Farewell to 'Farewell to Arms'

It’s Farewell to “A Farewell to Arms” in Douglas County, Nevada, reports Teaching Now, an Ed Week blog.

English teachers are protesting district plans to introduce College Board’s Springboard textbook set and curriculum, complaining it eliminates classic books in favor of short readings. From the Record-Courier:

(Douglas High teachers) argued SpringBoard prevents students from being exposed to classic, challenging texts with rich vocabularies. Rather, they said, students are stuck with one novel a year and random excerpts, some of which deal with movies and television shows, resulting in a loss of the English literary tradition.

More specifically, teachers argued that SpringBoard lacks rigorous grammar, vocabulary and writing instruction.

Sophomore Taylor Gray said her ninth-grade honors English class, which piloted Springboard, didn’t teach her how to write an essay, because “I was spending time learning about ‘Edward Scissorhands’ cinematic value.”

Middle school teacher and supporter Susan Van Doren thinks the curriculum could serve as an academic equalizer. “SpringBoard makes it possible to throw open the doors to Advanced Placement that have long been closed to all but the elite.”

Springboard’s thematic approach is supposed to prepare students for AP classes. But many Hillsborough County, Florida teachers complain it lacks substance, contains too much pop culture trivia and repeats material taught in lower grades. Some call it SpringBored.

There are fans. Sylvia Ellison, an English teacher at Brandon High in Florida, taught the American Dream theme to 11th-graders, many of whom were low achievers. “They like the variety,” Ellison told the Tampa Tribune.

Her class took about seven weeks to cover Jon Krakauer’s biography, “Into the Wild,” about a 24-year-old man’s adventures and death in the Alaska wilderness.

“We listened to the whole book on iTunes,” Ellison said. “Last year, they read ‘The Great Gatsby.’ I think they got more out of this one.”

And this will prepare students for AP English?

Update: James Elias of Common Core piles on, asking Where’s the Beef? and linking to reading lists.

In 12th grade, for instance, SpringBoard replaces a unit on the English Renaissance (Spenser, Raleigh, Shakespeare, and the King James Bible) with a unit on My Fair Lady, The Manchurian Candidate, Nine to Five, Cinderella, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. 12th grade Victorian literature (Tennyson, the Brownings, Kipling, Dickens, Bronte) is replaced by a current events unit focusing on the Waco massacre, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and newspaper editorials.

A SpringBoard supporter says, “If you can read, you can read the classics on your own.” Oh, OK. No problem.