Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

December 16, 2013

CONFER: Common Core devalues creativity

Niagara Gazette — Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in an eight-part series exploring Common Core.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

That quote is courtesy of one of the greatest minds of all time, Albert Einstein. He understood what helped to develop his incomparable intellect and could do the same for future generations: early and frequent exposure to fictional works.

This is something that language arts teachers (more popularly known as English teachers) have known and practiced for years. By focusing on the readers’ ability to understand and interpret in their own way a masterpiece of literature or poetry, and also affording them the chance to write their own masterpieces, teachers could encourage and hone creative thinking, the single most important tool for personal and professional success.

That is atypical of most schooling. Science, math, and history classes take what is known or proven and ask that students master facts and processes. There is little if any room for exploration or personal interpretation. That is the nature of the beast within those subjects.

English classrooms were always the place in schools where higher-order thinking skills could be fostered. But, those days appear numbered. Because of Common Core, the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum is devolving and English is becoming yet another class where facts are to be regurgitated and expression is stymied.

The claimed goal of Common Core is to make students workforce-ready so, to that end, the developers at Achieve Inc. decided to emphasize nonfiction. Novels and short fiction that once dominated the routine have been diminished in their volume, with newspaper articles, dry text and even boring owner’s manuals taking over. If you thought Moby Dick’s pithiness was a test of your focus as a student, imagine your child’s disdain for manuals.

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