Archive for the ‘Washington Post’ Tag

Dr. Thompson, Dr. Glass: Exposing the Underbelly of Psychometric Testing   4 comments

gene glass

 

Dr. Gene V. Glass, the award-winning psychometrician who invented the term meta-analysis, made recent news when he announced that he is no longer comfortable in his field.  In a Washington Post column, Dr. Glass summarized the failure of psychometrics (educational measurement using big data) to give accurate information: “Both talent and tasks were too complex to yield to this simple plan.”

This failure of psychometrics to win “the wars on poverty and ignorance” do not stop psychometric testing companies from lobbying politicians to alter American education for financial gain, he said.  Glass writes: “test company lobbyists convince politicians that grading teachers and schools is as easy as grading cuts of meat. A huge publishing company from the United Kingdom has spent $8 million in the past decade lobbying Congress.”

Glass laments the false belief of politicians who are convinced by articulate, monied lobbyists to buy, and then act on, the idea “that testing must be the cornerstone of any education policy”.

The results? “Parents see the stress placed on their children and report them sick on test day. Educators, under pressure they see as illegitimate, break the rules imposed on them by governments. Many teachers put their best judgment and best lessons aside… And too many of the best teachers exit the profession.”  A result Glass did not mention, but which is also notable, is that some politicians are beginning to be swayed by the idea of stealth testing.

The resignation from the field of psychometrics by Dr. Glass came to my attention because of Utah-based child psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson, who published the article with the following warning directed at Utahns who are complicit  in the use of Utah’s nonconsensual student data mining web.

 

A Warning To Educational Data Worshipers:

We can’t paint a meta data picture of creations we still know so little of. The arrogance of the “career and college ready crowd” along these lines, is astounding to me both as a father, and as a doctoral level local clinical community scientist.

Apparently the scientist, who I studied in graduate school…and who pioneered the process of mass educational meta data analysis, feels the same way that I do.

Mankind (e.g., “Bill Gates, Secretary Duncan, AIR, USOE, or Superintendent Smith, etc) will never create a form of data analysis more accurate and informative than what can be garnered from the combination of a mother, a well trained local teacher and principal, and valid, personalized, private, assessment tools interpreted by a professional, with one, and only one motive in mind:

To lift the academic, emotional, and spiritual foundation of a child for the sake of the joy of enrichment.

Assessments, as well as the associated meta-data generated by our current Common Core-based educational system, will never be able to be used as a valid measure of teachers, schools, or as a tool to achieve the mythical political term of “career & college ready”….or to support the political desires of our current Governor and Utah’s Chamber of Commerce.

Parents are, and must always be the resident experts of their own children.

The testing/data pseudo-science spewing from the lips of the educational/political bureaucracy, can’t change this very law of nature and the universe.

Be wise Utah.

tocqueville

——————————————————————————————————–

Thank you, Dr. Gary Thompson and Dr. Gene Glass.

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Testing Resistance Movement Grows Nationwide   2 comments

Go to http://www.resistthetest.org to share upcoming events with allies across the nation. Note, also, that some politicians are beginning to change policies in response to constituent pressure.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/15/testing-resistance-movement-exploding-around-country/

The Gathering Resistance to Standardized Testing
http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/28_03/edit2283.shtml

The Long and Narrow Rut of Standardized Testing
http://www.alternet.org/education/long-and-narrow-rut-standardized-testing

Testing Season Reveals Big Media Coverage Failures
http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/test-season-reveals-americas-biggest-failures/

Is Common Core Testing Really Working?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mercedes-schneider/parcc-tests_b_5144271.html

Why an LA Times Editorial Writer’s Daughter Is Opting Out of California Standardized Exams
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-common-core-test-optout-20140408,0,4198942.story#axzz2yK5GZst9
Bullets Fly But the California Tests Must Go On
http://edsource.org/2014/bullets-fly-but-the-test-must-go-on/60663#.U0aCW_ldXnc
Hundreds of Technical Problems Plague California Computerized Tests
http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2014/04/09/16333/as-california-standardized-testing-gains-steam-hel/

Colorado Teacher Resigns Due to Testing Obsession
http://gazette.com/colorado-springs-teacher-goes-public-with-reasons-for-resignation/article/1517971
Rush to Administer Computerized Assessments Tests Colorado Schools
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/04/11/computer-based-assessments-testing-the-wherewithal-of-colorado-schools/

