December 12, 2012

Regarding Alexandra Petri’s Dec. 8 op-ed column, “Love to read, kids? Your time is almost up,” on the new Common Core State Standards, which require that much of the fiction reading now taught in our schools be replaced by nonfiction readings:

I bet that Ms. Petri’s love of reading was nourished by extensive reading outside of her school assignments. Nothing prevents current students from going the same route.

Because the vast majority of most adults’ reading is nonfiction (e.g., newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, work-related reports, etc.), it would be useful to expose students to good and bad examples of such material. By doing such, students could gain a critical understanding of the material and learn to write meaningfully and logically in plain English. Leaving such instruction to teachers of subjects other than English would not work well because many of these teachers, I suspect, are in need of such writing instruction themselves.

I am an applied statistician who worked for 50 years with nuclear and electrical engineers, as well as other scientific and administrative personnel, explaining statistics, analyzing data and reading and editing their reports. Much of the technical writing I encountered was unclear, incomplete or illogical. The highly competent professionals who produced such reports might have benefited from the emphasis on nonfiction in the new Common Core State Standards.

Lee Abramson, Bethesda