The Common Core State Standards in English, which have been adopted in 46 states and the District, call for public schools to ramp up nonfiction so that by 12th grade students will be reading mostly “informational text” instead of fictional literature.
English teacher J.D. Wilson agrees with much of what the standards aim to accomplish. But he is disturbed by the subtle shift the new standards are already causing in his classroom at Wareham High School in Wareham, Mass. “Reading for information makes you knowledgeable — you learn stuff,” Wilson said. “But reading literature makes you wise.” Wilson has wrestled with which poems to cut from his lesson plans and which nonfiction to teach instead. And then he hit upon an idea. This fall, he has taught “Literature Is Not Data: Against Digital Humanities,” “Shakespeare, a Poet Who Is Still Making Our History” and “Who Killed the Liberal Arts?” They are all essays that emphasize the value of literature.