Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, July 11, 2013

NYCDOE Looks To Remove Literature From ELA Classes

Common Core critics who said the new standards will remove literature from English classes and replace it with informational text readings were right:

There is now very good reason to worry that the coming of the Common Core may produce a widespread deemphasis and devaluation of some of the greatest books ever written in the English language.

The city’s “Tasks, Units & Student Work” Web page, a resource for principals, teachers and parents, promises to offer “a growing assortment of Common Core-aligned tasks, units and student work.”
If you check the boxes for ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, then select “English Language Arts/Literacy” and click “Search,” 13 recommended units of study come up. These are multiweek lessons on a particular theme, event, idea, text or topic.

Each unit also lines up with specific English Language Arts standards in Common Core. (A few of them also appear under “History/Social Studies” and “Science,” but their presence under ELA means that they have been deemed appropriate for English.)

It takes only a few seconds to see the problem. In all these materials, only three literary works appear — “Romeo and Juliet,” T.S. Eliot’s haunting poem “The Hollow Men” and a short poem about Gandhi by Langston Hughes.

Meanwhile, the site offers units on DNA and crime detection, “vertical farming,” digital media, European imperialism, great speeches and two on the civil rights movement.

The assigned texts include a speech by Bill Clinton, a Los Angeles Times story on teens and social media, the “Complete Personal Finance Guidebook,” photographs by Walker Evans and an entry on imperialism in the New Book of Knowledge.

Even when a topic is disposed to abundant and superb literary works, the Education Department has failed to include them. The unit on “Rites of Passage” — supposedly to be used in English classes — doesn’t opt for great tales of youth and adulthood such as “Jane Eyre,” “The Red Badge of Courage” or Richard Wright’s “Almos’ a Man.”

Instead, it chooses 10 pieces on teen rituals from The New York Times, USA Today, Fox Business, NPR and other news outlets.

This is not what the architects and contributors had in mind when they crafted the ELA standards. (Disclosure: I served on the English Language Arts “Feedback Committee” for the Council of Chief State School Officers.) The push for informational texts was not supposed to displace outstanding literary texts.

Rather, it answered the call for more general background knowledge, more broad familiarity with history, science, art and ideas — all of which would, among other things, enhance literary study.
In fact, the Common Core standards explicitly set a high bar of literary history, stating that students will “demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature.”

According to the units rolled out so far by the city’s Education Department, that standard doesn’t even exist.

Curriculum designers at the agency are interpreting the new English standards in exactly the direction critics warned of last year. With the exception of the “Romeo and Juliet” unit, they apparently envision English as a social studies class, not a language and literature class. And the Common Core itself does not contain enough machinery to restrain them.

If the city wants to be fully consistent with the spirit of Common Core, and if it wants to serve the thousands of English teachers who entered the field because they love Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, not news reports and science tracts, the department will produce five more units on “The American Short Story From Poe to the Present,” “The Romantic Poets” and other literary subjects.

Literature is not a second-class subject. It ought to be at the very center of a high-quality public education.

I would argue that this de-emphasis and devaluation of literature is exactly what the developers and funders of the Common Core wanted and the writer of this piece in the Daily News, Mark Bauerlein, English professor at Emory University, was a fool to think otherwise.

The goal of the political movement behind the Common Core, funded by oligarchs like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg and Eli Broad and the Walmart Foundation, is, in the words of one commenter on the story, "to produce students who are incapable of thinking for themselves so that the Walmarting of America can be completed."

They also look to detach children from their emotions by taking all personal writing and text to self learning out of school and replacing it with rote informational text regurgitation and text to text learning.

The Common Core generation will grow up incapable of critical thinking, incapable of empathy, incapable of seeing how badly they are getting screwed by a political and economic system rigged for and by the oligarchy.

And that's exactly the point.

It looks like some of the English professors and other educators who helped give the Common Core developers cover the past few years by shilling for the movement are coming to realize this.

Alas, it's a little too late to do anything about it.

The standards are in place, the tests have been aligned to the new standards, the "unit pods" are being rolled out for many grade levels already and teacher evaluations are tied to the standards via the Danielson rubric and the new test-based APPR system.

The only way to put a stop to this is to continue to point out what damage the Common Core is going to do to a generation of children.

But it's going to take years to get this Common Core revolution undone and there will be quite a few children who suffer the collateral damage from these standards and curricula before that happens.

1 comment:

  1. This is a crime against the institution of education, totally.