Uncommon Core

“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I join during my studies may be studying non-Core things, like Hamlet instead of Macbeth, or something Australian, or unpublished, or Japanese.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?


2 thoughts on “Uncommon Core

  1. littlegirlwithabigpen

    In your (and my…) defence, this is quite an American-centric list. The quiz told me I’m “sort of well read”, but deep down when faced with a lit chat, I’d really rather be discussing films or sport.

    1. philipthiel Post author

      Oh yeah, everything about this is American, up to and including the curriculum for which the Common Core has been designed. I’d be interested in seeing an Australian equivalent, although it’d only be nonsensical until the moment the national curriculum does something similar with “core texts,” which it may not even do! PIFFLE INDEED. (But fun piffle.)


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