Please note that I wrote this a couple of years ago. While I still feel like common core standards are creating these issues, I am in a more moderate place than when this post was first written. Of course, I have left the public school system behind for now and currently teach in a charter school. There is still some definite fuel for thought here so I decided to share this post even though I have mellowed a bit in the interim.
I don’t know how many of you know much about common core standards and the dangerous implications for the future of education that they hold, but if you haven’t done any research into this topic, I would recommend looking through the common core standards for yourself and when you see that teachers are being pushed in the younger grades to use at least 30% informational text, 50% informational text in the middle grades and 70% in the upper grades, you will quickly see why this plan is going to lead to a generation of kids that absolutely hate to read.
First though, what is informational text? Informational text is text that fails to follow a narrative form and provides information. We are talking word mapping, tables on contents, diagrams, indexes, glossaries and other forms of reading designed to give out information in a non-narrative form. The rest of their reading should be in the classic drama, fiction and poetry. Does anyone else see the huge problem here? First of all, whoever designed this decided that no one needed to learn information in a narrative way. That kids should only be able to learn new ideas when they are presented in a non-narrative form. Right now, that means that instead of kids getting new ideas and information from the text and pulling it out of the context, they are being trained to only identify valid information when it comes in a non-narrative form. This means that kids are being trained to treat every ounce of regular reading as FICTION. While teachers don’t see this conclusion yet, they are going to make this unintentional connection for the students who in turn are only going to believe something that is written in a manual. This means that things like biographies, historical narrative documents (like informative essays and persuasive papers), the Constitution and even the Bible will become unimportant to these kids who are being trained that information only comes from these non-narrative sources. They are teaching kids that there is a whole huge section of reading material that isn’t valid at all. In fact, it is so invalid that they will never study it formally in school with these new standards outside of possibly reading a textbook which will contain more and more informational text instead of traditional narrative.
Fiction is also being damaged by common core. Fiction is supposed to be 70% in the younger grades (in reality they are pushing 50%), 50% in the middle grades and only 30% in the upper grades. Then the fictional text that students will be reading will be focused on only teaching age-appropriate classics. I don’t know about most of you, but I learned to love to read through picking up fictional stories that interested me. I eventually graduated to the classics but only once me reading level was high enough to support it, which came earlier than most of my peers, but I still didn’t venture into classic literature until I was ready for the complexity held within it’s pages. However, instead of gradually increasing the reading level, common core puts a focus on almost all classic fiction.
The problem with focusing on only classic literature, especially in the younger grades is two fold. First of all we need to look at vocabulary. Language is ever evolving and changing over time. The meanings and word usage itself changes over time. I can give you instances where today’s meaning of a word is drastically different and sometimes even opposite than the original meaning. The word choice will have very little meaning and connection for students who are young readers and if they don’t understand the vocabulary or struggle with it, there is no way they are going to have any comprehension of what they have read, if they can even figure out what the words are. The second issue is context. I live and teach in a large city. Living on a farm during the early days of our country has very little context for me, let alone the students that I teach. When the students have no connection to the people they are reading about and have no understanding of what they are doing, there is no way they are going to understand the text they are being asked to read. Let’s not even start on other cultures and our students lack of awareness about them. We are creating confusion and complication for our kids far beyond what is going to be a challenge and move straight to the place where they become frustrated and give up. However, having seen the text selections in person, the vocabulary is completely inappropriate for the age level of the intended audience, using archaic terms and ideas far outside what most American children are familiar with, with no explanation or clarification. When the reading they are assigned is cumbersome, what is a kid going to do? Simple. They aren’t going to enjoy reading fiction. They will associate reading fiction with a laborious process full of confusion and things they cannot relate to because they are completely beyond their knowledge base. Let me say that again – due to common core and the complex nature of the completely age inappropriate texts, kids are going to hate reading fiction.
So, now that reading for knowledge is going to be discounted or completely simplified and reading fiction is going to be too difficult for 98% of the children at the grade level that it is intended for, we are creating a generation of kids with the new common core who are going to hate reading. They aren’t going to view it as something fun to do when they have spare time. They aren’t going to understand that it is a great place to escape. They aren’t going to value it as a place to learn from. They will have virtually no reading comprehension skills because they won’t enjoy reading and kids who don’t enjoy reading, aren’t good readers.
So unintentionally or even perhaps intentionally, common core is going to create a group of kids who will grow into adult who not only don’t like to read but due to the lack of practice due to their intense dislike of reading, will be poor readers. The implications for the future are sad. We are going to have a generation of workers who cannot grasp complex ideas from text. We are going to have a generation of people who will only be fit for blue collar work. The few who go to expensive private schools will be groomed to be more than this but we are intentionally dumbing down the next generation of workers by creating a generation of non-readers.
That is just the reading standards by the way – don’t get me started on the new way to do math.
What can you do to stop common core?
1.Do your research – find out more about common core and why it is such a bad idea
2. Research groups in your state that are fighting common core and see what you can do to help
3. Contact your state legislature to get common core removed from your state – flood their email and mail boxes with letters about how you do not want common core for your state
4. Contact your state department of education and let them know that you do not want to see common core in your state and request a return to your state’s standards
5. Contact your federal representatives(house and senate) and tell them that you want the federal government out of state education. That they shouldn’t be allowed to control state’s interests by dangling federal dollars over their heads.
Don’t take just my word for it – here are a couple of videos that explain further why common core should be removed.
- Catholic Schools Losing Faith In Common Core (grumpyelder.com)