As states across the country implement broad changes in curriculum from kindergarten through high school, English teachers worry that they will have to replace the dog-eared novels they love with historical documents and nonfiction texts.
The Common Core State Standards in English, which have been adopted in 46 states and the District, call for public schools to ramp up nonfiction so that by 12th grade students will be reading mostly “informational text” instead of fictional literature. But as teachers excise poetry and classic works of fiction from their classrooms, those who designed the guidelines say it appears that educators have misunderstood them.
Proponents of the new standards, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, say U.S. students have suffered from a diet of easy reading and lack the ability to digest complex nonfiction, including studies, reports and primary documents. That has left too many students unprepared for the rigors of college and demands of the workplace, experts say.
The new standards, which are slowly rolling out now and will be in place by 2014, require that nonfiction texts represent 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools, and the requirement grows to 70 percent by grade 12.
Common Core proponents, including David Coleman, the man who wrote the ELA standards, say teachers, principals and superintendents are misreading the standards:
But the chief architect of the Common Core Standards said educators are overreacting as the standards move from concept to classroom.
“There’s a disproportionate amount of anxiety,” said David Coleman, who led the effort to write the standards with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Coleman said educators are misinterpreting the directives.
Yes, the standards do require increasing amounts of nonfiction from kindergarten through grade 12, Coleman said. But that refers to reading across all subjects, not just in English class, he said. Teachers in social studies, science and math should require more reading, which would allow English teachers to continue to assign literature, he said.
Social studies teachers, for example, could have students read the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” while math students could read Euclid’s “Elements” from 300 B.C.
The standards explicitly say that Shakespeare and classic American literature should be taught, said Coleman, who became president of the College Board in November. “It does really concern me that these facts are not as clear as they should be,” he said.
What Coleman and the other Common Core reformers seem to misunderstand is that literature and reading is not going to be taught in other classes like science and math - especially not in such a high stakes environment as we have now where every class has a high stakes test at the end of it that will be used in part to evaluate the teacher of that class.
While Coleman and other Common Core proponents claim the rationale behind the standards is not to excise literature from the curriculum but rather to force schools to teach tougher, more complex texts, the real world consequence of the standards will be to cut literature and personal writing out of the curriculum and replace it with informational texts and fact-based, argumentative writing.
It is not a mistake that in a country where the ruling elite are stealing more and more of the resources that the new federal curriculum excises literature and personal writing and replaces it with informational texts and memo writing (which Coleman famously elevated above personal writing at a meeting over the Common Core standards in NY State.)
They want the rest of us to be handle to handle the grunt work, the office work, but not be able to understand our own selves, understand how "badly we're getting fucked by a system that threw us overboard thirty fucking years ago."
This education system, these Common Core standards, are meant to develop obedient workers and compliant consumers who will work and buy, work and buy, work and buy without the critical thinking skills or emotional understanding to question the system and how they relate to it.
So David Coleman and the other Common Core proponents can make believe that these standard are meant to raise the education level of students around the country all they want.
The truth is, these standards are meant to further separate humans from their humanity, further de-personalize education, churn out students who can handle the rudimentary work needed to keep the country going but unaware of their own socio-emotional needs.