Replacing Classic Literature with Inappropriate Texts? Not Quite.

States across the country are adopting the Common Core framework to ensure state and local education officials have full control over the content taught in their schools.

Yet, to hear some opponents tell it, the shift is removing classic literature from schools entirely and replacing it with “soft-core porn.” The American Spectator reports the “Common Core structure not only diminishes the amount of literary study in ELA classrooms, its recommendations for what types of fiction should be read are weighted against the classics… In place of great British novels it suggests soft-core pornography.”

That claim could not be any further from the truth. By setting high, clear learning goals and giving teachers and local officials full control over how best to achieve those, the Common Core ensures educators have autonomy over what is taught, and how it’s taught, in their classrooms.

That ownership is reinforced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which prohibits the federal government from meddling in local education decisions. Educators have more autonomy in their classroom and students are better equipped with rigorous content across all subject areas to successfully meet higher standards.

Materials teachers choose to use in their classrooms aren’t dictated by Common Core. Those decisions are made by local school boards and educators. Former Alabama Governor Bill Riley questioned who decided which textbooks his grandson would use. It turns out, the decision was made close to home, he explains:

“The decision about which books are read in Homewood schools is made by educators, parents and school officials in Homewood. If an Alabama parent or group of parents has an issue with a specific book in their local school, they do not have to lobby Washington for change. They don’t even have to call Montgomery. All they have to do is tell their concerns to the local school administration.”

“Lies, myths, exaggerations and hysteria about what the Common Core means and does have dominated the ‘debate’ and the real issues have been obscured,” former Education Secretary Bill Bennett wrote last year about misleading characterizations of the standards. “The issue of honest standards of learning for our children is too important to be buried in an avalanche of misinformation and demonization.”

In testimony before the Ohio House Education Committee, Mike Petrilli explained that the emphasis on non-fiction reading, spread across all subjects, asks “schools to bring back rigorous content in history, science, art, music and literature… They ensure that students read great works of literature and solid non-fiction sources too, like the nation’s founding documents.” Moreover, a Harvard study this year concludes, “In short, the Common Core consortium has achieved one of its key policy objectives: the raising of state proficiency standards throughout much of the United States.”

Most states have seen past the rhetoric and doubled down on rigorous, comparable education standards. Many have chosen a new name to reflect their ownership. The Common Core was always intended as a floor, not a ceiling.

The Common Core has largely achieved its purpose – to create a high, consistent baseline for student achievement. Nearly every state has implemented rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, which is a huge win for parents – who strongly support those principles.

The high, comparable standards are designed to foster critical thinking and creativity in classrooms by establishing rigorous education standards consistent for all students. For example, California teacher Elizabeth Little applied Common Core standards to teach her students to make a banana calculator.

To ensure that her students were engaged, New York teacher Lauren Leigh Kelly also designed a Hip-Hop Literature and Culture class, “to engage students in the study of hip-hop texts, including songs, films, and music videos, as a means to develop media literacy and critical-analysis skills.”

These two are just a few of the many examples of how educators are using their autonomy to build on state’s commitment to high standards to support college and career readiness for all students.

It is very clear that the content is not “soft-core porn,” but rather a useful tool educators can use to foster creativity within their classrooms.