With the threat of losing millions in federal aid dollars in 2010 North Carolina joined with 44 other states and adopted common core academic standards for grades K-12 in math and English. The standards – we are told – help to ensure that students throughout the country learn the same content and skills. They have also wrested control of the curriculum from states and localities and put it in the hands of the federal government.
Sadly, parents most of whom are occupied with keeping their own families humming along, have been unaware of the common core standards. Nevertheless, the new academic standards will be in place by next year. And then the changes start. Take English for example. The new standards require that nonfiction texts represent 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools and grow to 70 percent by grade 12.
That’s quite a chunk of literature to be replaced by nonfiction and “informational” reading. Instead of reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Little Prince, fourth and fifth graders may be reading The Evolution of the Grocery Bag and Invasive Plant Inventory from the California Invasive Plant Council. If you’re an eleventh grader, instead of reading Shakespeare, Twain or another great author, you may find your son or daughter thumbing through Google Hacks: Tips and Tools for Smarter Searching or the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Think I’m kidding? Review for yourself some of the suggested common core informational texts here.
In addition to ensuring students have a common experience, the common core standards are an attempt to make students more college ready. Really? Seems to me that tackling great literature is the best way to expand minds and make students more college ready. There are a variety of reasons why students are not ready for college. I don’t know a single reason however that is tied to what is or isn’t taught in English Literature classes. Infusing nonfiction or “informational texts” into the curriculum does nothing but drive great literature out of the classroom.
Common core standards? The concept sounds great in theory. Until you ask: Where have they been tried and worked? How do “dumbed-down” educational standards improve education? Do states and local communities really want to lose control over what is taught in the public schools?