Common Core English language arts’ emphasis on “informational texts” has generated enormous controversy because it crowds out great American literature to make room for politicized readings on Obamacare, the environment, and pro labor union policies, as well as  erotic, adult-themed novels under the guise of promoting “diversity.” A new report from the Pioneer Institute finds that the dumbing-down doesn’t stop there:

“Common Core dramatically reduces the amount of classic American literature and poetry students will read in favor of non-fiction or so-called ‘informational texts,’” said co-author Sandra Stotsky.  “Consequently, the writers of the national standards attempted to shoehorn little bits and pieces of decontextualized U.S. History texts into the English standards. The simultaneous result damages instruction for both English and U.S. History classrooms.” …

Common Core’s standards writers also call for the “cold reading” of historical documents without any background knowledge to place them in the appropriate historical context.  David Coleman, the principal author of the Common Core ELA standards, says that excluding texts’ historical context helps “level the playing field.”

Coleman is now president of the College Board, which has issued a new Advanced Placement (A.P.) U.S. History curriculum.  The College Board’s A.P. curriculum is a continuation of the “progressive education” approach, which took hold after World War II. The A.P. curriculum limits history instruction and replaces it with social studies courses about current events and problems.

The College Board’s new A.P. U.S. History curriculum further mirrors the ideological biases of progressive education.  It begins with a series of negative and divisive themes that are heavily focused on the balkanizing formation of gender, class, racial, and ethnic identity politics.

“It’s like the bad and the ugly of American history, without any of the good,” said co-author Anders Lewis.

For example, there are no themes on federalism, separation of powers, the Federalist Papers, or the Gettysburg Address.  The curriculum doesn’t ask teachers to teach about Benjamin Franklin and contains no mention of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.  The events of September 11, 2001 are never referred to as a terrorist attack.

Progressive education has already produced disastrous results in terms of civic literacy. In fact, as of 2010 barely one out of 10 American high school seniors scored proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. In fact, the Pioneer Institute notes that NAEP civics test have been eliminated for 4th and 12th grade students.

The Pioneer Institute study authors recommend that to help poor readers in high school, expand reading classes taught by expert reading instructors that are distinct from standard ELA courses. Expanding career technical education options—as many other successful countries do—is another option to provide students the knowledge and skills they need beyond high school. Restoring rigorous civics instruction involving distinct courses is another solution to the problem of poor reading and civic literacy among American high school students.

As the Pioneer Institute authors rightly conclude:

Self government cannot survive without citizens who are willing to ask informed questions in public of educational policy makers and demand answers.