Wilton Connecticut Teachers Learn How to Develop Quality Performance Assessments
http://www.wiltonbulletin.com/15714/wilton-teachers-learn-to-develop-quality-assessments/
Listen to Youth About Problems of Standardized Testing
http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-still-more-standardized-testing-listen-to-the-youth/

Two Decades of Testing Leave Delaware With a Legacy of Failure
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/04/09/put-end-harmful-high-stakes-student-testing/7515559/

Florida 8-Year Old Talks About Test-Prep Driven Schooling
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/09/an-8-year-old-talks-about-test-prep/
Resistance to Final Administration of Florida Test
http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2014/04/15/fcat-resistance-final/7724863/
Florida State Senate Unanimously Supports “Time Out” From Test-Based Accountability
http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/fla-senate-backs-timeout-on-school-grades_15168348

Georgia High-Stakes Testing Reaches a Low Point
http://onlineathens.com/opinion/2014-04-12/blackmon-high-stakes-testing-low-point

Indiana Officials Weigh Testing Cutback
http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20140412/LOCAL06/304129958/1002/local

Massachusetts Schools Concerned About Cost of Online Testing
http://www.commonwealthmagazine.org/News-and-Features/Inquiries/2014/Spring/002-Can-Bay-State-schools-afford-online-standardized-testing.aspx#.U0Q8afldXnd
Don’t Let Your Kids Be Pushed Around by Mass. State Test
http://www.gazettenet.com/home/11516379-95/amy-pybus-dont-let-your-kids-be-pushed-around-by-the-mcas-test-consider

Why Middle Class Minnesota Families Are Opting OUt
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/blog/sarahlahm/i-am-middle-class-my-kids-test-well-and-i-opt-out

Nebraska Parent Explains State Test Opt Out Procedure
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/08/parent-in-nebraska-we-love-our-school-and-state-but-we-love-our-children-more/

“We Refuse” — Parents Explain Successful Campaign: 80% of Students Did Not Test at Their School
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/11/we-refuse/
Principals Lead Protests at Three Dozen NYC Schools
http://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/dozens-of-nyc-schools-protest-state-english-tests-1.7679418
Upstate Parents Join Opt-Out Movement
http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2014/04/10/rockland-parents-join-opt-out-movement-to-protest-common-core-aligned-exams/
We Need to Talk About the Test: Time for Transparency
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/opinion/the-problem-with-the-common-core.html
NYC Chancellor Says Test Scores Will No Longer Be Major Factor in Student Promotion
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304512504579491660423740176

First Ohio Students Begin to Skip Tests
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/04/13/a-few-kids-openly-skip-state-testing.html

Statewide Testing Raises Stress Levels in Oklahoma Schools
http://www.krmg.com/news/news/local/testing-begins-oklahoma/nfXSK/

Testing Becomes Major Issue in Pennsylvania Governors Race
http://wesa.fm/post/education-focus-pa-governor-debate
More Pennsylvania Families Opt Out From Standardized Tests
http://www.eveningsun.com/local/ci_25558876/more-parents-are-taking-their-children-out-standardized

Tennessee House Unanimously Sends Governor Bill to Bar “Value-Added” Evaluation of Teachers
http://timesfreepress.com/news/2014/apr/08/bill-doesnt-tie-test-scores-teacher-licensing-goes/

Fewer Tests More Learning in Virginia
http://hamptonroads.com/2014/04/fewer-tests-more-learning

Washington State Teachers Union Backs Parents Holding Children Out of Testing
http://kuow.org/post/washington-teachers-union-supports-families-opting-out-state-testing

Will Wisconsin Students Join Opt-Out Movement
http://www.wkow.com/story/25206609/2014/04/09/wisconsin-schools-ready-for-common-core-testing-next-year-as-students-in-other-states-opt-out

Utah Teacher Fired for Standing Up to High Stakes Overtesting

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/teacher-fired-for-letting-students-know-they-can-opt-out/

Utah SAGE test opt outs discussion at Salt Lake Tribune’s Trib Talk:

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/trib-talk-uaccs-christel-swasey-vs-usoes-judy-park-on-sage-tests/

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THANKS TO BOB SCHAEFFER OF COLORADO FOR PROVIDING MOST OF THESE LINKS.

