There is a movement, among people who love the idea of locking kids up in school all day, to add deep reading to the national curriculum. Supposedly, kids don’t read well enough anymore. The Internet is making kids stupid. Or bad readers. Or lazy. Or all of the above.
But to be clear, the movement to address these problems is from the people who make teaching standards in this country, which are, as Lisa Nielsen points out, the testing companies and publishers who make money directly from the new standards.
I love this movement because it’s a great example of how the people who establish our national educational standards are out-of-touch with reality.
1. Deep reading pushes teachers to undermine a child’s ability to learn from reading.
When you “teach a text” you destroy the student’s ability to learn from the text. Instead, you spoonfeed them. Take, for example, The Butter Battle Book being part US history units in school. If you tell kids that Dr Seuss is writing this book as commentary on the Cold War then you take away a kid’s ability to make inferences on their own. There is no space left for the kid to discover the connection. So teaching deep reading actually undermines the students natural ability for deep reading.
2. Deep reading assumes kids are not interested in what they are reading.
The standards proscribe how a kid should go about asking questions of a text: “What’s the main point? What are the underlying motives of the writer?” and so on. When my son reads the Time magazine article about Minecraft, no one has to teach him deep reading. The article has a walk-through of how to stay alive the first night in survival mode. My son did research and came up with a better method that he announced he was going to send to the author of the article.
3. Supporters of deep reading are focused truly on their job security.
A college professor, Karen Prior, writes in the Atlantic that she supports the deep reading standards because she wants better students. Her students don’t read the assigned texts. They just want to pass the tests. I am shocked that she is shocked. The kids got into her college by learning how to study for the test. If she wants to know where the kids are who read to learn instead of reading only to pass a test, she should look at the the kids who skip college to do what matters.
4. People who make national standards undermine motivation to learn.
Sometimes I can’t even believe I’m addressing the people who write national standards because it’s so misguided and stupid that I feel like I’m addressing one of those topics that are over, like, whether we should allow interracial dating. But here’s Kathleen Porter-Magee, who, from her perch at The Forham Institute, leads the establishment of state and national curriculum standards: “The reality is that the Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them.” Really?
Adults read what they want to learn. Adults look at their life, decide what will make their life better, and that’s what they read. So why can’t kids do that? Who made the rule that reading cannot be about us? Why else do we read? If you want to understand an author you will naturally meet that author from his or her perspective. You don’t need Common Core to tell you that.
David Coleman, presenting att the New York State Department of Ed, says that teachers don’t care what you personally feel about the text. That’s probably true. That’s why kids spend more effort when they write in social media than when they write for class.
5. The common core exists in a time vacuum.
Who cares if there’s no deep reading? The only people who were really doing it well, according to academia, were other academics. Have you noticed that there are no jobs for academics? They are an anachronism and their way of life, including their reading standards, belong in the Smithsonian.
Those of us living in reality know the biggest threat to reading is that Generation Z uses YouTube instead of Google. Which means Generation Z reads and writes very little. They make their strongest arguments orally, and they receive the information they want orally as well.
Deep reading fanatics should consider addressing the problems of baby boomers. They are, undoubtedly the deep readers of the world, since, if nothing else, they have a lock on tenure-track professorships and high-power positions at publishers, if that term is not an oxymoron. Baby boomers don’t know how to make a YouTube video because they can’t speak in front of people without worrying that they’ll look bad. Baby boomers can’t talk into the tiny camera on their laptop screen. Baby boomers should focus instead on teaching kids how to make solid, well-argued statements using YouTube.
But of course, they can’t because they don’t know how to do it.