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27 June 2015 @ 08:03 am
Blowing Chunks  
A recent piece in the Washington Post caused some fuss on social media: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/23/a-disturbing-quote-about-teaching-literature-in-common-core-era/?postshare=7861435313046380. It quotes a story from the New York Times that reads in part: "“Unfortunately there has been some elimination of some literature,” said Kimberly Skillen, the district administrator for secondary curriculum and instruction in Deer Park, N.Y. But she added: “We look at teaching literature as teaching particular concepts and skills. So we maybe aren’t teaching an entire novel, but we’re ensuring that we’re teaching the concepts that that novel would have gotten across."

There are two important things to take away here. One is the definition of the literature as a tool to teach skills and concepts. That is the topic for a separate post (soon, I promise). The other, though, is the idea that teaching PIECES of a novel somehow makes up for spending less time on fiction in lieu of the CCSS emphasis on nonfiction. I have some questions for these folks who think teaching PIECES is sufficient.

1. What PIECE of CHARLOTTE'S WEB do we share? What PIECE of MACBETH? What PIECE of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?

2. Who decides on the PIECES?

3. What context, if any, is provided for students?

4. Are these books made available to those who might want to read more than the PIECES?

5. Is time provided for more than PIECEMEAL reading?

Yes, these are rhetorical. The very idea that teaching bits of something so kids can gain some skill is disturbing. More, it is chilling. What if we turned the tables and read more parts of works of nonfiction. After all, the aim is simply to teach skills. So, why not take a PIECE of the Declaration of Independence and read that? Why not take a couple of lines from THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS or the latest manual for a smart phone or instructions for putting together something? Why not read nonfiction in PIECES? The answer is that it would not make sense to take a part from the whole. Guess what, the same applies to fiction. A novel is more than a sum of its parts. The proof is in the reading.
 
 
Current Location: on the road again
Current Mood: puzzled