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What are Common Core Standards in English? Shut up!

May 2, 2012
Seal of the United States Department of Education

Talking about curriculum standards is really boring, but telling somebody to shut up will get everybody’s attention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I went to school, the teachers’ most common answer to our questions was “Shut up!”  

“Shut up!” was probably the best answer we students deserved because a lot of our questions were whiney and stupid. 

“Why do we have to do this?”

“Shut up!” 

“What time do we get out of this class?” 

“Shut up!

“Does anyone have a pencil I can borrow?”

“Shut up!” 

“How is doing this ever going to be applicable to my future employment?”

“Shut up!” 

Classic literature was where most of the whining occurred (except for Shakespeare when we had a teacher who would explain the dirty jokes to us).  Classic literature was hard, and it was (in our minds) irrelevant.  And when other students complained, most English teachers were ready with a quick, “Shut up!” 

When it came to really difficult fiction, sometimes our one sensitive English teacher said, “This will broaden your horizons.” 

“This broadens your horizons” is a slightly better answer than “Shut up,” but not by much. Smoking weed broadens your horizons.  Hanging out with strippers broadens your horizons (not meant as a pun).  Broadening your horizons is never a good reason to do something, even when it comes to education. 

Some of this might (I stress “might”) change a little bit.  From what I understand, new standards in the nation’s public school curriculum (this is where it gets boring) is going to put less focus on fiction (such as classic literature and short stories) and put more focus on nonfiction text, like science and history. 

These new standards, the Common Core Standards, are really long and boring.  They look pretty much like the old standards with that one notable exception: there seems to be a little more focus on nonfiction to supplement history and science and a little less fiction.  But it took about 64 pages to make that point. 

New educational standards (and a lot of other government stuff) should be treated like the U.S. Constitution.  Whenever there’s a change, instead of reinventing the wheel (yeah, I know it’s a lazy cliché, and I know “lazy cliché” is redundant) every time there’s a new set of changes, just write an amendment (or amendments) to what already exists. 

In this case, instead of 64 pages of educational blather about English standards, just say “Add some science and history to align the curriculum, and have students read a little less fiction.” 

It would save the government some money, and it would make government documents easier (for me) to read. 

Having students read more nonfiction in English isn’t necessarily a bad idea.  When I was a kid, students got the most frustrated when we had to read a difficult novel or short story that seemed irrelevant.  I wonder how many struggling kids never gave reading a chance because of the dull literature taught in English class.  Some of the history and science text will probably be dull as well, but at least it will have a point.

So when a whiney kid complains about a science selection with a question like, “Why do we have to read this in English?” the English teacher will have a logical answer that will make sense even to the biggest dunderhead in class:

“This will help you with your science test next week.”

And then the English teacher can follow through with, “Now shut up!”

8 Comments
  1. lisawrites4life permalink

    Thanks for that! After analysis, vertical alignment, more analysis….I can honestly say, I’d rather look at Common Core like this…

    • Vertical alignment? Ugh. I bet that after a meeting or two about vertical alignment, it’s not your students that you want to tell to shut up.

  2. I always found the Pythagorean theorem way more irrelevant than anything wordish. A+B=37.6? No thank you.

    • Maybe the Pythagorean theory is irrelevant (I don’t have an opinion on that because I’m not a math guy), but I bet with Common Core standards an English teacher will have students read about Pythagorus(?) to align curriculum with math and history. Then the English teacher could make the Pythagorean theorem both irrelevant and wordish.

      • I think we have to make this happen. Rendering Pythagoras both irrelevant and wordish would make the world a better place.

  3. But then the guy in the Common Core professional development video won’t be able to tell us multiple times that he went to Oxford. His education was apparently sorely lacking in “shut up.” Thanks for checking out my blog!

    • Oh no! I can imagine what a professional development video about Common Core would be like, but a video might be better than being at an actual inservice because you don’t feel obligated to make eye contact with a video.

  4. Great point. Why it takes “64 pages of educational blather” for government to make a coherent distinction between the two standards? Apparently ‘blather’ is more creative way for them to say, ‘Shut up” or I will bludgeon you with verbiose superfluity!

    Thanks for interpreting!

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