TribTalk: Is Classical Literature Diminished by Common Core, or Not?   14 comments

I watched this video, where the Salt Lake Tribune reporter asked Utah School Board Chair Debra Roberts whether Common Core took away classic literature –see minute 15:40.

Roberts laughed, said that she was an English major and would never support standards that were not strongly supportive of classic literature—  and then, without answering, took the conversation in the direction of how important informational texts are.

The fact is, informational texts used to be taught where they OUGHT to be taught– in science classes, history classes, and other classes.  But they are being force fed in all English classes now.

Certainly, some classic literature is still permitted in Utah schools under Common Core.  But it has been dramatically reduced, especially at the high school level.  Roberts would not admit this. WHY?

Debra Roberts’ signature (together with our former governor’s signature) put Utah’s former educational liberty under the thumb of the Common Core agenda.  She’s been on the Common Core adoption team longer than our current governor.  She cannot be ignorant of the truth.

She knows that Common Core emphasizes informational text and takes away classic literature.  She knows that in elementary school, students may read 50% classic stories and 50% informational text; and she knows that the percentage of informational text MUST increase while the percentage of classic literature must decrease, so that when a student is a high school senior, he/she must have 70% of his/her English class reading be informational, while 30% max may be classic literature.

She and others on the state school board continue to call those of us who call for the whole truth, “misinformed” and “erroneous.”

I requested an explanation of what exactly seemed “erroneous,” in the school board’s view, in the GOP resolution that Utah’s State Delegates voted to support last week.

I have not heard back from them.

I have also requested face to face meetings with board members and have been denied a meeting.   Here I am, a credentialed Utah teacher, denied a meeting to discuss my concerns about Utah’s new Core Curriculum.  Does that seem good?

I am willing to be proven wrong.   One person could be wrong.

But I don’t think it’s fair to call all 6,000 petition signers at Utahns Against Common Core, plus the 1500— 2,000 state delegates who voted against common core at the resolution vote,  plus the entire Republican National Committee, plus Sutherland Institute, Heritage Institute, Pioneer Institute, Cato Institute, Senator Mike Lee, Jason Chaffetz, and Rob Bishop, all “misinformed.”  –Especially not in the same week that the chair of the board misinforms reporters about Common Core.

14 responses to “TribTalk: Is Classical Literature Diminished by Common Core, or Not?

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  1. Debra Roberts may have been an English major, but if I understood her correctly at the recent meeting of the Education Committee of the Utah legislature (May 15), she does not come from an “education background” and speaks of herself as a “lay person”. At that same committee meeting she twice deflected straightforward questions by first declaring them “based on a false premise” then not giving answers, just as you describe above. I wrote and emailed a polite letter to Dr. Menlove expressing my high regard for him at the recent ASD meeting and my concerns about Common Core about 2 weeks ago and have never even gotten an acknowledgement. He’s either deluged with mail, too busy to reply, not reading and replying to his own mail, or maybe just doesn’t feel the letter needs a reply. I’m disappointed in the “circle-the-wagons” approach the Utah State School Board is taking with Common Core.

  2. It’s ironic that Debra Roberts and I hold the same English degrees from the same university. We see things so differently.

  3. common core and Arne Duncan are under seige. It is not at all surprising that they will not return calls and can only speak talking points and accusations. with the OBAMA Whitehouse ( and his former appointee Rahm Emmanuel in Chi town) under seige for their deception and blunders, the IRS attacks on conservative groups and individuals and their wiretapping or computer email stealing, Benghazi and more, Valerie Jarrett and Arne Duncan are pulling out all the stops. the fact that they cannot answer you or will not answer anyone is because they cannot. It is all a big scam, a coup. the jig is up and it seems it is just a matter of sustained fighting on a lot of fronts by an up to speed informed citizenry. you are a big help. they are using all the alinsky tricks and we need to call them out like you are doing. keep it up! booya!

  4. You guys have inspired me to write down my own experiences….here’s my blog post about it:

  5. Please, may I share this? Our town is currently implementing common core and we are getting articles written by educators which give no information, and in fact deny any federal involvement. I would like to post a link to your video. Thanks!

  6. Christel:

    I just want to make sure this statement is accurate. In your post above, you say:
    “when a student is a high school senior, he/she must have 70% of his/her English class reading be informational, while 30% max may be classic literature.”
    But on page 5 of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards, I read:
    “The percentages on the table reflect the sum of student reading, not just reading in ELA
    settings. Teachers of senior English classes, for example, are not required to devote 70
    percent of reading to informational texts. Rather, 70 percent of student reading across the
    grade should be informational.”
    So the English class reading is not set at 70% informational, right?

