Getting to the Core

15 Feb

One doesn’t need any special degree to be a book junkie, just a love of books that borders on the manic. Of course, that love has to include the stories those books tell. And there are oh, so many! Now, when I say “stories” I’m referring mainly to fiction, although I fully understand that non-fiction books also tell stories in their own way. But for now, the stories I’m concerned with are the fictional ones. Even narrower than that, the important ones. The tales, poems, and legends that define who we are as human beings in the Western world. Some may call these stories the “classics” or the “canon.” Whatever one calls them, they are critical to who we are as humans.

Unfortunately, it seems fewer people, especially our young, are reading these stories and the number is going to be even fewer now since the Common Core Standards are being implemented in many states. That’s the reason I wanted to share with you the following essay by professor Anthony Esolen of Providence College. It’s titled “How Common Core Devalues Great Literature,” and it appeared about a week ago in Crisis Magazine. It’s not that long and it’s not filled with technical terms and educational lingo. It’s just a straight forward, passionate case for all us to read the good stuff. Read it and let me know what you think.


Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Education, Ideas, Worries


Tags: , , , , ,

9 responses to “Getting to the Core

  1. jubilare

    March 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I agree, though I balk a little at his general indictment of educators. I know a lot of teachers, and researchers, and educators of various kind, that are as frustrated by the narrowness of the CC as anyone. It’s hardly possible for a good teacher to actually teach, now, and it seems to be getting worse.

    • Rob

      March 20, 2014 at 12:15 am

      I agree with you. I feel sorry for most teachers these days. They’re caught between administrators and “experts” who only deal with educating children in theory. Makes one wonder how the old one-room schoolhouses turned out such brilliant people to guide our country in the past. Set teachers free, I say.

      • jubilare

        March 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

        Teachers, at least the good ones (of which there are many), seem to realize that their job is teaching kids how to think. Sadly, the people controlling the system believe their job is to stuff kids full of information, which is useless without the ability to process and internalize that information. We’re not falling behind in education because we aren’t stuffing kids brains enough. They seem to think that our deficiency is one of information, but it isn’t. We have plenty of information. We are deficient in teaching kids to be interested in the world around them. Learning, to so many, has become a chore rather than a joy… and that makes my heart hurt.
        Alright, I am done preaching to the choir. 😉

  2. Rob

    March 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

    I think there needs to be a balance between content and function. If you don’t give the kids great knowledge they won’t have anything great to think about.

    Preach away, Sister! I always enjoy it.

    • jubilare

      March 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Yes! Because one isn’t encouraged to think for oneself unless presented with something interesting and something that takes thought to unpack.

  3. Ray Silverman

    April 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Rob. Your writing continues to sizzle!

    I read the essay you recommended (about what truly is “core”) and thought it was very well done. Great literature makes us finer people; it educates the imagination; and it gives us a vision of what could be. This is the main emphasis of Northrop Frye’s fine book, The Educated Imagination.

    Earlier this week, PBS did a one hour documentary called, The Address. It’s a story about the boys at the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont–all of whom struggle with learning differences. Each year, these heroic boys memorize the Gettysburg Address and present it before a large audience. It’s inspiring to see these young boys becoming involved with 272 of the greatest words ever spoken–or written.

    Ken Burns did a great job producing this documentary. You get the inside story as these boys struggle to bring forth within themselves “a new birth of freedom.” I found it deeply moving. Like Northrop Frye says, it gives us a vision of what could be.

  4. Rob

    April 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Well, Hi Ray! So good to hear from you! How have you been?

    As an educator yourself, I imagine the Common Core issue must interest you more than most. I’m concerned that this whole program is intent on turning education into mere job-training instead of creating human beings. I’m going to have to read that Northrop Frye book. It sounds like it’s right up my alley!

    So how’s your book doing? Have you written anything new since? I’d love to hear about it. I’m still so grateful for the opportunity you gave me. It was an experience I’ll always remember. May I email you in the future so we can keep in touch?

    I hope you and your family are well and I wish you all a blessed Easter.


    • Ray Silverman

      April 18, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Yes, by all means let’s keep in touch. The Core of Johnny Appleseed had wonderful reviews and did very well. Thanks for your beautiful foreword to the book. It was a big help.

      Speaking of “getting to the core,” here’s a little Easter present for you, written by my friend, Jonathan Rose, and sung by a group of Bryn Athyn College students, teachers and alumni. Here’s the link. Enjoy!

  5. Rob

    April 18, 2014 at 1:37 am

    Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing that and tell your friend (the piano player?) he’s a great composer and a pretty good pianist too. Blessings to all!


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