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I must admit that I would have been too embarrassed to teach Julia Alvarez’s sexually explicit novel, In the Time of the Butterflies, to the college students I have taught for over twenty years, much less to ninth- and tenth-graders, as many Georgia high school teachers have been instructed to do.
Some high school teachers also have a problem with its overtly feminist and leftist-leaning ideology. The men are portrayed as weak drunkards, continually cheating on their wives.
For example, there is a drunken New Year’s celebration of “the triumphant announcement. Batista had fled! Fidel, his brother Raul, and Ernesto they call Che had entered Havana and liberated the country.” No indication in the novel that Fidel and Raul turned out to be tyrants, or Che a mass murderer.
The novel has explicit descriptions of masturbation and intercourse, but I’m too embarrassed to quote those.
The novel is taken straight from Common Core’s “Text Exemplars” for ninth and tenth graders. Although the “exemplars” are officially intended to be suggested readings, educrats take the suggestions literally. They know that they have to prepare students for the national tests being rolled out in 2014-2015.
Most state legislators and members of the school board who support Governor Nathan Deal in his support of Common Core repeat that Common Core does not prescribe a curriculum—but rather “standards.” These standards supposedly ensure that students’ academic achievement is consistent state-to-state. But that’s another reason for textbook selection committees to select works from the “exemplars”—like Alvarez’s novel. And it’s another reason why school boards seek to buy “Common Core-compliant” textbooks, as Cobb County in Georgia was going to do for $7.5 million—until citizens protested.
Consistency and standards are among the selling points of Common Core. Recently at a political meeting, one of our Republican state senators brought in a Common Core-supporting member of the state school board to sell us on Common Core and explain that arguments against Common Core are based on misinformation. These are state standards, he insisted. They are not curricula. And they were developed by some “very smart” people–- people with doctorates in education and experience in administration. The school board member even used his son’s Boy Scout badges to demonstrate the difference between standards and curricula. Neither he nor the senator had spent a day in a classroom as teachers, however. Had they, they would have known that “standards” and “curricula” in the real world of the classroom have very little difference in meaning. That’s why there is a big rush on to buy “Common Core-compliant” textbooks across the country.
Still, these two Common Core salesmen implied that opponents are part of the tin foil hat contingent. Even my question in private to the school board member (who claimed to love “literature”) about the fact that informational texts like EPA directives will be replacing a large percentage of literary works was met with the retort, “So how many times do you use Beowulf? Graduates need to learn how to read informational texts in order to be able to read instructions at work.”
No doubt, high school students sharing his opinion would rather read Alvarez’s unchallenging polemical and titillating prose than Beowulf or Paradise Lost. No doubt, her novel will bring them up to speed on politically correct figures and sex tips. The accompanying EPA directives will teach them how to scan boring texts for required instructions at their “21st century” jobs where they will do tasks that require little concentration or independent thought.
And as national social studies standards now come rolling in they will also learn about new American heroes, like Common Core’s biggest funder, billionaire Bill Gates. One elementary school textbook published by Pearson, the giant international publishing company that has helped develop Common Core tests, contains several pages of tribute to him.
The tribute to the billionaire leftist will make a nice complement to praise of Castro and Che in one of the few works of fiction allowed to remain in the ever-diminishing pool of literary “exemplars” under these new “standards.”
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