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NCTE Criticized for Supporting Toxic Sludge of Common Core

Substance editors' note: The following critique was originally posted on the NCTE Connected Community and is reprinted here for Substance readers. The editors urge all Substance readers who are NCTE members to contact NCTE about this important issue, and to begin preparing for the NCTE meeting in Chicago in November 2011.

NOTE: The Council Chronicle is NCTE's official membership magazine. Published three times a year, it's circulation is 40,200. The Connected Community is NCTE's online discussion group.

by Stephen Krashen and Susan Ohanian

We are probably among the 1 percent of NCTE members who have read every word of the current issue of the Council Chronicle. We think it is unprofessional and aviolation of the position that NCTE itself has taken on the Common Core. NCTE has spent our money, from our dues, to pay professional writers to write PR pieces in support of policies that many NCTE members object to.

The lead article in the journal was written by a professional writer, not an NCTE member, not an educator, and is a defense of Common Core that, at best, can be described as a public relations article, in the style of "Toxic Sludge is Good for You." This article could have been written by the US Department of Education staff. The NCTE does not officially support the Common Core, and a sense of the house motion was passed at the last NCTE meeting opposing NCTE support for the Common Core.

The Council Chronicle included only a brief mention of the Save our Schools March, buried on page 30, an event that promoted a message very different from the one promoted by the editors of the Chronicle. The Save our Schools march was a major event that was reported in the national media and many NCTE members were active participants.

The Chronicle has rejected previous attempts to present positions opposed to the activities of NCTE, and it is unlikely that they will present responses to the articles that appeared in this issue. We therefore take the only route open to communicating with NCTE members and post our detailed comments here. We will discuss the lead article, the interview with Arne Duncan, and the Policy Research Brief that winds up promoting the Common Core, and well as the fact that President's column, on the important topic of libraries, was pushed to the back of the issue.

Permission given in advance to share this post and any subsequent posts with anybody. The posts will also be available on SubstanceNews.net, schoolsmatter.info, susanohanian.org, and linked to from twitter.

Access to Council Chronicle:


September 28, 2011 at 12:39 PM

By: Leila Christenbury
"NCTE Criticized"

As Council Historian for NCTE, I would like to recommend a few readings (see below) which may help put in perspective the latest Connected Community posting regarding the Common Core State Standards. NCTE is one hundred years old, and if you read its history, you will find that one of the reasons it has survived is because it has, in the main, stayed relevant. And that relevance involves being pragmatic, involves helping members deal with the often unpleasant realities of mandated educational policy and top down imposition on practice. Both Reading the Past/Writing the Future and Yetta Goodman's article in this September's centennial issue of English Journal point out that NCTE has not won all the battles-- or even many of them. As I wrote in the introductory chapter of Reading the Past, "In endeavoring to represent English teachers and provide a voice for important policy and research in the field, NCTE can count some undeniable victories. There are also defeats and stalemates and clear evidence that no single group of professional educators has been, at least in the last forty years, a significant influence on national policy and practice. At the same time, NCTE can claim a consistent effort to influence English classrooms and English teaching at all levels in this country" (41). Certainly we have in our company many other professional organizations that have attempted to shape policy and practice and have often fallen short. On the other hand, few of us are able to walk away from our students, our schools, our careers as teachers. Part of the importance of NCTE and organizations like it is that it consistently provides thoughtful resources, ideas, collegiality, and a voice as we continue to work for better teaching and learning, often in the face of daunting conditions.

I am more than happy to continue the dialogue within NCTE and hope that future challenges to curriculum and to practice will be more successfully countered. Indeed, I have both represented the organization and, at times (especially in my role as editor of English Journal), been a critic. But I fear that the toxic tone of the recent Connected Community post may well silence most readers who worry that, no, they have not read every article in the Chronicle nor noted on what page what article appeared, nor are particularly outraged that a paid NCTE freelancer wrote a piece, not a paid NCTE staff member. I would hope, however, that some history would give everyone better perspective and inspire something more productive than this Sunday's sermon, a piece I read as a jeremiad against our professional organization and which I believe closes the door on productive discussion.

Christenbury, Leila. "NCTE and the Shaping of American Literacy Education." Reading the Past, Writing the Future: A Century of American Literacy Education and the National Council of Teachers of English. Erika Lindemann, ed. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2010. 1-52. Print.

____. "Entering the Whirlwind: Editing English Journal 1994-1998." English Journal 89.3 (2000): 60-67. Print.

Goodman, Yetta M. "Sixty Years of Language Arts Education: Looking Back in Order to Look Forward." English Journal 101.1 (2011): 17-25. Print.

Lindemann, Erika, ed. Reading the Past, Writing the Future: A Century of American Literacy Education and the National Council of Teachers of English. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2010. Print.

Access to Council Chronicle

— Stephen Krashen & Susan Ohanian
NCTE Connected Community & Substance News





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