO, SOC, GOV, ECO)



8.8a After World War II, the United States experienced various shifts in population and demographics that resulted in social, political, and economic consequences.




  • Students will explore the short-term and long-term effects of the baby boom generation on the economy, including increases in the construction of homes and schools and increased demands on both Social Security and health care.

Govt Intervention


  • Students will examine the effects of suburbanization, including urban decay, suburban growth, and the diminished availability of farmland both nationally and within New York State.

Class warfare


  • Students will examine the population shift from the Midwest and northern industrial states to the Sun Belt, including its effect on political power.

Class warfare

8.8b The postwar United States experienced increasing immigration, debates over immigration policy, and an increase in cultural diversity.




  • Students will examine migration and immigration trends in New York State and New York City such as the increase in Spanish-speaking, South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and African populations and the contributions of these groups.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the effects of immigration legislation and policy, including recent debates over immigration policy.

Identity politics

8.8c Pollution, population growth, the consumption of natural resources, clearing of land for human sustenance, and large-scale industrialization have put added stress on the global environment.




  • Students will explore the effects of pollution, industrialization, and population growth on the environment, including urban areas (Love Canal), plant and animal life (Adirondack Park) and energy sources (Three Mile Island).

Business oppression

8.9 DOMESTIC POLITICS AND REFORM: The civil rights movement and the Great Society were attempts by people and the government to address major social, legal, economic, and environmental problems. Subsequent economic recession called for a new economic program. (Standards: 1, 4, 5; Themes: TCC, SOC, CIV, ECO)



8.9a The civil rights movement began in the postwar era in response to long-standing inequalities in American society, and eventually brought about equality under the law, but slower progress on economic improvements.




  • Students will compare and contrast the strategies used by civil rights activists, such as Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.

Identity politics


  • Students will explain the significance of key civil rights victories, including President Truman’s desegregation of the military, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Identity politics


  • Students will examine the extent to which the economic situation of African Americans improved as a result of the civil rights movement.

Identity politics

8.9b The civil rights movement prompted renewed efforts for equality by women and other groups.




  • Students will examine struggles for equality and factors that enabled or limited success on behalf of women, farm workers, Native Americans, the disabled, and the LGBT community.

Identity politicsClass warfare


  • Students will examine judicial actions taken to protect individual rights, such as Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969).

Class warfare

8.9c The Great Society programs of President Lyndon Johnson strengthened efforts aimed at reducing poverty and providing health care for the elderly, but the Vietnam War drained resources and divided society.




  • Students will explain the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.

Govt Intervention


  • Students will examine the connection between the Vietnam War, especially the draft, and the growth of a counterculture and peace movement.

Class warfareAnti-war

8.9d Economic recession during the 1970s and concerns about the growth and size of the federal government encouraged fiscal conservatives to push for changes in regulation and policy.




  • Students will examine President Ronald Reagan’s and President George H. W. Bush’s cuts to social programs and taxes in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

Class warfare

8.9e Constitutional issues involving the violation of civil liberties and the role of the federal government are a source of debate in American society.




  • Students will examine state and federal responses to gun violence, cyber-bullying, and electronic surveillance.

Govt Intervention







Identity Politics



Class Warfare



Culture wars



Business Oppression















Govt Intervention




Appendix II: Improving the Common Core model lessons

Those who created the Common Core frameworks lessons endeavored to block out competing alternatives. Complex implementations serve as barriers to entry. They endeavored to turn a competition of ideas into a competition of graphic organizers and pre-approved lesson plans.

Along the way, a small set of vendors have been building barriers of approved textbooks. Whatever other better approaches may exist, they are at a disadvantage without textbooks and graphic organizers.

More important, it is not Common Core that will make the difference in student success. It is the ability of individual teachers to positively engage individual students. That’s what good teachers do, because each student’s needs are different. This magnifies the need for effective principals who are obliged to spend time in each classroom in a process of continuous evaluation. Just as an economy is so complex that over-centralization is a hindrance to the unseen hand, control of education from the center is disruptive.

Most important, writing is what engages the youngest minds most effectively. The methods encouraged by Lucy Calkins’ Reading & Writing Project provide traction to students that encourages self-regulated learning without overbearing accreditor approved testing.

Appendix III: Grade relevant opportunities

New York grade level focus

New York State has set grade level focus that repeats the hazards of the C3 Framework themes insofar as the topics are arbitrary and disconnected. While traditional, the approach misses:

  • Opportunities to integrate that individual behavior scales from the individual to the group, culture, state, nation, and beyond.
  • Tying students to the past where people also dealt with establishing positive relationships to the rest of society.
  • Mining wisdom developed from the great thinkers of the past and sorting out why, in some instances they may have been mistaken.

The New York grade level focus is different from the sample lessons on the website, which follows more closely the C3 Framework. Nevertheless, here is a sampling of the kinds of things that can be easily integrated into current classes, using the time currently tied to student assessments ostensibly used to measure teacher performance. Teachers and principals should use student assessments evaluate the progress of individual students.

Kindergarten Self and Others

  • A sense of self — I am responsible. Tool: I am responsible poster.
  • A sense of others — Others live their life as acutely as you live yours. Others can help you, for instance, using writing as the vehicle. Tools: Confucius’ Golden Rule of don’t do to someone else what you don’t want done to you.
  • Narratization — Developing a sense of time and one’s place in it. Tool: writing. Graphic: Timeline, book: A Street in Time.
  • Weight lifting for the brain: Reading, writing, and talking are like weightlifting for the brain. Tools: Strongman drawing.
  • Tools of communication — phonics, printing

Grade 1 My Family and Other Families, Now and Long Ago

  • Individuals form groups but groups, while useful, confer no more rights than individuals receive.
  • Learning to dig into the past. Tool: Oral histories of families. Graphic: Generation charts.

Grade 2 My Community and Other United States Communities, and Grade 3 Communities around the World

  • Note: Grade 2 on the EngageNY website ELA lessons are not coordinated with the Social Studies lessons and deal with ancient cultures. That ELA should be so engaged in social studies is suspect and their content is examined earlier in this paper.
  • Note: Segregating 2nd Grade community from Grade 3 community fails to acknowledge that communities around the world share similar basic needs and societal interests and that what distinguishes them is cultural.
  • A sense of self — I am responsible. Tool: I am responsible poster.
  • Identity: A sense of personal value — Only you possess the consciousness to reflect on and act at your moment in time and place in the universe. You are the very best you that ever will be.
  • Working together: Adam Smith’s division of labor creates new wealth — Tools: Making a craft to sell to benefit a charity.
  • Altruism vs. Charity — Altruism is what others choose you should do while charity is what you decide to do.
  • Across space and time — Lessons from literature and history. Tool: Fables. Language. Myth of Sisyphus dealing with struggle.
  • Multiculturalism — Culture is like the pile of carpet, held together by the threads of the underlying society. Multiculturalism is not an excuse for violating the minimal behavior required for society.
  • Tools to facilitate communication — Cursive writing, typing.

Grade 4 Local History and Local Government

  • Scaling society from individuals to larger groups

Grade 5 The Western Hemisphere and Grade 6 The Eastern Hemisphere

  • Note: Segregating 5th and 6th communities ignores common timelines and parallel interest and obstacles.

Grade 7 History of the United States and New York – I and Grade 8 History of the United States and New York – II

  • Note: The website lists several examples in the ELA that do not coordinate with equivalent lessons in Social Studies. The ELA content is inconsistent and cheats students of valuable lessons in literature that deal directly with the relationship of main characters with society.
  • Note: History is a tool of value that needs to be practiced from the earliest grades.
  • Tools: David McCullough’s 1776. Also, history of the study of history.

