Where’s the literature?

Secondary teachers should stress classic works of literature, argue Sandra Stotsky and Mark Bauerlein in a paper critical of Common Core Standards. The new standards name only a few required texts, such as foundational American documents (for example, the Declaration of Independence) and a Shakespeare play, notes Ed Week.

(The standards) say that half of what students read in elementary school—and 70 percent in high school—should be informational, arguing that mastery of such texts mirrors the demands likely to be made on them in college and job training. is.

. . .  some English/language arts educators . . .  fear that literature will lose its important place in students’ studies. The standards’ architects have argued that the opposite is true: Teachers of social studies, science and other subjects will inherit new responsibilities for teaching writing and reading in their areas, freeing English/language arts teachers to dive deeply into literary works with their students.

Stotsky, a University of Arkansas professor nd a chief architect of Massachusetts’ highly regarded academic standards, and Bauerlein, an Emory English professor, believe “the analytical and critical-thinking skills developed by a deep study of literature” will prepare students for college more effectively than reading informational texts.

Private schools and public schools in affluent suburbs will teach a literature-rich curriculum, while most public school students will suffer from a “literature deficit,”  Stotsky and Bauerlein predict. That will widen the achievement gap, they write.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn isn’t included in Massachusetts’ new Common Cored curriculum, write Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute. (It’s not banned either. It’s just not mentioned.) “These new English standards include less than half as much classic literature and poetry than the Massachusetts standards they will replace.”


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  1. One of the great things about classic literature is that it’s cheap. I picked up a Kindle edition of _Pride and Prejudice_ for 99 cents at Amazon. The fact that these works are long out of copyright has to make them cheaper for classroom use.

  2. lightly seasoned says:

    Not really, Rob. Maybe a dollar or two, if that, especially if you Vinaclad or Everbind them. But then they last a few generations.

    In any case, CCSS doesn’t specify particular works; it suggests a band of reading complexity. You have to read the appendices, though, to see that. The list of suggested texts is pretty expansive.

    I DO agree that it is being widely misinterpreted to exclude literature, however, and that is a problem. It does put more responsibility on other departments to teach informational texts (social studies may actually have to assign some reading…).

    • If social studies teachers have to start assigning reading, what teaching spot will the football coach have?