Common Core’s Negative Impact on Cultural Literacy

Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar (CC-By-2.0)

The Common Core’s shift towards informational text we warned would have a negative impact in the classroom. Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University who was involved in writing the Common Core ELA standards, admits that there is a problem.

From Education Dive:

“The humanities are over…things that make us human as opposed to just animals is a part of education that is largely dead. Now, education is about achievement, readiness and career. Education is instrumental.”

So says Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University and award-winning author, who believes that many of his incoming students are unprepared for higher education, particularly when it comes to cultural literacy. Among college instructors, he’s not alone in this opinion….

….. Bauerlein says that despite an exemplary list of fiction and nonfiction works to choose from, however, high school instructors appear to be moving away from the types of texts that actually provide the necessary depth of complexity for students.

“If you understand informational as including memoirs, essays, autobiographies, historical works, and philosophical works, then it’s wonderful,” said Bauerlein. “If ‘informational’ means Wikipedia, op-eds and blog posts, then we are in big trouble. And sadly, all too often it’s the latter. I see more and more students coming into college having not read very much and not knowing very much.”

The trend is causing alarm among many educators and even comedian, Joel Stein, who confirmed Bauerlein’s sentiments on informational texts years ago in a 2012 Time Magazine piece, aptly titled, “How I replaced Shakespeare.”

“I was not worried about the American education system until after I started writing a column, because that’s when I found out there are English teachers who assign my column as reading material,” wrote Stein.

“I regularly get e-mails from students asking about my use of anastrophe, metonymy, thesis statements and other things I’ve never heard of. To which I respond, ‘Transfer high schools immediately, to one that teaches Shakespeare and Homer instead of the insightful commentary of a first-rate, unconventionally handsome modern wit!’”

All Stein’s jokes aside, ACT’s survey points to several noteworthy discrepancies in college and career expectations at high school, and higher education levels that serve to question Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction informational texts and the strategies by which teachers can adopt those standards.

Read the whole piece.