"In the U.S., frequently students are trying to figure out what is in the teacher's mind. What answer is the teacher looking for?" said Patsy Wang-Iverson, a consultant who has studied and written about the Japanese method for a decade and who now acts as the Reed teachers' mentor. "In Japan, teachers are trying to figure out what is in the student's mind -- how they're thinking, what they're thinking and the source of their misunderstanding."
The proposed Common Core Standards for English are an extreme manifestation of the "American" point of view described above. They are entirely and unabashedly about "what is the teacher (or, more precisely, temp working scoring a standardized test) looking for."
If you compare the Common Core standards with well regarded (by conservatives!) Massachusetts Curriculum Framework (as I did yesterday), the biggest conceptual difference is the use of the word "understand." The Massachusetts standards see understanding by the student as the ultimate goal. The Common Core Standards discard the concept of "understanding" almost completely.
Put another way, the Common Core Math Standards are divided into "concepts" and "skills." In English, it is skills only.
So far, there has been no uproar about texts included in (or omitted from) the standards experts proposed last month at the behest of the nation's governors and state school chiefs. That's by design. A full-blown great works debate could scuttle what is a difficult mission: to craft academic standards that can be accepted nationwide without leaving the impression that states and school boards have ceded control of what is taught.
A "great works debate" was never even slightly in the cards. None of the standards currently used by any of the states prescribe texts, at this level of detail -- graduation standards, essentially -- I haven't found one anywhere in the world yet that describes specific texts. Even if you wanted to, what grade levels would you include? All of them? High school? Senior year?
Also, these are "college- and career- ready standards." We know there is no consensus among college English faculty about a canon, and we know there is no canon for starting a career.
It would be nice if someone would write an article about the fact that there are only two kinds of writing in these standards: informative and argument. You'd think someone who makes their living writing would find that a bit odd.