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In response to an earlier post about the decline in teaching fiction since 2011, and to the limits on fiction set in the Common Core standards (not more than 30% of instructional time in high school), a reader named Laura responded in a comment. Why limit fiction? Why does it matter? I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“The study of literature (i.e. fictional texts) is essential to the development of critical thinking. When a student engages with a piece of literature, the student must step into the shoes of someone else and evaluate the decisions made and the actions taken by that character. When we teach literature, we teach students to hypothesize by making predictions, and we teach students how to synthesize different pieces of information in a way that makes sense. With literature, students learn how to understand and how to make analogies, thereby developing their ability to compare and contrast ideas as well as to evaluate those comparisons and contrasts.
“Literature provides the opportunity for students to understand human relationships as well as historical events in a way that is more personal and more accessible. I know a student is hooked when the student says, “This character is just like X in my life.” When a student can identify with a character and with a story, then a reader is created, and that reader will go on to read anything else they encounter in the world. Therefore, literature allows students not only to develop their vocabulary and their reading comprehension skills but to develop a consciousness as a member of a larger community of people. It allows students to access different perspectives, and especially on controversial issues, this can sometimes be the only point of access that a student might have.
“Gates, Walton, Broad, Zuckerberg, et al are not interested in critical thinkers who might question their decisions. They want human drones who have enough tech skills to produce but not enough critical thinking skills to challenge the way things are.
“Anyone who views literature as an option is misguided. Literature is absolutely and fundamentally essential to an educated populace and to democracy.”