This is a school-wide, interdisciplinary program to unite the community in answering these questions: “What does it mean to be American? What does every American need to know? What is the common knowledge of this country?” I will be supporting teachers as a co-teacher and with research materials as they find the best way to integrate the project into their curricula. Background reading and inspiration: E.D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know.
How to Be American: RJHS “Year of the Top 30”
Situation: Who is “us”? Common knowledge and common references are what unite us as a people. E.D. Hirsch began the first list in 1987 with his book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know. Hirsch’s book of 5,000 items of common knowledge caused much controversy over the American identity and where multiculturalism fits into our nation’s history.
Task: In order to achieve cultural literacy, what does every American need to know? As a class, choose an essential question and compile a list of 10 things every American should know about that subject. Student majority votes will condense the lists into the Top 30 for each subject in the spring semester.
Ideas for essential questions:
- What are the top 10 most important events in the history of America?
- What are the most influential works of American literature?
- What are the 10 most essential Mathematical concepts that every American should know?
- What should every American know about French culture?
- What are the top 10 scientific theories that every American should know?
- 10 Things Every Catholic Should Know
Once the class has chosen an essential question, begin researching the knowledge, images, symbols, stories, and references that hold our nation together and compile a class list of the Top 10 and why each item is essential common knowledge for an American citizen. As a class, create an authentic document / diorama / timeline / poster / media presentation / slideshow that showcases your Top 10.
Be prepared to defend your list at a lunchtime debate series in March and early April. Your goal is to convince the student panel to add one or more of your items to the Top 30 list for your subject area!
*All projects and Top 30 lists will be on display at the Poetry Slam (April 13th) and all lists will be assembled into the 2015 RJHS Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.
The goals of the project are:
◦To define and recognize common knowledge for all Americans.
◦Use creativity to present the class (or individual) “Top 10” list (consider technology tools!)
◦Connect the dots for your students. Why do we have to learn…?
◦Promote higher level thinking skills!
Suggested strategies to integrate”Year of the Top 30″ into the curriculum:
◦Have individual assignments (short or long) in which students defend their answer to the essential question.
◦Answer the essential question for each unit or as part of the review at the end of the semester or year.
◦Identify the knowledge, images, symbols, stories & other references that are “essential.”
◦Students create an independent freewrite list with the essential question as a prompt near the end of the course (March / April) with a follow-up discussion, whittling these into a class top 10 list.
◦A teacher-assigned (or student-generated) essential question to guide student research.
◦Student groups are asked to research and decide on 2-3 most important things to know about a topic or the essential question before compiling a class list.
◦Have students decide what the most important topic was from each class unit to make a top 10 list for that subject.
By end of year:
The library will collect the “Top 10” lists from your classes and the projects that represent that knowledge.
A panel of students will decide which items will make it into a top 30 list for each subject area.
The libraries will display the top 30 lists and projects in the spring at the Poetry SLAM!