Friday, April 22, 2011

Common Core Curriculum Loves the Masters

The Common Core, a new set of curriculum standards being adopted across the country, loves poetry. When the suggested reading list came out, the list included many of the masters featured here: Whitman, Shelley, Shakespeare, cummings. All of their writing has the complexity and vocabulary building muscle that the new curriculum seeks. Many teachers are lamenting the loss of popular YA literature, but I'm glad the masters of the written language are getting top billing. Those popular novels will continue to excite young readers but the masters of poetry excite a deeper part of the soul.

What better way to dive into these poems than to deconstruct them as you can here, rearrange them, make new sense out of old language?

Part of the message of the Common Core is that for too long teachers sought out the writing that students wanted to read rather than making students want to read great literature. It is possible to make students excited about Shakespeare and Shelley, but to do so one has to tap into the moral centers of these complicated works, draw out the underlying dilemmas that make them enjoyable across cultures and generations. As they struggle with these dilemmas, teachers can draw them into the language and teach them to swim.

I have nothing against YA novels or popular books like Twilight. They excite a whole generation of book readers. Yet, often the moral dilemmas in these books do not reach the psychological depths of their predecessors.   

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