Common Core Curriculum Standards entrepreneur David Coleman is barnstorming the country claiming that schools need to de-emphasize fiction and obliterate any semblance of reader response. No feelings, no imaginations, no speculations: Just the facts, kid.

What children need, asserts Coleman, whose connection with what US public schoolchildren need is a masters degree from Oxford, is a close reading of “informational text.” That’s what he calls non-fiction. No opinion, no flights of fancy. No creation of new worlds. The teacher’s job is to make sure kids stick just to the text. Informational text, pronounces Coleman, is what will give students the world knowledge necessary to compete as workers in the Global Economy.

When there’s no evidence on your side, just talk about the needs of workers in the Global Economy.

Coleman insists that informational text is what gives readers “world knowledge.” As though Ramona the Brave and Diary of a Wimpy Kid don’t deliver world knowledge. In an interview in The Browser: Writing Worth Reading, Nobel economist Paul Krugman handily pulverizes Coleman’s nonsense by talking about the text that gave him world knowledge as a 16-year-old. And he’s NOT talking about reading material from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Web site, listed as an exemplary text for 16-year-olds in the Common Core Curriculum standards for literacy. Brought to you by the Council of Chief School Officers and the National Governors Association with the help of buckets of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Paul Krugman on Inspiration for a Liberal Economist

The Browser:  The first book you’ve chosen isn’t about economics at all; it’s a work of science-fiction, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. But was it part of what inspired you to become an economist?

Paul Krugman: Yes. This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

Indeed: This is the world knowledge the right book at the right time can deliver: “I want to be one of those guys!” Teachers know this. That’s why they encourage readers to take in more than the facts, why they encourage young readers to pour themselves into the books they read. That’s why we must fight the Common Core Curriculum Standards. These standards travel with a very high price tag, and public school students will be the ones paying the price.  Opinion and speculation and dreaming will be for private school students. For public schoolers, starting in kindergarten, it’s “Just the facts.”

These school are our schools.  From California, to the New York Island. From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters, these schools were made for you and me. Let’s take them back!  For starters, you can write the folks who, with those buckets of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are pushing these rigid and restrictive standards into  public school classrooms across the country: The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

Council of Chief State School Officers
Margaret Reed Millar
Senior Program Associate
Standards, Assessment, and Accountability
margaretm@ccsso.org

Carrie Heath Phillips
Program Director
Common Core State Standards
carrieh@ccsso.org

National Governors Association

Write YOUR governor.