Common Core Killing Nation's Great Literature, Scholar Argues

WASHINGTON – Fewer students will be exposed to the great works of literature, art and music under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, Terrence O. Moore, assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College argues.

The Common Core is an "attempt to take away the great stories of the American people and replace them with the stories that fit the progressive, liberal narrative of the world," Moore said in a Thursday speech hosted by Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C.

The architects of the Common Core, he said, are "story-killers" because they are "killing the greatest stories of the greatest nation in history."

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Moore researched the Common Core for a recently published book, The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core. For that book, Moore looked at the Common Core's list of suggested readings and textbooks that have been published to align with the Common Core.

In his speech, a video of which will soon be available on the Hillsdale College website, Moore provides many examples of great works of literature that are being removed from school curriculum around the country because of the Common Core.

Plato, Hans Christian Andersen and Benjamin Franklin cannot be found in Common Core readings, for instance. When students do read some of the great works of literature, they tend to be excerpts rather than complete works, supplemented with modern commentary on the works. The great works of literature are also being replaced by "informational texts" and recent articles written by journalists.

For one example, Moore found a lesson on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In that lesson, students are not asked to actually read Frankenstein. Rather, they read three and half pages of Shelley writing about what it was like to write Frankenstein. Then they read five pages from a modern author writing about scary stories, with no mention of Frankenstein. Then they read five and a half pages of a script from a Saturday Night Live skit about Frankenstein.

In that skit, Frankenstein's monster calls everyone a "fascist." The teacher's manual tells the teacher to explain the word "fascist" to the class and how the word has come to refer to any "right wing extremist group."

The purpose of education, according to the Common Core, is "college and career readiness" and "21st century literacy" for a "global economy."

Moore has a different view of education and believes the purposes advocated by Common Core are "insufficient, illiberal and covertly ideological."

"For almost 400 years in this country, and for over 2,000 in the history of the West," Moore said, "truth, knowledge, beauty and virtue were the aims of education."

With the understanding of beauty no longer a purpose of education, "art and music are dying a slow death in our schools."

Without the great works of literature, Moore continued, Americans will "not learn from literature the most important thing – how to be more human."

The Common Core's attempts to educate people for jobs fail to understand two important aspects of human nature, Moore added. First, "jobs do not make the human mind, the human mind makes jobs." And second, "children are human beings. They're not machines. The can be taught. They should not be programmed like machines."

One of the ways that the Common Core elevates modern articles from journalists above great works of literature, Moore explained, is through its use of "text complexity." A computer program is used to measure the complexity of readings. Readings that use much "jargon" are, therefore, rated higher that works that use more simple language.

The "text complexity" ratings gave John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath a second or third grade level because it was deemed not very complex. Meanwhile, a 2009 article from the New Yorker, a liberal publication, that was written about health care during the debate over passage of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was given a high school level complexity rating because it used many complex words.

Paraphrasing Plato, Moore said, "Whoever controls ... the narrative controls the politics, the economics, the family, the ways of thinking and the ways of believing. ... The most impressionable people, of course, are the children. So, welcome to the world of the Common Core."

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