Sep 5, 2014 by



“Common Core: Studying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — in Name Only”

by Donna Garner


Someone has shared with me this teaching unit on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is posted on a Texas school district’s website.

This teaching unit on the MISD website illustrates the Common Core “cold” reading method:

This is a typical Type #2 Common Core technique; and English teachers all across America are being pressured to utilize this method (pedagogy) with their students.  

“Cold” reading means reading historical text with little-to-no prior background knowledge.  Students are not taught deep content knowledge by the teacher with a fact-based emphasis but are put in groups where they discuss among themselves what they think, what are their opinions, and how they feel about the selection. The students are expected to react and respond to text without having the background knowledge upon which to base their statements.  (This is the same as telling students to “fix the tire” without giving them the tire tools needed to do the job.)

Oftentimes, the Common Core also emphasizes excerpts, snippets, or paraphrased versions instead of having students read the original text.

Now let’s look at this teaching unit as posted on the MISD website.  First, please notice that the students do not actually read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s entire nor original “I Have a Dream” speech – only a paraphrased “excerpt.”

Here is Dr. Martin Luther King’s ORIGINAL speech:

Here is the excerpt as shown on the MISD website:

Right off it is obvious that the excerpt version to which the MISD students will be exposed does not convey the magnificent pace, rhythmic repetition, cadence, and deeply held emotions that Dr. King’s original speech conveyed.

The “stripped down” version that is on the MISD website does a real disservice to the students by reducing King’s speech to a mere shadow of his original text.

A true study of Dr. King’s speech should have started with an in-depth investigation of the mores, values, and historical events of the time.

Dr. King gave this speech on August 28, 1963, and called for an end to racism in the U. S.  He  stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in which 250,000 civil rights supporters were present.  When Mahalia Jackson yelled from the crowd, “Tell them about the  dream, Martin,” Dr. King left his prepared speech and in his impassioned style, reiterated his dream of liberation and equality in America for all.

It was Dr. King’s speech which shaped modern America and led him to be named the Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963 and to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Instead of studying the rich background behind Dr. King’s speech and listening to the actual recording of the entire speech, the MISD students are to be taught with the Common Core “cold reading” method in which they do not even read the entire, original speech; and the SOAPSTone Chart gives students only two lines upon which to write their “surface” responses.

This “fill in the blank” assignment will not elicit the depth of understanding that students should gain from studying Dr. King and his famous speech.  Instead, students will come away with no real appreciation of the stature of this courageous man and of the part he played in the civil rights movement.

Students are not taught how this speech impacted the contemporary writers of Dr. King’s day, how the speech was perceived by other Americans, nor how the speech is still influencing society today after some 51 years.

MISD students are not even expected to learn more about Dr. King’s life nor about his tragic death by assassination – nothing about Dr. King as a man, his childhood experiences, his family, his education, his lifetime struggles.

Cold reading is indeed pedagogy, and it is highly illegal for the federal government (U. S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan) to force pedagogy upon states and locals.

As an ex-English teacher of more than 33 years, my heart aches when I think about how this “cold reading” assignment will kill students’ love of reading, exploring, soaking in great literature, and learning about the historical impact that expert writers can have.

The end result is that students will come out of this shallow unit without experiencing the beauty of Dr. King’s rhetoric nor the literary and historical aspects that surround him and the civil rights movement.   

Of course, now MISD can rightly say, “Yes, our  students have studied Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”  However, the real truth is “No, they have not.”  Students have studied Dr. King in name only.  What MISD has really done is to check off a few boxes on their Common Core curriculum guides, but their students have not actually studied Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nor the noble “dream” he had for America.  

9.4.14 – “Texas Parents Stunned by Common Core Materials Coming Home from School”

by Merrill Hope – Breitbart Texas


6.18.14 – “Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: No Common Core in Texas” – by Merrill Hope – by Merrill Hope – Breitbart Texas


5.28.14 – “Is There Common Core in Texas? Donna Garner Counters Cathy Moak’s Comments” —


Donna Garner

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