I'm not sure English Lit classes are the place for a lot of this, though if there's nowhere else in the schedule for it then maybe. I certainly see the value in teaching children about different registers and such. But I can't tell from the article if that's the point of these standards - is the idea to teach the content of the non-fiction or the style? If the former, then in general it should be taught in the appropriate class, which I guess would usually be history.
In my school, though, this sort of part-historical, part-literary, part-sociological reading had its own dedicated class.
No one ever, ever, ever takes any topic out of Official Curriculums. They just get longer and longer and longer.
From the link:
But the chief architect of the Common Core Standards said educators are overreacting as the standards move from concept to classroom....
Yes, the standards do require increasing amounts of nonfiction from kindergarten through grade 12, Coleman said. But that refers to reading across all subjects, not just in English class, he said. Teachers in social studies, science and math should require more reading, which would allow English teachers to continue to assign literature, he said.
is the idea to teach the content of the non-fiction or the style? If the former, then in general it should be taught in the appropriate class, which I guess would usually be history.
Students need lots of practice extracting content from nonfiction. Which ought to occur in every class (except mine because I don't want any nanny state tellin' me whatcha teach).
Sheridan Blau, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, said teachers across the country have told him their principals are insisting that English teachers make 70 percent of their readings nonfiction. "The effect of the new standards is to drive literature out of the English classroom," he said.
Timothy Shanahan, who chairs the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said school administrators apparently have flunked reading comprehension when it comes to the standards.
"Schools are doing some goofy things -- principals or superintendents are not reading," Shanahan, who was among the experts who advised Coleman on the standards, said.
school administratorscertain bloggers apparently have flunked reading comprehension when it comes to the standards.
This has got to parallel the issues of Composition and Writing versus Literature, which is handled at Heebie U by having a separate program dedicated to Composition, and simultaneously encouraging instructors to assign papers in non-traditional-paper-writing classes. However Lit folks are underrepresented here so we'll never know.
simultaneously encouraging instructors to assign papers in non-traditional-paper-writing classes
Writing across the curriculum! I don't actually have anything informed to say about that. Though I have seen some literature professors give shitty, shitty advice about writing, so I'm inclined to think that professors in other disciplines at least wouldn't necessarily be worse.
The fact that this is even a question says pretty much everything anyone needs to know about why US education is in the crapper. Every single class ought to require students to extract information from nonfiction, by way of, you know, reading it. And, in some contexts (and some sources) guidance in how to do that successfully will be necessary.
I don't actually think US education is in the crapper.
Reading nonfiction probably does need to receive more classroom time than it currently does.
Isn't that what happens in every class other than literature?
Not every class. In Calc, I just started refusing to read the book as I never was able to get anything from it.
11: Except math. Math textbooks don't count as nonfiction, do they?
Oh Heebie, in other countries they don't use our pathetic "textbooks", they use primary sources!
It depends how skilled your students are at reading nonfiction. If they can handle it, you're more likely to assign it. If they can't, it's going to massively gum up your class unless you think of Reading For Content as part of your curricula and plan for it.
12: There are always going to be miscreants who refuse to do the reading, but they are part of the 47% we don't need to worry about.
There should have been a textbook with historical background because more people should know what Leibniz's hair looked like.
I did follow the link and read the article and the impression I got was that learning to write non-fiction and essays, to structure evidence and argument, will be of more practical use for students and thus they should be reading more essays and non-fiction. I think I agree.
Life on the Mississippi rather than Huck, Homage to Catalonia rather than AF.
Theroux. Mencken. Emerson. Cleaver. Goldman. Give me an hour I could come up with a curriculum. Fiction or poetry = unnecessary.
I am not quite sure of the use of Gatsby for anyone who does not wish to write fiction professionally.
Theroux. Mencken. Emerson. Cleaver. Goldman
Was that supposed to be Thoreau?
John Emerson not Ralph Waldo, I'm guessing?
17: That's how to get girls interested in math.