Grade 9 Global History and Geography – I and Grade 10 Global History and Geography – II

  • In the Appendix is a sample revision of Global Studies directed at knowledge and understanding most valuable to student success.

Grade 11 United States History and Government

  • McCullough’s 1776 considers when to go to war; Washington’s persistence.

Grade 12 Participation in Government; Economics, the Enterprise System, and Finance

  • Participation must spring from understanding. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but you don’t have to know anything to have one.
  • By Grade 12, the lessons great minds have extracted from experience should have been integrated into everyday life — Division of labor, the advantage of trade between individuals, how new wealth is created, that the consumer is the measure of economic effectiveness, that competition and openness are antiseptics often more effective than government that is susceptible to collusion.

Appendix IV: Integrating simple wisdoms into subjects.

Classroom manner: What a teacher does in the classroom matters, not foremost in teaching subjects, but as a role model. When a mistake is made drawing, say, simple addition on the board in front of a class, some teachers would gloss over an error pointed out by a student. Good teachers make the mistake a teachable moment. “Thank you. I’m grateful that you pointed out my mistake. I am not perfect and depend on others to help me.” To be seen as not perfect and in need of the assistance of others models for children they need to be humble and open about their own mistakes. It reinforces that people make decisions based on a mental map of reality, not reality itself. Similarly, the incentive to associate with others springs from individual humility about how exposed we will be if we don’t cooperate.

Subjects are the perfect vehicles to encourage a sound understanding of simple wisdoms. Every subject is an opportunity for joy. Release the hounds!

Writing, phonics, cursive, grammar, logic, rhetoric, logical fallacies, literature, etc. are woven into courses at every level. This is just a sampling of teachable moments woven into an everyday classroom experience:


  • Kindergarten develops social skills.
  • Kindergarten begins to tie art to creating word pictures, taking baby steps toward engagement, reflection, a sense of time, vocabulary, narratives, mental weightlifting, and cooperation.
  • Kindergarten develops the framework of personal responsibility.

Art: is a pleasure, a tool, and a metaphor.

  • Art brings one momentarily to consciousness about a particular subject.
  • Art develops the willingness to make mistakes.
  • Art allows people to practice learning from their struggles.
  • Art develops appreciation of those who have gone before.
  • Art offers metaphors to represent processes of thought like recursion, of which M.C. Escher’s Print Gallery is an example.


  • Biology encourages wonder.
  • Biology encourages patience and a sense of time. Even the youngest student can develop a sense of time by working a vegetable garden in the school yard.

Chemistry: Chemistry encourages the sense that knowledge of Mother Nature translates to powerful options people can use to better their situation.


  • Curiosity in chemistry.


  • Drama reinforces pattern recognition.
  • Drama encourages projection into the future as in “what if I did this?”

Economics: Dynamic processes evolve over time in such complex integration that one cannot know everything, but experience offers guidelines:

  • Economics is not a zero-sum game.
  • New wealth is created when anyone finds a more effective way to provide goods and services.
  • Bastiat: Economic issues should always be seem from the eyes of the consumer, and not a country.
  • Free exchange and trade has brought unprecedented prosperity to the average person over the last centuries.
  • Free exchange prospered under limited government, a fixed set of public rules, independence and personal responsibility.
  • Economics offers the appreciation that even long ago great men, like Adam Smith, applied themselves to recognize patterns from experience from which we can still benefit living life today.
  • Adam Smith explained that everyone working in self-interest actually benefits others as with an unseen hand.
  • Economics offers even a gift of laughter in that the most serious of great men could turn to wit and whimsy as when Adam Smith replicated, step-by-step, the complicated welcome march of his porter.
  • People working is better than people not working. Work is what is available, not necessarily what you want – contra Marx.
  • Majority rules is an opportunity to take other people’s wealth to the detriment of the incentive to create new wealth.

Games: The game of Go from China and Japan, offers us simple rules and intriguing complexity to learn to value scarcity.


  • Develops the will to struggle.
  • Develops teamwork and cooperation.
  • Reinforces the joy of play.

History: History offers the humility that comes from recognizing how imperfect the tool is we use to plan our futures and how valuable others are to us when we work together. Rather than a drudge presented chronologically, missing golden threads that tie current issues similar issues dealt with in the past, one can integrate common concerns:

  • Why did the Athenians fail?
  • Why did Juvenal decry Roman government by panem et circenses — bread and circuses — and to what degree do present governments attempt the same ploy?
  • What can one know? How should one behave? How should one interact with others.
  • Historiography helps people see that sometimes they think they are correct just because they think they are correct.

Music: Music should be offered at the earliest ages, even if it begins with simply keeping tempo. Confucius recommended instruments like recorders 2500 years ago. Music introduces students to mathematics, to abstract frames of reference, to pattern recognition, and to struggle. Even the youngest student can exercise struggle by mastering musical scales on a recorder or other instrument.

Numeracy: The difference between numbers and arithmetic is like the difference between virtues and the processes to determine virtue.

Politics: Politics for Aristotle was the art of coming to understanding. The current habit is cutthroat. Many want to stop discussion, not participate in it. For them, winning is what matters. They want to put you down, shut you up, and get you to give up. That’s uncivil and almost unnoticed.

Science and technology: Improvements in science and technology allow people to temper the impact of the environment, create new wealth, augment power, understand the universe, and master not nature, but the laws nature follows, to distance oneself from magic.

Rhetoric: Opportunities to teach logical fallacies can be found from Kindergarten on up.

  • Argument is a learned craft. An argument should restate clearly and cogently the strongest case for the argument you wish to counter. If you don’t, you don’t care to be correct and would rather win by any means necessary. That’s selfish, small, anti-social, and today’s everyday habit.
  • To argue, make the clearest statement. Then explain why a premise does not stand up to scrutiny, or explain why the conclusion does not logically follow. Don’t waste time saying you disagree when you are not in a position to explain how or why.

Responsibility: I am responsible…

  • For my learning: No one can learn for me.
  • For my behavior: Behave well and the credit is mine; Mess up and the responsibility is mine and no one else is to blame.
  • For my treatment of others: I give respect and consideration and expect it in return.
  • For my community: I will contribute in classroom, the school, and beyond.
  • For my world: I will care for my environment because we share it now and forever.


Appendix V: Global Studies Regents Exam, August 2010

In the table below, questions on the left come from the August 2010 NYS Global Studies Regents Exam. Questions on the right test life lessons accessible to students, essential to master, and substantially missed by the official exam. None of the 50 official multiple-choice questions seemed to test a core concept of society, the civilization we trust to maintain it, or the citizenship we want to carry on. None challenge students to read their texts to work out how they fit with what each student currently understands. Useful life lessons could be made accessible to students willing and able to learn them, with little effort and no extra time in the classroom.


August 2010 NYS Global History Exam Proposed more functional exam

1 Which document is considered a primary source?

(1) encyclopedia article
(2) modern textbook
(3) biography
(4) personal correspondence
1 Which document is trustworthy?
(1) encyclopedia article
(2) modern textbook
(3) personal correspondence
(4) none of the above can be guaranteed trustworthy

Correct answer: 4. Each individual has to be the final arbiter of what to believe. One has to become the expert at weighing and sifting for inconsistencies in books, newspapers, encyclopedias, and even in primary sources.

