Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Common Core -- will it produce a nation of technocrats?

Let me begin by saying I believe in a classical liberal arts education, from elementary to college.  I believe time spent in the great classics of literature to be time well spent.  I believe that reading to broaden one's perspective as well as for beauty is at least as important as reading for information on how to do something.  I believe that modern works are often avant guarde but I fear that too much of what is read by our students has little staying power.  So it comes with great fear and trepidation that I read of Common Core's movement toward non-fiction and away from fiction.  Worse than this is that the move does not offer the student the work of our best non-fiction authors but mostly technocrats.  In other words, non-fiction is not quite accurate.  More and more of the reading will draw from what the Common Core standards specify “seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance.”  While this may include the more lofty and noble of those writings, it will also include everything from Supreme Court opinions to blog posts to speeches to news stories, etc...  What we might call informational reading has replaced reading for interest, culture, values, and story.

The sad truth is that we read more and more bits and pieces of even the greatest literature and less and less of the whole novel, play, or story.  Our nation is poised to institutionalize this for our children.  My greatest fear is that it will only hasten the development of a nation of technocrats, where information has value only by its current usefulness to us, and where how we write or speak becomes secondary to what we say.  Perhaps I am worrying that I will be out of a job?  Well, I am old and won't be around to see how this works out in a generation or two.  But I hope I will be remembered by encouraging people to write well and to read broadly!  Nothing can be worse than reading only things which with you know you agree!


Nathan said...

This video seems to make the idea make good sense:


That said, if you are getting rid of stories to make room for this, that is not good.


Kirk Skeptic said...

What about the fundamental question what business the fedss have forcing this upont he states; or, even more fundamental, as a homeschooling parent, what business does the government have foisting this on anyone?

Nathan said...


I agree. Watching this was enlightening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inM8WTBT1lg


Jon Alan Schmidt said...

This is consistent with what I have described in articles and presentations for engineering audiences as the decline of judgment. Our society demands certainty, and is thus obsessed with technical rationality--following prescriptive steps to achieve specified outcomes. Rules and incentives have become ubiquitous in various professions, including teaching (think standardized testing), constraining or even eliminating opportunities for the exercise of discretion and creativity.

Nathan said...

You know, I think we already are a nation of technocrats. The cosmos is a machine and we are in control. See the BBC series "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace"....