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Parents should be cautious about that to which their kids are exposed, especially in an environment where parental supervision isn't present. At home, television channels can be blocked, web content can be monitored, and most parents are hopefully keeping track of what their kids are reading. However, a lot of parents don’t apply this scrutiny to textbooks being used in the local schools. When one considers what is happening with textbook standards under Common Core, it’s time for that to change.
First, let’s consider how textbooks are being adopted. In their paper Evidence Use and Stages of the Common Core Standards Movement, presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Lorraine McDonnell and Stephen Weatherford discussed changes in textbook adoption. As school districts hurried to meet Race to the Top deadlines for funding, Common Core adoption was hurried to weeks or months rather than years. This, of course, has serious implications for textbook development.
States have different methods and standards for adopting textbooks. It’s on a cycle based on budgeting and necessity, and involves the Board of Education as well as the public. After all, taxpayers have a right to see what is being taught in public schools. In the case of Common Core, textbooks had to be rushed through to align with curriculum. So, content was not transparent, funding might have had to be taken from elsewhere to replace books before scheduled, and the teachers who will have to use the textbooks were not able to work on the content. Combine these factors, and what we see is less than quality information being taught to our children.
Now, let’s talk about what is in those books. Teachers are worried that, perhaps, literature is going to be a thing of the past. The classics are being dropped in favor of non-fiction books, and many students will no longer be introduced to the greats. Who gets excited about reading the EPA’s Recommended Levels of Insulation? No, honestly. Teacher Jamie Highfill told the Huffington Post that “With informational text, there isn’t that human connection that you get with literature. And the kids are shutting down. They’re getting bored. I’m seeing more behavior problems in my classroom than I’ve ever seen.”
There still will be some fiction reading assigned. Maybe your student will be required to read To Kill a Mockingbird, or Catcher in the Rye, but I’m not sure that will be much of a relief considering some of the other content being proposed. Let’s take the book Dreaming in Cuban, for example, being taught in a 10th grade classroom. Students were asked to read the book out loud, which featured sexually explicit scenes, of which I won't repeat here. If you want the details, you can read excerpts here. Yes, this is a book approved under the Common Core guidelines. Surprised?
I know that parents are busy, but I urge all of them to find out what their kids are reading. There might be information or content you find objectionable, be it misinformation or inappropriate content. Be aware of what’s happening and be ready to talk with your kids….and your elected officials.