Classic Literature–A Bipartisan Issue

Even the Huffington Post is noting the concern about the Common Core ELA Standards being light on classic literature for high school seniors.  They write:

But the new guidelines are increasingly worrying English-lovers and English teachers, who feel they must replace literary greats like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye with Common Core-suggested “exemplars,” like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Recommended Levels of Insulation and the California Invasive Plant Council’s Invasive Plant Inventory.

Jamie Highfill, an eighth-grade English teacher at Woodland Junior High School in Fayetteville, Ark., and 2011 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, told the Washington Post she’s already had to drop short stories and a favorite literary unit to make time for essays by Malcolm Gladwell from his social behavior book The Tipping Point.

“I’m struggling with this, and my students are struggling,” Highfill told the Post. “With informational text, there isn’t that human connection that you get with literature. And the kids are shutting down. They’re getting bored. I’m seeing more behavior problems in my classroom than I’ve ever seen.”

David Coleman, who headed the process of writing the standards, told the Post that principals and teachers are misreading the guidelines. The boost in informational texts, he says, is intended across disciplines: When social studies, science and math teachers increase nonfiction and informational reading assignments, English teachers won’t have to alter their literature lessons.

But that intent is often unrealized in practice. In a paper by the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy think tank that is critical of the Common Core, language arts experts Sandra Stotsky and Mark Bauerlein claim that literature will inevitably have a lesser presence in curricula, as English teachers remain the ones held accountable for meeting reading standards in fiction and nonfiction alike.

“It’s hard to imagine that low reading scores in a school district will force grade 11 government/history and science teachers to devote more time to reading instruction,” Stotsky and Bauerlein wrote.

They also argue that the rush to switch from literature to informational texts is short-sighted, as the skills students develop in understanding complex literature are crucial to college learning and careers. Bauerlein told Education Week the problem worsenswhen teachers make “weak” nonfiction text choices.

One thought on “Classic Literature–A Bipartisan Issue

  1. “the kids are shutting down. They’re getting bored.”
    Yup – looks like everything is working according to plan.

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