Debate Magazine

The Importance of Marbury v. Madison

By Stevemiranda

Here’s another specific example of what I mean by when I say that academic learning should not be the first focus of school.

At PSCS, we have two types of classes: “high-commitment” and “drop-in.”

A drop-in class might be something like dodgeball: I’ll set aside time in my schedule to take kids over to the gym and throw foam balls at each other. If you’re not feeling well that day or if you have a lot of homework to catch up on, you don’t have to come to class. It’s a drop-in, no big deal.

A high-commitment class, on the other hand, means that you’re signing up to attend class for the entire term. You’re committing to doing the homework, keeping up with the reading, completing all assignments, and coming to class fully prepared. Anything less and the teacher is going to say something about it. In many instances, if you’re not prepared, you’ve lost the privilege to attend the class. This is a really big deal because it violates one of the school’s core commitments: in this case, practice integrity.

If a student gets into a situation that feels unsustainable—he’s signed up for a Constitutional Law class, and the volume of reading is just too overwhelming—he has the option of approaching his advisor and asking for help in dropping the class. Again, this is a big deal. “The instructor prepared that class specifically with you in mind,” his advisor might say. “You made a commitment. You need to figure out a way to honor your commitment. This is a question of integrity.”

The advisor and the student might brainstorm ways to make the situation work such as requesting extra help outside of class, or developing a schedule to make the reading load more manageable. If it becomes clear that it just won’t work out, the advisor might then give the student some coaching on how to approach the instructor, explain what happened, and drop the class in a way that’s classy and demonstrates maturity.

So when a child comes home from school, and mom asks what he learned at school today, the student might say, “I learned all about the importance of Marbury v. Madison in establishing the concept of judicial review in American law.”

Or, he might say, “I learned about the importance of practicing integrity, honoring my commitments, and how to be classy when acknowledging to an adult that I’ve made a mistake.”

The error we’ve made in our schools is misunderstanding which of these lessons is more important.

If you’re not convinced, ask yourself: What percentage of people in the United States know the importance of Marbury v. Madison? If that percentage was doubled, how would it impact the happiness of those individuals? How would it impact society?

Now, what percentage of the population in the United States is committed to always honoring their agreements and living a life of integrity? If that percentage was doubled, how would it impact the happiness of those individuals? How would it impact society?

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