New Indiana standards cut American literature and The Declaration of Independence

April 17, 2014 3 Comments

All sets of standards, even the Common Core, have some good standards- some more than others. If Indiana wanted to retain some of the Common Core, there were standards that would have contributed to forming a document that was “uncommonly” high.  However, a review of the final draft of the English standards clearly shows they cut the wrong ones.  Why eliminate standards, the only standards in the Common Core, that required reading American literature like Poe, Hawthorne, and Twain;  foundational  U.S. documents like The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address; and seminal US texts like The Federalist?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9 Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.- REMOVED

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g.,The Federalist, presidential addresses).- REPLACED

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features. – REPLACED

The last two standards were replaced with the following:

11-12.RN.4.1: Delineate and evaluate the arguments and specific claims in seminal U.S. and world texts, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

11-12.RN.4.3: Analyze and synthesize foundational U.S. and world documents of historical and literary significance for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Look at the replacement standards above. Why the intentional addition of “world” documents into the only standards requiring the reading of documents central to our country’s founding and the development of a constitutional republic? They also removed the requirement for reading documents from the 17th, 18th and 19th century and only kept “historical” which could mean 1930 to some teachers. There is no  justification for removing a requirement to read The Declaration of Independence and the other documents required by the original standard as they did. It is truly anti-American.

The worst part of the replacement standards has to be the last line of 11-12.RN.4.1: “identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.”  The requirement is to read seminal US or world texts and analyse how they use  fallacious reasoning and contain false statements. Seriously? These objections are not Hoosiers Against Common Core’s alone, the Fordham Institute has mirrored our opinion here stating that the new Indiana standards gutted anything of value from Common Core.

Is this Governor Pence’s vision for Indiana students: an education void of our country’s greatest authors and documents? Opponents criticized the Common Core for the sparse treatment of classic literature  and American historical documents. We never imagined they would make it worse by eliminating it altogether.

Was this the recommendation from the national experts? On the contrary, they recommended the exact opposite. Dr. Sandra Stotsky submitted recommendations as an official expert for the state’s review. Her comments included input from twenty literary scholars and several Indiana high school teachers. Her report recommended several revisions, but of course,  not ONE was made in the final draft. (The recommendations are listed at the bottom of this post.)

The current draft of Indiana’s new standards is a smack in the face to Common Core opponents. Even worse, it will set our students back substantially and make our education system the laughing stock of the country. The only smart option at this point is to return to our former English and math standards which were judged superior to Common Core and well above the proposed draft.

Recommendations to Indiana’s standards review committees from Dr. Sandra Stotsky:

1. Create separate literature standards for each of the four grades from 9 to 12.
2. Create standards at each grade for each major genre (fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction,
and traditional/classical literature).
3. Embed sample titles or authors in each standard, selected by current English teachers in
Indiana, to suggest the level of reading difficulty and complexity desired.
4. Create standards that show an increasing cognitive load (greater intellectual demand) at
successive grade levels.
5. Put in summative comments at grade 12 for each strand or skill: How should this strand
or skill look by grade 12?
6. Provide a list of recognized Indiana-born writers (e.g., James Whitcomb Riley, Booth
Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser) whose works are to be taught in the secondary grades.
7. Create a standard for the study of British literature before and after Shakespeare.
8. Create a standard requiring study of historically significant literature (i.e., literature
written before the 20th
9. Create a standard requiring study of literature from Anglophone countries.
10. List the different kinds of informational/nonfiction texts to be taught in an English class.
11. Define text complexity clearly and succinctly, and specify approximate length of major
works to be read from grade to grade.
12. Draw on Bloom’s taxonomy for verbs where possible.
13. Provide examples for each level of performance in composition at each grade level, not
just examples of the strongest and weakest writing as in Common Core.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Don Hanlin says:

    Even though I’m skeptical of the so-called “All Hoosier” standards, I think some of your comments border on the hysterical.

    For example, the inclusion of “world documents” in the study of the development of the US political and legal system could mean that students would read the same European Enlightenment documents that so profoundly impacted the Founding Fathers. It could also include comparing and contrasting 18th Century American documents with 19th Century Latin American or 20th Century African and Asia documents or even various Marxist revolutionary declarations in order to understand our own origins better and to see the influence of American ideas. Compare-and-contrast is one of the best ways to understand something. Furthermore, the study of world history now focuses on the exchanges of culture, commerce, conflict, and contagions between areas not on self-contained area studies or the study of individual states. See the AP World History curriculum for some significant standards.

    I do think that general standards should also include documents that reflect very badly on the American experience. Examples would be Andrew Johnson’s veto messages that contained racist attacks on African-American’s civil rights and liberties, a California governor’s speech calling for a campaign of genicide against Native Americans, or selections from any Michael Lewis book regarding manipulation of American banking.

    Furthermore, to suggest that teachers don’t know that the Declaration of Indpendence is THE foundation document of the Republic or that “historical” refers to more than 1930 is insulting. In spite of the fact that secondary teachers should have majors in their subject areas, you really do have to assume that even education majors have some basic content knowledge.

    I’m unmoved by all the silliness of all the debate about Common Core and Hoosier Standards. As long as the standards themselves and incompetent administration of standards don’t prevent teachers from doing a good job, curriculum sequence and teachers’ mastery of content areas will always be more important. As for local control, every Hoosier knows that school boards care much more about the football or basketball coaches win-loss records than how or what they teach.

    • Erin Tuttle says:

      Thank you for your comment. I think the main problem with your response is the need to use “could” when talking about how the changes made effective classroom content material. For example, you write the inclusion of “world documents” could mean a lot of different things. You’re right, but it could mean good or bad things being used in the classroom. Teachers need and want direction in order to properly prepare students. Using vague terms without specific examples makes things a free for all, leaving students open to being exposed to content not intended by the standards.

      The other point is that this is for English class, not World History, not government, and not US history. English teachers don’t have the subject matter expertise to properly teach an understanding of historical documents as well as a history teacher would, to demand them to do so is unfair. They are trained to teach the literary quality of these types of documents. A document like the Declaration of Independence has literary qualities to it, as does the Constitution. By no means was I trying to insult teachers by saying 1930 could be considered historical, but when no specifics are given it makes things too vague.

      I know many school board members who care a great deal about the academic quality of their schools. Local control has its caveats for sure, but I would choose it all day long over the confines of the regulatory body the US Department of Education has become.

  2. Jacob Pactor says:

    In regards to 11-12.RN.4.3: Maybe because the Declaration of Independence borrows heavily from the Magna Carta.

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