By Nick McDaniels – The days of teacher autonomy in curricular choices are largely gone in public schools due to Common Core-induced, Central Office fear.
That means that most choices, including text choices, are made by a very few people. And in my experience, these people stereotype teenagers and then make choices based on these stereotypes.
Multiple times I have – though in hindsight I didn’t have to – apologized to students when they have raised important concerns about texts. “Why do we have to read young adult novels?” Or the more pointed, “Why do we only read books about black people?”
I understand that the all-inspired text choosers think that what they are doing is making age- and race-relevant choices. And, they are. What they don’t acknowledge is that, when that’s all they do, they bore the living tar out of kids. It’s downright insulting to the kids, and to the great teachers out there who can still make Shakespeare and Steinbeck just as interesting as the hottest YA novel.
If we are not in this job to help expand the horizons of children, expose them to things that they may not otherwise be exposed to, then I’m not sure what we are doing it for. Stereotyping the interests of children through our text choices communicates that we are only in this business for the cheap laugh; that English class is some mid-bill Vaudeville act.
This is not a plea to bring the classics back, nor a plea to prevent updating of texts. Quite simply, this is a plea to stop making every text choices based solely on what we think students should be interested in based on stereotypical ideas.