Dear Common Core:
I know I’ve been ignoring you. The truth of the matter is that I’ve never been all that interested in you. In fact, there’s something about you that leaves me feeling, well, just a little bit sleepy. In other words CC—can I call you CC?—the problem isn’t you, it’s me, or at least that’s what your devoted fans are so quick to imply should my opinion shade the slightest bit critical. But I’m starting to wonder if I may have misjudged you, CC. I think we need to talk….
Our troubles started when a New York City teacher shared with me this Grade 11 English Language Arts pre-assessment that was designed with you in mind. Oh it all sounds innocent enough. Students must read an excerpt from an informational text (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what one of these is, CC) along with two poems, then determine which genre best conveys the reality of life in an impoverished Indian community, making their case in an *argument essay* in accordance with 12 helpfully provided guidelines. Will it be the excerpt from Katherine Boo’s outstanding informational text, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, or will Imtiaz Dharker’s poetry reign supreme? Will informational texts finally vanquish poetry once and for all? And why do I have a sneaking suspicion that I know which side you’re rooting for, CC?
The Dead Poets Society
You don’t have to get all “To His Coy Mistress” with me, CC; I know how you roll. You’re up to your old college and career ready ways again with this subtle nudge to the handful of students who still haven’t gotten the message that poetry ≠ career. As for the few 11th graders who sided with poetry against informational texts in this death match, perhaps you could have career advisers call them at home to share some informational texts about the dismal job prospects of poetry majors, you know, just in case. Since this was only a pre-assessment, we’ll still have plenty more opportunities to judge whether your message is sinking in…
The career road not taken
Now you’re probably wondering why I felt the need to put down my wine box and climb off the couch for this particular battle. It’s simple, CC: I like my fights fair and this is starting to feel like a bit of a pile on. Even before you weighed in with your nonfictional, informational prose and your robust real world reflections, poetry wasn’t exactly climbing the charts. And that was before we all came together as a nation to agree that career readiness means encouraging our youth to major in “product management for Yahoo!”. This latter bit of info text wisdom comes via Reid Hoffman, Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor. And founder of LinkedIn, where there is not a single job listing for poet to be found.
I know why the cage-busting bird sings
I know what you’re thinking, CC. You’re thinking that mine is an argument light on evidence and reason, lighter still on credibility and precision. I’ve failed to order ideas and information within and across paragraphs, nor have I used appropriate transitional words/phrases in a way that clarifies the reasoning and logic of the argument. As for my counterclaim(s) about the various ways that poetry falls measurably short as a genre, they’re feeling just a little too convincing, if you know what I mean. But before you score me a big fat zero for “no evidence” on the death match rubric, consider this, CC. I have a conclusion that not only clarifies my position, but strengthens it.
I felt a funeral in my brain
You see CC, it just happens that this particular battle is one with which I’m all too familiar. While I proudly wear the uniform of Team Poetry, epaulettes and all, the man to whom I’m *technically* married (TMTWITM) marches under the flag of the informational text—lots and lots of informational texts. In fact, during the time that I’ve spent composing this *argument essay,* three more boxes containing even more such texts have arrived upon our doorstep. While their precise contents will remain a mystery until such a time as the designated recipient chooses to open them, I’m going to go ahead and infer what they do not contain: poetry. How can I be so sure? Let’s bring in some supplemental evidence in the form of a recent conversation.
Me: “What do you think about poetry?”
Me: Beginning to wonder if perhaps I should repeat the question given that the silence seems to be of an unusually lengthy duration.
TMTWITM: “Nothing. That’s what I think about poetry.”
TMTWITM: “Absolutely nothing! Wait—is this for your blog?”
Should poetry just pack it in and go home? Send claims, reasons and evidence to firstname.lastname@example.org.