A Misguided Step in Education Reform
It is a common enough idea that if there is something wrong with a society, there is something wrong with how that society is thinking; that education is falling short in some aspect, and that reforms must take place. Indeed, states around the country are calling for education reform in light of poor test scores and poverty. I agree with all these sentiments, but what I can't agree with are the new K-12 Common Core State Standards, slowly rolling out across the nation, that will have taken full effect by 2014.
The Common Core Standards require that by the time students are in their senior years, only 30% of their curriculum reading can be Literature. Of course, Common Core insists that the goal of the new standards is to increase the amount of essays, research, and other documents across all subjects, including social studies and math. The standards "define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach," but throughout the 46 states that have already been subjected to the standard, "the burden of teaching the nonfiction texts is falling to English teachers," as Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, said in Washington Post's article on the controversy around the standards. This burden on English educators is creating conflict in the classroom, as teachers determine which works of rich literature must go. Not only that, but Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction is misguided and not backed by any studies suggesting information texts prepare students better for life than complex literary study.
Common Core claims its goal is to prepare students for today's "college and work expectations." If our society were flourishing because of the progressive nature of our colleges and workforce this sentiment may hold water, but preparing students for the standards expected by today's jobs and colleges is the perpetuation of a society that is in its death throws. Not only that, but if we prepare students only for college and work expectations, then we are preparing our youth to rely on established systems to survive, but as we know, in a country controlled by the richest 1% who rely on our perpetuation of conformity to sustain themselves, the established system is broken.
Education is meaningless if the student cannot understand the kinds of hearts that drive man - their inconsistencies, imperfections, doubts, and very often misguidance - that defies dull reports and facts and figures, which may best be understood through the study of subjective literature. Attempting to conform education to agree with times is the opposite if what educators should strive to embody in their students, and I am inclined to agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson in his address to the Phi Beta Kappa society at Cambridge, 1837: "[schools] can only highly serve us … when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius ... and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame." Teachers must aim to promote creative and progressive thought, but cannot through the drilling of facts and reports, no matter the subject.