Teach them rhetoric, not poetry.
the speeches of Frederick Douglass, the autobiography of Malcolm X, just stuff from the mountain of recorded journalism
I might contend that the majority of great literature is non-fiction, and has somehow become slighted in education undergraduate and before
19:Good grief, my case is made
Paul. And yes, Ralph Waldo. Eldridge.
"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I was riding a train across Asia."
Surely everyone can agree that the #1 goal for education reform in this country should be to get every high school to read Jungle Lovers.
23: I knew who you meant, I was just trying to improve your list.
The devil is in the implementation -- and boy is the implementation awful, at least from what I've seen.
Actual instruction to teachers: You are not allowed to ask students any question that cannot be answered by looking at the text. Example: Cannot ask "What do you think?" about an issue related to slavery when teaching Gettysburg Address. Only ask questions whose answers can be found [more or less word for word] in the text.
Supplemented with a professional development session in which this technique was demonstrated by having the instructors ask a "question" about the assigned reading, which was "answered" by having a teacher recite the requested sentence from the reading.
25: Silly snarkout, that's fiction.
Fiction be damned, if our nation's third-graders aren't reading Jungle Lovers, the Chicoms are going to win. It's probably already too later.
As an English major, my experience is that the difference btw fiction and non-fiction is really reader-response, in that you read non-fiction with some sort of expectation of scare-quotes truth, whereas you read fiction knowing you're being taken for a ride.
That's all to say that all writing is either good or bad, and in Lit classes, good writing should be the focus, regardless of it's "truthiness".
Some of my best reading experiences came from the long-form journalism of Harper's and New Yorker pieces, where I first encountered an understanding of narrative that was far more global than restricting that concept to fiction.
also, that's pretty awful. Part of my frustration in undergrad classes was the introduction of texts like Beowulf, for example, with a strict focus on just the text. My position was always, and still is, if it has no contemporary relevance, burn it. And determining relevance in that sense is dependent on asking what seem like non-relevant questions.
27 really is awful. The skill I want students to learn is skepticism of what they read!
Beowulf has obvious contemporary relevance as it was recycled into a movie starring Antonio Banderas.
The skill I want students to learn is skepticism of what they read!
Comprehension of what they read isn't to be sneezed at, either.
The history of Beowulf is ridiculous. My idea in school was that as far as we really knew, it was something the culture that produced it threw away, as it was one of the only texts we have from it. Later, the only manuscript was nearly burned in a fire.
The universe has been trying to get rid of that for quite some time now, and we're still teaching it. A strange case of swine before pearls.
Comprehension of what they read isn't to be sneezed at, either
But then sounding out the words correctly is also an important skill.
Is the pseud reversal in 27 new? ttiW and ttaM work nicely together.
Now we just need a ttiM and ttaW.
30: Some of my best reading experiences came from the long-form journalism of Harper's and New Yorker pieces
In high school we read Encounters With The Archdruid by McPhee and our English teacher made us analyze it like it was fiction, e.g., making us think about theme, characters, plot. And our Social Studies teacher used it to discuss the environmental movement. Pretty good team teaching - in fact I can think of only one other class (senior year in college) where team teaching like that was as effective.
Example: Cannot ask "What do you think?" about an issue related to slavery when teaching Gettysburg Address.
Asking only questions that can be answered by quoting the text is bad, agreed. But trying to get students to express considered opinions by asking "What do you think?" is going to yield a bunch of unconsidered bullshit in a large percentage of cases, defended by "Well that's just my opinion!" Teaching students to express their own viewpoints in a way they can argue for, marshaling evidence from the text as well as perhaps from their own lives, experiences, or past readings, is fucking hard.
41: Oh, absolutely, you're completely right. I was just reaching for an example. (The Gettsyburg Address part was real; the sample question was from memory.)
There is something extremely wrong with a system that actively punishes people who attempt to facilitate the development of critical thinking skills.
Even if your example was made up, I've encountered questions like it often enough! Both when I was in HS and college, and then occasionally as a grad student, grading exams written by other people. So stupid to have an exam question that the student can't really get wrong. (Perhaps less stupid on language exams, where the prompt is often trying to give students the chance to write more freely in the target language, but still ill-considered.)
