Students who read such selections on a standardized exam (and have read similar passages in their English classes to prepare for the exam) will think about these passages . . .
a) throughout the course of their lives.
b) when telling stories to their children and grandchildren.
c) when navigating the tempestuous waters of the twenty-first-century global economy.
d) when Hell freezes over.
Most noticeably missing in this standardized examination in English is:
a) great English literature
b) learning of any kind
c) any discernable academic standard
d) all of the above
The proximity of such eleventh-grade English standards to the work that will be required of students in a college English literature and composition class could best be described as:
a) pretty darn close
b) close enough for government work
c) exactly on the money
d) missed by a country mile
So what have we learned through this examination? The first lesson is that all the promises of “college and career readiness” are empty slogans: a tour de force of jargon-ridden demagoguery on the part of the testing hacks and their rich supporters, as well as the rest of the education bureaucrats who control the nation’s public schools. The idea that these readings and the simple-minded questions that follow would prepare students for college is preposterous—unless, which is already the case—the first two years of most colleges serve as one giant, expensive effort at remediation.
The second lesson is, as I show in more detail in my book The Story-Killers, that the authors of the Common Core have no love for great literature. Do not be fooled by the cutesy dialogue of Kate and Luke, who talk about reading Shakespeare. This is not Shakespeare. In fact, this sample examination (presumably for the consumption of teachers primarily) contains not one selection from literature. Compare the passage above to the real Beatrice and Benedick:
Beatrice: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior
Benedick: nobody marks you.
Benedick: What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?
Beatrice: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
Courtesy itself must convert to disdain; if you come
in her presence.
Benedick: Then courtesy is a turncoat. But it is certain I
am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I
would that I could find in my heart that I had not a hard
heart; for truly I love none.
Beatrice: A dear happiness to women: they would else have
been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God
and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that; I
had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man
swear he loves me.
A little tougher—and wittier—no? How much could be said—about Beatrice’s character, about young men, about love itself—discussing the line, “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me”! Is there any comparable line from the testers’ mock dialogue?
Finally, just how stupid (or somnolent) do they think the American people are? The passage on the “science of meditation” is clearly soft evangelizing in the new religion—a kind of New Age, quasi-spiritual, multicultural mush—supposedly supported by science. The passage on Eco-fashion, however, is the harder side of that evangelizing: on human beings’ constant threat to Goddess Planet. Washing your T-shirt is one of the new sins, and to have that sin forgiven, you must buy clothes that are genuinely Eco-friendly. The rest of the passage urges the young consumers of clothing to action. Readers are invited to search labels thoroughly, making sure that clothing manufacturers aren’t just paying lip-service to environmentalism. The teenage consumer must learn to hold these awful corporations accountable for their destruction of the environment and chronic waste of the world’s energy and resources (on which the EPA has a perfect handle). In short, the forces behind the Common Core dictate that our children’s minds should be trained on absurdity and thinly-veiled political propaganda rather than the great, soul-ennobling stories written by Shakespeare and Austen and Melville and Poe.
To appreciate fully the gravity of the situation, parents and citizens must understand one basic reality of the Common Core and one basic reality of education. Nowadays, he who controls the testing controls the schools. And he who controls the schools controls the minds of our future citizenry.
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