There is a great article posted at dcclothesline.com, written by a teacher who has shared one particularly grotesque curriculum unit based on Common Core Standards. The article is interesting, as it lays out how one particular month-long study of two books, To Kill a Mockingbird and Mother of Monsters, seek to equate individuality for the purpose of good to individuality for the purpose of selfish ends. Incidentally, what make this unit difficult to stomach is that the teacher, and thus her students, do not have the freedom to refuse to teach these vile ideas. The writer/teacher has been told that she must teach these ideas. Her district has fully adopted Common Core.
Find the article here. Excerpts from the article can be found below:
The unit – sorry “module” – that I am using as an example is centered around To Kill a Mockingbird with the theme of “How individuals demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressures.” At the beginning of all of this, it looks good. I love the book; it is a great American classic and I have taught it many times. The module includes 30 days of lessons associated with the novel and multiple additional short reading assignments. However, as I looked this module over, I became more and more concerned. For me to break down the many problems with this module in detail would take quite a while, so I am going to show you an example of one lesson on one short reading assignment that left me speechless with horror.
This assignment in the module includes a short story by Guy de Maupassant, 19th century writer famous forThe Necklace. Again, this seems rather innocent; this story is often included in high school texts, but not thisparticular story and, more importantly, not with this particular writing assignment.
The short story is The Mother of Monsters (link below). A quick summary of the story is that a gentleman on vacation is introduced to the Mother of Monsters, a local oddity described as a “peasant” and the “Devil”. Her story is that she finds herself pregnant while she is working as a simple serving girl. She binds her body with boards and cords to hide her growing belly. Her child is born horribly deformed. She takes care of the child, but resents it, until a sideshow man comes along and offers to buy the “thing” and to pay a yearly stipend for its use. Once she realizes how much money she can make, she repeats her pregnancy pattern by birthingmonster after monster after monster of intentionally deformed children to sell to showmen. She lives a “bourgeois” life as a result (note the stab at the bourgeois here).
The narrator is reminded of this “Devil” when he later sees a popular “Parissiane” strolling on a beach followed by admirers. Her three children are also all deformed because she wants to maintain her trim figure throughout her pregnancies, so she keeps her corset tightly cinched. Peasant and lady; different, yet the same. Both the Mother of Monsters. Both display a level of selfish evil that most humans would revile.
Now as a high school story, this story may have a lot of meat to chew on for discussion…for maybe 11th or 12thgraders, but this is a story assigned to incoming 9th graders, students who are 13 or 14 years old. Students this age are not ready to handle the truly disturbing elements of a story which reveals some of the most perverse sides of human nature. That is bad enough; however, it gets worse. You may wonder what this story has to do with To Kill a Mockingbird and the theme of individuality. Here is the writing assignment associated with this story:
Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure.
Individuality! Outside Pressure!!!! These women chose to deform their children for their own selfish gains or selfish vanity! The first pregnancy of the peasant woman we might forgive out of mercy, but the purposeful birthing of the rest of the 11 children that she intentionally deformed is unconscionable and unforgivable. The same holds with the Parisienne.