I had intended to post the next installment in my series on autism, neurodiversity, and language learning this past week, but I suddenly found myself otherwise occupied.
In short, while the rest of the country was riveted to the he-said she-said testimony on Capitol Hill, I was assessing much more disturbing he-said she-said testimony here in Philadelphia as a juror in state court.
As I just wrote to a friend, the silver lining was the deliberation process, which partially revived my faith in humanity. The capacity for thoughtful, meaningful dialogue among randomly assembled strangers with different backgrounds, and the capacity for thoughtful consideration of competing sides to a story, have not completely vanished.
These capacities, by the way, are desperately needed not just in assessing he-said she-said situations and in discussing hot-button political issues, but also within the world of autism—something I’ll eventually get to.
This morning, texting with Katharine about second-person reading & writing and why I’m suddenly seeing so much of it in my students’ work, I began to think that Common Core probably overdid the argument-with-evidence business:
The fifth point is about writing. Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though, yet. But I would say that, as someone said, it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet [I didn’t hear ‘sheet’ but that’s what the transcript says] about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare. It is equally rare in college, by the way. So a group of Minnesota professors got together and they very, very wonderfully created a program called “Ready or Not,” where they accepted essay submissions from around the state from high school seniors to see whether they’re college ready or not. Ninety-seven percent of what was provided to them was narrative and 97% of that was deemed not college ready. The core standards thus mark a shift. They do support training in narrative throughout K-12 but what they make primary as you grow is the ability to write an argument based on evidence and convey complex information. This is an essential shift. [emphasis and some punctuation added] – David Coleman “Bringing the Common Core Standards to Life” | April 28, 2011
2nd-person writing, I think, is entry-level argument.
Or, more to the point, 2nd-person writing may be what New York state teachers and textbooks counted as argument once the Common Core shifts-and-standards crash-landed onto their home planet from the heavens above.
Advice is always (usually?) an argument, at least to some degree. When you give a friend advice, you are asserting that your take on the world and the way people ought to comport themselves is a) different from what your friend is doing now, and b) better.
It’s an argument.
I wonder whether New York classrooms shifted from personal-narrative writing to personal-advice writing (and reading?) in response to the new standards.
Reading and writing in the second person
Common Core in the 2nd person
Injunctions of yore