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.”