Of the very few English classes that I've observed as a colleague, it has been interesting to see the instructors try to shake the "What do you think" question out of the picture.
"No, not you. What does the author think?"
Student says "Well they're wrong because..."
"Yes but what evidence does the author give for their point?"
Student "Well when I was in XYZ situation it was like this..."
Etc. Most recently when I sat in on that discussion of mass incarceration of black people as a result of the war on drugs, and the students believed that the author was saying "HEY YOU 18 YEAR OLD KID! Why did you cause this racism that I just made up?"
31, 35: Care to elaborate on your beef with Beowulf? Is it Beowulf itself you don't like or the way it's taught? And if the former, what Old English works do you prefer?
I know you are kidding, but studying undergraduate philosophy, I don't think I was assigned a single text book. Primary sources [sometimes compiled into reading packs], for everything. Except logic, I suppose, where we used 'Lemmon'.
In translation? Or in the original? FWIW, when I studied Anglo-saxon lit [and early Middle stuff, too], we had a fair bit of contextual stuff, and jokey Saxon stuff worked in. It wasn't particularly dry.
Now we just need a ttiM and ttaW.
"amabO won the election because he gave gifts to the kcalbs, the weJs, the nemow, and the elppircs."
When I was in school, had to I read way too many goddamn Greek tragedies. They need to cut those right out of the curriculum.
I actually just went and read "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" for the first time -- always found Salinger off-putting, so I never went through the adolescent phase. It is an impressively off-putting story. But the site that provided the text also provided a stock set of discussion questions and points, which seem to provide zero insight into the story beyond making it seem terrible*. For purposes of this discussion here, you can substitute any of a hundred thousand other such resources for that one -- it was just ready to hand. I learned this sort of thing in high school too, and it kept me from being an English major, even up to the point at which expertise in English literature would have gotten me a job (long story) -- because it was obviously bull. But there is some story, right, about postwar pedagogy and the GI Bill and the New Criticism and teaching people to spot the symbol because it fosters autonomy in the students (i.e., students can make stuff up on papers) rather than making them rely on the teacher's historical lectures or deep reading in philology or such? Because it can be applied to any text, and teachers can easily be trained to do it?
I think there is some common denominator in teaching rhetoric & comp, reading comprehension, clear writing, history of English language, to any set of students. Everyone is going to need some of the same things. I don't think this common denominator really exists in teaching fiction. People want (and can get) notably different things from reading fiction, and in trying to universalize you reach a pretty useless mean.
But this isn't an especially considered opinion, and indeed, I rarely voice opinions about K-12 education because so many other people are so clearly more informed than I am. I've only taught literature to elite college students who elected to study it, and that
sucked enough was enough of a privilege that I can't imagine teaching tenth-grade English.
*I submit that the throwaway line about the tattoo saves it from being terrible.
48: Whoa! How many is too many?
Writing across the curriculum!
They were making a big deal out of that when I was an undergrad. I wanted to read fiction, though, so I avoided the history classes that count as reading composition credit.
But there is some story, right, about postwar pedagogy and the GI Bill and the New Criticism and teaching people to spot the symbol because it fosters autonomy in the students (i.e., students can make stuff up on papers) rather than making them rely on the teacher's historical lectures or deep reading in philology or such? Because it can be applied to any text, and teachers can easily be trained to do it?
That's the standard story, although it's more about the tool of close reading than the New Criticism per se. (I read something interesting once semi-persuasively arguing that the New Criticism had a great deal to do with the need of English departments to demonstrate a reason that they should exist.)
Following on 51: As an undergrad, I'm pretty sure my history survey classes generally had more reading* than the lit courses at the equivalent level (aimed at freshman/sophomores, not upper division, so they were the equivalent "level"). But there was way more writing and focus on writing, how to make arguments, etc. in the lit courses. I think the only course I took that spent more time on how to provide evidence for arguments was - not surprisingly - a philosophy course, but that course didn't say much about good writing, per se.
*Also, very little in the way of textbooks. I only remember one textbooky-textbook. There were some for-the-general-reader books that were the main text for a course, but they weren't written to be textbooks.