2 Which title best completes the partial outline below?

I. ______________________________
A. Located in a region of volcanoes and earthquakes
B. Has limited mineral resources
C. Concentration of population in coastal plains
(1) Geographic Features of Japan
(2) Environmental Challenges in Mongolia
(3) Economic Issues Facing Saudi Arabia
(4) Factors Affecting British Industrialization

2 Which events indicate the need to take an active role in checking the quality and content of your own education?

(1) substitution of whole language at the expense of phonics and decoding in teaching reading
(2) introduction of new math that removed learning basic multiplication
(3) During the space shuttle Challenger hearings, Richard Feynman showed with a glass of ice water the proximate cause of O-ring failure that other scientists glossed over
(4) all of the above

To ignite the spark of learning, students need to be nudged toward taking responsibility for their own future. They need to learn why it is in their own best interest to become self-regulated learners.

3 Which Neolithic Revolution development led to the other three?

(1) complex civilizations
(2) surplus of food
(3) division of labor
(4) domestication of plants and animal

3 When one invents something, who benefits from the wealth created?

(1) the inventor of the invention
(2) workers of the company the inventor works for
(3) customers who buy the invention from the company
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. The domestication of plants and animals that made incrementally more time available for people to spend doing other things created wealth. Wealth can lead to improvement in the quality of life.

Whenever one creates a more efficient way of doing the same amount of work, the time saved becomes wealth that can be used to do other things. Wealth, when created, belongs to everyone—employees, customers, and shareholders. Increased wealth improves the quality to life of everyone.

When an inventor, an entrepreneur, an artist creates something others value, he can become wealthy, but that wealth immediately is distributed to others through services rendered, products bought, or savings invested.

4 •The Ganges River is sacred to people practicing Hinduism.

• Shinto shrines are usually located near mountains or lakes.

• The Jordan River is a site of many Christian baptisms.

Which conclusion is most valid based on these statements related to belief systems?

(1) The Middle East was the birthplace of these belief systems.
(2) Water plays an important role in these belief systems.
(3) Pilgrimages to mountainous regions are encouraged by these belief systems.
(4) Understanding nature is a requirement of these belief systems.

4 From personal experience, which statement can one justify?

(1) since a culture is something its members believe, no one outside that culture can judge it
(2) cultures take precedence over society
(3) cultures matter more than the individuals who created them
(4) individuals manufacture society

Correct answer: 4. A simple fabric underlies diverse cultural beliefs to form the minimum requirements of all civil society.

One thread, humility, comes from understanding you are not always correct, and another thread, reciprocity, comes from appreciation that others, like you, are as acutely interested in understanding the world more accurately, the better to plan their own future.

Culture is like the pile of a carpet, varying in many different ways, held together by humility and reciprocity as the underlying warp and weft.

Base your answer to question 5 on the illustration below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Illustration of ancient Mayan art

5 Which element of civilization is most clearly shown in this Maya artwork?

(1) urbanization
(2) a system of education
(3) a code of laws
(4) social classes

5 Which statement is true about arbitrary distinctions?

(1) racism is ignorant overgeneralization
(2) people interact with each other one on one
(3) hamburger can be divided many different ways, all valid, and it’s still hamburger
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Class is an arbitrary abstraction often used to obfuscate that people deal with each other individually, one-on-one, and behavior that matters individually becomes behavior that matters collectively.

6 Which achievements are most closely associated with the Tang and Song dynasties of China?

(1) wheel and stirrup
(2) chinampas and calendar
(3) gunpowder and movable wooden type
(4) mosaics and domes

6 Copyrights are designed to?

(1) benefit the creator
(2) benefit the creator’s descendents
(3) benefit the company the creator works for
(4) benefit the creator and society

Correct answer: 4. Inventions benefit all society, creating new wealth by improving providing goods and services to people. In our time, governments make bargains called patents and copyrights with inventors and artists that work to the benefit of each. Creators receive the profits of their work for a time and then those creations are made available to the rest of society to be further refined and developed.

In recent time changes have been made to copyright law to favor descendents instead of creators, jeopardizing the mutually beneficial relationship with society.

7 Korea has frequently served as a cultural bridge between

(1) Cambodia and Vietnam
(2) Russia and India
(3) Thailand and Indonesia
(4) China and Japan

7 Where do cultural traditions fit in governance?

(1) cultural traditions are not compelling to those of different cultural traditions
(2) cultural traditions are more important than religious traditions
(3) religious traditions take precedence over cultural traditions
(4) our traditions are more important than the traditions of others

Correct answer: 1. A culture can govern based on shared traditions, whether they are religious or social, but when a culture tries to impose that tradition on others who do not follow those traditions or beliefs, the only options are to convince them to adopt those beliefs or to rule by force.

A society of diverse cultures is likely to be mores stable if it is based on conclusions developed from individual experience that leads to a common result.

What conclusions can be developed from your personal experience that others from different cultures are also likely to conclude?

8 Which institution served as the primary unifying force in medieval western Europe?

(1) legislature
(2) church
(3) monarchy
(4) military

8 Which institution served better organizing society to solve its problems?

(1) religion
(2) absolutism
(3) militarism
(4) none of the above

Correct answer: 4. Government is a creation of individuals designed to work on their behalf, but what powers should a government have, and what checks and balances are effective.

Each century since the middle ages has emphasized one type of organizing system to address social concerns, and each has left problems for the next century to clean up:

  • 1500s – Religion
  • 1600s – Absolutism
  • 1700s – Reason
  • 1800s – Industrialism
  • 1900s – Centralized with mass communications

The problem is not the unifying force, but creating a self-correcting process that is unlikely to be hijacked or sent permanently down a self-defeating path.

Base your answer to question 9 on the map below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Newcomers in the Roman World, c. AD 526

Map of expanded Roman empire

9 Which conclusion about the Roman world around AD 526 can be drawn from the information on this map?

(1) The Gauls dominated trade on the Mediterranean Sea.
(2) Rome was the capital of the entire western region.
(3) The eastern region was unified under the Byzantine Empire.
(4) The division between eastern and western Rome followed natural boundaries.

9 As cultures have organized into ever increasing size across history, which size works best?

(1) no particular size works best
(2) city-states
(3) nations
(4) feudal kingdoms

Correct answer: 1. Across history cultures have organized into entities ever increasing in size—towns, provinces, states, and nations, facilitated by better communications and support structures. But nations are a new phenomenon, not necessarily well suited to advance their citizens or society.

10 Which change to Christian church practice was suggested by Martin Luther?

(1) increasing the sale of indulgences
(2) installing statues of saints in churches
(3) saying the mass in Latin so the faithful would learn it
(4) printing the Bible in the vernacular so all could read it

10 For political decisions, who is most trustworthy?

(1) scientists and academics
(2) religious leaders
(3) political leaders
(4) none of the above

Correct answer: 4. Experts of any flavor, whether religious, political, scientific, or other, are obliged to express what they know so that other ordinary individuals can understand and validate it for themselves. There is no special knowledge. There is no hiding behind degrees, white coats, or clerical collars.

11 The trans-Saharan trade carried out by West African civilizations was primarily based on an exchange of

(1) gold and salt
(2) ivory and silk
(3) silver and tea
(4) hardwoods and animal skins

11 What is the goal of money?

(1) to get rich
(2) to hoard
(3) to do whatever you wish to accomplish
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 3. Economics is often misunderstood—reduced to examination of money as the medium of exchange, but money goals are not usually the goals of individual transactions; goals should be understood according to what each individual wishes to accomplish. Understanding that helps one understand that self-interest is different than selfishness.

