Is it English? Or social studies?

Mark Bauerlein helped develop the Common Core standards in English. Now he fears the critics are right to say “high-quality fiction, poetry, theater and other imaginative texts” will be crowded out by non-fiction.

Only three literary works – Romeo and Juliet, T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men and a short poem about Gandhi by Langston Hughes — appear in the New York City Education Department’s 13 recommended units of study in English Language Arts/Literacy at the high school level, writes Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory.

Meanwhile, the site offers units on DNA and crime detection, “vertical farming,” digital media, European imperialism, great speeches and two on the civil rights movement.

The assigned texts include a speech by Bill Clinton, a Los Angeles Times story on teens and social media, the “Complete Personal Finance Guidebook,” photographs by Walker Evans and an entry on imperialism in the New Book of Knowledge.

Even when a topic is disposed to abundant and superb literary works, the Education Department has failed to include them. The unit on “Rites of Passage” — supposedly to be used in English classes — doesn’t opt for great tales of youth and adulthood such as “Jane Eyre,” “The Red Badge of Courage” or Richard Wright’s “Almos’ a Man.”

Instead, it chooses 10 pieces on teen rituals from The New York Times, USA Today, Fox Business, NPR and other news outlets.

The new standards’ framers wanted students to have “more general background knowledge, more broad familiarity with history, science, art and ideas — all of which would, among other things, enhance literary study,” writes Bauerlein. They called for teaching “foundational works of American literature.” Instead, he charges, New York City’s curriculum designers are turning English into a social studies class.

Florida will let students opt out of remediation

Starting in 2014, most Florida community college students will be able to skip remedial classes and start at the college level, regardless of their academic preparation, if they choose to do so. They can skip placement tests too.

Too much information makes students tune out, a New York college found. The college and its departments were generating 286 emails, letters and phone calls about enrollment each semester.

Universities don’t seek socioeconomic diversity

Focused on race-based affirmative action, many public universities aren’t eager to recruit low-income students, reports the New York Times.

“It’s expensive,” said Donald E. Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University. “You have to go out and identify them, recruit them and get them to apply, and then it’s really expensive once they enroll because they need more financial aid.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule soon on race-based admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. Many think affirmative action linked to race and ethnicity will be struck down.

Polls show that while most Americans oppose racial or ethnic preferences in college admissions, they also think colleges should give extra help to the poor.

Some states have already banned affirmative action, including California, Florida, Michigan and Washington, and in each of them, the selective public universities stepped up their efforts to recruit disadvantaged students, hoping to enroll more black, Hispanic and American Indian students in the process.

Even in states that have rejected racial preferences, flagship universities “vary widely in how hard they work to identify high-achieving, disadvantaged students and prepare them for college, how heavily they weight disadvantage in admissions, and how generous they are with financial aid,” reports the Times.

More than 40 percent of University of California students qualify for Pell Grants, which go to low- and moderate-income students. That includes 34 percent at Berkeley and 36 percent at UCLA.

At the University of Michigan, also highly selective and banned from considering race, only 16 percent of undergraduates received Pell Grants.

The private sector is less committed to affirmative action in hiring, adds the Times in another story.

“Tens of thousands of qualified low-income students, 30 percent of them racial minorities” don’t apply to elite colleges, according to research by Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby and Harvard’s Christopher Avery.  Colleges should recruit low-income high achievers, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in a Bloomberg commentary.

In a follow-up study, Hoxby and a colleague sent college information packets to a random selection of low-income high-achievers. Students who got the information were 80 percent more likely to apply to and gain admission to a selective college than similar students who didn’t get the packet. The mailings cost $6 per student.

Teach to students’ commonalities

Instead of always trying to individualize instruction or teach to different “learning styles,” teachers should spend more time teaching to what students have in common, advise Daniel Willingham and David Daniel in Educational Leadership. For example, all children need factual knowledge, practice and feedback from a knowledgeable source to learn.

This is your brain on Google

People are outsourcing memory to the Internet, concludes a new study, Google Effects on Memory, published in Science.

Harvard students were asked to type 40 pieces of trivia, such as “an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain,” into computers. Those told the information would be erased remembered more than those told it would be saved.

“No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can ‘Google’ the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue,” the authors write.

Columbia undergrads remembered where they stored their information better than they were able to recall the information itself.

The Internet has become our primary external storage system, researcher Betsy Sparrow says. “Human memory is adapting to new communications technology.”

Education theorists disagree on whether memory matters, writes Forbes’ columnist Olga Khazan.

Author Don Tapscott advocated the no-memorization agenda back in 2008, saying that rote learning should be phased out of schools because, “teachers are no longer the fountains of knowledge; the Internet is.” Instead, he and others argue that children should be taught to better parse the constant feed of information they’re bombarded with. (He’s somewhat late to the game, however, since the popularity of memorization has been declining in schools since the early 1980s – nearly a decade before most kids would be getting on the Internet at home.)

. . . Of course, for every education reformer there is an equal and opposite education reformer. Recently, there have been some fairly convincing arguments coming from the other side – that kids need more memorization training so that society can become more innately knowledgeable, not less.

William Klemm, a neuroscience professor at Texas A&M University, has written several screeds decrying teaching methods that leave out a critical component of intelligence: memory. “Creativity comes from a mind that knows, and remembers, a lot,” he says, arguing that memorization both improves thinking and arms us with the facts to defend our arguments.

The more you know, the easier it is to seek out new information, evaluate it and do something with it.  And remember it.