What does all of the misinformation swirling around the Common Core say about our ability to explicate complex texts and use evidence to support our arguments? What might it say about the ability of the ELA Standards writers to express their objectives clearly? If we
cant get this right, how will students ever succeed?
In December, Londons Telegraph
ran an article that could have been lifted straight from the Onion
: Schools in America are to drop classic books such as Harper Lees To Kill a Mockingbird
and JD Salingers Catcher in the Rye
from their curriculum in favour of informational texts.
What are Americans being forced to read/teach now? Californias Invasive Plant Inventory. If youre planning to be a homeowner, I guess you could do worse.
To Kill a Mockingbird
is actually an exemplar
in Appendix B, the Cores now infamous list of sample texts that everyone is reading and rereading. Californias plant inventory, by the way, is judiciously placed in the Science, Mathematics, and Technical Subjects category. Details, details.
quotes an Arkansas teacher as saying, In the end, education has to be about more than simply ensuring that kids can get a job. Isnt it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?
Say what you will about the crafters of the Standards, they seem desperate
to turn out well-rounded citizens. Why else would they place such an emphasis on reading historical documents? They dont just want kids to be told things. They want them to scrutinize texts, especially primary sources, for syntax, bias, and motive.
The Standards writers are not alone. Has anyone noticed Justice Sandra Day OConnor and historian David McCullough practically begging us to teach young people about the past? They are pained by our ignorance of centuries-old events and decisions that still shape our world in profound ways. They know the consequences of an uninformed citizenry.
To paraphrase Salingers Holden Caulfield, were a bunch of morons. Yes, I speak for myself. I read many of the classics in school. That has served me quite well. I can read and write, and I know David Remnick from David Carra big plus, in my view. But I have no idea how to rewire a house or analyze an investment portfolio. If you have a ruptured appendix, you dont want me to remove it. I cant even find a right angle in a quadrilateral.
These strike me as incredibly useful, if not essential, skills for the 21st century. I wish I had them. And thats what the Standards are getting at, however incompletely. Unless some young person sitting in a classroom today can figure out how to reverse climate change, it wont matter how many kids read Catcher in the Rye
. But have them read it anyway. Its hilarious.