professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Exemplar texts? Really?

I was interviewed Thursday for my reaction to the Common Core Standards exemplar texts. Now, I know the argument being presented is that these are only a starting point. But that is disingenuous at best. Call something exemplar, make it the national standard (and the national curriculum, shudder) and this will be THE list of books available for kids. Here is the middle school (6-8 grade) list:

Exemplar texts from the Common Core Standards K-12


Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time
Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising
Yep, Laurence. Dragonwings
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Hamilton, Virginia. “The People Could Fly”
Paterson, Katherine. The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
Cisneros, Sandra. “Eleven”
Sutcliff, Rosemary. Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad
Fletcher, Louise. Sorry, Wrong Number
Goodrich, Frances and Albert Hackett. The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. “Paul Revere’s Ride”
Whitman, Walt. “O Captain! My Captain!”
Carroll, Lewis. “Jabberwocky
Navajo tradition. “Twelfth Song of Thunder”
Dickinson, Emily. “The Railway Train”
Yeats, William Butler. “The Song of Wandering Aengus.”
Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken”
Sandburg, Carl. “Chicago.”
Hughes, Langston. “I, Too, Sing America.”
Neruda, Pablo. “The Book of Questions.”
Soto, Gary. “Oranges”
Giovanni, Nikki. “A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long.”
Adams, John. “Letter on Thomas Jefferson.”
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
an American Slave, Written by Himself
Churchill, Winston. “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat:
Address to Parliament on May 13th, 1940.
Petry, Ann. Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley: In Search of America
United States. Preamble and First Amendment
to the United States Constitution. (1787, 1791)
Lord, Walter. A Night to Remember
Isaacson, Phillip. A Short Walk through the Pyramids
and through the World of Art
Murphy, Jim. The Great Fire
Greenberg, Jan, and Sandra Jordan. Vincent Van Gogh:
Portrait of an Artist
Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made for You and Me:
The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie
Monk, Linda R. Words We Live By:
Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution
Freedman, Russell. Freedom Walkers:
The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Macaulay, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
Mackay, Donald. The Building of Manhattan
Enzensberger, Hans Magnus. The Number Devil:
A Mathematical Adventure
Peterson, Ivars and Nancy Henderson. Math Trek:
Adventures in the Math Zone
Katz, John. Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet out of Idaho
Petroski, Henry. “The Evolution of the Grocery Bag”
“Geology.” U*X*L Encyclopedia of Science
“Space Probe.” Astronomy & Space:
From the Big Bang to the Big Crunch
“Elementary Particles.” New Book of Popular Science
California Invasive Plant Council. Invasive Plant Inventory

Forget the fact that many texts are ancient and have no connection to today's students. Forget the fact that there are precious few selections by and about different races, ehtnicities, etc. Forget that English teachers are now supposed to deal with all the content area reading (leaving the content folks free to ignore anything that smacks of literature or reading, I presume). Forget that many of these were selected because they are FREE (public domain) and, therefore, fodder for the new textbooks to come. Forget that where the books are not part of the public domain, in many cases, we are told to use the Fair Use guidelines and give kids excerpts and not whole works. Forget all of the other flaws of the list, and there are multitudinous flaws.

My concern is that this is the sum total of what will be given to middle school students to read. And that, my friends, is the most insidious form of censorship I know. And, I also think it sounds a death knell for school libraries. I mean, who needs them if we just stick to this list?

I guess you can see how the conversation with the reporter went, right? Now, as chair of the Standing Committee against Censorship for NCTE, I need to craft a resolution calling for this exemplar list to be a) ignored; b) deleted from the document; c) decried as censorship; d) all of the above. Who's with me?
Tags: censorship
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