This Fourth of July week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Joseph Ellis, Professor Emeritus of History at Mount Holyoke College and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. They discuss the resurgence of public interest in the Revolutionary and Founding generations due, in part, to his book, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. Known as the “Atlas of American Independence,” John Adams was perhaps the best educated among the Founding generation. Ellis describes his deep knowledge of classical liberal arts and Enlightenment subjects, including ancient history, political philosophy, and the law, and how it equipped him for intellectual and political leadership. They review Adams’ key experiences and character traits, as the major author of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, which served as a model for the U.S. Constitution; his ardent opposition to slavery; and his critical eye for spotting political talent. Lastly, they explore the relationship between Adams and his beloved, talented wife, Abigail; as well as their gifted son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. President; and the family’s remarkable dedication to public service. Prof. Ellis concludes the interview with a reading about John Adams and American Independence.

Stories of the Week: In Mississippi, public K-12 students have made greater gains than in any other state, becoming a national model for both practitioners and policymakers alike, as a result of specific reforms implemented by State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright. At least 12 states are relaxing teacher certification rules, including licensure, to address the labor shortage.