“How would you match up?” asks The Christian Science Monitor, introducing its quiz about the Common Core. Forty-five of the United States have adopted this system, which contains a list of books, poems and plays it “expects” middle-school students to have read. “Are you as well-read as a 10th grader?” the Monitor taunts.
Apparently not. My 10-out-of-33 megafail came with a desultory message: “Good,” it said, “but you might want to dig up those notes.” Seems I’ve a lot of reading to do before achieving the winning level: “You are either a professor of English or will be later in life.”
Leaving aside this odd logic – that American 10th-graders must all aspire to a level of reading that predetermines their future career – it’s fascinating that my high school, undergraduate and postgraduate study of literature sees me radically failing the online quiz. After all, of the Core texts I have read, only one (the sonnet!) was encountered outside my studies. Four (Ibsen, Donne, Poe, Shakespeare) were on my high-school reading lists, while five of the ten (Homer, Achebe, Sophocles, Shelley, Dickinson) came later, while studying English and Classics as part of a BA. If I’d taken Law instead of Humanities, I’d be scoring “Perhaps you should consider night school.”
My first impulse upon failing the quiz was to head to the library, borrow twenty-three books and emerge only after I’d finished them. After all, in the days before starting a teaching degree it’d be nice to score “professor of English or will be.”
But I’m reading other things at the moment: Conrad’s Victory, The Call of the Wild. Besides, the classes I join during my studies may be studying non-Core things, like Hamlet instead of Macbeth, or something Australian, or unpublished, or Japanese.
Speed-reading Gogol won’t prepare me for this, although one of these days I must sit down with a strong pot of tea and The Nose. You’ve read it right?