Sunday, November 29 , 2015, 5:27 pm | Fair 57º

Michelle Malkin: Readin’, Writin’ and Deconstructionism Rotten to Common Core

By Michelle Malkin | @michellemalkin |

(Second in an ongoing series on federal “Common Core” education standards and the corruption of academic excellence.)

The Washington, D.C., Board of Education earned widespread mockery last week when it proposed allowing high school students — in the nation’s own capital — to skip a basic U.S. government course to graduate. But this is fiddlesticks compared to what the federal government is doing to eliminate American children’s core knowledge base in English, language arts and history.

Thanks to the “Common Core” regime, funded with President Barack Obama’s stimulus dollars and bolstered by duped Republican governors and business groups, deconstructionism is back in style. Traditional literature is under fire. Moral relativism is increasingly the norm. “Standards” is Orwell-speak for subjectivity and lowest common denominator pedagogy.

Take the Common Core literacy “standards.” Please. As literature professors, writers, humanities scholars, secondary educators and parents have warned over the past three years, the new achievement goals actually set American students back by de-emphasizing great literary works for “informational texts.” Challenging students to digest and dissect difficult poems and novels is becoming passe. Utilitarianism uber alles.

The Common Core English/language arts criteria call for students to spend only half of their class time studying literature, and only 30 percent of their class time by their junior and senior years in high school.

Under Common Core, classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are of no more academic value than the pages of the Federal Register or the Federal Reserve archives — or a pro-Obamacare opinion essay in The New Yorker. Audio and video transcripts, along with “alternative literacies” that are more “relevant” to today’s students (pop song lyrics, for example), are on par with William Shakespeare.

English professor Mary Grabar describes Common Core training exercises that tell teachers “to read (Abraham) Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address without emotion and without providing any historical context. Common Core reduces all “texts” to one level: the Gettysburg Address to the EPA’s Recommended Levels of Insulation.” Indeed, in my own research, I found one Common Core “exemplar” on teaching the Gettysburg Address that instructs educators to “refrain from giving background context or substantial instructional guidance at the outset.”

Another exercise devised by Common Core promoters features the Gettysburg Address as a word cloud. Yes, a word cloud. Teachers use the jumble of letters, devoid of historical context and truths, to help students chart, decode and “deconstruct” Lincoln’s speech.

Deconstructionism, of course, is the faddish left-wing school of thought popularized by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1970s. Writer Robert Locke described the nihilistic movement best: “It is based on the proposition that the apparently real world is in fact a vast social construct and that the way to knowledge lies in taking apart in one’s mind this thing society has built. Taken to its logical conclusion, it supposes that there is at the end of the day no actual reality, just a series of appearances stitched together by social constructs into what we all agree to call reality.”

Literature and history are all about competing ideological narratives, in other words. One story or “text” is no better than another. Common Core’s literature-lite literacy standards are aimed not at increasing “college readiness” or raising academic expectations. Just the opposite. They help pave the way for more creeping political indoctrination under the guise of increasing access to “information.”

As University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, an unrelenting whistleblower who witnessed the Common Core sausage-making process firsthand, concluded: “An English curriculum overloaded with advocacy journalism or with ‘informational’ articles chosen for their topical and/or political nature should raise serious concerns among parents, school leaders and policymakers. Common Core’s standards not only present a serious threat to state and local education authority, but also put academic quality at risk. Pushing fatally flawed education standards into America’s schools is not the way to improve education for America’s students.”

Bipartisan Common Core defenders claim their standards are merely “recommendations.” But the standards, “rubrics” and “exemplars” are tied to tests and textbooks. The textbooks and tests are tied to money and power. Federally funded and federally championed nationalized standards lead inexorably to de facto mandates. Any way you slice it, dice it or word-cloud it, Common Core is a mandate for mediocrity.

Michelle Malkin is author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow her on Twitter: @michellemalkin, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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» on 01.28.13 @ 02:25 AM

When kids are forced to read this kind of drivel, written by Malkin in some kind of paranoid mind-haze, we should all become very concerned.

» on 01.28.13 @ 01:30 PM

Hello - I’m new to this conversation.  Every once in awhile I think, I ought to respond to something, but then I don’t.  This, however, caught my attention because it is of great interest to me.  Rambler, I was taken aback by your comment.  I understand the annoyance of reading those with whom you don’t agree, but I would be interested in whether your annoyance stemmed from a delight in the new standards or a general animosity towards the writer.  I am not familiar with the details of Common Core, but I am interested in how, as a nation, it would be possible to create such a concept.  I have two observations on the topic which have informed my current views on this.  1.  In high school, I had a fantastic English teacher who used vocabulary and spelling as an opportunity to teach Cultural Literacy.  This included words and concepts from current songs, politics and news as well as opera, theatre, history, foreign languages and art. It gave me a rich sense of time and space on which I still draw.  2. When I lived abroad during college, the aspect in which I found it most difficult to assimilate was in the Common Core knowledge of the local people.  While I could understand the language, the current climate and most general aspects of the culture, because I had not grown up there, I did not have knowledge of jokes, stories, rhymes and content which is part of the national consciousness.  It is,admittedly, very difficult to produce a curriculum which accommodates the backgrounds, experiences and desires of a nation as diverse and large as our own, however, the idea is still admirable.  The question is, what does it look like?  I think that what Michele is perhaps squeamish with is the notion that a deconstructionist view on writing over equalizes value to the point where 1. you don’t actually have a common core because what is taught in CA, for instance, is not the same as OH because each experience will be so individualized and 2. children don’t learn judgment or discernment in writing because no value is placed on one thing over another.  I think those points are valid to disagree with, but I would be interested in the reasons why and what ought to replace them.

» on 01.28.13 @ 05:32 PM

Well, we’ve got to try something.

After a generation of public school erosion of standards, and a generation of trying to educate the children of 10-million recent immigrants, things just aren’t working very well.

Whatever system can build upon: creativity, essential knowledge, language skills,
math & science, basic vocational training, and basic citizenship/values, and do
so successfully for a majority of the families who aren’t lifers in the teachers unions, is worth examining.

» on 01.29.13 @ 12:39 AM

I normally wouldn’t comment on anything Malkin writes because it is generally the poorly researched, sensationalist hyperbole of someone who’s only skill is marketing herself in the public arena. Nevertheless, I’ll jump in to correct one of her many misrepresentations. Common Core standards do recommend that about half of the literature students encounter in the last two years of high school be “informational text”, but the percentage is of *all* the texts they encounter, not just their English class reading list. So their statistics book, the auto repair training updates, the staging directions for a play, their history and science books all count. She is just so pathetically ill-informed.
The idea is that students should be ready for college or a job after high school, so being able to read with comprehension things like loan documents, philosophical works by Robert Locke, poetry and novels, training or technical material for the military, etc is a good thing, not just more liberal indoctrination. So Malkin doesn’t really understand what she’s talking about, (surprise!) which only means she finds it threatening and therefore a chance to pad her pockets with yet another column of reactionary tripe. She’s kvetching all the way to the bank.

By the way, welcome HannahRS, to the conversation.

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