David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards, believes that students should analyze difficult text as written, without reference to context or their personal reactions. This blogger disagrees. His blog is vigornotrigor, though you might be tempted to call it Wag the Dog. However, if you google Wag the Dog, you will never find it.
He includes a video of David Coleman, New York State Commissioner John King, and a member of the State Education Department staff named Kate Gerson discussing how to teach Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Coleman, who has never been a teacher, says:
“The first question is for kids as readers, how much can they draw from the text itself, you always want to ask yourself, how can they make do…I think we as readers often decide what can I skip. In other words, I don’t fully get this, but I get it enough to keep moving. I think it’s Ok to say that because you can’t read complicated things without choosing, there are some references that you don’t quite get, that you are not going to follow up on.”
“These speakers clearly do not realize that many of our slow learning, at-risk, and learning disabled middle school students are not developmentally ready and experienced enough independent readers to make such critical judgment calls when it comes to complex informational text.
“Coleman and crew also fail to grasp that students’ thoughts and feelings matter a great deal. Successful teachers at any grade level are genuinely interested in their students’ lives and the classroom is a safe and welcoming environment where each person’s thoughts and feelings are highly valued and respected.
“Trust is an essential ingredient of good teaching and it will flourish in the classroom when the teacher takes time to learn about the individual needs and interests of each student…..
“Learning unfolds in a safe environment that rewards and values curiosity, innovation, imagination, and risk-taking. A properly designed and implemented education program will nurture student confidence rather than fear, and cultivate hope rather than despair.
“The CCSS close reading strategy demands that all students independently “dive into” and master complex informational text and teachers are discouraged from answering student questions or introducing and reviewing prior knowledge with them.
“This unproven approach directly contradicts Bloom’s Taxonomy which has clearly demonstrated that students will first acquire knowledge before they can progress to comprehension and understanding.
“From an educator’s perspective, the importance of text is not simply how well students can comprehend a reading passage, but how the ideas, ideals, and values expressed in the text are internalized and then implemented by students in real life situations.
“Another way of looking at this issue is to simply ask, what would Martin Luther King, Jr. want our students to do?
“Spend two weeks deconstructing and dissecting the nuance and subtlety of his words and how well he supported his claims, or two weeks applying and teaching his principles in our schools and local communities?”