Standards, Reading Lists, and Censorship by Chester Finn Jr.

Does the Common Core Mandate Specific Works of Literature?

In this Education Gadfly article, Chester Finn addresses the concern that the Common Core ELA standards are dictating the use of certain books. There’s recently been a flap over Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which is included in the 11th-grade list in Appendix B of the standards http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf). 

Calm down, says Finn. “Appendix B isn’t part of the standards and nothing on it needs to be read by anyone. The choice of curricular materials remains entirely within the province of the state, district, school, or teacher, according to standard practice in that locale.” 

He goes on to defend the inclusion of a wide range of exemplar books and poems in Appendix B, and a shorter list on page 58 of the standards http://bit.ly/d1SrnZ. “[W]hen you scrub every reading list, every textbook, and every test item clean of everything that could offend anybody for any reason, you end up with the boring pablum that dominates so much of today’s curriculum. One reason American kids don’t read much is because what remains for them to read is so dull. Is it any wonder the Internet is more beguiling?” 

Finn hopes that local education authorities will make wise choices from the wide range of literature available.

“Standards, Reading Lists, and Censorship” by Chester Finn Jr. in The Education Gadfly, Sept. 19, 2013 (Vol. 13, #36), http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-weekly#56148

From the Marshall Memo #503

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