In the past, most English Language Arts reading material was taken from children’s literature: stories of Aesop, Judy Blume and the Brothers Grim, for example.
But under the Common Core, the amount of time children spend reading and discussing literature in the public schools will steeply decline in most states. In its place students will read more informational and persuasive reading, such as Lincoln’s second inaugural address, a letter home from a Vietnam War soldier, or an article showing the pros and cons of taking music lessons.
For younger children, reading material will be divided roughly into thirds: one third persuasive reading, one third expository reading, and one third narrative reading. But as children become high schoolers, the amount of time they spend on literature could drop to about one fifth of the total.
The point of this shift is to make students better prepared for the rigor of a college education and the kind of jobs that someday await them.
In the United States’ best universities, the number of English literature majors has dropped noticeably in the past thirty years, while at the same time science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors have been attracting more students. Yet many college freshmen are not prepared to understand college science, technology, engineering or math texts. Nor are they prepared to write essays in those fields using logic and critical thinking.
To compete on the world stage, believe the developers of the Common Core, students need a radically different kind of education than their parents received—even in English Language Arts. So out with Huck Finn (or maybe read just an excerpt) and in with primary documents; out with Romeo and Juliet and in with two-sided arguments on the place of women in combat troops.