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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

As the CC spreads, opposition, challenges, reality checks

I had the good fortune of being in Texas at TLA, then in Washington, DC with my family and to do some promotion work for Master of Deceit. Karen Macpherson interviewed me (and Sasha) for the Scripps-Howard papers, and I had a lengthy taped intervew for Reading Rockets (if you don’t know the many excellent materials they provide for parents and teachers, you should: http://www.readingrockets.org/). One thing I began hearing is the undertow and crosscurrents against CC that are to-be-expected with a huge change in education, but are real, important, and command our attention. Texas, of course, is one of the 4 non-CC states. Though that was an interesting case, because all of the Texas librarians said that a very similar focus on NF, text complexity, evidence, etc. is the new emphasis in their state, it is just not being called NF. But if Texas is the Lone Star version of CC, I am also hearing the anti-CC voice crop up in the CC states.

One objection looms up against the term “standards” which, to the fearful, carries a hint of a related but very different term “standardization” — as if we were creating a lock-step system where every child was studying the same things in the same way on the same schedule. Now as many of you know there already are schools and districts that are programmed that way, but that has nothing to do with CC — in fact, to my eyes, that is a bad-idea carryover from NCLB and the need to show adequate yearly progress. As a friend who knows edcuational practice very well said — we don’t have agreement classroom to classroom, much less school to school or district to district. But part of the “standardization” fear I suspect is linked to the shift to NF — from teachers who don’t know NF, or think of it as textbooks or, as they see it “dry facts,” or just don’t want to be told what to teach. Some have argued that NF, especially NF that students are being asked to critique, and to read for evidence and POV, is too hard for their kids, or struggling readers, or ELL, or special needs, etc. And — here I, many of you who read this blog agree — there are those spooked by the early emphasis on NF “short texts” fear that engagement in reading is replaced by so much scaffolding that the operation is a success but the patient dies.

As my friend in education explained, the beauty of the CC standards is their “elegance.” I loved that word, because it is so true. The standards read as the distilled essence of a K-12 path. Of course there will be variation in pace as individual teachers and students walk that path, but the steps, the gradient, is clear. You see the intellectual architecture — the CC is most like cantilevered stairs — anchored, but seemingly rising on their own through the air. The really important thing is for all of us to read the plan, study the architecture, and help our colleagues to see how it climbs.