Michigan, Florida to Stop Common Core   1 comment

By defunding or in other ways pausing/stopping Common Core, legislators in a growing number of states aim to take back local control of education, redirecting the state’s educational focus and funds toward more legitimate educational endeavors that do not include the full Common Core agenda.

A guest post at The Washington Post, on Valerie Strauss’ blog, (the post by Michael McShane) shows how easily Michigan is stopping Common Core. McShane writes:

“Michigan state senator Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) doesn’t like the Common Core.

It is, according to [Sen. McMillin], “An obvious overreach by the federal government into our classrooms.” He believes that “The federal government should not dictate what is taught in every classroom in the nation, especially in Michigan.”

Agree with him or not, he has a perspective that is shared by numerous legislators in states all across the country, from Kansas to Louisiana to Indiana to Georgia to Pennsylvania which is causing headaches for Common Core advocates.

To try and stop the Common Core, McMillin introduced, along with several other senators, HB 4276, which specifically states that “The state board model core academic curriculum content standards shall not be based upon the Common Core Standards.”

Now, trying to pass a bill to openly thwart the Common Core — which, it should be stated, Republican Governor Tom Snyder supports — is probably a bridge too far. To date, it appears that the bill, like several others throughout the nation, has stalled in the Senate Education Committee.

So what is a Senator like McMillin to do? Well, all he needs to do to stop the Common Core is make sure that it doesn’t get funded… House Republicans were able to use the 11th hour conference committee that gets the state budget passed to slip in a provision that prohibited the Michigan Department of Education from funding Common Core implementation. Before folks knew what hit them, the budget was approved, and the die was cast.

In doing so, he knowingly or not created a playbook for Common Core opponents in state houses nationwide. Trying to openly oppose the Common Core by amending state code is extremely difficult. Cutting the legs out from under it in the budget does not appear to be…”

——–
Read the full Michigan defunding Common Core article by Michael McShane at the Washington Post here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/05/is-it-really-this-easy-to-block-the-common-core/
——–

Democrats against Common Core seem mostly to oppose the privatization of public education (Bill Gates-Pearson style) and Republicans against Common Core seem mostly to oppose Common Core’s socialist-styled centralization of power.

But for a growing number of Americans, Independence Day will be redefined when Common Core goes away.

Look around.

Indiana has passed a Common-Core-on-time-out bill, rather than a defunding bill. Kansas, Michigan, Georgia, Iowa, Florida* and other states are moving, each in slightly different ways, to throw off the chains.

The voices are growing.

——

*Watch Florida lawmakers questioning Common Core at a recently filmed hearing here:

National Pushback on Common Core in the News   1 comment

 

National News Roundup for Common Core Pushback:

 

LA Times: Schools’ effort to shift to Common Core faces a difficult test

Washington Post/Strauss blog: Common Core — Assessing the real level of support

Fox News/Megyn Kelly: Concern over new ‘common core’ standards in education

Fox News: Conservatives crying foul over new education standards (Joel Klein — defends Common Core)

Christian Post:Tea Party, Conservatives Protest Common Core as Federal Overreach, Threat to Homeschoolers http://www.christianpost.com/news/tea-party-conservatives-protest-common-core-as-federal-overreach-threat-to-homeschoolers-97086/#x8CLqCca1KMkcVku.99

MA: Getting at the Core — Parents should take hard look at new standards

MA: Battle Lines Drawn Over Common Core Standards

NH/NPR: The Common Core State Standards: Not Yet In Place, Already Controversial

WI: Opposition to Common Core standards defies political lines

WI: Budget Committee ‘Hits Pause Button’ On Common Core Standards

WI: Common Core on hold while lawmakers take a look

WI: Common Core Opponents Pleased With Budget Committee Decision

MI: Common Core Debate Ongoing –State standards face a funding challenge in Lansing.

