The idea behind the shifts is to prepare students for what they will confront in real life—business plans, legal briefs, newspapers, instruction manuals and other “informational” texts that will drive their decisions. ...
As we did our reading, we kept the hallmarks of complexity in mind. On the high end of the scale, they include: structure that is unconventional rather than expected, ideas that are implicit rather than explicit, and language that is figurative rather than literal, archaic rather than contemporary, and vague rather than clear. Sentences in very complex texts tend to be complicated rather than straightforward, and vocabulary is academic rather than plain. Informational text that is defined as complex might require specialized knowledge, have multiple meanings, and an obscure purpose. Complex literary texts tend to include references to other texts, demand cultural knowledge, and carry sophisticated, multiple perspectives. (More than one participant noted that such texts might well meet the standard of complexity, but that they might also fit the definition of bad writing.)
Indeed, they're particularly bad writing in those "real life" texts. And not particularly rewarding in non-fiction in general. Struggling with the language in Romeo and Juliet is one thing, but kids are going to be spending a lot more time with the Mayflower Compact, too.
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