It doesn’t much matter which side of the political spectrum an education bureaucrat comes from, they want to destroy the essence of education. The reason is very simple: they want to create workers rather than human beings. Children are not taught to read so they can spend time with the greatest minds of our culture. They are taught so they can read technical documents and understand signs that say, “No sleeping in the workroom!”
Ezra Klein tells us that 46 states plus the District of Columbia has passed the “Common Core State Standards” in English. These standards call for pushing kids to learn how to read “informational” text rather than fiction. This makes no sense on a number of levels.
Primarily: reading is reading. I have always found reading fiction more difficult than reading technical material, except that most technical material is poorly written. Everyone understand the difficulty in starting a novel. You have no context, it just starts. I remember helping my mother decipher the first couple of pages of Naked Lunch, when she inexplicably decided to read it at 60.
Regardless of how technical the material, a good writer is always telling a story. So in a fundamental sense there is no difference between nonfiction and fiction. The biggest difference I find between the two is that nonfiction is typically padded. Reading a ridiculous amount of nonfiction in book form, I can tell you that most 400 page books could easily have been cut down to 100. (In fact: note how often and easily magazine features—10,000 words—get whipped up in to books of 120,000 words. I avoid such books at all cost.) Technical documents (e.g. government reports) are far worse. First, they are with few exceptions poorly written. Second, they are excessively padded—often belaboring one aspect of the subject because one of the team members cared about it. And was verbose. But the editor couldn’t pair that down, because such reports are rarely read and thus judged by weight.
By far the worst aspect of such guidelines is that they destroy our culture. Do we really what a society in which graduates can easily digest a government report but fail to recognize an allusion to Shakespeare or the Bible? Where no one has read Proust or Dickinson or Cervantes? Conservatives are always claiming that they want individual rights. But rights for what? To be a cog in a massive economic machine?
Give me poetry or give me death!