The Crocodile in the Common Core Standards
This appeared on Daily Censored on October 18, 2011, provoking enthusiastic response on Twitter and Facebook. And there are good comments at the Daily Censored site.
In her New York Times Magazine blog, Ilene Silverman writes of her three favorite books as a teenager: The Chocolate War, Separate Peace, and My Darling My Hamburger. For the teen Silverman, these novels were filled with informational text, providing important information about the world.
Interviewed for the film Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and to Kill a Mockingbird, in which a range of people--from Roseanne Cash to Tom Brokow-- talk about the important world knowledge gained from reading Harper Lee's novel. Ph.D. Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo says, "Masterpieces tap into something essential to us--at the heart of who we are and how we love." James Patterson says, "YouĂ˘€™re suspecting something about BooĂ˘€”which should tell you something about yourself."
Of course David Coleman insists w'Ă˘€™re supposed to convince students that nobody gives a shit about how they feel or their need to find out something about themselves.
Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand says[vi], "When I read a poem I relate it to all the other poems I have read. . . past poems condition my response to any new poem. And the really new poem conditions my response to all the poems that precede it. After 'Prufrock,' the Inferno is, ever so slightly, a different poem. Thus text informs text backwards and forwards. Sarah Bakewell says the same thing in How To Live: A Life of Montaigne, insisting that readers approach Montaigne "from their private perspectives, contributing their own experience of life. . . a two-person encounter between writer and reader."
In his introduction to PoetĂ˘€™s Choice, MacArthur Fellowship winner and award-winning poet Edward Hirsch advises that biographical, literary, and historical info provides readers a context for their reading. The teacher decides which kind of information is most relevant for each work. The reader decides too. But in presenting his notion of a model lesson for teaching Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter to a Birmingham Jail," David Coleman snidely rejects out of hand such approaches as providing any biographical, cultural, or historical context for the letter--just as he rejects reader response theory which focuses on the reader as an active agent in the wor'Ă˘€™s meaning. Instead, Coleman champions what amounts to New Criticism on steroids, insisting that the reader's sole focus must be only on the words in the text
Although a multitude of expert readers show that the emperor of the Common Core Standards is naked, as long as such professional organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) remain silent, David Coleman seems safe in shouting his absurd declarations from the rooftops. Instead of offering any informed resistance, NCTE and IRA are occupied with figuring out how they can make money from embracing the Common Core--and staving off dissidents in their own ranks. Last year, NCTE resorted to technical excuses for squashing a proposed resolution against the Common Core. But the resolution proposers are back: See Resolution Sent to NCTE.
Money Talks, Money Legislates, Money Delivers Classroom Lessons
The Common Core State Standards exist because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wanted them. To help their aide-de-camps, the president and the U. S. Secretary of Education, pretend that these are state and not national standards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent buckets of money to the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to act as sponsors. More tons of money to the National PTA to spread the good word and so on. As I revealed in an article in Extra! very few media have pointed to the money source. Of course very few media even bother to mention anything about the Common Core.
I'd like to introduce David Coleman, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan--and all the rest of the Standardistos-- to Chris, who found handwriting very difficult but insisted on laboriously copying out Beatrix Potter's Tale of Squirrel Nutkin in his notebook. Every word. Dougie asked him, "Why are you doing this? Miz O gave us all our own copy of the book." And Chris answered, "I know. I just like the way the words feel." This from a boy who entered third grade loudly complaining about how much he hated both reading and writing. This is the boy who ended the year exchanging letters with his favorite poet, Jack Prelutsky. 'Ă˘€™d like to introduce this motley school deform crew to Chris' classmate Leslie, who contacted me 25 years later, to talk about the importance of Amelia Bedelia in her life.
This Common Core den of thieves who are stealing the literary rights of our students should read Arnold Lobe'Ă˘€™s lovely little fable, "The Crocodile in the Bedroom'Ă˘€ť A crocodile who loved the neat and tidy rows of the flowers on the wallpaper in his bedroom was coaxed outside into the garden by his wife, who invited him to smell the roses and the lilies of the valley. The crocodile couldn't stand the "terrible tangle" of freely growing flowers, and went to bed, preferring to stare at neat and tidy wallpaper. There, "he turned a very pale and sickly shade of green."
With David Coleman as their spokesman out on the stump, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the U. S. Department of Education, acting in concert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, prescribe a very pale, sickly shade of green future for our vibrant and deliciously messy classrooms. Certainly, Lobel's moral, Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order, applies even more to the classroom than it does to wallpaper. And letting our corporate school reformers steamroll our schools into a neat and tidy standardized product puts our children in great peril.
 David Coleman, "Bringing the Common Core to Life", New York State Department of Education, April 28, 2011
 David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, "Publishers' Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grades KĂ˘€“2Ă˘€ť http://www.edweek.org/media/k-2-criteria-blog.pdf
 National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, Ă˘€śCommon Core State Standards,Ă˘€ť http://corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf
 Michael Dirda, On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, Princeton University Press, 2011
 Ilene Silverman, Ă˘€śThe 6th Floor, New York Times Magazine blog, Sept. 21, 2011
 Louis Menand, "A Critic at Large," The New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2011, 81
 Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne, Other Press 2010, 9
 Edward Hirsch, Poet's Choice, Harcourt Inc. 2006
 Susan Ohanian, "'Race to the Top' and the Bill Gates Connection," Extra! September 2010 http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4147
 Arnold Lobel,"Ă˘€śCrocodile in the Bedroom," Fables, HarperCollins 1980
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