Sorry for the lack of posting. My family issues continue, but I’ve been doing a lot of planning (don’t worry, I got unit credit for it 😉 and felt the need to share this observation. I’m working with a Pearson text that’s part of a supplemental adoption for English and Language Arts. This text has some good points, and bad.
An example of good: based on research by Allington, they focus on providing students with text at their lexile level for independent reading, while providing the controversial “text at grade level complexity” (better known as Reading Standard 10) through the text shared at class level. But there is something that while seemingly small, got me thinking. Bear with my nit-picking.
The first lessons are about Reading Standard 2 to determine the theme of a story. When teaching what a theme is, the teacher is instructed to direct students that “a theme applies to universal ideas about people…” to which I say, whose universe is this? The themes being explored in the unit given are about the changes that happen as human children grow up. That’s not an area of glaring discrepancies, since although concepts of childhood and how one goes from childhood to adulthood has huge variety among the cultures found on Earth, whatever the timeline, people go from some form of childhood to adulthood. Childhood may end at 4 or 14, but we all pretty much “grow up” and our lives change. Let’s look at a couple common themes in literature and see how some of the really big themes are not really “universal”.
Family is paramount and one often has to subvert their own needs to fulfill these obligations
Variants of this theme can be found in western literature, but those are mostly in prior centuries, and this theme would be very dated as to be laughable and would need to be about a specific sub-culture for a modern piece of work. On the other hand, this is a very normal idea and theme in some non-western cultures. Let’s look at the opposite case with this theme.
Pursuit of personal fulfillment is good thing
I’ve been worried from the beginning about the implied notion that “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development” in fiction (or poetry, etc.) was a relatively straightforward, foundational sort of process or skill. It just isn’t how literature works. Also, “theme” is just left hanging relatively undefined. Is Pearson’s definition correct? Who knows? It isn’t in the CC glossary. The Common Core ELA is simply underspecified. It is unfinished. It is rushed hackwork.