Base your answer to question 12 on the map below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Pattern of eastern hemisphere urbanization

12 Based on the information provided by this map, which statement about urban areas between 650 and 1500 is accurate?

(1) Most urbanization occurred in the Southern Hemisphere.
(2) Most urbanization is associated with a tropical climate.
(3) Most urban areas were located in Europe.
(4) Most urban areas developed near waterways.

12 What would rival the unsettling changes of rural workers moving to factories in urban areas between 1875 and 1925?

(1) the current information revolution between 1975 and 2025
(2) the first industrial or steam revolution
(3) the agrarian revolution
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. The agrarian revolution, the steam revolution, the scientific revolution, and the computer revolution have had profound but temporary effects on cultures.

Between 1875 and 1925 was a mass migration from farms to urban areas, where manufacturing and retail brought income to families.

A hundred years later a new transition brought a new wave of uncertainty as computer automation and easy transport began to change manufacturing retail base to service and knowledge as the means to bring income into families.

How did politicians try to use the changes to gain political power?

13 China’s image of itself as the Middle Kingdom is associated with

(1) welcoming foreign ideas and influences
(2) mixing Western religions with traditional Chinese philosophies
(3) controlling how contact occurs with other cultures
(4) building the Grand Canal to expand trade within China

13 Who validates governments?

(1) religious and hereditary political leaders who have been in charge throughout history
(2) individuals who are governed
(3) a culture’s governing bodies
(4) judicial courts

Correct answer: 2. Individuals create their governments and recreate them in every generation. Individuals of any culture depend on an accurate understanding of the world about them to be able to make decisions all citizens of that culture are required to make.

When rulers over any culture abuse their authority over individuals of that culture, mechanisms are needed to peacefully correct that abuse or citizens may try other means to recover.

14 Which factor most influenced the development of diverse cultures in pre-Columbian South America?

(1) trade agreements
(2) geographic features
(3) imported religious ideas
(4) peasant revolts

14 What is society?

(1) culture and society are the same
(2) society is the better class of people
(3) society occurs at the edge where any two individuals or cultures meet
(4) none of the above

Correct answer: 3. Society is the minimal behavior at the edge where two or more individuals or cultures meet.

To avoid moral relativism which can occur whenever cultures meet, and which can lead to Machiavellian “might makes right,” how can those cultures establish a mutually beneficial process of peaceful problem resolution?

Base your answer to question 15 on the map below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Atlantic Ocean trade routes

15 Based on the information shown on this map, most manufactured goods were produced in

(1) the West Indies
(2) Europe
(3) English colonies
(4) Africa

15 The commercial marketplace has helped improve the quality of life of more people than any other economic system because:

(1) competition encourages efficiency
(2) profits are held in check by increased competition
(3) market signals help allocate resources
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Development of commercial marketplace occurs in several stages. Its growth is facilitated by liberty that encourages division of labor, resources that include capital, and a ready market.

Protectionist policies at the outset, can favor start up of industry that otherwise would be inefficient, however, in mature markets, protectionism negatively affect individuals, forcing them to pay higher prices for goods and services than they normally would.

16 What was a key characteristic of an absolute monarchy in the 16th and 17th centuries?

(1) centralized governmental authority
(2) increased political rights for peasants and serfs
(3) freedom of religion
(4) a system of checks and balances

16 Can individuals safely leave their governance up to others to solve society’s problems? (1) no, centuries of experience have shown delegated power needs supervision
(2) yes, because the two party system assures good governance
(3) yes, because we’ve done alright so far
(4) yes, because of the United Nations

Correct answer: 1. Each century since the middle ages has attempted to organize to address social issues. First religion-based, then autocratic, then science-based, then technology-based, and, in the last century, centralized communications based, all with limited success.

17 The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the Glorious Revolution in 1688 were key events in English history because they resulted in

(1) creating alliances with France
(2) defeating Protestant nobles
(3) limiting the power of the monarchy
(4) annexing territory

17 The primary purpose of teaching citizenship should be to:

(1) create docile compliant citizens
(2) bring citizens together
(3) help people understand their responsibilities to themselves and others
(4) help the least among us

Correct answer: 3. What is the purpose of citizenship? For classical Greeks citizenship required drill to function as a team in the chorus or on the battlefield. For the classical Romans it required the study of Rhetoric to put thoughts in order and present them compellingly to others in political debate. Should citizenship try to create competent individuals, docile compliant citizens, or something else?

Base your answer to question 18 on the passage below and on your knowledge of social studies.

. . . The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas, and gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture. Their own craftsmen could not weave cloth, cast metal, make pottery, or even bake bread. They manufactured neither porcelain nor pottery, painted no pictures, and built no buildings. Yet, as their army conquered culture after culture, they collected and passed all of these skills from one civilization to the next. . . .

— Jack Weatherford

18 This passage leads to the conclusion that the Mongols

(1) rejected technology
(2) were a peaceful people
(3) were urbanized
(4) contributed to cultural diffusion
18 One can justify society with others from personal experience because it reveals the need for: (1) humility
(2) reciprocity
(3) humility and reciprocity
(4) sound government

Correct answer: 3. One can learn from others, but one has to be open to learn from them.

We call it humility when one understands that one can be wrong, that at any time there one may discover a better way to do things, and that the process of self-correction must always be preserved.

We call it reciprocity when one recognizes that others live their lives as acutely as we live our own, and that they too may seek better understanding of the world around them.

All successful cultures in one way or another believe that one does not do to others what one does not want done to oneself.

19 Many Enlightenment philosophers used reason to

(1) reinforce traditional beliefs
(2) strengthen religious authority
(3) reveal natural laws
(4) encourage censorship

19 Reason is best used to

(1) reinforce traditional beliefs
(2) strengthen religious authority
(3) reveal natural laws
(4) check our work

Correct answer: 4. Reason has been misused to persecute witches and commit genocide against millions.

Reason is not how we think; it is one tool we use, in concert with others, to check our work.

20 The unification of Germany under Otto von Bismarck demonstrates the

(1) influence of Marxist ideology
(2) impact of nationalism
(3) force of civil disobedience
(4) power of democratic ideals

20 The nation state is:

(1) the culmination of centuries of progress
(2) a creation of individuals that can be abused by individuals
(3) valuable because majority rules
(4) none of the above

The nation state is a recent form of government that is owed no special allegiance. It is a creation of individuals to be used to help individuals, but one that equally easily can be abused by individuals.

21 What was a result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe?

(1) the growth of the middle class
(2) an increase in nomadic herding
(3) a decline in urban population
(4) a decrease in international trade

21 Commercial marketplace progressed because of:

(1) division of labor
(2) development of corporations to spread and limit risk
(3) development of rational accounting
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. The commercial marketplace blossomed in several stages:

  1. Development of monetary interest,
  2. Development of the limited liability corporation to spread and limit risk,
  3. Development of vertically organized enterprise,
  4. Development of non-animal based power,
  5. Advance of division of labor brought about by interchangeable parts, and
  6. The advent of rational accounting

22 One reason the Suez Canal has been of strategic importance to countries other than Egypt was that the canal

(1) allowed for faster movement between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean
(2) enabled Europeans to explore the Western Hemisphere
(3) made it easier for Russia to gain control of Afghanistan
(4) provided the Austro-Hungarian Empire with access to its colonies in South Asia

22 Adam Smith opposed mercantilism because:

(1) wealth is not a zero-sum game
(2) wider trade can benefit more individuals and encourages peaceful relations
(3) wider trade fosters a healthy middle class
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Mercantilists believed that wealth was a zero-sum game where one country’s wealth necessarily came at the expense of another. Show how trade can be an instrument to benefit individuals or benefit the state and that trade that fosters a healthy middle class improves the quality of life for all and helps maintain the mutual peace.

