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My son starts high school in the 2014-2015 school year. He will be a member of the class of 2018. As a parent I have grave concerns about the new common core standards (a part of No Child Left Behind) going into place for the 2012-2013 school year.

The change that is causing the greatest concern for me?

Math and language arts teachers are expected to go deeper into those subjects, which means that educators may not cover as many topics. There will be a greater emphasis on informational texts, rather than literature; texts will be more complex; and literacy will be emphasized in all classes, even physical education. (Emphasis mine)
I will never forget Mrs. Bayer, my freshman English teacher,  introducing me and my classmates to Poe’s, Tell Tale Heart, I can still hear her as she read the story to us, adding in the sound of the heartbeat as she read with the words with a thump, thump.  
“No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice,” Thump, thump. “Yet the sound increased --and what could I do?” Thump, thump, “It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.” Thump, thump, “I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not.” Thump, thump, “I talked more quickly --more vehemently;” Thump, thump, “ but the noise steadily increased.” Thump, thump, “I arose and argued about trifles,” Thump, thump, “in a high key and with violent gesticulations;” Thump, thump, “but the noise steadily increased.” Thump, thump.
As she read she kept adding more, Thump, thumps, to the tale at a faster and faster pace…an entire class of fourteen year olds paying close attention to her every word. From that point on I went and purchased all of Poe’s works…who will introduce my son to Poe?

My sophomore year Mrs. Burdick, a teacher that my friends and I tormented, introduced us to Vonnegut through his short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, I had never read stories like his before – tales that expanded my thinking from that of child to the thinking of a young  adult. Mrs. Burdick had just introduced me to my favorite author. I actually kept that copy of Welcome to the Monkey House. It has traveled the world with me; I still have it to this day. I have gone through multiple copies of every Vonnegut novel and published short story collection (Except Timequake…I guess every great author has a turd now and then). Who will introduce my son to Vonnegut?

My junior year found me in Mr. Piddington’s advanced reading comprehension class where I was introduced to Hemingway. To this day, A Farewell to Arms, is one of my favorite books. Hemingway’s writing style was so crisp and clean without a single unnecessary word – it was unlike anything I had ever read up to that point. Who will introduce my son to Hemingway?

My senior year in high school I had only one required course, a course aptly named Decision Making. Mr. Shands taught about Descartes, Plato, Socrates, and others. He did not teach from an informational text. He made us read the writings of these philosophers and then made us explain what the meanings of their philosophies were. There were no multiple choice exams or quizzes. You had to stand in front of the class and defend your argument of what your interpretation was. Who will do that for my son?

No child left behind and its standards will not teach my son about great literature or philosophies, no "informational text" will provide my son or any other student the tools they need to become independent critical thinkers. How can one understand the anti-war themes in Slaughterhouse five, or how can you appreciate Poe unless you actually read these works?

It will be up to me to introduce my son to these authors and philosophers; however, coming from a parent I am not sure that he will be as receptive to them as I was in getting them from a teacher. I am not sure I can teach him the nuances behind each book as my teachers did for me. My son’s teachers, instead of being able to teach my son to think, as my teachers did, will teach him how to take tests. I am sure they would rather teach him to think.

(As a side note, Mrs. Bayer also introduced me to Orwell...but the Poe story was better).

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 07:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    "Republicans only care about the rich" - My late Father (-8.25, -7.85)

    by Mark E Andersen on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 07:52:35 AM PDT

  •  I'm rather looking forward to teaching my (0+ / 0-)

    kids about literature and philosophy.

  •  Relax. As an HS English Teacher, the common core (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shadow Catcher, Stwriley, WisJohn

    will be good for you son.

    The 80% informational text includes all classes. Most of the reading he will do in history, science, pe, etc... will be non-fiction.

    That allows our English curriculum to retain the great works you write about.

    Hopefully, your son will have the chance to hear and read Poe and Hemingway with expert teachers.  Also, with the examples of writing and collaboration, better teaching techniques and better evaluation should improve his learning.

    Think of it this way. When lasik surgery started to improve eyes, the procedure was done with razor blades. It took a year and several visits to the surgeon. It was costly, painful, and only somewhat effective. Because of better training and technique, it is now a routine surgery that is cheap and effective with little pain.

    With the common core, we should be able to share the techniques that work across the country and work together on the best evaluation system.

    One problem of course is that the larger class sizes and emphasis on multiple guess tests will decrease discussion and writing. That is where teachers and parents must be ready to fight. The literature will be fine. The art of writing must be defended. Standardized tests have a hard time checking writing, and learning to write does not improve test scores. It is easier to use worksheets on editing that can be graded quickly, objectively, and lead to better standardized test scores. Of course, never learning to write means our students will never learn to think. :)

    •  I agree wit Boji (0+ / 0-)

      I'm also a WI English teacher and although the focus on Non-Fiction is greater, it does not have to supplant great literature.  In fact, the CCSS standards require great lit to be taught.  See: CCSS Text Suggestions

      What the CCSS does is make ALL teachers responsible for reading and writing and thinking skills whereas the previous WI state standards, had no stated reading or writing objectives for any other subject than English.  Now we're all responsible.  

      Another good thing the CCSS does is it makes every method we use to teach based on research.  If research doesn't find a particular method of teaching effective, then we don't use it.  Now teachers using ineffective methods will be required to change their tactics.  Good teachers are constantly assessing their students and their own methods, changing tactics, trying new ways of teaching.  Poor teachers repeat mistakes over and over and blame the kids.  

      Third, the standards are based on the BEST standards out there -- primarily from MA -- where the test scores are the highest.  Wisconsin -- until this year GRRRR & Thank you Scottie snark-- has been right up there with MA in our ACT/SAT/NCLB scores.  We have always had high standards here so we don't have to change too much to keep up.  

      Believe me when I tell you, we English teachers are not giving up our thrilling, wonderful, thought-provoking, humanizing literature EVER.   We believe in literature like religion --I often feel like a preacher trying to get my students to see the light of Shakespeare ;) --  it has changed and enriched our lives and we delight in sharing it with every kid that comes through our door.  

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (0+ / 0-)

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 05:03:40 PM PDT

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