The loss of great literature in the schools and its replacement with something that is manifestly not great—and is meant in fact to put an end to the very idea of greatness—is no academic matter. As Plato taught us long ago, whoever controls the stories, what today we call “the narrative,” of any society, will inevitably control the society. If we give up our stories, we lose our surest means of teaching young people what is truly good and true and beautiful; we lose the best way of teaching them how to be human. Should we give that up because self-appointed educational experts apparently don’t know how to talk about a great book when it is put in front of them?
Indiana’s “new” English Standards indicate that it will remain under the thumb of Common Core.
For four years now, the nation has been told how rigorous the Common Core English Standards are and how they are going to lead to “college and career readiness”: this to be done chiefly by taking great literature out of English classes and replacing it with utterly forgettable “informational texts.” For the past month or so, we in Indiana, having pulled out of Common Core, have been told by the state educational establishment that Indiana’s “new” college-and-career-readiness standards will not be an echo of Common Core but instead will be much more rigorous than Common Core. They will be standards written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers. Well, the new draft standards released just Wednesday are in fact an echo of Common Core as anyone who is able to hold two documents side by side can clearly see.
Has anyone actually read the Common Core Standards? Not advocacy of the standards, or criticism of them, but the standards themselves? Have even those speaking out most loudly in their favor examined them closely?
For the past two years or more, we have heard different personages—from state school board members to state school superintendents to state legislators to experts in various think tanks to former governors to soon-to-be former governors to the arch-funder of the Common Core, Bill Gates, hit all the talking points about these “standards” in English and math. We have been told that they will lead to “college and career readiness,” though no college says they will. We have heard that such standards are absolutely indispensable in a 21st-century global economy, though no one has ever told us why the study of English or mathematics should change just because we use computers or live in a different century.
As a college professor and former head of a K-12 school, I know when a student is giving me the runaround. Here is one scenario I have been through more than once: I hand back a student’s paper—clearly written in a rush—that is bleeding with my markings on typos, incomplete sentences, contradictory statements, and bizarre punctuation. The student looks at the grade, gasps, and then exclaims, “Oh, my gosh! How could I have done such a thing? I handed in my rough draft by mistake. But here is my final draft!” (which the student just happens to have in his book bag).
Just such a scenario is unfolding in Indiana as the state school board tells citizens that the “new” standards in mathematics and English, unveiled a couple of weeks ago and meant to replace the Common Core, were only meant to be a draft