23 Much of which area of the world came under European colonial control in the 19th century?

(1) Japan
(2) Southwest Asia
(3) Africa
(4) Latin America

23 Colonialism:

(1) could only happen in capitalist countries
(2) required protectionism and tacit complicity of segments of the colonized country
(3) imposed culture on the colony without getting cultural cross-pollination in return
(4) was always government run

Correct answer: 2. Colonialism was a temporary perturbation of commercial marketplaces made possible by a monopoly assignment by a government to a private company, like the Dutch East India Company.

Colonialism is necessarily a two-way street. Colonialism would not have been possible without protectionism or without the tacit complicity of segments of the colonized country, and cultural exchange necessarily travels in both directions.

24 A similarity between the Sepoy Rebellion in India and the Boxer Rebellion in China is that both were

(1) attempts to remove foreign influence
(2) movements to establish communist governments
(3) efforts to restore trade monopolies
(4) struggles to westernize cultures

24 Monopoly rights granted by governments

(1) warped free competition in early international trade leading to colonial abuse
(2) efficiently allowed foreign trade to develop
(3) worked to benefit both sides of foreign trade
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 1. In early attempts at international trade, governments colluded with business to create monopoly companies that overstepped the commercial into the military. How would open commercial competition have helped avoid colonial revolutions?

Base your answer to question 25 on the passage below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Observation of a Soldier in World War I
Private Archie Surfleet, February 8th, 1918 —
We have been in camp near the wood at écurie for some days now and a more miserable existence it would be hard to imagine. There is nothing but unrest and uncertainty and everyone here is absolutely fed up to the teeth.

— Malcolm Brown, Tommy Goes to War

25 Which hypothesis can best be supported by this passage?

(1) Allied forces were on the verge of winning the war.
(2) Technology had created a military stalemate.
(3) Revolution in Russia hastened the end of the war.
(4) Conditions contributed to low troop morale.

25 Peace:

(1) is the absence of war
(2) sometimes legitimizes oppression
(3) is the absence of the need for war
(4) both (2) and (3)

Correct answer: 4. Both pacifists and generals agree that war is a nasty place to be. But peace isn’t simply the absence of war; it is the absence of the need for war. Sometimes simply enforcing peace legitimizes oppression.

What is worth fighting for? A nation? A principle? A process? A tradition? A religion?

The courage to stand up for such things comes from mastering when and why such things are worthwhile.

26 One reason the League of Nations failed as a world organization was that it

(1) supported the rise of fascist states
(2) lacked a military force to settle conflicts
(3) dealt with conflict by establishing naval blockades
(4) encouraged the annexation of territory by force

26 Peace:

(1) requires a process that allows for problem resolution short of fighting
(2) happens when people unilaterally disarm
(3) is what everyone wants
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 1. Peace is not the absence of war; it is the absence of the need for war. It is a process that allows for problem resolution short of fighting.

People who favor enforced peace absent a mechanism for problem resolution satisfactory to both sides stand for oppression.

27 Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 and Germany’s attack on Poland in 1939 led directly to

(1) the beginning of World War II in Asia and Europe
(2) a meeting at Yalta between the United States and the Soviet Union
(3) a conference at Munich for European leaders
(4) the withdrawal of Britain and France from European affairs

27 National misbehavior:

(1) is not the job of the United Nations to address
(2) can’t be judged across cultures
(3) is every nation’s responsibility because individuals can’t always defend themselves
(4) should be ignored

Correct answer: 3. Appeasement of Hitler by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was supposed to lead to “peace in our time” but it led, instead, to war. Addressing misbehavior requires understanding what misbehavior is, even across cultures. In the last century, millions died in war, and because other nations sat by the sidelines when facing down oppression would have saved innocent lives. Even today United Nations rules make it difficult to oppose state-sponsored abuse of citizens.

28 The Nuremberg Trials are considered an important event in the 20th century because they

(1) brought an end to genocide
(2) condemned the use of nuclear weapons
(3) ruled on provisions for the postwar occupation of Germany
(4) established principles of responsibility for human rights violations

28 Human rights:

(1) are created by law
(2) are up to nations to negotiate
(3) can be deduced by any individual from personal experience
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 3. Human rights are not created by law, but may be recognized and set into law. Rights come not from natural law, or from cultural tradition, but are deduced from patterns of experience commonly accessible to all and able to be justified by individuals to apply equally to themselves and to all other individuals.

29 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was initially formed to

(1) promote religious freedom
(2) defend Western Europe from Soviet aggression
(3) isolate member nations from the rest of the world
(4) stop the flow of immigration between member nations

29 When governments collapse a political vacuum can be created that:

(1) may not be able to be remedied without outside intervention
(2) allows all kinds of thugs to take advantage of people unable to defend themselves
(3) often has not been addressed by the United Nations
(4) all of the above

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created for defensive purposes but has acted in areas outside its physical boundaries in the interests of world stability.

30 What was one social change Mao Zedong instituted in China after 1949?

(1) granting legal equality for men and women
(2) requiring arranged marriages
(3) adopting the practice of foot binding
(4) mandating Confucianism as the state philosophy

30 Which meaning of equality works most reliably?

(1) enforced equality of outcome, as in a Marxian economy
(2) equality of opportunity, as in a commercial marketplace
(3) equality under the law, that de Tocqueville admired in America
(4) both (2) and (3)

Correct answer: 4. Equality of opportunity does not guarantee success, but it gives each generation the opportunity to climb out of poverty. Enforced quality of result rewards those who do not try and penalizes those who add to the quality of life for all.

Base your answers to questions 31 and 32 on the cartoon below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Liberty cartoon

31 This 1989 cartoon suggests that the governments of both China and East Germany

(1) removed the military from power
(2) allowed a shift in rule from autocracy to fascism
(3) gave people the right to decide how they would be ruled
(4) faced challenges in their ability to maintain communist governments

31 The freedom to offend others:

(1) has no place in civil society (2) is necessary in any society that wishes to build in a process of continuous improvement (3) has never been justified (4) hurts the least among us

Correct answer: 2. The freedom to express an opinion—to tell someone something they may not wish to hear—is the most fundamental principle in society because people—and governments—can think they are correct when they are mistaken and to be continuously successful society requires the constant opportunity for the smallest voice to try to convince others of a better way to do things.

As a corollary, the right to speak one’s mind does not imply the necessity to do so. No one deserves to be harangued during occasions of peaceful reflection.

32 Which event in China is symbolized by the “Lady with the Light” in this 1989 cartoon?

(1) Long March
(2) Great Leap Forward
(3) Cultural Revolution
(4) Tiananmen Square protests

32 Which of the following is true about the Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) International agreement can declare human rights, but that does not necessarily make them so.
(2) Overwhelmingly popular ideas become rights.
(3) The Declaration said where rights come from.
(4) Rights and freedom are the same thing.

Correct answer: 1. People often claim “rights” but seldom justify them. Likewise, people seldom claim “responsibilities.” Where do rights come from? Does claiming something to be a right make it one? Does popularity make something a right? Is there a difference between a right and a sensible practice? Is liberty a right? Freedom? Freedom of speech? The freedom to offend?

33 Which statement about the United Nations is a fact rather than an opinion?

(1) The United Nations has too many committees to be effective.
(2) The United Nations would be more efficient if its headquarters moved to Europe.
(3) The membership of the United Nations has increased since its formation.
(4) The United Nations has successfully met most of its goals.

