Controversy is brewing over new Common Core State Standards in English that call on public schools to emphasize the reading of “information text” instead of fictional literature. According to the Washington Post, English teachers across the country are upset by what they consider the government’s effort “to drive literature out of the classroom.”
English teachers are right to be upset, but they shouldn’t take it personally. The government has nothing much against literature, per se. Rather, this initiative is driven in large part by the desire to promote political propaganda in the classroom. The study of literature is being downgraded in the process, but for a good cause.
Consider that one of the “informational texts” recommended as a replacement for, say, Great Expectations is “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.” Students would thus study government propaganda in English class (this Executive Order was issued under President Bush, but it is still propaganda — a political sop to the environmental left, as Stanley Kurtz shows).
Another Common Core’s non-fiction exemplar is an excerpt from a 2009 New Yorker essay by Atul Gawande on health care. This too is propaganda – an effort to show that Obamacare is wise policy.
How is this happening? How can the federal government impose this policy on the schools? It’s yet another example of how states sell local control up the river for federal funding:
Consider also where the Common Core comes from? The Washington Post tries to make it appear that the new curriculum percolated up from the states. But at the back end of its story we find that “the Obama administration kicked the notion into high gear when it required states to adopt the common standards — or an equivalent — in order to compete for Race to the Top grant funds.”
Education is supposed to be about teaching kids how to think, and literature is an important part of that process.
This policy is about teaching kids what to think.
States need to take back education.