1984 is Here

According to this article,  new education ‘guidelines’ require teachers to pull more than half of the reading assignments for high school from… what? Dickens? Austen? No, of course not.  Not even Bradbury, Tolkien, Rowling, or a Stephen King.  The new Common Curriculum requires that high school students read- for literature- ‘informational texts.’

Literacy experts point out that The Common Core denigrates the value of teaching literature in the classroom. Instead, English teachers are being told that 50 percent of their course material must be derived from “informational texts.” (Actually, the informational text requirement starts at a “mere” 25 percent of reading material for kindergarteners. It rises to 70 percent for high school seniors.)

What, exactly, meets the definition of informational texts? Among those recommended on the national standards list we find The Federal Reserve Bank’s “FedViews,” “The Evolution of the Grocery Bag,” and “Health Care Costs in McAllen, Texas.” And, roll over “For Whom the Bell Tolls” it’s time to make way for that GSA classic: “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.”

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  1. Gina
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    From the “Common Core” website:

    To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts. Through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, students gain literary and cultural knowledge as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements. By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades. Students also acquire the habits of reading independently and closely, which are essential to their future success.


    Based on this, I am not convinced the Fox article is not being sensationalist. They don’t really link to any sources where I can verify their claims. Also, Fox seems to be joining the trend of disabling and/or censoring feedback on websites, so I can’t read any discussion on the article that can shed more light on the standards.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted December 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I understand what you are saying, and I like much of what I know of the Common Core itself. However, what I am not sure of is the government’s implementation of the Common Core, which is a vastly different thing. The place to find out more about that would not be the Common Core website, but state websites on education standards and official websites with Federal education policies. The part that specifically concerns me is mandating ‘informational texts’ make up 70% of the reading for high school English.

      • Gina
        Posted December 30, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

        The part that specifically concerns me is mandating ‘informational texts’ make up 70% of the reading for high school English.

        Got a source for that? And by that I mean a primary source – a policy document, for example.

  2. Brenda
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with the first commenter that the Fox article is leaning toward sensationalism, and, that you are right: how this is implemented will vary state by state, district by district. Informational texts is a broad term. For my 5th graders in my district, it means we read more newspapers, we look more at original source documents in history (we no longer have a history textbook), we read more biographies, and spend time analyzing the specific features of informational texts so we can read them more efficiently. I don’t think these are bad things. And off hand, I don’t think reading government documents is high school is a bad thing, depending on how you debate them afterward. Knowing what your government professes is an important part of informed democracy.

    Also, it doesn’t mean “no more literature.” One way I’ve seen this done is student’s read say, “To Kill a Mocking Bird” while simultaneously read historical information about that time period to inform their personal literary critique, or they read published criticism about the novel itself. In the end, you can be just as brainwashed by novels as you can by informational texts. It is not the text that creates 1984, but rather the critical cognitive analytical skills that are taught (or not taught) through them. It’s how and by who texts are interpreted that is important.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted December 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Nobody said reading government documents is a bad thing. Reading government documents instead of real literature is, however, a bad thing, and if it’s true that the federal government requires 70% of the reading to be information texts in high school, that is also a bad thing on several different levels.
      The problem here isn’t that implementation will vary state by state, my concern is what if it *won’t*, if the Federal requirements are standardized as Obama wants, so that the Federal government has more control over education than local school boards, parents, and teachers.

      What creates 1984 is a combination of things- the Federal involvement in education at this level, and the federal control that reaches this level of micromanaging (why 70%?), and adults who shrug it off as not a bad thing.

      • Brenda
        Posted December 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        But the idea of the federal government requiring anything in Common Core is false in and of itself. Common Core was not created through a federal initiative nor funded by the federal government, with the exception of Race to the Top grants. Common Core was created and funded by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, neither of which are divisions of the federal government. The federal government later endorsed Common Core, but it did not create it. And states choose to adopt it or not. The 70% was determined by the Common Core developers, not the feds.

        If the concern is the implementation and the federal government’s role and education management, then that is what should be being discussed. Not concern over the amount of informational reading a given curriculum. Most modern curriculum are full of such seemingly arbitrary numbers. There is nothing unusual about that when discussing traditional school systems.

  3. Anne-Marie
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s misleading to suggest that the Common Core “requires that high school students read- for literature- ‘informational texts.’” I have read several other articles on this phenomenon, and there is indeed a big difference between what the CC standards specify and how they are being implemented in at least some cases.

    The “50% informational” benchmark as written in the CC is intended to cover *all* reading, including the almost purely informational reading students do for history, science, or other courses. But many school districts and school principals are telling the English teachers that 50% of *English class* reading has to be informational. It’s false to attribute that (as the Fox article does) to the CC.

  4. Posted February 28, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    1984 & Brave New World are both more real than you could possibly imagine. Not only that, but the stories are messages linked by …. the technology Orwell was writing about:

    Ministry of Forbidden Knowledge: 1984 and BNW are reality.

  5. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    HMm. Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird removed from school curriculum to make room for the mandated number of ‘informational texts’.

    Guess Fox was right, after all.

  6. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Also, see the table at the head of page 5:

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