MI: Michigan Common Core Standards Under Debate

MI: Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush warn Michigan legislators against abandoning Common Core standards

MI: Controversial K-12 standards face opposition

UT: GOP rejection of Common Core a ‘rallying point’

77c0a37bd09d.html

UT: Tea party behind opposition to Common Core school reforms

UT:Common Core solutions

“Our math standards prior to adopting Common Core were actually more highly rated than Common Core, and they were created here in Utah. Why did we leave them if they were better standards? Because the federal government offered states a chance at $4.35 billion if they would agree to sign on …

OH: Common Core’s claims are false

KS: Kan. Senate OKs bill stalling school standards

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/05/31/2827036/kan-senate-panel-approves-bill.html#storylink=cpy

KS: Education officials defend Common Core standards

KS: Senate votes to block new education standards

KS: House narrowly defeats late Common Core challenge

KY: Common Core Standards won’t fix problems

“Despite the good intentions, support for the standards has eroded dramatically, and several states are reconsidering their commitment to them. One reason for the backlash is the intrusion of the federal government into the process.”

NY: Is Common Core Politicizing School Elections?

NV/Las Vegas Sun: Some states push back on common core standards http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/jun/01/us-common-core-standards-pushback-glance/#ixzz2V9EFzAeQ

NH: Common Core Comes To New Hampshire

GA:Panelists answer questions about Common Core at Tea Party forum RN-T.com – Panelists answer questions about Common Core at Tea Party forum

GA: ‘Common Core’ opposed in Senoia

GA: Profit motive behind Common Core Standards

CA: Common Core meeting scheduled

CA: Classroom no place for central planning — Common Core not right path for raising performance of American students.

DL: Cape area residents take aim at Common CoreMinard: Board should withdraw from national initiative

AL: Technological hurdles remain to new Common Core assessments

AL: Common Core standards survive the Legislature — this time

MN: Some states push back against new school standards

IN: Common Core debate is far from over in Indiana

U.S. Education Overhaul Fires up Emboldened Tea Party

WA: Common Core Standards – the other side of the story

TN: New Common Core standards raise questions

OR: Hillsboro School Board adopts math books but raises questions about Common Core Standards

CT: The common core juggernaut

Common Core News Roundup: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, Fox News, Manchester Union Leader, Washington Examiner, Indiana Star, Arizona Journal, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, Cincinnati News and more   13 comments

Thanks to Jamie Gass for this compilation of news outlets that are covering the national Common Core controversy.

“The Common Core is in trouble,” said Randi Weingarten, the AFT union president,  “There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/turmoil-swirling-around-common-core-education-standards/2013/04/29/7e2b0ec4-b0fd-11e2-bbf2-a6f9e9d79e19_story.html

The Wall Street Journal: New School Standards Spur a Backlash

http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-223674/

The Hill: GOP — White House taking over state education policy

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/297219-gop-says-obama-administration-taking-over-education-policy-with-no-input-from-congress

Washington Post: Turmoil swirling around Common Core education standards

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/turmoil-swirling-around-common-core-education-standards/2013/04/29/7e2b0ec4-b0fd-11e2-bbf2-a6f9e9d79e19_story.html

Washington Times: Common Core school standards hit another roadblock, this time in Indiana

http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/apr/29/common-core-school-standards-hit-another-roadblock/

Washington Times: Indiana legislature latest to halt application of Common Core school standards

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/apr/29/resistance-to-the-nationwide-k-12-school-standards/

Michigan: Michigan House Blocks Common Core Implementation

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/04/25/michigan-house-blocks-common-core-implementation

Michigan: Michigan Pulling Away from Common Core

http://blog.heritage.org/2013/04/26/michigan-pulling-away-from-common-core/

Atlanta: Are we rushing Common Core without field testing it?

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/apr/30/are-we-rushing-common-core-without-field-testing-i/

New York Daily News: Teachers union chief Randi Weingarten has it correct on Common Core

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/randi-wrong-article-1.1331669

Washington Post: AFT’s Weingarten urges moratorium on high stakes linked to Common Core tests

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/30/afts-weingarten-urges-moratorium-on-high-stakes-linked-to-new-standardized-tests/

Washington Examiner: AFT’s Randi Weingarten calls for time out on Common Core testing

http://washingtonexaminer.com/afts-randi-weingarten-calls-for-time-out-on-common-core-testing/article/2528627

Fox News/NY: Common Core standards facing criticism

http://www.myfoxny.com/story/22124434/common-core-standards-facing-criticism

NJ: Concern Expressed Over Common Core System and Privacy Issues

http://thealternativepress.com/articles/concern-expressed-over-common-core-system-and-pri

