Yesterday, news of the Common Core State Standards exploded. A front page feature in The Washington Post brought them to my attention, and I guess a few others’, too. By 9:30 a.m., more than 300 comments trailed the piece. The standards in question were adopted by states as early as 2010, sprawl across a 66-page document (PDF), and raise some questions about genres and communication.
This effort toward K-12 education reform is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
What was the deal with these standards, and why would I—a college instructor and non-parent—really care? Well, the goal, according to the document, is “to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.” So yeah, I do care about students’ readiness to tackle my course material and do well in their professions. But I also have to make a confession: I learned from a crazy, mixed up set of genres and I liked it.
I was the kid who read Flatland: A romance of many dimensions for extra credit in ninth grade math class. My Civil War bookshelf comprised the fiction of Toni Morrison and Margaret Mitchell alongside the documentation of Howard Zinn, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs. I saw some high school classmates grok their longing through Whitman, while others soaked up our health class textbook with fascination. Later, I would understand nonfiction by John Hersey and Maxine Hong Kingston as deeply literary work. So when I saw something about required amounts of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry on reading lists, I perked up. Continue reading