Via The Corner at NRO, I’ve learned that “common core state standards in English spark a war over words.” The Post article I’m quoting is currently a page not found, but it’s still up at The Independent:
“The Common Core State Standards in English, which have been adopted in 46 states and the District, call for public schools to ramp up nonfiction so that by 12th grade students will be reading mostly ‘informational text’ instead of fictional literature. . . .
Proponents of the new standards, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, say U.S. students have suffered from a diet of easy reading and lack the ability to digest complex nonfiction, including studies, reports and primary documents. That has left too many students unprepared for the rigors of college and demands of the workplace, experts say.”
A “diet of easy reading” is one of the big problems in schools these days. Huh. The problem’s nothing to do with the dog’s breakfast already known as public school textbooks. Well never fear–we’ve got our Little Helpers In DC to straighten out the problem:
“The new standards, which are slowly rolling out now and will be in place by 2014, require that nonfiction texts represent 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools, and the requirement grows to 70 percent by grade 12.
Among the suggested nonfiction pieces for high school juniors and seniors are Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” “FedViews,” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) and “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” published by the General Services Administration.”
Notice the little bit of chaff used to throw us off: de Tocqueville. Nothing wrong with a more vigorous curriculum that requires some classic foundations of political philosophy, is there?
Maybe I’d be sold, notwithstanding the fact that de Tocqueville belongs in history, social studies, or some kind of government or civics class, not english. When the de Tocqueville example is immediately followed by stereo instructions from a Federal Reserve Bank, and then a bureaucratic, Dilbert-inspired double-speaking document full of fluffy non-action action plans and catch phrases (Caveat: I haven’t read that particular Executive Order. Does anybody want to check my description for accuracy?), I can’t help but wonder exactly what kind of “workplace demands” for which these educators are preparing our young people.
A particular movie scene comes to mind. Requiring students to read excessive amounts of tedious legalese might prepare them quite nicely for that cozy little cubicle in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, as seen at 6:00: