School districts in 45 states have committed to something called the “Common Core State Standards Initiative” — a national standardized curriculum that will revise what students learn in many courses. (A lot of my professional development days over the past couple of years have been devoted to explaining how the Geometry and Algebra classes I teach will change, and how that’ll help the kids, and how this will solve all the education problems *ever*… you get the idea.)
One of the big changes coming to the overall curriculum is that 50% of what students in elementary school read will be non-fiction — essays, books, speeches, articles, etc. — and that number will jump to 70% by the time they’re seniors. The idea behind it is that very few people will grow up and read The Scarlet Letter for work or fun — but they will probably read things like instruction manuals and magazine/newspaper articles and blog posts and the like. That’s not to say literature isn’t important, but the Common Core standards suggest that it may be overemphasized in our current system.
It’s all a plot by the secularists to starve children’s souls.
… the core’s objective concerning reading assignments is based on a distorted view of humanity.
Proponents of the new standards, say the emphasis on non-fiction is necessary to prepare students for the rigors of college and demands of the workplace. But, people are not just utilitarian machines that produce work. We’re relational beings with souls that long for deep connection and meaning. Classic works of literature provide that…
Of course, the human soul doesn’t exist to many secularists in education today. And sadly, as these educators get their way, it may cease to exist in our children too.
It’s true that classic works of literature allow us to examine our own lives in new contexts and raise issues worth discussing. But a lot of non-fiction can do that, too — you don’t have to escape into an imaginary world to raise important concerns or discover truths about modern society.
In high school, one of my English teachers read Tuesdays With Morrie with us every week. The content in that book opened the door to all sorts of incredible discussions in class. But that “window to the soul” is also opened every time I read Tom Junod or Andrew Solomon. None of that replaces fiction and no one is saying it should. In my blogging life, where I’m surrounded by non-fiction pieces all the time, I’m no less able to reflect on my own life or think of the “larger powers of the human soul” than I can with works of fiction.
So Roys is just wrong, plain and simple. No one — certainly not a cabal of evil “secularists” — is trying to remove emotion or introspection or a “human connection” from the classroom environment. Common Core is just attempting to make what students do in the classroom more relevant to their futures.
Again, we can debate how well it succeeds on that front. But Roys’ contribution to that debate is without any merit. Kids will be just fine if they have to read a piece out of the New Yorker in place of a short story.
I have an alternative theory, though. Maybe Roys is just upset we’re moving away from fiction in the classroom because it means there will be even less emphasis on the Bible. If kids learn to find truth in fact over truth from fiction, they may stop taking their pastors seriously.