33 The United Nations:

(1) is a tribute to democracy.
(2) has a charter clause that shields countries from most internal misbehavior.
(3) effectively polices nations around the world.
(4) has successfully met most of its goals.

Correct answer: 2. A critical flaw in the United Nations shields the internal affairs of members from most scrutiny such that its charter behaves as the national leader full employment act. No matter how a leader assumes power, or stays in power, legitimacy is almost automatically assumed in the United Nations. This borders on the absurd when autocratic rulers who violate the United Nations own Declaration of Human Rights are put on the Human Rights Commission.

Base your answer to question 34 on the chart below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Conditions ten years after apartheid in South Africa

34 Which conclusion about South Africa’s economy can be drawn from this chart?

(1) Since the end of apartheid, most blacks have gained economic equality.
(2) In some sectors of the economy, blacks earn more than whites.
(3) Despite the end of apartheid, many blacks continue to struggle economically.
(4) Economic opportunity for blacks is directly related to education reform.

34 South Africa’s economy:

(1) has been hampered mostly by greedy and unethical corporations.
(2) has been hampered by an excess of unreasonable laws and restrictions.
(3) is booming since apartheid.
(4) has fostered many new businesses.

Correct answer: 2. Economic equality in South Africa has not been achieved not because businesses are residually unethical, but because there are so few businesses altogether.

Political leaders heap social mandates and environmental restrictions on businesses and on individuals who would buy things. Restrictions make it hard to build power plants. Labor laws make it hard to fire people.

35 Which document is most closely associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict?

(1) Balfour Declaration
(2) Kyoto Protocol
(3) Communist Manifesto
(4) Treaty of Nanjing

35 A nation’s process of peaceful problem resolution:

(1) requires separation of powers
(2) needs to be set up by constitutional convention
(3) may not be able to be set up without external intervention
(4) is not important

Correct answer: 3. If no political group within a territory can be trusted to govern with impartiality in the interest of those who live there, should a nation be created at all, or, instead, should the territory be governed by outside administrators until the current generation will no longer poison support for peaceful problem resolution.

36 “Reliance on Imported Oil Raises Concerns in China, Europe, and the United States”

“Coca-Cola Accused of Wasting Precious Water in India”

“Competition for Control of Cobalt Mines Causes Violence in Congo”

These headlines best illustrate the economic concept of

(1) inflation
(2) embargo
(3) boycott of goods
(4) scarcity of resources

36 If sometimes we think we are correct when we are mistaken, a useful check on one’s thinking might be:

(1) sighting from the past, through the present, to the future to put things in context
(2) reading the Constitution
(3) asking someone in authority
(4) reading a newspaper

Correct answer: 1. The concept of one’s place in time is a useful tool to check one's conclusions. Sighting from the past, through the present, to the future generates a sense of perspective for decision-making.

Examining what has happened over time leads to humility about current interpretations of past events, just as past interpretations of what has gone before have been colored by their times.

It also leads one to recognize that scarcity isn’t always permanent, and accurate market pricing helps allocate resources to, if possible, reduce and find alternatives to work around that scarcity.

37 Rapid industrialization in developing nations has often resulted in

(1) little growth in urban centers
(2) decreases in the levels of pollution
(3) the continuation of traditional ideas in the workplace
(4) a growing gap between the rich and the poor

37 A growing gap between the rich and the poor:

(1) needs to be corrected by government intervention
(2) is buffered by opportunities in education that can help the children of the poor in a single generation to become successful
(3) shows that capitalism is a failure
(4) proves Marxian class warfare

Correct answer: 2. The problems of rapid industrialization in the 1800s cannot be equated to the current industrialized culture where entrepreneurship may have made some people wealthy while along their way they helped to raise the standard of living of many who otherwise would have been left in extreme poverty.

Invention and entrepreneurship has increased the size of the economic pie of which everyone may partake. Along the way, public schools, advocated by Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, have led to the circumstance where poverty in one generation of a family can be wiped out in the second.

The gap between the richest of the rich and the poor is less important than the opportunity the poor have to better themselves and the safety net available to them during economic transitions.

38 One way in which the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Three Gorges Dam in China are similar is that both

(1) convert salt water to freshwater
(2) harness natural forces to produce energy
(3) provide fertilizers for agricultural production
(4) connect small bodies of water to larger bodies of water

38 Large public works

(1) show how successful a country is
(2) are the best use of foreign aid
(3) are never useful
(4) sometimes have unintended consequences

Correct answer: 4. Public works created by large centralized governments sometimes create unintended consequences. Creating projects at the lowest possible level of government capable of addressing a problem can sometimes mitigate those problems. The rural electrification of America created many hydroelectric projects of different sizes.

Base your answer to question 39 on the passage below and on your knowledge of social studies.

. . . The horrible truth is that failure to eradicate [destroy] the root causes of terrorism is almost certain to extend the Age of Terrorism, it is not clear that they really can be eradicated. To appease the extremists might be easy but may not work. To allow them to win would be to accept the supremacy of evil. To promote democracy and open government might be the ultimate solution, but it stands on a shaky conceptual foundation of untested assumptions about the nature of the world and diverse cultures.

Unfortunately, the world is at a point where it can see the danger from terrorism but not the cure. Worse still, a cure may not exist.

— Steven Metz, “Can Terrorism Be Cured?” Project Syndicate

39 The author of this 2006 passage concludes that terrorism

(1) has failed to take root
(2) requires a strong military response
(3) is extremely difficult to defeat
(4) will be overcome through diplomacy

39 Where different cultures come in contact

(1) moral relativism means one culture can’t make judgments about another
(2) one must look to tradition to resolve differences
(3) each culture should be able to make its own decisions
(4) an underlying fabric to society can help establish minimum behavior between them and among all individuals

Correct answer: 4. Technological revolutions in communications and travel have put different cultures in much closer contact, raising the question of how one should resolve differences between cultures. Moral relativism is ineffective because however are decisions made within a culture, the rules of another culture do not apply when they conflict.

If one cannot turn to traditions within a culture for resolution, and if one cannot turn to natural law, since one opinion of natural law may differ from another, individuals who interact have to manufacture a way to bridge the gap between them absent shared values.

One can manufacture the minimum behavior necessary for society because from one’s personal experience one can generate conclusions someone from an entirely different culture can reach from entirely different personal experience.

The fabric of society that underlies and ties together different cultures has one thread of humility—that comes from the recognition that because one has been wrong in the past, one just might be wrong again sometime—and another thread of reciprocity—the sense that other people live their lives as acutely as you do, looking to understand the world as accurately as possible, the better to plan for the future.

40 One way in which the actions of Alexander the Great, Saladin, and Shaka Zulu are similar is that each implemented

(1) military strategies to defeat opponents
(2) constitutions to define political powers
(3) policies to increase religious persecution
(4) legal changes to protect human rights

40 Historical events:

(1) show you how you must behave
(2) warn us toward or away from options for the future
(3) bind you to your people
(4) are of no interest

The correct answer: 2. Then was then, and now is now. Should people be held hostage to history that they had no part in creating? What is the value of history except to warn us toward or away from options for the future?

41 In the traditional Hindu caste system and in the social hierarchy of colonial Latin America, the status of a person was usually determined by

(1) education
(2) wealth
(3) birth
(4) power

41 Comparing liberty and equality:

(1) equality is more important
(2) they are of equal value
(3) you can't have one without the other
(4) liberty has generated more progress than enforced equality

Correct answer: 4. Equality of opportunity is different from equality of result. And across history, liberty has generated more progress than enforced equality.

