Writing Our Civic Futures (January): Defining Political Equality

January 08, 2018
By Educator Innovator

In October, we launched Writing Our Civic Futures, a collaboration of the National Writing Project and Marginal Syllabus that supports conversations about civic engagement and learning over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. Refer to the syllabus for information on all the annotatable readings, which will go “live” on the first Monday of each month, along with related events hosted by CLTV and others.

This Month’s Topic: Defining Political Equality

We start this new year off with a chapter, “Night Teaching,” from political philosopher Danielle Allen’s book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014). In this chapter, Allen maneuvers deftly between a description of reading The Declaration of Independence with her night class students—who traversed the city in the dark after clocking out from long work shifts and tucking children into bed to read and write and discuss—and lofty insights about the very nature of equality as laid forth by the founding fathers and illuminated by her students.

She also reflects deeply on the purpose of democracy, arguing that the true meaning of political equality is not just freedom from domination, but the equal engagement of all members of a community to define and remake that community via equal political empowerment.

Access the full text via Educator Innovator (reprinted with full permission from Norton Publishing). Using this link will enable you to view annotations (yellow highlights indicate annotations; the annotation tool displays along right side of your browser) others have added to the text.

The Annotated Conversation

We invite you to read “Night Teaching” by Danielle Allen, and annotate the text with your own thoughts and reactions. Annotations are being added via the web annotation platform Hypothes.is. To add your own annotations, as well as to respond to others, sign up for your free account.

For more support, see this annotation tutorial from Marginal Syllabus or this overview of Hypothes.is from KQED Teach.

This month, we’re also excited to invite you to annotate the Declaration of Independence yourself, along with Allen’s text. You can find a transcribed version of the Declaration at the National Archives. Note: this text does include a period after “pursuit of happiness,” a point Allen examines in depth and argues changes the meaning of the document in a profound way (for a brief explanation, see Allen’s Washington Post op-ed on this subject). You might want to keep this point in mind as you read, sharing your own opinions on what the punctuation lends to Declaration’s overall translation.

Share your annotations as you read or any time throughout the week. While we encourage your participation in the week-long annotation of the text (January 8-14), the readings will remain online for annotation and discussion through the month and into the new semester. We also encourage you to use these readings and the opportunity to annotate however it best works for you—organize a study group, bring a class you are teaching, engage as an individual, or connect it to a meeting.

The Extended Conversation

We’ve put together these additional resources related to the text with help from colleagues at the Library of Congress:

You can also refer back to previous annotated articles at the Educator Innovator blog to access additional resources and connect conversations in this series.

Featured Photo/ Josh Hallett on flickr