I am normally a huge fan of Grant Wiggins. His theories and research have guided my work for many years,but after reading his latest thoughts have got me perplexed.

This morning, on the ASCD Edge Blog ,Wiggins called for the banning of fiction in ELA curriculum (and he was serious!)

You can read the entire article entitled, Ban Fiction from the Curriculum, but I pulled out some of the nuggets that caught my eye here:

Fiction reading is mostly a leisure activity. Indeed, for long stretches of time in our history, fiction-reading was the province of the leisure class – and most readers were women.

This issue of gender is not a minor historical footnote. Like others who make this claim, I think that the required readings in most English classes do not serve males at all. Is it any wonder that boys lose interest in reading when so little non-fiction is assigned?

The reading all of us are required to do in our adult responsibilities involves heavy doses of nonfiction, for which our students are totally unprepared.

NAEP and state assessment results on tests of reading where the questions involve non-fiction passages – the results are grim. Typically only about half the test-takers can identify author purpose, main idea or author perspective

Dr. Wiggins ended his rant on fiction with this question: Why are we still leaning so heavily on old novels in a genre that has little to do with our future needs?

In which I tried to respond on ASCD blog and had to email it to the customer service as they were not equipped to take comments…(.more to come on that in a future blog post!), so I posted my thoughts here:

I am a huge proponent of increasing attention and effort on teaching students to read and write nonfiction. The research supports doing this with a sense of urgency and attention. However, completely banning fiction is ludicrous. Fiction is not simply a “female” thing nor is it a leisure.

The narratives we explore explore as readers from Charlotte’s Web to the classic work of Dickens and Steinbeck help us understand the human experience in a way that nonfiction could not do. The stories we read and tell become not only school fare, they become the models for the lives we wish to lead.

And, on a strictly academic note, the techniques, strategies, and devices that are found in crafted works of fiction such as imagery, metaphor, foreshadowing, symbolism…are now mainstream attributes of creative nonfiction across all disciplines.

The news, magazines, radio, and content texts once strictly written to deliver information in factual form have become “story-like”. For students to “pass” the test, they must be aware and accustomed to understanding content with a story-lens. Finally, stories consume our lives. We operate, communicate, and translate thoughts and ideas best through narrative. The most successful individuals and organizations of the future will be those that can craft and tell the best story.

For our students to compete, connect, and collaborate in the 21st Century will be dependent on their reading and writing skills, but also on their ability to find and share their stories with the world. To ban fiction would not only leave them unprepared for that responsibility; it would be tragedy for their heart as well.

Mr. Wiggins, you might want to check out the global conversations happening around the importance of “story” as a key business, network, marketing, and performance strategy.