The Dangers of “Close Reading”

Common Core Vocabulary - word cloudRecently a Jewish dad who questioned his child’s classroom assignment is called a neo-Nazi by the president of the local teacher’s union. Click here for full article posted at FOX News on November 6, 2013.

The controversy about this classroom assignment highlights the problem of using the classroom for indoctrination vs. education. Since the Common Core Standards emphasize the importance of “non-fiction” reading skills (otherwise described as “informational text”), it is important that educators use good judgement in selecting the text to study.

When the teacher responds that “the lesson was not about politics – it was about literacy”, the teacher is clearly disingenuous.

For those that are not aware of one of the latest pedagogical techniques, “Close reading” requires the student to analyze a section of text without any external context ….the potential for indoctrination vs education is huge.

The concerns of this parent is an excellent example.  Apparently the teacher and the president of the local teachers union are clueless. Making disparaging remarks about the parent vs. addressing the issue in an adult way is unacceptable.  In the current political climate, it should be the responsibility of teachers to carefully select informational text that avoid controversial issues.  If they insist on expecting students to read informational text that have controversial topics then it is the responsibility of the teacher to present the text “in context”.  In other words, present both sides (or the many sides) of the issue and use the lesson as an exercise in “critical thinking” vs. “reading skills”.

A friend of mine who is a parent with a student in high school recently showed me a reading assignment (from 10th grade English class) that also presented a controversial subject (in this case
evolution).  The article was clearly biased and was used as a “close reading” assignment vs. a vehicle
to investigate the issues surrounding the theory of evolution.  I would think that evolution would best be covered in a Science Class vs. an English class.

Parents need to be aware of this problem and speak up. Please read these reference articles for additional information about “Close Reading”

Speaking Back to the Common Core, Thomas Newkirk
Professor at Univ. of NH (PDF file)

Background Knowledge & Close Reading posted at Institute for Learning by Vivian Mihalakis