kitchen table math, the sequel: I'm pretty sure 'The Glass Castle' isn't an exemplar text for Common Core

Monday, April 27, 2015

I'm pretty sure 'The Glass Castle' isn't an exemplar text for Common Core

Another board meeting vignette.

The District was in an uproar over Common Core all last year, and every board meeting seemed to feature yet another Powerpoint explication of the Common Core "shifts."

The middle school presentation included samples of student work, and that was great. You could actually get a sense of how the school was interpreting Common Core, and of what the kids were being asked to do.

One of the work samples was a short student response paper using "evidence from the text" (the text in question being The Glass Castle) to support the point that "some people have a different perspective on what is safe and best for people."

That was the student's "theme statement." Some people have a different perspective on what is safe and best for people.

The student's response was well-written, so that was a pleasure to see.

But I was annoyed.

I hadn't read The Glass Castle, and I knew nothing about the book, but since I'd like our kids to be able to read something written before 1990 (and not just The Outsiders, which C. read in 4th grade and then again in 7th), I stood up during Public Comments & took everyone to task.

Why are they reading The Glass Castle, I said.

Why can't they read the classics?

Why can't they read the classics ever.

The school board had the same question.

After that, I decided it was time for me to finally read The Glass Castle myself. I'd been planning to read it for a while, and I figured now was the time.

So I did,

Another case of "always worse than you think." (Family motto.)

The Glass Castle turned out to be a terrific book. But it is radically not a book for 6th-grade students.

When I got to the part where the neighbor boy tries to rape the little 8-year old girl and the next day she has to look up the word 'rape' in the dictionary, I thought . . .

I don't know what I thought.

"Holy cow," maybe.

Me being me, my next thought was: doesn't this call for an email?

An email to somebody?

Somebody in charge?

Somebody in charge who would maybe put in a word for having the kids read Tom Sawyer or Red Badge of Courage or Call of the Wild or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or, really, just about any good book that does not include a scene in which Grandma Erma gropes and paws at her 9-year old grandson's crotch and the dad's reaction is "Brian's a man, he can take it."

I mulled the whole thing over for a couple of weeks. I was still reading the book, and practically every page brought something even more unmentionable than the page before, to the point where I was having trouble imagining what exactly I was going to say if I did write an email, especially given the fact that the people I would be writing to, or about, are people I like. (Our current middle school administrators are both menshes.)

Finally I decided somebody else was going to have to deal with it.

I doubt anyone in the middle school has actually read The Glass Castle, probably including the student who wrote about it. All of the evidence-from-the-text came from the book's opening pages.

The Glass Castle is an amazing book, magical. A magical book about child abuse. (As crazy as that sounds. It is a magical book about child abuse.)

"Some people have a different perspective on what is safe and best for people" isn't the half of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My daughter brought home a book from her school library when she was in the second grade, a book called "Melusine" by famous children's author Lynn Reid Banks. I read it and found out that it is about father-daughter incest and murder. Yikes! I complained to the school librarian, and her reply was that it wasn't meant for second graders. Although I'm pretty sure she removed the book, at least.