New school classics: ‘Executive Order 13423’ to replace Hemmingway

studentsinclassroomIf the Obama administration has its way, education’s “Race to the Top” will turn into a fall to the bottom.

The Common Core Standards Initiative is getting support in its effort to standardize education curricula nationwide from billions of dollars in funding from the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” grants, according to a Fox News report. And what’s being proposed is laughable.

For centuries, teachers have combined reading comprehension with an appreciation for the classics through English literature classes. If Common Core and “Race to the Top” succeed, that is all about to change.

Instead of reading Hemmingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” students may be wading through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Rather than studying the rich language of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” they’ll be able to finally dig into Obama’s “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.”

Fox News’ Lindsey Burke wrote:

Eschewing great literature for ghastly technical reports doesn’t make much sense to those charged with getting young people to read—hopefully with some degree of enthusiasm. And there’s a total lack of research suggesting that education will be advanced by a forced march to Executive Orders.

The University of Arkansas’ Sandra Stotsky argues that an emphasis on informational texts actually prevents children from acquiring “a rich understanding and use of the English language” and “may lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking.” Dry government documents such as those recommended in the Common Core’s are “hardly the kind of material to exhibit ambiguity, subtlety, and irony,” she observes.

The plan is to ease students into the learning format by requiring that a certain amount of their reading material be “informational text,” from 25 percent for kindergartners to 75 percent for high school seniors.

Hmm, bet they can’t wait to delve into the Internal Revenue Code.

If we want our students to comprehend and appreciate the richness of the English language, we should continue the time-honored tradition of exposing them to literature, not the stilted nomenclature of some coffee-addled bureaucrat penned in the dead of night.

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4 thoughts on “New school classics: ‘Executive Order 13423’ to replace Hemmingway

  1. KB Cook says:

    narcissist-in-chief. what a waste of time, $$ and effort for the American people

  2. Les says:

    Is this serious? Heck, lawyers can't understand this jargon, but a 16 year old is supposed to? Good luck with that.

  3. Publius says:

    Correction to article: Executive Order 13423 is a Bush administration executive order, signed in 2007.

  4. Brad says:

    First of all, like many "news" articles in our day this is more based on the fallacies of scare tactics and "either, or" principals than the actual facts–I just wanted to set the record straight from someone who is in the education profession and who knows the common core much better than the article written by some online reporter.

    First of all, the balance is not 70% informational texts and 30% literature… however, it is pretty close to 50/50 when you take into account EVERY class the student is taking–something the article fails to mention. For example, consider a typical student's courses–History, science, math, English, electives, etc–not all of those classes will be studying literature, but the common core pushes the idea of reading in every course regardless of what is being studied. So, in essence, kids will be reading more with the implementation of the new common core than ever before–with a rough balance of 50% informational (dispersed throughout science, math, English and History courses) and roughly 50% literary (basically from the History and English courses).

    As an example, Wasatch High school has implemented the common core standards in English just last year and though I only teach regular ed 9th grade and 11th grade honors classes, let me list what kids at real schools are studying:

    Honors English 11 Literature:

    Huck Finn

    Scarlet Letter

    "The Crucible"


    The Grapes of Wrath

    Of Mice and Men

    The Great Gatsby

    "Our Town"

    Their Eyes Were Watching God

    Selected poetry from varied authors

    "Regular" English, 9th Grade Literature:

    "The Odyssey"

    "Romeo and Juliet"

    The Lighting Thief

    The Book Thief

    Song of the Buffalo Boy

    1 book from the approved "Classics" book list

    Selected poetry from varied authors

    In addition, 11th grade reads "informational" texts from the following authors:

    Thomas Jefferson

    Henry David Thoreau

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    George Orwell

    Amy Tan

    G. K. Chesterton

    Richard Wright

    Richard Hofstadter

    Jamaica Kinkaid

    … and many others

    9th grade reads "informational" texts from the following authors:

    George Washington

    Martin Luther King

    Abraham Lincoln

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    Henry Patrick

    Maya Angelou

    Ronald Reagan

    … and others

    Incidentally, these "informational" texts are pretty incredible and highly applicable to what kids are learning in my classes throughout the year–not "ghastly technical reports" or "dry documents," like Fox news online reporter Lindsay Burke would have you believe just because she says so. In fact, I have found that the informational texts I choose to use really help to bridge the gap from the canonical literature to a more modern-day era and the more immediate day-to-day concerns that we all deal with.

    In addition, I have to say that there is a great deal of leeway in what is chosen by each individual teacher, and we all know that some texts are better than others. However, I am sure that MOST teachers have the best interest of their students in mind and wouldn't have them read "Executive order 13423" for absolutely no reason other than to bore kids to death with a terrible piece of dry government writing as the article implies–is is simply not the case.

    My hope in sending this email is that you can see that there is no "doom and gloom" hovering over the education system as far as losing literature is concerned. Granted, there are problems, yes. However, losing the classics is not going to be one of them.

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