Saturday, March 1, 2014

What's the Big Deal with Common Core? (Part II)

Here I am going to take a look at the first of the two sets of the Common Core Standards (CCS):  English and Language Arts (ELA).

One of the most criticized aspects of the ELA standards is the amount of informational (nonfiction) reading required compared to the amount of fiction allowed.  This chart came off the CC website and shows the amount of literary reading compared to informational reading in 3 grades:


 So in 4th grade, our children will be expected to read just as much nonfiction as they will literature.  How will this make kids, who already have plenty of excuses not to read, develop a desire for reading?  And by 12th grade?  Only 30% of reading will be from literary sources.

On their website, CC justifies all this informational reading.  “Most of the required reading in college and workforce training programs is informational in structure and challenging in content…”  So because you aren’t going to find many jobs that will pay you to read stories and poetry, we’re going to prepare you WAY in advance for all the dry reading you may or may not be doing as an adult.

Not only do our students now have to read an outrageous amount of nonfiction material in school, the literature that they are given to read contains works that are dubious at best and despicable at worst.

Keeping in mind the idea that CC is going to make our students smarter and increase the United States’ standing among its international peers, one would expect the reading expectations to be quite high.

A recommended text for 2nd and 3rd graders is Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa.  If you’ve read this book, you know how simplistic it is.

Cowgirl Kate gave him another apple.  He ate that in one bite, too.  He sniffed the saddlebag again.
“You are a pig,” said Cowgirl Kate.
“No,” said Cocoa.  “I am a horse.”

 Ugh.  This is what my 8-year-old is going to be “challenged” to read?

Let’s compare those few sentences to a few sentences from a book that is read at that same grade level in classical (primarily charter) schools:  Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. 

At that time a magician came from Africa, looking for a boy he could use to make himself the most powerful man in the world.  When the stranger saw Aladdin, he asked about him.  Finding that Aladdin had no father, he said to the boy, “Are you the son of Mustapha the tailor?”
“Mustapha  was my father,” said Aladdin.  “But he is no longer living.”
To Aladdin’s surprise, the man threw his arms around him.  “I knew you at once,” he lied.  Then he began weeping.  “To think I have searched the world for my dear brother only to find he is dead.”

But if we’re complaining about simplicity in 3rd grade, just wait until our kids are a few years older.

In middle school, our students will be introduced to Sandra Cisneros.  The story that’s recommended at that age, Eleven, maybe isn’t so bad.  But if our 13-year-old girls like her story and decide they want to find other works by her?  That’s when they’ll be introduced to her other books:  Bad Boys, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and Loose Woman. 

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a story I found in a CC lesson plan for grade 8.  Basically, it’s a short story about a woman who is told that her husband died in a railroad accident.  At first, she experiences the emotions you might expect of shock and grief.  Then, within a few moments, the reader finds the newly-widowed woman exclaiming, “free, free, free!”  Maybe her husband was abusive?  Here’s an excerpt:

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
This is how our 8th graders are going to be discussing marriage in a learning environment?  Do we want them being force-fed the view that marriage is a prison?  I would expect the natural response would be, “Well, why wait for my husband to die?  Wouldn’t divorce just be easier?” 

How about in high school?  Listed right on the CC’s website, you can find Appendix B which has a list of sample texts for teachers to use in their classrooms.  On there, in grade 11, you’ll find Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban.   This book contains nothing short of x-rated pornographic material.  Thankfully, a few parents are taking a stand.  This book has already been banned in certain schools.

But apparently a parent can’t just look at Appendix B.  Other stories are being endorsed by the CC curriculum.  Those I had to kind of stumble on.  Then I would Google the name of the story next to “Common Core.” I found plenty to confirm that they are indeed part of the CC curriculum.

How about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian?  This book, listed on Scholastic’s “CommonCore for Teachers – Book Lists,” for grade 11 is NOTHING I would ever want to read, let alone have my child being forced to read in school.   I refuse to soil this blog post by stating my reasons.  Again, some parents are apparently speaking up.  This book also has been banned in certain schools...for now.  All you have to do is a little research to find out what happens to books that are banned from schools.  (They always reappear.)

Again, the CC repeatedly states their goal of education is "college and career readiness."
Dr. Terrance Moore, a history professor at Hillsdale College in Michigan, wrote a book called The Story-Killers:   A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core.  (I purchased this book and highly recommend it to people who really want to learn more about the CCS, particularly the ELA standards.)

Moore points out that the CC authors “overlook studies that have been done that show students who are avid readers of literature in high school perform better on college exams in and in their college classes.”

Well, and why wouldn't they?  If you develop a love of reading, you will naturally read more.  Obvioiusly, the more you read, the better you become at reading.  And we all know that to perform well in high-level college classes, you need to be a strong reader.

In his commentary on the fact that the Common Core edition of the American literature textbook, The American Experience, contains sections on government forms and an EPA report, Dr. Moore wonders if the restriction of true literature is simply an attempt to “keep the nation’s children from reading stories, particularly traditional stories that run counter to the political ideology” of those who designed the CCS.

It's a thought to ponder.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Heather Bork is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to