Mary Grabar who is teaches English at Emory University gave a very pointed critique at Roll Call of the literature standards for high school students within the Common Core. She started off with a great analogy (something we learn to appreciate when reading good literature):
How good a player would Arne Duncan, former basketball pro and current secretary of Education, have been had he not been allowed to play a pickup game or idly bounce a ball? How many great players would there be had they not been able to play at the corner lot, instead forced through endless drills?
Kids would not have learned the lingo and mannerisms of basketball, or imagined themselves shooting jump shots next to Shaquille O’Neal or Larry Bird. The sport would have become a serious business; no longer would it be about the love of the game.
In short, the culture of basketball, so cherished by fans and players alike, would never have developed.
Yet Duncan proposes standards that make reading and writing a drill-like business. In the new Common Core guidelines, high-school English teachers would have to spend more than 50 percent of their time on nonfiction and informational texts such as court opinions, Federal Reserve bulletins and computer manuals!
The Common Core actually calls for 70% of the reading to come from “informational texts.” Ms. Grabar goes on to make the following primary points.
This will further erode our literary heritage.
As a college English instructor, I am dismayed by how much we have already lost of our literary heritage. During the past 20 years, I’ve found each successive entering class to be less familiar with cultural and literary concepts. Often trained to parse imaginative works for political messages, students are rendered incapable of understanding the pathos of tragedy and the delight of humor evoked from sentences that build up complexly. They think that only facts are needed.
It diminishes kids’ writing ability.
They see writing as a chore. As a result, writing skills have deteriorated to the level of, well, a computer manual.
Driving those two points home she writes:
Every study I know shows a correlation between reading and writing. “Informational texts” do not offer models of elegant prose, nor do they invite readers.
We are losing not only writing skills, but cultural cohesion. What will the future hold when we have no frame of reference, such as a “Rip Van Winkle” or an “Invisible Man”?
Reading and writing shouldn’t be seen a chore, but that is what they will become with the Common Core Standards.