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Interesting article on controversy over ps curriculum


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I thought this was interesting. Funny how I find myself following the news about public school even more closely now that we homeschool. (We never did enroll.)

 

What say you, classical educators, about this development? (Ps I love to read Malcolm Gladwell.)

 

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/what-should-children-read/

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We have eliminated literature at our 12th grade level this year. It is all an expository model based upon the state college guidelines. No Beowulf, no Macbeth...

 

As changes are being made at each grade level to meet the Common Core, more and more literature is falling by the wayside. It does not apply to "real life", or so we are being told. Apparently students can get the gist of reading just a paragraph of To Kill a Mockingbird, rather than read the whole thing. That would be a waste of time.

 

I have no comment.

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Good literature encourages children to imagine, dream, identify with characters and their struggles by stepping into their shoes. It challenges children to expand their perspective beyond themselves. Well written fiction allows children to examine moral dilemmas, experience adventure, and ignites imagination!

 

Now, I would normally say that just because a ps removes something, doesn't mean that a parent can't just implement it at home. But, I suspect that this would be difficult with reading. Some children will not readily seek to read what they don't have to. I think that the schools will be squandering the opportunity to introduce children to a lifetime love of the written work. If they present the written word as merely a means to an end understanding and neglect the other side of the coin, then I fear that there will be some unintended consequences.

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I can see both sides, but hasn't literature taken enough of a hit in the last 10 years or so as it is? There is a fix that satisfies both sides, as I see it. Shouldn't all the classes in school engage students in age-appropriate expository text specific to each subject? Math, history, science, and even P.E. teachers can assign readings and engage students in discussion once a month or so. Of course, this would mean teachers would have to prepare ahead of time and put a lot of meaningful thought into their lessons. That would take a lot of the burden off the English teachers and not force them to choose as much nonfiction in place of the fiction they have historically read.

 

There is a school out here that I would loooooove to get my kids into. It covers 7th thru 12th grades, and costs almost $30,000 per year (they offer scholarships). I took a tour with a friend who can actually afford it and was amazed at the teachers I saw. They were actual educated people, most with doctorates, and then teachers... so they loved what they taught and knew it completely. The history classes were taught around a large table (class size of 12) using articles, primary documents, and some video. Seems like this school has been doing it right for years.

 

Here is the link. www.flintridgeprep.org

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I actually think that using 70 percent nonfiction is a wonderful thing. I think that a good classical education does look more like this article. Think about how much time we all spend reading about history and science with our kids. I have also been reading a lot of good math literature. I think that ps doesn't read enough of either. So much time is spent doing busy work and going back and forth between activities. My kids do twice the work in about a quarter of the time. There is plenty of time for non-fiction and fiction when time is used more efficiently.

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I agree that the best writing course I ever took was high school journalism, and that included studying many non-fiction pieces. However, I would really miss great literature. I think it gives you just as much insight into the world then and now as non-fiction, in a different way.

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Perhaps if there was less "teaching to the test," discipline issues, busy work, and political agenda pushing, there would be time for a healthy dose of both.

After several years of core standards, children (who grow to adults) will read only what needs to be read and write only what needs to be written. Goodbye creativity.

I'll keep my political conspiracy theory to myself...

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The article mentioned having students read recipes. My neighbor teaches third grade and he was lamenting over state tests that expect 8-9 year-olds to know how to read a recipe. He also thought third graders were too young to understand or care about history. I think his expectations are low. Most third graders should be reading well enough to understand a recipe.

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The article mentioned having students read recipes. My neighbor teaches third grade and he was lamenting over state tests that expect 8-9 year-olds to know how to read a recipe. He also thought third graders were too young to understand or care about history. I think his expectations are low. Most third graders should be reading well enough to understand a recipe.

