COMMON CORE’s Social Justice Agenda
Bottom line: Jay Mathews of The Washington Post wrote a piece on 10.17.12 that delved into the opposition to the Obama administration’s Common Core Standards (article posted below). This concern revolves around the Common Core’s emphasis on non-fiction over fiction.
It is my belief that the Common Core Standards are meant to indoctrinate children’s minds into the social justice agenda – not to raise children’s academic achievement and build their basic core knowledge.
Therefore, the best way for the Common Core to achieve its goal of indoctrination is to limit children’s reading of the great classics, particularly those from the Western civilization because so many of them came from a strong Judeo-Christian belief system.
In their place, the Common Core plans to substitute pieces of nonfiction that emphasize environmental extremism, multiculturalism, political correctness, diversity, sexualization, and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda.
As a person who was taught as a young child to read by sounding out words to automaticity and then practicing those skills by reading the great fiction classics, I developed higher-level reading skills that transferred to my being able later in life to digest the content of complicated non-fiction selections.
The proof occurred when I was chosen by the President of the United States to serve as one of his appointees to a national commission. In that position, I was required to read and analyze reports, legal briefs, long-and-involved government reports, spreadsheets, and other higher-level non-fiction text. My reading skills and educational background served me well during those years; and I was able to interact successfully with the press, members of Congress, government agencies, and policymakers from across the nation.
By my reading time-honored fiction classics during my childhood, I also developed a great love and respect for our American heritage. I came to understand the historical record that documented our country’s development. The traditional pieces of literary fiction upon which I feasted as an elementary student helped me to identity with the heroes and heroines who founded our country as I studied their personal stories. I soaked in the panorama of history and came to understand why and how America developed into an exceptional nation. I learned about the struggles of the countless immigrants who came to this country, and I marveled at their abilities to meld together to establish the greatest nation on earth.
The Common Core Standards do not even achieve the most basic educational goal: to teach young children to sound out words with ease and then to build on that foundation by introducing them to the time-honored pieces of classic fiction that will enhance their love of reading.
For Common Core to tell elementary teachers that they should only allow 4th graders 50% of the time for fiction and 50% for non-fiction is a limitation that is conceived out of an ulterior purpose; and I believe that purpose is to keep children from soaking in the classics which do take time and concentration to read but from which children will reap great educational rewards later on.
Such an edict from Common Core is deliberately intended to drive our schools away from exposing our nation’s children to the time-honored classics of Western civilization, thus leaving our children devoid of a moral compass, a love for our country, and an inability to connect with past generations. – Donna Garner]
Fiction vs. nonfiction smackdown
By Jay Mathews, Published: October 17
There is no more troubling fact about U.S. education than this: The reading scores of 17-year-olds have shown no significant improvement since 1980.
The new Common Core State Standards in 46 states and the District are designed to solve that problem. Among other things, students are being asked to read more nonfiction, considered by many experts to be the key to success in college or the workplace.
The Common Core standards are one of our hottest trends. Virginia declined to participate but was ignored in the rush of good feeling about the new reform. Now, the period of happy news conferences is over, and teachers have to make big changes. That never goes well. Expect battles, particularly in this educationally hypersensitive region.
Teaching more nonfiction will be a key issue. Many English teachers don’t think it will do any good. Even if it were a good idea, they say, those who have to make the change have not had enough training to succeed — an old story in school reform.
The clash of views is well described by two prominent scholars for the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy group, in a new paper. Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas and Mark Bauerlein of Emory University say the reformers who wrote the Common Core standards have no data to support their argument that kids have been hurt by reading too much fiction. They say analyzing great literature would give students all the critical thinking skills they need. The problem, they say, is not the lack of nonfiction but the dumbed-down fiction that has been assigned in recent decades.
“Problems in college readiness stem from an incoherent, less-challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward,” Bauerlein and Stotsky say. “Until that time, a literature-heavy English curriculum was understood as precisely the kind of pre-college training students needed.”
The standards were inspired, in part, by a movement to improve children’s reading abilities by replacing standard elementary school pabulum with a rich diet of history, geography, science and the arts. University of Virginia scholar E.D. Hirsch Jr. has written several books on this. He established the Core Knowledge Foundation in Charlottesville to support schools that want their third-graders studying ancient Rome and their fourth-graders listening to Handel.
Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth-grade teacher who is vice president of the foundation, quotes a key part of the Common Core standards making this case:
“By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades.”
The Common Core guidelines recommend fourth-graders get an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction. Eighth-grade reading should be about 55 percent nonfiction, going to a recommended 70 percent by 12th grade.
Bauerlein and Stotsky say that could hurt college readiness. The new standards and associated tests, they say, will make “English teachers responsible for informational reading instruction, something they have not been trained for, and will not be trained for unless the entire undergraduate English major as well as preparatory programs in English education in education schools are changed.”
Pondiscio says he admires Bauerlein and Stotsky and doesn’t see why English classes have to carry the nonfiction weight. Social studies and science courses can do that. The real battle, he says, will be in the elementary schools, where lesson plans have failed to provide the vocabulary, background knowledge and context that make good readers.
Those who want the new standards say learning to read is more than just acquiring a skill, like bike riding. It is absorbing an entire world. That is what the fight in your local district will be about.