First of all, let me say I'm an Episcopalean. We Episcopaleans are famous grousers. Grouse, grouse, grouse, go the Episcopaleans. When we adopt a new prayer book, half the congregation grouses because they preferred the old prayer book. The other half grouses because they still preferred the prayer book we had before the old prayer book. Never satisfied, that's us.
So this rant probably comes under the heading of my being a grouse-prone Episcopalean and should be given no further mind, but here goes.
Georgia is joining 47 other states in adopting what is called a Common Core Curriculum. The thrust is to integrate the curriculum so that there aren't such sharp divides between, for example, what's taught in math class and what's taught in social studies. All subject matter is relevant to all other subject matter. Also, the CCC, as it's being called (we teachers love our acronyms!) is to instill more rigor into the curriculum. Rigor is a very popular word in teacher meetings these days, and is fast replacing "paradigm" as the mot du jour.
All of this is good, and actually, I'm 100% behind it, except that I've also noticed that the CCC is going to change the balance between literary, ie fictional, works and informational, that is, nonfictional ones. Boiled down to the small, there's going to be a whole lot more nonfiction read, and a whole lot less fiction.
I have to admit, that as an author, I sense my ox is about to get gored. If the CCC delivers what it promises, we will be raising a generation of students much less apt to read fiction than nonfiction. This is happening in an era when fiction sales are already trounced by nonfiction, when the only people going out of business faster than fiction publishers are bookstores themselves, when even jaded tv producers find it easier and more profitable to spin out one reality show after another than just to do what they've always done before, which is rewrite old episodes of The Honeymooners and rename it King of Queens or Everybody Loves Raymond.
But I'd like to think my objection goes deeper than that. My deeper objection is incohate, unformed, and unsubstantiated, and I'm either too damn lazy or too damn busy to go around substantiating it, so if you want to challenge me on it, I'll back down like the most spineless jellyfish that ever crawlt. But I have the feeling - again, I cannot and will not even attempt to prove this - that while nonfiction is very good at all sorts of things, it is fiction that feeds the soul. Nonfiction may tell us how to program our dvrs - the clock on my VCR was always flashing 11:00, and the thing was obsolete and in a landfill before I ever learned how to change it - but that things like truth, beauty, and the aspiration of the human spirit are the provence of literature. Again, this is not something that I can prove, but is there any evidence youngsters need more nonfiction? I don't know if Gibbon, Darwin, or Freud were tutored under the CCC, but they did okay for themselves in the nonfiction department. Surely most of what Galileo read was Dante and Virgil and most of what nonfiction he did read - ie Ptolemy - might as well have been fiction. Which brings up another point in favor of nonfiction - unlike mathematics, science, and history, fiction doesn't change. Hamlet is Hamlet, but the War of 1812 is, at best, our current understanding of the War of 1812. Maybe instead of Fiction and Nonfiction, we should label them Imagination and Guesswork. At least the field would be tilted a little more in my favor.
But again, I'm probably just an irrational grouse. After all, I am an Episcopalean.