How is Common Core now being used in classrooms? On March 14, Education Week reported that tenth-graders in a suburb of Des Moines would be reading Nickel and Dimed by far-left activist Barbara Ehrenreich. This book, along with others on “computer geeks, fast food, teenage marketing, chocolate-making, and diamond-mining,” is about the “real-world topics” (like Bieber) promoted by Common Core.
The Pearson Foundation, with a grant from the Gates Foundation, will offer a “coherent and systemic approach to teaching the Common Core State Standards.” Another big, well-connected publisher, Scholastic, is developing “Everyday Literacy,” which according to Education Week, is a “K-6 program that incorporates brochures, catalogs, menus, and other text types.”
New York City’s new “Core-Aligned Task” for eleventh- and twelfth-graders centers on “doing work ‘On Behalf of Others.’” This idea of speaking out on behalf of the oppressed is canonized as “a long and dignified tradition of documentary work” that produces records “meant to raise questions and to function as calls to action.”
Students are asked to “read” a New York Times photo essay and audio clip titled, “Joshua Febres: The Uncertain Gang Member.” This exercise in “literacy” consists of “listen[ing] carefully” and “look[ing] closely at the images that accompany the audio.”
The exercise, “Building reading comprehension,” involves “extracting and analyzing relevant information from [Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era] ‘Migrant Mother’ photos.” The teacher is to:
Place students in pairs or trios. Using all the photographs, have the students spend at least ten minutes looking closely at the sequence of images that led up to the final image, as well as that final image. Ask them to infer what was selected and what was deflected from earlier photos, when making the final photo.
After reading an informational paragraph about James Agee and writing a one-sentence summary of it, students “return to [the] images.” As a class they then read a web page “which describes the complicated history of that image.”
The class next watches a short video about the artist “JR,” who works “on behalf of others,’” by doing “massive public art installations all over the world in which he posts photographs of regular people on places such as the walls of buildings, rooftops, and the sides of bridges and trains.”
The essay-writing task is a “micro-report” of 500 words “about an event you witnessed [sic] place or person you know that needs to be brought to light or told about.”
Obviously, with only a “micro-report,” evaluation cannot be based on written “literacy” alone. So the teacher is offered a handy “Speaking and Listening Standards: Observation and Comment Form.” These upper-classmen are judged on “participat[ing] in collaborative discussion” that includes “work[ing] with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and fair decision-making.”
Mary Grabar, Ph.D., is founder of the Dissident Prof Education Project, Inc., which is committed to “resisting the re-education of America.” Sign up for “dispatches” at www.dissidentprof.com. Her other publications can be found at www.marygrabar.com and include Accuracy in Media, PJ Media, Weekly Standard, Minding the Campus, and many others. She teaches English at Emory University.