Still no cure for the Common Core

Farm Forum

Some educational experts know that one weakness in American education is the reading of too many fictional works and too few informational texts. When the purpose of education is to prepare students for “a global economy,” literature becomes a distraction.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a committee effort by 135 mostly nonteachers, according to The Washington Post, is behind school changes now adopted in 46 states, including South Dakota.

One Common Core recommended sample of nonfiction is far more invigorating than Mark Twain, William Shakespeare or Herman Melville — Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.

Who would want to stop by woods on a snowy evening when Executive Order 13423 is beckoning?

Who would want to debate why so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens — when instead you could ponder how one should “monitor and report to the head of the agency on agency activities to carry out subsections (a) and (b) of this section, and (B) perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate”?

Who would want to chug through Sinclair Lewis — “I hate your city. It has standardized all the beauty out of life. It is one big railroad station, with all the people taking tickets for the best cemeteries” — when they could instead be learning to “provide reports on agency implementation of this order to the Chairman of the Council on such schedule and in such format as the chairman of the council may require”?

For those English teachers moaning over the new standards: Get over it! Literature? Pshaw! And who needs George Bernard Shaw?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” said Shaw.

The Common Core folks — in a full-illusion approach — assure us that there is still room for literature. Somewhere. You can paste informational texts into social studies and science. You can still teach a little literature, if you really have to, in your remaining English classes, although it won’t be on the test.

Soon, many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore will be a dim memory, and that’s as it should be. There might be more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, but we won’t have time in our six-hour day to get to them. We have to figure out what it means to conduct “environmental, transportation and energy-related activities under the law in support of their respective missions in an environmentally, economically and fiscally sound, integrated, continuously improving, efficient and sustainable manner.”

That will leave little time to think about something so totally unrelated to the “global economy” as beauty. Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Not anymore, John Keats! As we go gently into that good night, we need to know a lot more. Like greenhouse gas emissions avoidance or reduction.

“No need to be afraid of him, son. He’s all bluff.” Well, Atticus, bluff or no bluff, the Common Core is coming. And Twain, even though you’ve mentioned that “soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre,” reams of once-memorized poetry is just waiting to be massacred, and the sooner we get to it the better.

Rote memory of “Charge of the Light Brigade”? No more. Instead, we’ll enjoy the rhythms and motifs of Executive Order 13423, in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

It rolls right off your tongue.

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at