Reading Chekhov for a few minutes makes you better at decoding what other people are feeling. But spending the same amount of time with a potboiler by Danielle Steel does not have the same effect, scientists reported Thursday.
A striking new study found that reading literary fiction – as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction – leads people to perform better on tests that measure empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.
The authors of the study, published by the journal Science, say that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity. They theorize that reading literary fiction helps improve real-life skills like empathy and understanding the beliefs and intentions of others.
They and other academic psychologists say such findings should be considered by educators designing student curriculums, particularly the Common Core standards, adopted by most states, which increase the amount of nonfiction students are assigned.
David Coleman, designer of the ELA Common Core standards, famously said that no one cares what kids think or feel about anything, so it's not a surprise that an emotionally stunted human being like Coleman would push for standards that replace literary fiction that helps students to grow emotionally with informational texts that makes them bored and resentful.
It's also not a surprise that emotionally stunted reformers like Klein and Rhee and Duncan and Gates would happily push these standards.
Let's face it, emotional intelligence, sensitivity and empathy are not high on these people's lists of priorities.
But hey, at least the kids will be able to do that market analysis by Friday, won't they?
One last thing:
The seeds for the death of the Common Core are in studies like this.
It's only a matter of time.
The pendulum will swing back.
And it just may hit a few of the education reformers on the way back.