18 September 2012
“Common Core Curriculum and Complex Texts” Article Analysis
“Common Core Curriculum and Complex Texts” is an article published by Teacher Librarian magazine in February of 2011. Written by Rebecca Hill, a proponent of the National Common Core Curriculum (NCCC) Standards movement, the article was written in response to the growing problem of disparity between the average American freshman’s reading level and that which is necessary to be successful in college-level coursework. Ms. Hill advocates deeper reading in classrooms and the introduction of more complex texts as solutions to this problem, however, in this essay, the issue at hand will not be the reading level crisis nor her suggested plan of action, but whether the article effectively conveys her argument. Through her use of data and statistics, word choice, personal knowledge, and logic, the author effectively: appeals to those who value academic success and reading proficiency; establishes her own credibility; and offers relevant information about the potential benefit of nationwide enactment of NCCC Standards using the classical Aristotelian appeals of pathos, ethos, and logos.
Ms. Hill begins the article by putting forth an appeal to those who value the education of young people, stating “of incoming college freshmen, 51% read at a remedial level” (1). This percentage, apparently claiming to be inclusive of all American incoming freshmen, is an alarmingly high ratio. The idea that 1 out of every 2 incoming freshmen in America require remedial reading classes would be a matter of concern for anyone interested in the education of children, and that type of person just so happens to be who the author--and for that matter, Teacher Librarian-- is attempting to appeal to. Aristotle’s mode of persuasion “pathos”, defined as an appeal to audience emotion in his work Rhetoric, is demonstrated by the use of this statistic. The author also uses another method, namely word choice, to apply pathos to her argument as well, again demonstrating the appeal to her audience’s emotions: she claims “throughout the United States, we have leveled… [and] computerized reading”, and in addition, “[we] have even depredated reading to an assigned number of pages per grading period” (Hill 1). Hill’s word choice paints a mental picture of a figurative educational machine, implying that reading education has become monotonous and ineffective. This implication might be disturbing to those who value the benefit of a positive and engaging educational environment- the readers of Teacher Librarian, perhaps?
“Ethos”, another Aristotelian mode of persuasion, is defined as an appeal to the authority or credibility of the author. The use of ethos is prominent in Ms. Hill’s article, mainly through her personal knowledge of the NCCC Standards movement. She presents quotes from other NCCC advocates in support of her argument, offering extra insight as to what the status of America’s students is and should be. One such quote is by Sally Hampton, chair of the English and Language Arts section of the College and Career Readiness Standards Workgroup. It reads, “What we really want students to do is to be able to understand what the book is written about and then when comprehension breaks down, we need to provide them with strategies to repair that understanding” (qtd. Hill 3). The use of relevant quotes from a reputable external source