Common Core standards are supposed to improve college readiness, but they’ll leave students even less prepared for college than they are now, writes Peter Wood on Minding the Campus.
The Common Core emphasizes how to glean information from “informational texts,” he writes. This includes “picture books, novels, poems, YouTube videos, works of history, and speeches by notables such as Abraham Lincoln.”
The trouble is that if you see the written word as mainly a device for conveying information, you miss many other things that writing can do. It stirs emotions; it points to truths beyond itself; alternatively, it conveys lies; it may possess beauty or it may be ugly; it can cause us to ask questions that the text itself does not ask; it possesses implications; it belongs to and participates in a larger context; it taps into secret memories; it rallies us to public causes.
The Common Core “slights” literature, cutting “students off from the foundation of a liberal education.”
Students who know how to read “informational texts,” and to read every piece of writing as though it is an “informational text,” are ill-prepared for Plato’s Republic or Shakespeare’s King Lear. Indeed, they are ill-prepared for Goodnight Moon.
To a great extent, colleges have abandoned their core curricula, Wood writes.
Students these days are lulled with the illusion that they can become “critical thinkers” by studying whatever catches their interest, rather than what their colleges have deemed the most important works. That whole do-it-yourself approach puts a premium on the capacity of college students to read with their eyes wide open and to get to places well beyond the “information” that a “text” lays out.
“Colleges will have to adapt to what the Common Core teaches — and what it fails to teach,” Wood believes. “It teaches a mechanical way of reading that is poorly suited to literature, philosophy, history, and the rest of the liberal arts. It also fails to teach the math students need to begin a college-level curriculum in the sciences.”