Close Reading of Non-Fiction Is a Misuse of the Concept

And fortunately, it is being enshrined in the Common Core (boldface mine):

Close reading was definitely intended for fiction. The close reading that David Coleman [head honcho of the Common Core] espouses comes out of the New Criticism literary tradition, and it was definitely meant for poetry. The idea is that the meaning of the text is the words. As such, background knowledge, context, authorial intent, and so on just don’t matter much if at all.

Also, this type of close reading, since it instructs the reader to ignore context, history, etc. is not good for nonfiction either. Imagine students trying to make sense of the 3/5’s compromise while reading the US Constitution without references to history.

Textual analysis is very important, but it cannot be done in a vacuum. This is a huge problem with New Criticism. David Coleman has simply transported this problem right into the heart of the Common Core standards. What a monstrosity he hath wrought.

Our kids will look back on the No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top era and hate us for fucking up their brains.

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