I hope that people will make it past McCullough's too-long cynical take on marriage at the beginning of the speech. It’s at 6:55 in the video that he begins speaking in earnest (listen especially for the comment on lowered standards). This is a speech that students should hear at the beginning of high school, before they’re subjected to the platitudes of administrators giving orientation speeches.
Then they should read his father’s 2003 NEH Jefferson Lecture speech, “The Course of Human Events.” Toward the end of his passage about how the Founders valued a fine education for all, he said, “We are what we read more than we know.” It’s not difficult to trace the son’s idealistic worldview back through his own father to the Enlightenment ideals of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams.
Too many stakeholders in the politics of education policy cling to a dumbed-down status quo and promote the expediently taught thin gruel of poorly written “problem” novels and “engaging” series books. They disparage the ideals behind the Common Core Standards in favor of feeling good in the moment.