42 One way in which the travels of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta are similar is that each

(1) started mass migrations from Europe
(2) stimulated interest in other cultures
(3) led to the establishment of colonies
(4) resulted in archaeological discoveries in Africa

42 What standard of justice ought to apply when one culture’s traditions oppress its citizens?

(1) the minimal standards of behavior between cultures also apply within cultures for individuals
(2) traditions matter most
(3) let local clerics decide
(4) whatever local judges say

Correct answer: 1. Multiculturalists argue that each culture is different and ought to be judged according to its own standards. In the moral relativism this implies, what standard of justice should apply where one culture must interact with another?

Base your answer to question 43 on the graphic organizer below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Social studies graphic organizer

43 Which title best completes this graphic organizer?

(1) Characteristics of the Inca Golden Age
(2) Reasons for the Reconquista
(3) Results of Lenin’s New Economic Plan
(4) Features of the Marshall Plan

43 What has been learned about civilizations in the past?

(1) Religion is the best organizer.
(2) Centralized control matters because cultures are more important than individual citizens.
(3) Bigger is better.
(4) Overreach is possible in any organization and individuals need to be prepared to detect and correct it.

Correct answer: 4. Why do civilizations rise? Why do they fall? Accordingly, where do you place our own? Do you suppose an age ever considers itself a dark age? Why not?

Base your answer to question 44 on the passage below and on your knowledge of social studies.

. . . The split arose from a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad after his death in A.D. 632. Some followers believed his successor should be chosen by tribal consensus, and they named one of Muhammad’s inner circle as the first caliph, or spiritual leader. But others thought the successor should come directly from the Prophet’s family, namely his cousin and son- in-law Ali. . . .

Source: National Geographic, June 2004

44 The situation described in this passage led to the

(1) pogroms in Russia
(2) fall of Constantinople
(3) division of Sunnis and Shiites
(4) tensions between Protestants and Catholics

44 Which of the following show that religions have cultural and political consequences?

(1) Christianity rose within the Roman Empire to become the religion of the state
(2) Islam currently believes that its tenets ought to be built into governing institutions that cover even non-believers.
(3) The protestant reformation eventually cost England’s King James his head.
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Besides the purely personal, religious acts are political acts that affect others of the current generation and many future generations. Different religions, like different cultures, can be held accountable for how they choose to interact with others. They are not shielded from scrutiny simply because their beliefs are their own.

Base your answer to question 45 on the wood block print below and on your knowledge of social studies.

Japanese woodblock

45 During which period of Japanese history did the changes shown in this wood block print occur?

(1) Heian court
(2) Tokugawa shogunate
(3) Meiji Restoration
(4) United States occupation

45 Which events signify the advantages of cultural cross-pollination?

(1) Japanese automobile just-in-time production techniques revolutionized manufacturing
(2) Arabic and Persian mathematicians codified Greek, Babylonian, and Indian works into algebra
(3) Greek architectural techniques were borrowed by Romans to design their major public buildings
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Other cultures may sometimes constitute a threat, but they always constitute an opportunity to check one’s work. If, in our culture, democracy codifies the opportunity for the smallest voice to be heard, because it may suggest a better way of doing things, then other cultures offer the same opportunity.

46 Between 1300 and 1600, which economic system began to develop as a result of the transformation in global trade?

(1) socialism
(2) capitalism
(3) communism
(4) manorialism

46 What is required for a successful commercial marketplace?

(1) open competition with minimal but effective regulation
(2) regulation by national bureaucrats free to interpret legislative rules
(3) centralized planning
(4) mercantilist protection

Correct answer: 1. In the 1500s, the Dutch provinces were an unlikely place for the development of the commercial marketplace, but within a hundred years, the standard of living of its populace had multiplied. Why?

It declined as a world power a hundred years later. Why?

47 The combined usage of the caravel, compass, and astrolabe in the late 1400s helped bring about the

(1) migration of the Bantu
(2) exploration of the Americas
(3) introduction of Buddhism to East Asia
(4) voyages of Zheng He

47 Innovation and entrepreneurship depend upon:

(1) access to capital
(2) access to markets
(3) freedom from overly restrictive regulation
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Innovation and entrepreneurship have profoundly influenced the advance and retrenchment of cultures. What conditions have traditionally led to advance and what conditions have traditionally led to decline?

48 Which time period is most closely associated with these characteristics?

  • Focus on individual achievement
  • Use of classical Greek and Roman ideas
  • Artistic works of Leonardo da Vinci
(1) Hellenistic Golden Age
(2) Early Middle Ages
(3) European Renaissance
(4) Scientific Revolution

48 Linear perspective was a painting technique introduced in the 1300s that parallels what tool of thought?

(1) graphic organizers in the classroom
(2) looking at arguments from other points of view
(3) sense of time and one’s place in time
(4) elementary deduction

Correct answer: 2. Art in the early renaissance introduced linear perspective that soon made its way into literature as point of view, and into thought as a check on one's thinking. As a tool of thought, what more recent tools for thought have been adopted, and why might they be valuable?


  • Romans destroy the temple in Jerusalem.
  • British officials partition India.
  • Hutus and Tutsis fight in Rwandan civil war.

One way in which these events are similar is that each resulted in the

(1) establishment of uniform legal codes
(2) emigration of people from their homelands
(3) intervention of coalition military forces
(4) acceptance of new political boundaries

49 The idea that there might be a better way:

(1) is codified in democracy
(2) is process or dynamic thinking rather than static thinking
(3) means that the smallest voice may be the wisest
(4) all of the above

Correct answer: 4. Civilization is tissue thin, and it is up to every individual to understand the minimum behavior civilization requires, what constitutes a threat against it, and to stand up to defend it.

First and foremost, civilization requires the willingness to admit there might be a better way, and to be open to criticism, even though it might come across as offensive.

Simply because society allows the freedom to offend, does not imply the obligation to do so.

50 Which of these groups were the major supporters of 20th-century communist revolutions?

(1) priests and artisans
(2) bourgeoisie and nobility
(3) entrepreneurs and capitalists
(4) workers and peasants

50 Based on the ideas of Karl Marx, Communism:

(1) fostered competition outside government
(2) celebrated individuality
(3) rewarded economic entrepreneurship
(4) undermined the quality of life for millions of citizens caught under it.

Correct answer: 4. Karl Marx wrote in the 1840s in a world quite different from our own. Marx justified his positions by the selective use of fact, and proposed a system that did not remove competition, but instead hid it underneath a veil of government. Rather than creating a system that enabled the individual, the Communism that followed from Marx repressed the individual and initiative and undermined the quality of life for millions of citizens caught under it.

In Part II, the theme of the required essay is the notion, “The ideas of individuals have had a significant influence on groups, nations, and regions.” The student is required to, “Select two individuals and for each

  • Explain a specific idea developed by the individual
  • Describe the historical circumstances that surrounded the development of the idea
  • Discuss how the idea influenced a group or a nation or a region.”

Part IIIA tested with short answers the student’s ability to read.

Part IIIB required an essay describing instances of how geographic factors affect regions.

In most instances, the questions in the official Global History Regents Exam are so trivial they call out for one more multiple choice answer: (5) Who cares?

Although this critique examines Global Studies, the approach and concepts apply equally well to other subjects.


[1] National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History (Silver Spring, MD: NCSS, 2013). Page 18.

[2] And similar requirements in others states that follow the C3 Social Studies Framework guidelines.

