(Non)Fiction Advocate of the Day


American public schools, apparently. According to the Washington Post:

New English standards that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia require that public schools gradually boost the amount of nonfiction taught in K-12, until 70 percent of reading by 12th grade is “informational text.”

These new standards for kids who don’t read good and want to learn to do other stuff good too include the following approved texts:

“Common Sense,” by Thomas Paine

The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson

“Declaration of Sentiments,” by the Seneca Falls Conference

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass

“Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences,” by John Allen Paulos

“Working Knowledge: Electronic Stability Control,” by Mark Fischetti

“Politics and the English Language,” by George Orwell

Count me vigorously in favor of this, so long as the 70 percent requirement is met at least in-part outside of English or literature classes. Certainly a science class with some Richard Feynman would be much improved, as would a government course with Orwell. I do hesitate to give high school kids Thomas Paine, because they are caught in that vulnerable nexus of age, disaffection and chafing under adult authority that leads to the acceptance of stupid ideas from places like Ayn Rand and the Tea Party. Then again, maybe early exposure will help them get it out of their systems before they actually have to face an adult world with real ideas.

– Michael Moats

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