Monday, March 3, 2014

A problem with common core...

It's moving away from literature.  Away from the character-building, cultural transmission, and toward non-fiction pieces like executive orders and scientific reports, which, while important, aren't going to do anything except engender a hatred of reading in younger generations, much like my beloved classics do when taught poorly.

Another problem I've seen is that it uses a single tool to teach the texts it actually uses: New Criticism, which was cutting edge in the fifties, and debunked as a useful tool to look at literature less than ten years later.  It looks solely at the text to determine the true meaning, without looking at the author's intent (which doesn't matter, for New Criticism), or author experiences that might have shaped the work, or historical events surrounding either the author's life or the work's setting.  New Criticism looks at vocabulary choices and sentence structure to determine everything.

I will admit that some of the newer LitCrit theories are bullshit, but...some of them do give the readers a lens through which to better understand the classics.  Readers just have to be careful to not try to pick a favorite theory and hammer everything else into that shape.*

Mostly, though, I feel that the most important thing to raise reading and reasoning skills in children and teens is to find what they like to read, then challenge them to learn to describe the works by character archetypes, plot and theme, and by the writer's intent, experiences, and historical influences. 

And for those who insist that the classics must be taught...use them to illustrate culture, and how culture was shaped by and shapes history.  Use them to demonstrate how human nature, at its base, doesn't change. 

And for the teachers who "never took Shakespeare/literature classes, and don't know what they can teach" someone who has an advanced understanding of literature through constant reading...just don't even try to teach the classics.  If they can't understand the works and/or their placement in (and illustration of) culture, the only thing they're going to accomplish is to engender a hatred of literature at best, and of Western Civilization culture at worst. 

Common Core isn't going to help any of that.

*One glaring example of trying to fit a piece of literature into one favorite critical theory that doesn't work for the literature from my grad school days is the boy who tried to tell me that Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights was a closeted queer.  Not so: he was a not-so-closeted necrophiliac after the woman he loved died.  And I quoted chapter and edition page numbers to support my reading, and the little twit told me I wasn't being fair, because he hadn't read the book itself yet. 


  1. You think that's bad (and it is, I homeschooled my daughter who learned to read while reading all 7 "Chronicles of Narnia" in 5th & 6th grades), wait til you see the math other words, the right answer (truth) doesn't matter as long as you use Common Core methods.

    1. Not putting the kids into public schools. It'll either be private, parochial schools or homeschool.