(This is the second part of an ongoing series on federal "Common Core" education standards and the corruption of academic excellence.)
The Washington, D.C., board of education earned widespread mockery this week when it proposed allowing high school students -- in the nation's own capital -- to skip a basic U.S. government course to graduate. But this is fiddlesticks compared to what the federal government is doing to eliminate American children's core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.
Thanks to the "Common Core" regime, funded with President Obama's stimulus dollars and bolstered by duped Republican governors and business groups, deconstructionism is back in style. Traditional literature is under fire. Moral relativism is increasingly the norm. "Standards" is Orwell-speak for subjectivity and lowest common denominator pedagogy.
Take the Common Core literacy "standards." Please. As literature professors, writers, humanities scholars, secondary educators and parents have warned over the past three years, the new achievement goals actually set American students back by de-emphasizing great literary works for "informational texts." Challenging students to digest and dissect difficult poems and novels is becoming passe. Utilitarianism uber alles.
The Common Core English/language arts criteria call for students to spend only half of their class time studying literature, and only 30 percent of their class time by their junior and senior years in high school.
Under Common Core, classics such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" are of no more academic value than the pages of the Federal Register or the Federal Reserve archives -- or a pro-Obamacare opinion essay in The New Yorker. Audio and video transcripts, along with "alternative literacies" that are more "relevant" to today's students (pop song lyrics, for example), are on par with Shakespeare.
English professor Mary Grabar describes Common Core training exercises that tell teachers "to read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address without emotion and without providing any historical context. Common Core reduces all 'texts' to one level: the Gettysburg Address to the EPA's Recommended Levels of Insulation." Indeed, in my own research, I found one Common Core "exemplar" on teaching the Gettysburg Address that instructs educators to "refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset."
Another exercise devised by Common Core promoters features the Gettysburg Address as a word cloud. Yes, a word cloud. Teachers use the jumble of letters, devoid of historical context and truths, to help students chart, decode and "deconstruct" Lincoln's speech.