Very exciting !
I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and watch.
Very exciting !
I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and watch.
I’ve just finished revamping my power point slides for this week’s installment of my Autism, Language and Reasoning class. In the process, I found myself back on the Common Core website–a place I hadn’t visited for a while.
This week’s class discusses the challenges that writing assignments pose to children with high functioning autism, most of whom are mainstreamed into regular classrooms. One of the strategies we consider is offering alternative, autism-friendly writing assignments.
But what do the Common Core English and Language Arts Standards have to say about that, I wondered. How much flexibility does the Common Core allow towards uncommon students? After all, only 1-2% of students are exempt–only those with the most severe cognitive impairments. Everyone else, including those with high functioning autism (like J), is held to the same calendar-age-based standards.
A quick scan through the ELA Standards shows a number that could double as diagnostics for autism. Consider:
(From the Writing Standards).
Even better, from the Speaking and Listening standards:
and, perhaps most effective of all:
America’s Common Core architects appear to think they’ve landed on something that has eluded the world’s psychologists, neurologists, and therapists: a cure for high functioning autism! Namely, America’s Common Core-guided K12 classrooms.
Unless what they’re really after is a high school diploma that certifies that none of America’s high school graduates has more than a mild touch of autism.
It’s not that you’re unsocial: in some ways, you’re unusually socially sensitive. While you struggle to intuit what’s socially appropriate, you worry about the impression you make and about not hurting people’s feelings. You may have trouble interpreting facial expressions, but not tones of voice. You make eye contact, speak fluently, and tentatively engage one-on-one or in small groups—especially in imaginative play. The broader world out there, however, baffles you, and so you retreat. The more you retreat, the less you sponge up. As you grow older, you fall further and further behind your peers—in worldly knowledge, in vocabulary, in knowledge of social rules. Group conversations and real-world phenomena (everything from politics to pop culture) become increasingly difficult to make sense of. Things snowball.
Your refuge is a private world–of fantasy, of systematizing, of thought experiments, or, at its worst, of brooding and perseverating. Unlike the stereotypical introvert’s retreat to a library to gobble up books, your retreat is more deeply interior. You deviate from the introvert stereotype, but not from introversion in the word’s truest sense.
Except for fantasy and sci fi, age-appropriate texts become as hard to follow as the real world. When others address you directly or give you specific tasks, or you give yourself a task (painting, learning music), you tune in, but when the topics turn worldly and tap into your knowledge deficits, you start losing focus. Keeping your mind turned outwards is exhausting, and once you’re no longer immediately accountable, you relent. While teachers teach, or kids chat, or a show plays on TV, or your parents converse at the dinner table or read to you at bed time, or you yourself try concentrating on a book, you find yourself picking up only snippets and then free-associating back into your head—back to the rivalries between witches, to the phonemic categories of English, to the nature of infinity, to a replay of a plot line from Harry Potter, or to the question of why someone snubbed you at lunch.
Has any diagnostician classified this syndrome?
And why am I talking about it here, on a blog about language and writing?
I plan to spell that out more in the next few weeks, but (spoiler alert!) this post is my lead-in to a discussion about… the reading and writing sections of the new SAT.
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.