    • Kraig, the standards are called ELA– English Language Arts. While it is a nice idea to think that P.E. teachers, math teachers, and science teachers will be requiring students to write essays and to read books, it is unrealistic. It will fall to the English teachers, as will the blame (or praise) when the ELA student test scores on the common core tests come back. As more and more regulations and federal accountability measures fall upon teachers, the pressure to teach to the test will increase. What teacher in her right mind, knowing of that pressure, would teach classic literature to his/her heart’s desire, when the ELA tests focus dramatically on informational text only? I simply do not believe the line that all teachers across all subjects will share the duty of teaching both informational and classical literature. Do you? If so, that would be a huge transition for all teachers and that new responsibility to teach ELA in all subjects would be a current focus of the common core teacher trainings. From my teacher friends’ reports, it is not.

      • Kraig is correct! Christel, while I respect your skepticism and inquiry, your original post is misleading on several points, all of which are cleared up in Kraig’s post. And just because something is not currently being widely practiced, doesn’t mean it is not the RIGHT thing to be practiced! It’s IMPERATIVE that all teachers are TEACHERS of content literacy. In this country, most of us perform our functions within the framework of the English Language. However, the use of the English Language takes on different nuances, conventions, and complexities in different content areas. As a chemistry and physics teacher, I saw some of the most valuable learning experiences happen when I had my students reading and writing about topics in chemistry and physics – not just from their texts but in the world around them: newspaper articles, trade magazines, etc. The content became RELEVANT to them. These literacy standards also include speaking and listening. I had my students give presentations on concepts they had learned, not only so they could demonstrate they had learned something well enough to explain it, but also to help them practice communicating in language that is specific to a certain discipline because that’s how professionals communicate in the “real world.” Forgive me, but what it sounds like you are suggesting is that we default to the “lowest common denominator” of the teaching profession – a practice which I have heard many CCSS proponents argue (wrongly) that common core does with students. You’re right in saying that it will be a huge transition for teachers but not ALL – some of us have been there all along because we care deeply about the lifelong learning of our students and have found it’s the BEST way to teach! Fortunately, in my neck of the woods in Missouri, literacy for content teachers really IS a big focus for CCSS teacher training.

        In regard to percentages, these are not a scientifically measurable quantities – therefore it would be impossible to mandate as you suggest. These are framework guidelines meant to encourage intentionality and accountability.

        I am a former engineer, a former home school mom, a math & science teacher, an educational consultant, a grad student, someone who has read the CCSS in their entirety, and a staunch conservative – just heading off some typical assumptions.

  7. Oops, Kraig. You introduced a “fact.” So, that it won’t be lonely on this site, let me add a couple more. Common core does not specify what literature students have to read–that decision is left to local control. However, it does provide examples of the kinds of texts that should be used: texts by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Shakespeare, Homer, Ovid, and the list goes on and on.

    Oh, and that “terrible” informational text that Common Core recommends includes the U.S. Constitution, Gettysburg Address, Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Second Virginia Convention, Euclid’s Elements, Ronald Reagan’s Address to Students at Moscow University, and many other texts that have been not so common in U.S. schools for a long time.

    • Tim, the list of titles that you share is all part of the 30%. That’s the whole point. Why support the mandating of percentages? Why support centralization of educational decision making in D.C.? Wby support any system that lacks a local voice and that lacks an amendment process? Whoever approved that list can also alter it at any time without our vote on it. What feels good about that to you?

    • Great list of authors. It’s sad that my child’s teacher will only have a minimum amount of time to teach from such wonderful literature. There is no way they could cover all of that in 30% of the year.

      I think the list of informational texts is great also, but shouldn’t those be taught in the class that teaches to that subject? Say history, or math, where the teacher’s line of expertise is more suited to the text?

      The arguments laid out by tim and Mr. Powell are just smoke and mirrors. There is a real problem here. Ignoring it or mocking those who have concerns because they have really studied the issue, (rather than just taking someone else’s word for it,) simply slows down the effort to fix the problem.

  8. What teacher in their right mind is going to teach all the great literature when his/her job depends on his/her students passing the test? “Do you want the same government that has given us Eric Holder, Benghazi, [the] IRS enemies list, Fast and Furious, ObamaCare — do you want that government to take control of what your precious child is going to learn in school?” As a parent there is no way for me to change things locally, I have asked, and I have tried to have my voice heard, but teachers won’t talk about it other than to say its not up to them, they are being held hostage by the very same system my child is, the only difference is my child will be the one that loses all those precious years where he/she could have been learning things that I and other parents in my area find of value and of substance.

  9. Debra talks about misinformation. The informational texts will be full of erroneous information:

    The Common Core next expands into science standards, which 26 states have committed to helping develop and implement. The draft standards integrate global warming and other overplayed worries about human impacts on the planet, starting in kindergarten.

    This early-grade tendentiousness will create a foundation for ideas that build on long links of suppositions: catastrophic, man-made global warming; the evils of fossil fuels (“explain differences between renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy” in fourth grade) and the need for the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies to strangle human liberties in order to “save the planet.”

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