College English Prof: Common Core Will Make My Job Harder


Aaron Barlow, an associate professor of English at the New York City College of Technology wrote a piece on the Academe Blog (of which he’s the Executive Editor) which is published by the American Association of University Professors.  He states that the Common Core English Language Arts standards are designed for failure.

Strong words and he makes a strong case.

He says the Common Core will make his job as a college English professor harder.

Will the CCSS adequately prepare students to succeed in my Composition and Literature classrooms?

If a student comes into my classroom with curiosity piqued by broad exposure to cultural, historical and scientific information and the ability to sit down and read a book with pleasure for an hour at a time, that student will succeed in my class. That student is primed for the dynamic conversations at the heart of learning—especially in what CCSS, with its stultifying faux precision, calls English Language Arts (ELA).

Mastery of ELA is participatory, a dynamic and not a thing that can be broken down into items on a list. Communication is process and involves a speaker/writer, the vehicle of interaction and an audience. What CCSS will do is remove this dynamic, killing the process through a focus on the vehicle, the “text.” Not only does this not prepare students adequately for college success but it leaves me facing classrooms of students prepared only to be as bored by school now as they were in high school. CCSS, I believe, will make my job harder.

He gives a rundown of the Common Core’s ELA “anchor standards” and writes:

I really doubt that these were identified and crafted by contemporary scholars in Literature or Composition/Rhetoric. That is, by the professors who will actually be experiencing the “college readiness” of incoming students. Instead, they reflect the attitudes of what are known as the New Critics of the 1940s and 1950s, a group of text-centric scholars whose influence extended through the “theory” movements of the 1980s but who, today, are not a central factor in how we approach either reading or writing in college. Their “close reading” is certainly a skill we teach and use, but it does not frame the activities of our courses—as it does the ELA “Anchors” above.

“Close reading,” also, is not a gateway skill. Not only do incoming college students not need it, but it does not serve to spark interest in the texts under consideration. That has to come first: students need to want to read before they can engage in the rather precise and difficult exercise of “close reading.”

Read the rest.

Photo credit: College Degree 360 (CC-By-SA 2.0)

2 thoughts on “College English Prof: Common Core Will Make My Job Harder

  1. My first grader’s homework assignment on a “close-reading” of an informational text. The vocabulary was too difficult and she had no concept of what a science experiment really is. She gets these types of readings every week, and is becoming more stressed out and less excited about reading. Six year olds need fun, relevant stories that make them excited about reading. (Vista, California school district)
    Like · · 31 minutes ago
    Sorry I’ll try to upload the photo again!

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