Since today’s blog must begin with the letter “C”, I must write about the newest craze in education: Common Core State Standards.
I have been teaching reading and writing for 15 years and for most of that time I was given a set of standards by the State of Oklahoma called the PASS guidelines. These guidelines told teachers what they must cover in the classroom during a school year, but the problem with them (and requiring an end of instruction test nearly at the end of the school year) was that students were taught a very dangerous method of “learning”. Basically, they were taught that if they could not find an answer in the classroom to whatever their query pertained, the teacher would gladly provide the answer.
This came from a misunderstood and completely erroneous teaching method brought about by a school of thought that stretched all the way back to the early 1900’s. Back then, professors in colleges everywhere would tell students that since these scholars had studied a particular text for most of their lives, said scholar had the answer for what any text “means” and that any teacher worth their salt will teach students that meaning to their students. The problem with this is that students then became dependent on the teachers to give them the meaning of something that they read. As I tell my students: “I will not be around for the rest of your life to interpret text for you, so learn to do it yourself.”
Thus came Common Core. In the ’60’s and ’70’s a new type of analysis arose called “New Criticism“, and this type of text analysis was based on the idea that text speaks for itself and does not need interpretation by a third party, not even the author who wrote it. Could Poe have subconsciously included some deeper meaning within “The Raven” that has not been thus far discovered by anyone or that he himself did not originally intend? The answer is an emphatic yes. This method thereby creates free thinking, self sufficient students who will tear apart any text given to them for deeper meaning and mental exercise on the top three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Simply put, teachers must strive for quality over quantity when studying literature or non-fiction in English classrooms. I would much rather spend three to four days on “The Gettysburg Address“, read a novel three times (first for plot, second for structure and third for deeper analysis of short sections), and spend a couple of weeks on a research paper. It is more important to help students understand the value of text analysis rather than bombarding them with every text written in American or British history. This is the essence of Common Core reading. If students can analyze any text they read in a more engaging and thought provoking manner, they will be better college students and citizens, and much more informed rather than being blown about by every Facebook fad that comes along.