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Letter to the editor: Common Core does not exclude classics

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 12:01 am

I realize that recently you published a guest column from me regarding the same general topic. The opponents of the Common Core attack on many fronts. The content of this letter is entirely different than that of the guest column.

One of the most frequent misconceptions about the Common Core is that by emphasizing informational readings it somehow will restrict the amount of classical fiction to which our children are exposed and in the process rob them of both creativity and critical thinking. This charge is unfounded.

Common Core will do little to diminish the use of classical fiction in English classrooms.

The standards call for English teachers to build a foundation for college and career readiness by getting students to read challenging literary and informational texts.

The Common Core does push for a significant increase in the use of informational texts beginning in sixth grade but says that teachers of other subjects play a role in that process.

“Literacy standards for grade 6 and above are predicated on teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science and technical subjects, using their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading … in their respective fields.”

Content area teachers have most of the responsibility for dealing with informational text. This division retains the time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills.

Practice with these “informational” texts is necessary in preparing students for the difficulty of typical college reading levels (and workforce training programs as well) which are far beyond the complexity of high school textbooks. About one-third of college students must pay for remedial noncredit courses in post secondary institutions before they can move to a traditional curriculum. Beyond school, these skills are even more essential.

Such readings are necessary because well paying 21st century jobs require greater informational and technical reading ability. Such readings are necessary because the reading level of many internet websites require it.

Such readings are necessary for American citizens to be able to comprehend newspaper articles dealing with the current health care law and other important political issues. A competent reader will have become well-rounded by discovering and deciphering Euclid, Jefferson and Einstein as well as Hemingway, Shakespeare and Homer.

Stephen Gabet