 

Well, that makes me feel much better about what I am doing w/my 3rd grader... If the kids have been read to (fiction included here) from birth about history then why wouldn't avg. 3rd graders be interested? That is just so foreign to me. But I haven't been teaching to a test and only giving them snippets of social studies each year, so I guess I am coming from a completely different perspective on that one. And the reading of a recipe? My 3rd grader IMO is an avg. reader. It was tough for her to get started in the beginning. She struggles w/spelling. But a recipe? She's been pulling out her children's cookbook on her own for quite a while now. Thanks for posting this little tidbit of self confidence I needed this morning. She is doing just fine :)

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With regard to what kids need to learn to write, the focus on creative writing should be shifted. I think 70% across the curriculum may be fine in history and science, but not okay for Literature...I think that may be a bit backwards. If the kids were reading a lot more articles (at least one a week) in history and science, there should be no need to focus so much time on non-fiction reading in Literature. There is also no reason weekly writing assignments in an English course could focus on articles from history and science, while not virtually eliminating the study of fiction literature.

 

I'm not a big fan of the common core, but then I struggle with square pegs and round holes...and the common core really leaves no room for flexibility.

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When they say that 50% of 4th grade reading and 70% of 12th grade reading should be non-fiction, are they talking about English/Reading class or are they talking about the whole curriculum? It's not clear from the article, but there's a huge difference between the two propositions. I'd be upset if it's 70% of English class, but heartily agree if it's the whole curriculum. I hope (and I realize it may be a vain hope) that science and history reading is non-fiction.

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I kind of laugh a little at this. I just don't think they will be able to implement the Core standards in the long run. Or, they'll do it in some half-baked way, dumbing it down as they dumb down everything else. It will just be more standards that the majority of schools will have trouble implementing.

 

I guess I don't have a problem with the standard in theory, although I think a 60/40 breakdown would be better than a 70/30. There are a lot of good nonfiction books, as others have said. Still, I think it will be hard to implement such a reading/lit program in most public schools.

 

I despise the College Board anyhow, so take what I say with a grain of salt. All this is for their own financial and power gain, IMO.

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When they say that 50% of 4th grade reading and 70% of 12th grade reading should be non-fiction, are they talking about English/Reading class or are they talking about the whole curriculum? It's not clear from the article, but there's a huge difference between the two propositions. I'd be upset if it's 70% of English class, but heartily agree if it's the whole curriculum. I hope (and I realize it may be a vain hope) that science and history reading is non-fiction.

 

 

According to the correction blurb at the bottom of the article, it is 70% of the entire 12th grade curriculum, not just English.

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According to the correction blurb at the bottom of the article, it is 70% of the entire 12th grade curriculum, not just English.

 

Even though the goal is 70% curriculum wide there are districts and states that ARE implementing a 70% rule in English classes too/instead. I was reading a list serve for ap English teachers over the fall that was bemoaning how much less time they now have for lit. This really isn't a good direction to go. Read the nonfiction but don't dismiss the incredible power of story.

 

I do agree with the idea that students need to read more examples of the type of non fiction analysis that they are asked to produce in upper grades and college. There does tend to be an alarming shift from autobiographical or self centered narrative to analysis of historical or literary topics without much modeling of what those products would look like.

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I'm not going to get worked up over what some school district is doing, but I do think that non-fiction, and especially "literary" non-fiction often gets short shrift. This is one reason I like SOTW -- it is well written, non-fiction, but in a literary way, that tells stories that resonate with kids. And while I have reservations about Malcolm Gladwell, I love the anecdote (and that's what he's best at), about learning to write in particular style by reading lots of examples of that style. This is why we memorize poetry and short fiction pieces here, to internalize examples of well written English. I think that adding a bit more non-fiction, even at the expense of some literary fiction is an OK thing, especially for kids who are voracious readers anyway. One of the many great little tidbits in WTM is the recommendation for each trip to the library to mandate a checkout of at least one book in each of several genres (wish I could remember them off the top of my head, but several are non-fiction). This PS mandate, though perhaps heavy-handed and overly strict, seems like a similar recommendation.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know this is an old thread, but I thought of it after reading this (short) article. It has an eye-catching opening statement. "American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014."

 

Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9729383/Catcher-in-the-Rye-dropped-from-US-school-curriculum.html

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I know this is an old thread, but I thought of it after reading this (short) article. It has an eye-catching opening statement. "American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014."

 

Catcher in the Rye dropped from US school curriculum

http://www.telegraph...curriculum.html

 

Its discussed here http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/444163-core-curriculum-reading-standards-change-yuck/

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