Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday!

From a New York Times op-ed about the reading and writing curriculum, specifically the decreasing emphasis on prose fiction:

David Coleman, president of the College Board, who helped design and promote the Common Core, says English classes today focus too much on self-expression. “It is rare in a working environment,” he’s argued, “that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ ”

But isn’t it also rare to have to write a market analysis?

When we say, in brief, that someone “can write” I hope we are not saying they’re good at creating bureacratic documentation; I think we mean they can share information about a series of facts, events, or assertions concisely and clearly, while maintaining control over tone and diction so as to convey the right emotional relation to the material, and the right status relation with the recipient.

In other words, we are saying they can write e-mail that gets the job done and doesn’t waste time.

I see no reason reading novels wouldn’t teach you how to do this.

 

3 thoughts on “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday!

  1. Michael Thaddeus says:

    As schools focus on business skills more and more narrowly, they become more and more boring, and more and more students lose interest or drop out. Which would you rather write as a school assignment, a compelling account of your childhood, or a market analysis of toothpaste? Already, “teaching to the test” is crowding music, art, and gym out of the curriculum in favor of math and reading around the clock. But music, art, and gym are what draw students to school. Shouldn’t Dave Coleman know better?

  2. Jason Starr says:

    @Michael: I hated gym! I kept having to repeat the course. Music is largely extra-curricular in today’s public K-12 system.

  3. Dirty Davey says:

    I think there’s a key distinction here between what gets read and what gets written. Of course, I’m bound to say that–having gone to a high school in which “literature” and “composition” were separate classes. In only one year did composition class focus on writing about literature; another year involved writing history papers, and two years assignments focused on structure and organization with the choice of topic completely open.

    I think there’s definitely something to be said for high school writing instruction that is not organized around bringing along a group of junior literary critics.

    That said, I think that reading and discussing fiction–if not writing quite so much about it–is essential. I would just say there’s a pretty good case against a writing curriculum solely focused on literature.

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