Indy Star: Hoosiers are right to be wary about Common Core

http://www.indystar.com/article/20130430/OPINION03/304300036/Hoosiers-right-wary-about-Common-Core

Mississippi: Beware of the Common Core State Standards

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130501/OPINION/305010158/Beware-Common-Core-State-Standards

OH: Teachers Union Worried About Common Core Tests

http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2013/05/01/ohio-teachers-union-worried-about-common-core-tests/

OH: Growing criticism of Common Core

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130429/NEWS/304290016/Growing-criticism-Common-Core

NH: Common core education talk draws opponents in Manchester

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130501/NEWS04/130509962/0/FRONTPAGE

TN: Common Core pushback in TN

http://www.examiner.com/article/current-common-core-standards-to-change

TN: New common core standards raise questions in Tenn.

http://www.theleafchronicle.com/viewart/20130501/NEWS01/305010030/New-common-core-standards-raise-questions-Tenn-

TN: New Common Core Standards Raise Questions

http://www.newschannel5.com/story/22131452/new-common-core-standards-raise-questions

TN: Critics speak out about new Common Core standards

http://www.wkrn.com/story/22124884/critics-speak-out-about-new-common-core-standards

Huff Post: Common Core Stakes Moratorium Proposed By Unions As National Standards Face Backlash

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/common-core-moratorium-teacher-evaluations_n_3187419.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

AZ: Common Core draws praise, pejoratives

http://www.azjournal.com/2013/05/01/common-core-standards-draw-praise-pejoratives/

PA: Opponents say Common Core oversimplifies education, lessens local control

http://articles.dailyamerican.com/2013-04-30/news/38938363_1_common-core-state-standards-early-childhood-education-school-board-member

FL: Who Supports, Opposes The Common Core?

http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2013/05/01/who-supports-opposes-the-common-core/

Christian Post: Eight US Senators Join Fight Against Common Core

http://www.christianpost.com/news/eight-senators-join-fight-against-common-core-94876/

WY: The dangers of ‘Common Core’

http://trib.com/opinion/letters/the-dangers-of-common-core/article_0a192301-8dc4-5b70-8177-206c5bc8f020.html

Teachers Speak Out, Some Resign Over Common Core   7 comments

Photo: Is this true for you?

Jeremiah ChaffeeGerald ContiKris NielsenStephen RoundPaul Horton. Susan WilcoxAnonymous Utah Teachers.  Anonymous California Teacher. Paul BogushDavid Cox.  Chasidy White.  Pat Austin. Stephanie Sawyer. Renee Braddy. Warriors. Heroes. Freedom Fighters. Teachers.

Common Core is a tragedy.  Wake up, America.  Listen to these teachers.

Some teach now; some have retired over Common Core.  Each has spoken out and each needs to be heard. Today I want to highlight Gerald Conti, whose resignation letter was just published in the Washington Post.

It’s heartbreaking.

Gerald Conti’s Letter:

“Data driven education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core…

Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill…

…The New York State United Teachers union has let down its membership by failing to mount a much more effective and vigorous campaign against this same costly and dangerous debacle…  our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students …

This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale.

The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair. Why should it be acceptable in our careers and in the education of our children?

… My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.

Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study. We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven…

I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists. I feel as though I have played some game halfway through its fourth quarter, a timeout has been called, my teammates’ hands have all been tied, the goal posts moved, all previously scored points and honors expunged and all of the rules altered.

Read the rest.

Hilarious Washington Post Article on the Stupidity of Deleting Classic Literature   2 comments

The Washington Post has a hilarious article about the stupidity of deleting so much classic literature in high school English classes while calling Common Core education an increase in rigor.  Love it.  Reposting.

——————————————————————-

The Common Core’s 70 percent nonfiction standards and the end of reading?

By Alexandra Petri

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2012/12/07/the-common-cores-70-percent-nonfiction-standards-and-the-end-of-reading/#comments

Forget “The Great Gatsby.”

New Common Core standards (which impact 46 out of 50 states) will require that, by graduation in 2014, 70 percent of books studied be nonfiction. Some suggested texts include “FedViews” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the EPA’s “Recommended Levels of Insulation,” and “Invasive Plant Inventory” by California’s Invasive Plant Council.

