The ‘me’ curriculum teaches nothing

The “me” curriculum is undermining learning, writes Mark Bauerlein, an Emory professor, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In its attempt to implement Common Core’s new standards, the Georgia Department of Education is telling teachers that narrative writing is all about me, all the time. A recommended writing prompt for 11th graders:

The characters in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” are all seeking a home, a place of refuge, a place that is “clean and pleasant.” Describe your own “clean, well-lighted place,” the place where you feel safe, secure, and most “at home.”

The prompt asks students to “reveal things about themselves, not analyze” the story, Bauerlein writes. It’s typical.

In her essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” Zora Neale Hurston defines her personal experience as an African-American female in early 20th century America. Using Hurston’s essay as a model, define how it feels to be yourself (as a male, as a female, as a member of any group) in early 21st century America.

“Demonstrating character” cites the Cuban Missile Crisis and asks seventh graders:

If you were President of your own country and had the power to make laws, start or stop wars, end hunger, etc., what would you do? Write about an imaginary country where you are the president. Make your country the way you wish it could be.

A president has the power to make laws and end hunger?

“As a college teacher of freshman English, I can see no sense in these assignments,” writes Bauerlein. Students don’t develop the analytical, reading and writing skills they’ll need in college or an eventual job.

The units claim to align with Common Core’s English Language Arts standards, which Bauerlein helped develop. Teaching students to write about their navels is not what he had in mind.

Common Core’s critics are pushing states to withdraw approval, reports Ed Week. The campaign is focused on on Colorado, Idaho, and Indiana.

Alabama is withdrawing from the two consortia developing core-aligned tests.


About Joanne


  1. It starts in ES with Readers’/Writers’ Workshop; “small moments”, endless navel-gazing and absolute rejection of the teaching of grammar (“grammar should be caught, not taught”). In my whole 1-12 (no K) experience, the only time I remember being asked to write a personal narrative of any sort was the ES first-day-of-school essay on how I spent my summer vacation. In all other situations, we were expected to focus on the meaning of the work under discussion. Self-esteem wasn’t ever mentioned and praise was given for best work and most effort.

    • The only time writing an all-about-me essay is okay is to use it once to to teach the 5-paragraph essay to fifth graders: intro, 3 things about me, concluding paragraph.

  2. Also, reading the comments on the linked article, I found a mention of an ed school “PhD dissertation” which had won an award for the best dissertation. It was a collection of anecdotes of student reactions to their gay teacher, the writer of said “dissertation”. I’ve written one and that would have been given a “Hell, no” from any faculty member of mine; let alone getting anywhere near the proposal committee. I guess that’s where the rot starts; this is today’s ed school!

  3. lightly seasoned says:

    The 11th grade CCSS focus for writing isn’t on narrative; it’s on argument. The emphasis on narrative starts phasing out in 9th. I think it is supposed to be less than 20% of writing overall, so, were a district to thoughtfully implement the standards, a student might get one or two prompts like this all year. Part of the reason CCSS is driving me to an early grave right now is nobody at the state level knows how to implement the flippin’ thing.

    • This is confusing to me. I thought common core was to move away from narrative and be analysis heavy. My daughter will be starting high school in the fall and I’m worried. Does anyone know how common core affects AP?