Don’t Let ‘Common Core’ drop classics

Published September 22, 2012

In this most politically polarized of years, there is an issue that could bring many people on the left and right together, were they to focus on it in open public debates. The hatchet job that architects of the national Common Core education standards have done on use of classic literature and poetry in K-12 classrooms is, or should be, nothing short of a national scandal. Kudos to Pioneer Institute scholars Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass for using Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as an example of the compelling fodder for thought that will be lost as a result of this short-sighted standardization. (“Common Core takes classics out of curriculum,” Sept. 20.) It is no coincidence that Massachusetts had state standards that were extraordinarily rich in great literature, while also regularly scoring No. 1 among all states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. One does not have to be an English scholar to appreciate that children learn to reason and to write by reading works of substance. It is shameful that Massachusetts officials trashed the state’s standards — and in their place adopted the nationalized standards with the huge slash in classic literature — in order to land a U.S. Department of Education grant that is unlikely to produce any enduring improvement in schools. Eventually Americans of diverse political beliefs will wake up to the folly of supplanting works like “Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” with bland “informational text” such as government documents and workforce manuals. They will demand a return to sanity, but by then billions will have been squandered on this travesty.