In a thought-provoking essay, veteran English teacher Michael Godsey writes that he doesn’t teach much “wisdom” in his high school classes anymore, and he wonders who does now that the Common Core has taken hold in public schools.

Secular wisdom in the public schools seems like it should inherently spring from the literature that’s shaped American culture. And while the students focus on how Whitman’s “purpose shapes the content and style of his text” [in the Common Core],” they’re obviously exposed to the words that describe his leaves of grass. And that’s good. But there is a noticeable deprioritization of literature, and a crumbling consensus regarding the nation’s idea of classic literature. The Common Core requires only Shakespeare, which is puzzling if only for its singularity.

The Common Core’s 10 so-called College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards focus heavily on technical skills and impersonal text analysis and leave little if any room for classical literature. Yet classical literature plays an important role in encouraging students to personally engage in, and examine, literary characters’ life experiences and decision-making processes. Through literature, students had the opportunity to garner a certain wisdom from those life lessons and to evaluate truth and appropriately apply it to their own lives.

Admittedly, nothing abut the Common Core or any modern shifts in teaching philosophies is forbidding me from sharing deeper lessons found in Plato’s cave or Orwell’s Airstrip One. The fine print of the Common Core guidelines even mentions a few possible titles.

But this comes with constant pervasive language that favors objective analysis over personal engagement. Achieve the Core, for example, an organization founded by the lead writers of the standards, explicitly encourages schools to teach students to “extract” information so they can “note and assess patterns of writing” without relying on “any particular background information” or “students having other experiences or knowledge.” This emphasis on what they call “text-dependent reading” contributes to a culture in which it’s not normal to promote cultural wisdom or personal growth; in fact, it’s almost awkward.

Godsey doesn’t worry about his own children, or children of families who value classic literature and the life lessons they teach enough to pursue it at home. But he is concerned for the millions of young people who are not so fortunate and who will lose out on the shared wisdom that families once relied on their public schools to transmit.

Source: The Wisdom Deficit in Schools, Michael Godsey, The Atlantic, January 2015