By now almost every teacher in the country has experienced the Common Core State Standards. We’re teaching and assessing them; we’re advocating for them or pushing against them. We’re explaining them and giving them a chance, or we’re passing them off as the latest educational trend to come and go. In short, the Common Core State Standards are specific, high-quality benchmarks in English and math for students in grades kindergarten through 12. They were designed by educators to ensure students across America graduate from high school ready for college or their careers. In his recent article, "The Wisdom Deficit in Schools," one English teacher in California expressed concern that the standards emphasize technical reading skills over an appreciation for literature and traditional wisdom.
I’ve taught middle-school English for 15 years. Like Michael Godsey, the California teacher, the shifts got me thinking about the future of American culture. I thought: If I don’t hand these kids F. Scott Fitzgerald, who will? I wondered if we teachers were going to kill any kind of thought or creativity in American society. Am I perpetuating a society where adolescents can’t focus, just read snippets of articles, and get their information 140 characters at a time? Who will write the next great American novel? What will happen to Hemingway and Vonnegut and Lee? I went to college and got a degree in English literature. I spent four years reading, talking, and writing about books. I wanted to spend the rest of my adult life teaching kids to do the same.