Not Buying The Common Core Clarifications on Literature

Yes, the clarifications are baloney, and we can see through them.  Photo courtesy of MollyPop on Flickr

Recently there has been some public statements  (and here) by Common Core English Language Standards writers asserting that the widespread interpretation that Common Core compliance requires English teachers sacrificing quality literature in the forms of novels, plays, poetry, and short stories is mistaken.  I say, “Baloney.”

First, I find it intriguing that these statements redefining the role of literature don’t appear in media until December of 2012, when, according to Wikipedia, the standards themselves were released June 2, 2010.  Yes, Common Core.  Please do allow the perception that literature is less valuable to spin for 18 months before correcting it.  That delay does speak of your sincerity. 

And while Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B Fordham’s foray into the argument defending the Common Core lit standards asserts that “the document immediately clarifies—no fewer than three times!—” the fact that  the common core assumes that there is informational text inside and outside the English classroom, that fact does not negate that there has been real and fairly universal pressure put to demote and devalue literature itself.  

Rather, I agree with bwsmith, a commenter on the Susan Pimentel/ David Coleman* article:  “The difficulties many people seem to have in interpreting the standards proficiently are troubling; but if so many educators have become misled in these first attempts, the fault must lie with the writers, not the readers.”    I further hold with Colette Marie Bennett, author of Used Books blog, when she questions why a significant clarification of literature/ informational is held in a footnote.

And I have yet one more reason.  Those linked with the Common Core sneer at and devalue literature publicly.

One of the reasons that my school, and seemingly the entire state of Wisconsin’s school administrators, adhere to Bill Daggett  (see previous posts one and two on Bill Daggett) is his close proximity to the Common Core and the Next Generation tests the Core has spawned.  Bill Daggett argues that he and the products he peddles  and recommends will know the test and help us prepare.  He gives the impression that he is aligned with the Core, no doubts involved, full throttle ahead.

So when he sneered during his presentation that English teachers have the lowest expectations of students, I listened up.  He asserted that the hardest readings are the technical readings, such a manuals on how to operate equipment or program computer.  I do not disagree with him there; I often struggle to understand details as I try to figure out how to problem-solve glitches in programs or equipments through technical manuals.

He went further, though, in outlining the complexity of texts, extolling the difficulty of science text, for instance, and castigating English and our lexile level.  I disagree with that assertion.  I question the subtext.  

But most of all, if I see a connection between Bill Daggett and his International Center for Leadership in Educational and his model schools conference and the Common Core and The Next Generation Tests, then his sneering at English teachers and his criticism of literature is a sneering that suits the Common Core founders and the Next Generation advocates.  His sneers regarding literature, his assertion that literature is unworthy, implicates the Common Core.  

So, no, Common Core non-questioners and blind adopters, I do not buy the “we really didn’t mean that you should dismiss your literature” 18 months after the trend started.  

I do not buy the “really, we, too value literature” when some of those at the development table sneer and deride the qualities of literature, and, according to reports (look through Diane Ravitch’s comments), Bill Daggett isn’t the only one.   

*If you haven’t read the Diane Ravitch post looking more deeply at David Coleman, the principal architect of the Common Core English Language standards, you need to.


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