Forget “Catcher in the Rye” (seems to encourage assassins), “The Great Gatsby” (too 1 percenty), “Huckleberry Finn” (anything written before 1970 must be racist) and “To Kill A Mockingbird” (probably a Suzanne Collins rip-off). Bring out the woodchipping manuals!

 

I like reading. I love reading. I always have. I read recreationally still. I read on buses, in planes, while crossing streets. My entire apartment is covered in books. And now, through some strange concatenation of circumstances, I write for a living.

And it’s all because, as a child, my parents took the time to read me “Recommended Levels of Insulation.”

Oh, “Recommended Levels of Insulation.” That was always my favorite, although “Invasive Plant Inventory” was a close second. (What phrases in literature or life will ever top the rich resonance of that opening line? “The Inventory categorizes plants as High, Moderate, or Limited, reflecting the level of each species’ negative ecological impact in California. Other factors, such as economic impact or difficulty of management, are not included in this assessment.” And we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past has nothing on it!)

“It is important to note that even Limited species are invasive and should be of concern to land managers,” I frequently tell myself, in moments of crisis. “Although the impact of each plant varies regionally, its rating represents cumulative impacts statewide.” How true that is, even today. Those words have brought me through moments of joy and moments of sorrow. They are graven on my heart. I bound them as a seal on my hand.

My dog-eared, beaten copy of “Recommended Levels of Insulation” still sits on my desk. I even got it autographed. Their delay in making a movie of this classic astounds me. That was where I first learned the magic of literature.

“Insulation level are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it.” What authority in that sentence!

And then came the table of insulation values. I shudder every time that table appears. It is one of the great villains in the history of the English language. Uriah Heep and Captain Ahab have absolutely nothing on it. In fact, I do not know who these people are. I have never read about them.

“Wall Insulation: Whenever exterior siding is removed on an

Uninsulated wood-frame wall:

·           Drill holes in the sheathing and blow insulation into the empty wall cavity before installing the new siding, and

·           Zones 3–4: Add R5 insulative wall sheathing beneath the new siding

·           Zones 5–8: Add R5 to R6 insulative wall sheathing beneath the new siding”

I remember curling up with that and reading it over and over again. It was this that drove me to pursue writing as a career — the hope one day of crafting a sentence that sang the way “Drill holes in the sheathing and blow insulation into the empty wall cavity before installing the new siding and” sings.

But I doubt I will ever achieve this lambent perfection.

Look, I was an English major, so I may be biased.

People often, feelingly, write about a vague namby-pamby thing called the Magic of Literature. By the time you stagger out of one of these essays you wish that they had not been read to as children.

But I am not saying this as an advocate of the vague namby-pamby magic. I truly believe that everything you need is already there, in the greatest works of literature. If you want to fight your way through a thorny sentence, look no further than Shakespeare. If you are having trouble figuring out what equipment is necessary for the task you are about to perform, look no further than the Iliad, where Achilles has a similar problem.

Life is full enough of instruction manuals.

The best way to understand what words can do is to see them in their natural habitat, not constrained into the dull straitjackets of legalese and regulationish and manualect. It’s like saying the proper way of encountering puppies is in puppy mills. Words in regulations and manuals are words mangled and tortured and bent into unnatural positions, and the later you have to discover such cruelty, the better.

The people behind the core have sought to defend it, saying that this was not meant to supplant literature. This increased emphasis on nonfiction would not be a concern if the core worked the way it was supposed to, with teachers in other disciplines like math and science assigning the hard technical texts that went along with their subjects. But teachers worry that this will not happen. Principals seem to be having trouble comprehending the requirement themselves. Besides, the other teachers are too busy, well, teaching their subjects to inflict technical manuals on their students too, and  they may expect the English department to pick up the slack. And hence the great Purge of Literature.

These are good intentions, but it will be vital to make sure the execution is as good, or we will head down the road usually paved with good intentions. There, in the ninth circle, students who would otherwise have been tearing through Milton and Shakespeare with great excitement are forced to come home lugging manuals of Exotic Plants.

All in all, this is a great way to make the kids who like reading hate reading.

That’s certainly one way of addressing the reading gap.

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Great article.  Thank you, Alexandra Petri.

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