Common Core: A Farewell To A Farewell To Arms? Probably Not.

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.

12 Replies to “Common Core: A Farewell To A Farewell To Arms? Probably Not.”

  1. So, students haven’t been reading in history class?
    What have they done? Watched videos.

    And then math instruction will involve reading the works of and stories about the following:
    Isaac Newton
    Carl F. Gauss
    Leonhard Euler
    Bernhard Riemann

    Henri Poincaré
    Joseph-Louis Lagrange
    David Hilbert
    Gottfried W. Leibniz
    Alexandre Grothendieck
    Pierre de Fermat
    Niels Abel
    Évariste Galois
    John von Neumann

  2. I do agree with the statement that pointed out that reading is something that is taught every subject and some of it is not very fulfilling to what reading should be. Getting good literature in the classroom in a way that relates directly to other subjects will keep students much more engaged than on the other end of “just giving” them literature to read. It will be interesting to see what five or ten years will bring.

  3. I find it interesting that the Common Core includes suggested reading lists for different grade levels. I believe that suggested reading lists can come with positive and negative impacts. Common literature could encourage more intellectual conversations that carry over into adulthood. Reading the same books could form a more cohesive culture in the United States. That being said, in a way, it’s a bit scary that the Department of Education has the responsibility to dictate the literature that will help form the values, ethics, and beliefs of the next generation.

  4. I had not thought about the how the suggested reading lists from the Department of Education could help form the values, ethics, and beliefs of the next generation. My initial reaction was thank goodness they are giving us some guidance for these new standards. It is interesting to think about the literature suggestions in a new light. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Reading across the curriculum is a big matter of importance to the new Common Core. Literature and nonfiction have been and always will be a major focus in English/Language Arts classrooms. Reading literature, however, is not the only issue in terms of student learning. Many students have a significantly lower vocabulary than is necessary to understand texts on their grade level. Texts that are not only used in literature classes, but also in social studies, science, and math classes. A lack of vocabulary affects students initially in school, but also later on in life. Common Core, in my opinion, will not only lead to a greater amount of reading being done outside of literature classes, but also a higher level of textual understanding due to the increase in vocabulary.

  6. I too agree that it is a good thing to include more fiction (I never did enjoy non-fiction much) but I do appreciate the merits of classics. I plan on being an art teacher and if I can find age appropriate books I would love to include reading in my curriculum. It can’t be that hard! In order to see an improvement to our education system we need changes that many will not like or approve of.

  7. I agree with the notion that reading should be spread across all subjects. At my school, We have a class period called ACADEX. This period is split into two sections. The first one, which is of relevance to the topic, is called silent sustained reading or SSR. Student are required to read something of substance (scholarly reading) for 25 meaning. This shows the school wide commitment to reading.

  8. There should be a farewell to Farewell to Arms. It is a good novel, not a great one. Why require students to read it when there are at least fifty better? It is an example of a novel that keeps being read perhaps because your parent’s generation read it, and the generation before that, etc. Hemingway was a good novelist, but a great short story writer. It is hard to say who is better than Hemingway as a short story writer. Joyce? Chekhov? Hawthorne? O’Connor? Carver? He may be the best there ever was.

  9. Charlene C Says: “I too agree that it is a good thing to include more fiction (I never did enjoy non-fiction much) but I do appreciate the merits of classics.”

    That’s nice for you, Charlene. “In order to see an improvement to our education system we need changes that many will not like or approve of.” Really? Like what? How revolutionary of you to think of that approach.

    Frankeyl Says: “At my school, We have a class period called ACADEX.” Because children totally relate to acronyms? “This shows the school wide commitment to reading.” No, it shows adherence to policy.

    Mike Piscal Says: Frankly, I don’t understand what you are trying to say. YOU say there are better than Hemingway. Maybe you are right. Maybe you are a crank.

    Do y’all really think education is about exposing children to the best of this and that and then hoping they ail turn out to be great people because they were exposed to the BEST?

  10. Dear Jeffrey Miller,

    I am saying Hemingway is among the three or four greatest short story writers ever. He is superb beyond all superlatives. Read his stories and appreciate them. His novels are merely good like Michelangelo’s poetry was merely good. We don’t make kids read Michelangelo’s poems do we? Get it? Maybe you are an idiot.

    Mike Piscal

  11. Sorry about that, Mike. See, I get all hung up on the whole, ‘who’s the best at this or that’ framing. It just doesn’t work for me. American society is just so full of one-upmanship as it is, even in education where it can do and has done considerable damage. “Beyond all superlatives,” is like, totally unique.

  12. I agree on the one up stuff. It is usually the practice of little men and women trying to be great men and women through public relations rather than actually doing something excellent. It is sad, sad stuff, pitiful. But there have been works of surpassing excellence like Hemingway’s short stories, Michelangelo’s David, or a John Keats’ ode. Maybe in education it is Rosenstock’s High Tech High, Barbic’s YES Prep, and Paul Adams’ Providence St.-Mel.

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