This debate that has broken out over literature in the Common Core standards is fascinating and revealing. The standards themselves do call for more non-fiction reading and text-based analysis (in my view a plus) but not at the expense of literature (which in my view would be a big minus). But the field’s default position – reflected in today’s big Washington Post look at the debate – seems to be that you can only teach [do] reading in English classes so it’s a zero sum game. In practice there is a big role for history, government, science, and good schools recognize that reading is not a subject – it’s something students do across the school. And in practice students read a lot of weak stuff now, so this curriculum overhaul should be something that lovers of literature – rather than what passes for it via many publishers – should be enthused about. On civics and history I’d like to see media outlets get more in the game, given the trove of possible curriculum they are sitting on.
The bigger challenge here, it seems to me, and one that could hamstring this effort is curriculum and teacher training to support the new standards.