The Unfortunate Intentional Death of Classical Literature

by | Nov 29, 2023

The death of the classics has contributed to a monumental decline in literacy and communication skills across the board, including the adoption of failed policy standards for curricula like Common Core, racial literacy, and equitable reading lists for all ages. 

Policies and standards that encourage school districts to remove classical literature and incorporate inclusive reading materials incentivize poor literacy by prioritizing political activism and social justice over reading skills. The focus of programs from political organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, EDUCAUSE, Rethinking Schools, Teaching for Change Publications, and The Zinn Education Project is to establish transformative social change through the collaborative effort between educators, school administrators, and students to guide teaching material and instruction. 

Much of the push for inclusive reading lists stems from the resources and principles of instruction given to K-12 educators in school districts and universities across the nation. Here is a breakdown of some of the materials academic institutions encourage teachers to incorporate into their teaching:

Let’s evaluate some of these materials and the pedagogy that is applied through them.

In Supporting Gender Diversity in Early Childhood Classrooms, teachers are instructed regarding the proper ways to instill gender awareness and exploration of gender identity and gender expression through curricula. Teachers are encouraged to take additional responsibilities when teaching young children and infants, stating that “in order for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to develop gender agency, they first need language, pictures, and stories that offer ideas about who is it possible for them to be and to become—’I’m a boy!’ ‘I’m an in-betweener!’ ‘People can change their gender!’ ‘I don’t have to choose!’ It is only when children are exposed to vocabulary and ideas that help them authentically name their thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to gender, that we support them to be able to honestly tell us who they are.”

This focus on identity continues to leak into nearly every teacher-student lesson plan promoted by these institutions, including materials by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “‘Bibi” Lesson 1: What Makes Us Who We Are” describes how teachers can discuss concepts of social identity with students to construct their identity, including a handout from Teaching Tolerance where the students decide which identities fit within their personal group and which identities fit within their social group. This is a method of compartmentalizing race as it pertains to students’ social groups and the perceived identities within those groups. The program specifies that it aligns with Common Core State Standards as well, which supports the idea that policy is directly related to the influx in social justice curricula in K-12 schools. 

In the book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too, Edmin stresses the need to incorporate “Reality Pedagogy,” or culturally responsive teaching, into education. The University of California likens culturally responsive teaching to critical pedagogy, stating that both forms of teaching focus on “the validation of youth culture and its consideration in teaching youth of diverse backgrounds.” Reality Pedagogy is built on 5 core competencies: cogenerative dialogues, co-teaching, cosmopolitanism, context, and content. Let’s break down what each of these competencies mean:

1.) Cogenerative dialogue means teachers are encouraged to use ethnically diverse language and slang terms, or “cyphers,” to communicate with students so that they are culturally affirmed and their language is accepted in the same way that proper English would be accepted.

2.) Co-teaching in reality pedagogy involves a role reversal where the student becomes the expert in inclusivity and the teacher becomes the novice. This structure is designed to encourage students to educate their teachers on their own lesson plans and reading materials, wherein the students and the teacher work together to formulate lesson plans to manufacture the “collective success” of all students.

3.) Cosmopolitanism is a philosophical structure that is applied to reality pedagogy to “transform” human roles through embracing the human responsibility students have to maintain each other’s livelihoods and happiness. This pillar includes the discussion of student roles in the classroom, wherein the teacher makes students aware of their contributions to the success of classroom procedure and the effectiveness of collective student learning. Students are updated throughout the year as their roles change, and certain students’ roles are prioritized over others.

4.) Context describes the integration of environmental “artifacts” into the classroom for the sake of connecting students to community trends and identifying diverse cultural significance to them.

5.) Content is the part of the program that facilitates the use of the artifacts collected in cultural context activities in student learning and instruction. This includes homework assignments where students have to collect “science-informed” artifacts like graffiti or rap music from their communities to investigate and analyze their relevance within the classroom.

A large portion of reality pedagogy rests on the idea that student criticism about instruction ought to be welcomed with open arms by teachers and administrators, including vocal and hostile criticisms. Student-led instruction is encouraged, as well as a nuanced perspective on culture and anti-racist teaching.

Although many of these books have been banned from Florida classrooms, there are many that slide through the cracks. 

As academic institutions adopt DEI policies, their administration departments bloat severely, costing taxpayers and American families millions every year. The Heritage Foundation evaluated the scale of this bloat, noting the disproportionate amount of DEI administrators at US colleges compared to teaching staff.  “The average university has 45.1 people tasked with promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Most of the universities evaluated have a DEI administrator ratio that is 1-14 times higher than the number of teachers. These DEI departments contain many levels as well, with “almost all of these central diversity offices [being fully] supported by directors of communication, program assistants, and administrative assistants.”

As colleges, state departments, and significant academic institutions adopt failed policies for equitable education, American students fall further behind in reading and math proficiency. At what point do American families value tenacity in declining these policies?

More concerning than student illiteracy is the rise in teacher illiteracy. While the teachers promoting failed political activist policies in American classrooms enhance the divide between students and adequate educational outcomes, they cannot pass their own licensing exams! In a shocking lawsuit between New York City teachers and the state of New York, “thousands of Black and Latino former teachers in NYC stand to collect more than $1 billion” after the city deemed the licensing exams discriminatory on the grounds of race, because non-white applicants could not pass the exams. However, even after the tests were simplified to account for academic disparities between minority applicants and white applicants, NYC teachers still could not pass the licensing exams. 2012 ruling Judge Kimba Wood found that teachers did not need to know the information on the licensing exam in order to teach effectively within the classroom, despite the fact that the students they would be teaching are required to know and understand the same information that the teachers applying to teach in the state of New York are incapable of understanding, supposedly as a result of discrimination.

If teachers teaching the next generation of thought leaders cannot recall or understand the material they are teaching, how can anyone be certain that they are even capable of teaching the material to students at all? Why are teachers not held to the same standard of the minors they are teaching, and why is race so prioritized over academic achievement, when there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest that these policies are harming students’ ability to learn and thrive?

If the failure of inclusive teacher licensing exams, the removal of classical literature, and the overwhelming illiteracy at every academic level are not all proof that DEI policies are cancerous to the educational achievement of students and teachers, then literacy should be skyrocketing at the implementation of these academic programs; however, that is the direct opposite of what is happening. Anyone advocating for the equitable educational outcomes of students should not be on board with DEI programs or their policies, seen as how they have resulted in the demonstrative failure of every academic institution that has adopted them.

About the Author

Maria Wilander

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