Common Core Disses Poetry

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

The list of what is missing from the Obama Administration’s Common Core education reforms continues to grow. “Given the paucity of standards mentioning poetry at all, never mind the elements of poetry, it is not clear that poetry as a genre can be well addressed by English teachers in a Common Core-oriented classroom,” a new study from the Pioneer Institute notes. “Nor can they easily choose to do so in the reduced amount of time that English teachers are to spend on literary texts during an academic year.”

The Pioneer Institute study was compiled by: Anthony Esolen, a professor of English literature at Providence College; Jamie Highfill, a grade 8 English teacher from Fayetteville, Arkansas; and noted author Sandra Stotsky.

“Strangely, Common Core has yoked the English curriculum to a test with arbitrary percentages for types of reading that have no basis in research or in informed professional consent,” the authors of the Pioneer Institute study note. “They also make no sense arithmetically.”

“How can 30 percent of the reading in the entire curriculum be literary when at least half of what they read in English class must be informational?”

Highfill makes a pretty persuasive case for the study of poetry as it has traditionally been taught. “Young children love poetry,” she writes. “Songs like ‘Old MacDonald’ and ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ help students hear and find rhythm.”

“Even the alphabet is made into a song that rhymes to help children learn it more easily. In this way, poetry is a kinesthetic experience, engaging not just the mind but the body as well. Many children’s stories are written in verse. Dr. Seuss is ubiquitous in classrooms for young students, as he should be. His poetry plays with sound, helping students hear the lilt and cadence of our language, while also telling imaginative stories. Shel Silverstein’s poetry similarly delights the ear and the mind with whimsy.”

“Anthologies for older students have always included the big names in American and English literature: Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Anne Bradstreet, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Thomas Hardy. The list is extensive, but the fact that these same authors continue to appear is no accident. Their works speak to English and American literary culture and history. The implicit if not explicit charge to educators is to initiate our students into the culture in which they will someday work and raise families. The literature of our culture reflects where we come from as much as does our history.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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