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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Writing Reality

My email inbox has been reverberating with missives about the Common Core curriculum. Some fit in a “hooray” box, others predict the end of literature in schools. I’m in a wait-and-see mode. Common Core curricula encourage nonfiction reading. I write narrative nonfiction. More than that, I see it as the literary form of the Information Age. But will good nonfiction make it into classrooms? Ah, there’s the rub. Today most school nonfiction is delivered in boring textbook prose.
No need for that. Good nonfiction often involves a quest to understand that the author shares with readers. The best of it is page turning. The children I know love true stories, big ideas, and even big words (if they are used well). And, right now, we have some eloquent authors writing true tales of science and history. But, mostly, their good writing doesn’t make it into classrooms. Why not? Because the market is controlled by a few educational behemoths employing armies of sales agents; they wax fat on our schools. State adoption systems suit those companies (rather than the teachers and children they are meant to serve). It would be easy to fix the problem. Instead of city or state adoptions of one standard text per subject, committees of teachers, librarians, and students, should select a group of suitable books and let each school choose its own. Great bookstore books, not just standard texts, should dominate the mix. Costs would go down, the educational sales giants would scream (keep in mind, they all have effective lobbyists), but schools might be filled with books and materials that children actually love to read.
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