September 17, 2012
The Problem with College and Career Readiness
Posted by John Spencer
The light is dying earlier now. It's autumn. Fatherhood is slipping away. No more sippy cups. No more synchronized breathing on a couch as I fight of the imaginary monsters plaguing the dark corners of a bedroom. I don't feel cheated by this. It's full of life, but like the light, it's falling fast.
Joel designs and airplane by stapling two airplanes together symmetrically. To my surprise, it flies faster and further than the previous plane. Micah sketches pictures with thought bubbles, where he asks me to illustrate the lines of his story.
It is in these moments that College and Career Readiness feel like a joke. To Joel, a text isn't "informational." Even the most to-the-basics non-fiction work is magical, powerful, opening up worlds that were previously closed. The act of reading is magical to Micah. And the distinction between "information" and "literary" or between "enjoyment" and "purpose" are negligible.
We read, because . . . we read. It's who we are. It's what we love. It's how we live.
The notion that one would read in order to is foreign. Christy and I read for the same reason the kids read: we love reading. We love the process. We love the journey. We love ideas to be challenged. We love worlds that are conjured up from imagination. We love geeking out over new information that we didn't know before.
Don't get me wrong. I love non-fiction. I love the fact that "informational texts" are finally being valued. I want students to make sense out of bias, propaganda, loaded language and the construction of an argument. However, I fear that we're heading toward a place of illiteracy, where we lose the power of the fantastical, the draw of the narrative and the need to process life through fiction.
I wonder what we lose collectively when we lose our stories. I wonder what we lose when the purpose of curiosity or creativity or reading or art or music becomes simply being prepared for college or for a career. I wonder what we become when we are no more than a diploma and a job.