No more King Arthur stories, kids—you’re going to start reading some information-packed government documents instead!
Adding to a number of problems with the Obama Administration-backed Common Core education standards, beginning with the fact that the federal government should not be involved in the business of curriculum standards, is the questionable quality of the standards themselves. As the English language arts standards make their way through classrooms, educators are waving red flags about the Common Core’s literature requirements—or lack thereof.
At issue is the Common Core standards’ shift toward a focus on informational texts rather than literature. “English teachers across the country are trying to figure out which poetry, short stories and novels might have to be sacrificed to make room for nonfiction,” reported The Washington Post earlier this week.
Sandra Stotsky, a professor at the University of Arkansas, has decried the change: “Tackling rich literature is the best way to prepare students for careers and college.… There is no research base for the claim that informational reading will lead to college preparedness better than complex literary study.”
Teachers are voicing their grievances as well. Jamie Highfill, an eighth-grade English teacher in Fayetteville, Arkansas, told the Post that she has had to drop “some short stories and a favorite unit on the legends of King Arthur to make room for essays by Malcolm Gladwell and a chapter from ‘The Tipping Point.’ With informational text, there isn’t that human connection that you get with literature. And the kids are shutting down. They’re getting bored. I’m seeing more behavior problems in my classroom than I’ve ever seen.”
The shift to informational texts also “opens the door to a politicized curriculum,” some argue.
Stanley Kurtz from National Review Online points out that one of Common Core’s suggested texts is Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. Executive Order 13423 was selected because it “appears to give the imprimatur of the federal government to the political gospel of ‘sustainability’ and the crusade against global warming.” Another recommended text from Common Core, notes Kurtz, is a 2009 New Yorker essay on health care. “The excerpt may not explicitly endorse Obamacare, but it certainly leaves students with the impression that Obamacare is wise policy.”
He adds: “The potential for political abuse in a curriculum heavy with government documents and news articles should be obvious.”
The Common Core push has been limited to English language arts and math thus far, but more subjects are on the way. Education Week reported Monday that “release of a framework for common standards in social studies had been anticipated at the annual meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies, in Seattle last month.”
Centralizing education standards pushes parents, teachers, and local school leaders further from crucial decisions about what children are taught in the classroom. States should reject the encroaching centralization of national education standards.