I’m back in Utah at last, after a semester in New York City, a too-short beach vacation, and a road trip across the country with my two dogs. Sorry about the radio silence.
The common core language arts standards have come under a great deal of fire this past month. My paleo-teacher prejudices notwithstanding, I’ve sympathized with efforts to improve students’ ability to interpret non-fiction texts and analyze argumentation. I taught these skills in AP Language and Composition, and continue to teach them to AP history and government students online.
But – two frequently-voiced criticisms of the common core do resonate with me. First, I share fears that the new language arts standards will drive out good literature (although it strikes me that good literature has been fleeing classrooms in recent years even without the common core.) Second, I share fears that many recommended readings reflect a politically-correct ideology. My years as a debate coach taught me that students benefit from learning to understand and argue both sides of difficult issues. That SHOULD be a skill that the new common core language standards help them develop . . . but not if the readings are one-sided.
Anyway, here’s a thoughtful critique of the common core standards, written by a young English major. She interviews several of her literature professors, and, unsurprisingly, they express dismay at the proposed curriculum changes. Her bottom line:
Schools don’t exist as job-training camps. They exist to educate students. To be truly educated, students need to graduate with more imagination, not less. They need to face questions about what it means to be a human being — they need to stop sleepwalking, if they’ve started it already — and they need to start learning how to love strangers. We all know that becoming properly educated is a lifelong endeavor. But Washington gives students a huge disadvantage if it leads them to think that memorizing data and processing facts is 70 percent of living well.