The Common Core requires that at least half of what elementary and middle school students read be non-fiction. By 12th grade, that goes up to 70%. And the non-fiction being read is not that of the great minds of our heritage but online posts, government documents, and United Nations proclamations.
The New York Times has an article on what the Common Core is doing to English classes. Notice how educators are taking the opportunity to politically indoctrinate their pupils. Notice how the approach forces what classic literature that is still read into a contemporary grid. Notice how the whole enterprise is not raising standards, as the Core claims to do, but is rather dumbing down the curriculum.
In Harrison, N.Y., 10th graders read articles about bipolar disorder and the adolescent brain to help them analyze Holden Caulfield. In Springdale, Ark., ninth graders studying excerpts from “The Odyssey” also read sections of the G.I. Bill of Rights, and a congressional resolution on its 60th anniversary, to connect the story of Odysseus to the challenges of modern-day veterans. After eighth graders in Naples, Fla., read how Tom Sawyer duped other boys into whitewashing a fence for him, they follow it with an op-ed article on teenage unemployment.
The Common Core standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states, mandated many changes to traditional teaching, but one of the most basic was a call for students to read more nonfiction. The rationale is that most of what students will be expected to read in college and at work will be informational, rather than literary, and that American students have not been well prepared to read those texts.At first, many English teachers and other defenders of literature feared that schools would respond by cutting the classics. That has happened, to some extent. But most districts have managed to preserve much of the classroom canon while adding news articles, textbook passages, documentaries, maps and other material that students read or watch alongside the literature, sometimes in strained pairings.
“Unfortunately there has been some elimination of some literature,” said Kimberly Skillen, the district administrator for secondary curriculum and instruction in Deer Park, N.Y. But she added: “We look at teaching literature as teaching particular concepts and skills. So we maybe aren’t teaching an entire novel, but we’re ensuring that we’re teaching the concepts that that novel would have gotten across.”
The new standards stipulate that in elementary and middle school, at least half of what students read during the day should be nonfiction, and by 12th grade, the share should be 70 percent.
But don’t young people need to learn how to read non-fiction? Of course.
In a classical curriculum, students are reading lots of non-fiction because all of their courses involve reading not just textbooks but primary sources. That means they would be reading the writings of scientists, historical figures, and thinkers in all fields.
Also, a classical curriculum would have students read non-fiction writers of excellence–Plato, Augustine, Pascal, Montaigne, Dryden, Chesterton, C. S. Lewis–rather than reading bureaucrats, politicians, and modern journalists.