What are Common Core Standards in English? Shut up!
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?”
“What time do we get out of this class?”
“Does anyone have a pencil I can borrow?”
“How is doing this ever going to be applicable to my future employment?”
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!”