[3] The Appendix table of 8th grade requirements shows two ambiguous issues depend on lesson plans and other requirements that pursued multiple objectives were listed more than once.

[4] i.e. “• Students will examine United States and New York State policies toward Native Americans, such as the displacement of Native Americans from traditional lands, creation of reservations, efforts to assimilate Native Americans through the creation of boarding schools, the Dawes Act, and the Indian Reorganization Act and the Native Americans’ various responses to these policies.”

[5] Comparing westward expansion to the present-day influx of other cultures, consequences of overwhelming cultures by sheer numbers is also worthy of discussion.

[6] i.e. “• Students will examine Wilson’s Fourteen Points and investigate reasons why the United States Senate refused to support the Treaty of Versailles, focusing on opposition to the League of Nations.”

[7] i.e. “• Students will explore the growth and effects of child labor and sweatshops.” And “• Students will examine state and federal government responses to reform efforts, including the passage of the 17th amendment, child labor and minimum wage laws, antitrust legislation, and food and drug regulations.”

[8] Considerable class time is spent on Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth but no time at all on Pyrrhus Concer or Booker T. Washington who said, “Character, not circumstances, makes the man. . . . No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merits or efforts.”


[9] Marking the trail of those who colored educational standards is beyond the this paper and is documented in Eubanks. Robin S. Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became A Weapon. © 2013.

[10] National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History (Silver Spring, MD: NCSS, 2013). Page 18.

[11] Creative Commons License from: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

[12] Ibid. C3 Framework.

[13] and the article located at

[14] Ibid. C3-Framework. Page 17.

[15] Page 5.

[16] The paper focuses on New York State’s framework.

[17] Frameworks authors consulted “anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences”[17] before producing the frameworks. They cite four pages of authors who contributed to their work.

[18] NCSS Publication Social Education. Page 220.


[20] C3-framework-for-social-studies.pdf

[21] Page 18.

[22] Ibid. Pg. 18.

[23] Ibid. Pg. 17.

[24] Ibid. execsummary.

[25] IJS. Pg 218. “Post-colonial literature crept into the limelight in the 1980s and 1990s. Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 novel The English Patient, was a non-linear narrative in which many cultures are represented, but no society. Things are not as they seem. Expediency is the lens for decision-making. Contact breeds community and events outside one’s control change lives. Simplistic interpretations badly skew judgment which leads to unsubstantiated presumptions about western and eastern incompatibility that fall in line with Samuel Huntington’s lecture of the same year called Clash of Civilizations.”

[26] The Durants examined twelve perspectives that included geography, biology, race, character, morals, religion, economics, socialism, government, war, growth and decay, and progress and considered the heads astronomy, geology, geography, biology, ethnology, psychology, morality, religion, economics, politics, and war.

[27] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 830-831). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[28] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 840-841). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[29] “So the Industrial Revolution brought with it democracy, feminism, birth control, socialism, the decline of religion, the loosening of morals, the liberation of literature from dependence upon aristocratic patronage, the replacement of romanticism by realism in fiction— and the economic interpretation of history.”

[30] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 560-564). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[31] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 882-883). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[32] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 911-912). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[33] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 913-918). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[34] Post-Alexandrian Egypt, Diocletian in Rome, Wang n-shih in China.

[35] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 595-597). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[36] “The poor . . . began to talk of violent revolt. The rich . . . prepared to defend themselves by force.. . . [Solon] devaluated the currency, . . . easing the burden of all debtors (though he himself was a creditor); he reduced all personal debts, and ended imprisonment for debt; he canceled arrears for taxes and mortgage interest; he established a graduated income tax . . .; he reorganized the courts . . .; and he arranged that the sons of those who had died in war for Athens should be . . . educated at the government’s expense. . . . within a generation almost all agreed that his reforms had saved Athens from revolution.” Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 608-616). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[37] “Year by year the role of Western governments in the economy rises, the share of the private sector declines. Capitalism retains the stimulus of private property, free enterprise, and competition, and produces a rich supply of goods; high taxation, falling heavily upon the upper classes, enables the government to provide for a self-limited population unprecedented services in education, health, and recreation. The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.” Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 764-770). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[38] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 552-554). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[39] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 931-935). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[40] Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012-08-21). The Lessons of History (Kindle Locations 1197-1200). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[41] Ibid. C3-Framework. Page 99.




[45] Page 16.

[46] Look closely, if you dare, at the complexity of the American Civil War, with both sides fighting well-reasoned positions founded in the Bible, the Constitution, and history, systematically killing off 600,000 civilian and military sons and daughters, each side convinced of their moral right.

[47] New York State K–12 Social Studies Field Guide

[48] The frameworks consider Chronological Reasoning and Causation, Comparison and Contextualization, Geographic Reasoning to be social studies practices as well, but examples fail to tease out their variety so they seem used more for show than anything else.

[49] Ibid. (NYS?) Framework. Pg. 33

[50] Ibid. Eubanks. Pp. 131-176.

[51] Rubrics are tables that define what the authors feel matters.

[52] Ibid. C3 Framework. Page 6

[53] http://

[54] Ibid. execsummary.

[55] “New York State K-8 Social Studies Framework” and [National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History (Silver Spring, MD: NCSS, 2013).



[58] William Gass. Gertrude Stein and the Geography of the Sentence.

[59] Page 82: “Advocates of citizenship education cross the political spectrum, but they are bound by a common belief that our democratic republic will not sustain unless students are aware of their changing cultural and physical environments; know the past; read, write, and think deeply; and act in ways that promote the common good. There will always be differing perspectives on these objectives. The goal of knowledgeable, thinking, and active citizens, however, is universal.”

[60] See the Global Competency document created by the CCSSO with the Asia Society and later to examples from the P21 document. Reference Robin S. Eubanks book, chapter 7.

[61] Eubanks.

[62] Ibid. Eubanks. Pg. 265. Describing the definition of excellence according to Dr. John Goodlad’s The Changing American School in the National Society for the Study of Education 1966 Yearbook.

[63] Hobbes. Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme & Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civill.

[64] Ibn Khaldun. Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History.

[65] U. S. Navy.

[66] In medieval times, students might argue such things as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. They didn’t care how many angels that might be. They cared to exercise skills used in discussion. The purpose was rhetorical, to exercise detection of logical fallacies. When one was detected, a student would call out, “Distinguo!” to challenge what had been said. Detecting logical fallacies, a core rhetorical skill, is only incidentally part of the ELA frameworks.

[67] Heilbroner, Robert. Marxism: For and Against. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1980. Print.

[68] Sayers, Dorothy. “Lost Tools of Learning.” Web. 17 Jan 2010. <>

[69] Bronowski, Jacob. Magic, Science, and Civilization. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1978. Print.

[70] Jaynes, Julian. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976. Print.

[71] Hofstadter, Douglas. Gödel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Vintage Books, 1980. Print.

[72] Escher, M. C. Print Gallery.

[73] Montaigne, Michel de. Essays. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Print.

[74] Cousineau, Phil. Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 2001. Print.

[75] Cass Sunstein

[76] Khaldun.

Stephen B. Waters

In early 2021, with 46 years in the business, I retired as publisher of the Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel

After five generations of family ownership, despite an unsettled economy, we keep on. We understand that although we may own the newspaper, we hold it in stewardship for the community.

Across my career, so many other small newspapers were purchased by media chains, large newspapers sold their integrity, and broadcast news outfits fell back on superficial entertainment.

They put journalism in this country at risk. The best antidote is for individual readers to arm themselves to recognize the danger to their community, culture, and society itself.