The case for more literature

Mar 6, 2013 by

BOOKS-large300By Kay McSpadden –

I knew we were in trouble the first time a school official came back from a workshop about the Common Core State Standards.

“Pretty soon you English teachers aren’t going to be teaching literature any more,” he said. “It’s all going to be informational texts from now on.”

Actually, no.

Unfortunately, however, his confusion isn’t rare, judging from accounts pouring in from all over the country as different states begin implementing the standards.

Forty-six states have adopted the math and English language arts CCSS, with the ELA standards including “literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.” That broadening of the standards to include other disciplines is driving much of the misinformation.

I’ll set aside the concerns involving the mathematics standards and let the teachers grappling with those changes speak to them. I won’t say anything about the criticism lobbed from people suspicious of any uniform national curriculum and the way it might encroach on local control of education. And I will only allude to – briefly – the troubling fact that many of the school reformers pushing the CCSS stand to profit from the textbooks and materials being generated.

For now I’ll address the biggest confusion for those of us teaching English – the percentage requirement. According to the standards, no more than half of the materials that elementary children read should be literature. The rest should be nonfiction. By high school, the percentage is 70/30 in favor of informational texts.

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