Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tell Us What You Really Think, Robert

Robert D. Shepherd:

And that would be bad enough, but this particular list, the list of literary skills that makes up the CCSS in ELA for Reading Literature, is simply inept. It doesn’t demonstrate any literary scholarship or understanding on the part of the “standards” authors. There’s a breathtaking amateurishness and tone-deafness to the CCSS in ELA, as though they had been written not by experts in literary studies but by undergraduates based on very crude notions of what “study of literature” might mean. If the authors knew more about literature and its origins and history and its forms, they would have been able to envision more clearly how a skills map covering this area of human endeavor might unfold over 12 years’ time, building upon true literary fundamentals of a number of different kinds. (Hint: phylogeny should recapitulate ontogeny here.) These standards instantiate no new insights into such a rational progression of literary study. One might as well have thrown darts at a handbook of literary terms from some hack-written junior-high-school lit text from one of the big-box publishers. I look at the CCSS in ELA and I see no coherence and no instructional vision. I see, instead, randomness and misconceptions and glaring lacunae and crude, unexamined assumptions about matters that are actually quite interesting, quite deep, and quite controversial—assumptions that they authors have made as though they were completely oblivious that they were making assumptions at all or that these were at all controversial.

And what happened to the writing standards? Looks to me like the authors ran out of time or money or energy and just said to hell with it and made a list of three “modes” and copied and pasted it into each grade level of the “standards,” and, of course, doing that just encourages the sort of awful, formulaic five-paragraph theme writing that everyone has been doing since NCLB turned most writing instruction in the U.S. into instruction in producing the canned essay response for the state test. News flash: most writing is narrative writing. News flash 2: most of the rest of it is multimodal. News flash 3: there are reasons why it is multimodal. And that five-paragraph theme in one of the three modes sort of crap is the antithesis of decent writing—it’s what any writing teacher worthy of the name teaches students TO AVOID DOING.

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