I just recently read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Now I did break one of my primary rules in how I choose which books to read: I typically hold fast to only reading a book written by an author who has been dead for at least fifty years. I picked up the book because I heard that it is a staple literature book in public middle schools. I was curious what was so great about this novel written in 1993. (Whether twenty years is enough to prove the mettle of a book is a topic for another post.)
To be honest, I really enjoyed the book. The plot was intriguing for me (I do like dystopian novels) and it was an easy read because it was written at an early middle school level. The characters seemed to be adequately developed for a short novel. And most importantly, I enjoyed the critique of sameness which seemed very appropriate in a country where the federal government seems to be taking control of everything it can.
It was that reading of it that lead me to bring it up in a discussion with a former public school teacher. I commented how it seemed odd to me that it criticized sameness so blatantly and yet the teachers who hold it in such high regard also embrace the Common Core. Those promoting the Common Core seek to nationalize the curriculum. I also read that one of the end goals of the Common Core is that every school will eventually be teaching exactly the same thing in every grade–not just skills but also the same information. (This conclusion is not hard to reach if you compare the Common Core standards with the former state standards.) I wondered how the teachers in our public middle schools do not realize that the Common Core is pushing for sameness!
There is a richness in local government, in local schools, in local traditions. The ideology behind the Common Core leaves no room for state history or the like. Sameness is what nationalization brings.
To a point I side with Lois Lowry: a society that knows nothing other than itself is poor. And yet (beyond Lowry’s point), a society that does not value what it has is even poorer.