Why Catholics Should Oppose the Common Core

{Ed Note: Please welcome this post from Mr. Emmett McGroarty & Ms. Jane Robbins. Mr. McGroarty is the Director of Education at American Principles Project, a 501c(3) organization and Ms. Jane Robbins is an American Principles Project senior fellow.}

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Forty-five states and over 100 Catholic dioceses have adopted the national Common Core Standards for K-12 English Language Arts and math.  This happened quickly, without any debate.  Public and Catholic school parents did not have notice as to what was happening.  Very few state legislators, even those on education committees, knew what was happening.Uggs Black Friday.

So, what did all these states and dioceses sign up for, and why such a growing, passionate opposition from parents?

If you listen to the promise of the Common Core, there’s a lot that sounds good, albeit much that causes suspicion.  Private entities developed, and own, the Common Core.  In the public roll-out of their project, they issued a slew of slogans about the standards.  The Common Core initiative would be “state-led.”  The standards themselves would be “rigorous” “internationally benchmarked,” and “research- and evidence-based.”  Furthermore, “no state will see a decrease in the level of student expectations.”  One problem with all this is that this roll-out occurred before the standards had been written.  And, in a bid to get points in a massive federal grant competition, states signed onto the standards before the final draft was issued and without time to review the standards.

The developers and owners of the Common Core made these promises from the get-go, well before they had actually put the standards together.  Unfortunately, the reality of the Common Core fell well short of the promise and will result in drastic changes to English language arts and math curriculum.  By then, though, legions of politicians and education administrators had championed the Common Core.  They had painted themselves into a corner.Uggs Black Friday Deals

With respect to math, Common Core takes students only to an incomplete algebra II course.  One of the lead architects of the math standards, Jason Zimba, has admitted that Common Core prepares students for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university.  Likewise, James Milgram, professor emeritus of Stanford University and the Common Core Validation Committee’s only mathematician (as opposed to math-education professor), rejected the standards because he concluded that they would leave American students at least two years behind their counterparts in the highest-achieving nations by 8th grade.  Common Core replaces traditional axiomatic Euclidian geometry with transformational geometry, a method of teaching geometry that has failed everywhere in the world in which it has been implemented in K-12.  And there is much more to be said about Common Core’s math deficiencies.

With respect to English language arts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, perhaps this country’s most respected authority on English standards, criticizes the Common Core as “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”  Common Core greatly reduces the amount of classic fiction taught in ELA class in favor of informational texts.  In their Publishers’ Criteria memorandum, the chief drafters state that English language arts “programs and materials designed for them will need to increase substantially the amount of literary non-fiction they include…..the standards emphasize non-fiction that is built on informational text structures rather than literary non-fiction such as memoirs or biographies.”  It further sets forth as “Non-Negotiable Criteria for Alignment to CC” that “Grades 3-5 literacy programs shift the balance of texts and instructional time to 50% literature/50% informational.”  And it continues that grades 6-12 programs should “shift the balance of texts and instructional materials towards reading substantially more non-fiction.”

Why should Catholics be concerned about this diminution of classic literature? Not only because study of classic literature has been proven best at developing truly literate students, but also because it is through literature that students learn about good and evil, grief and joy, failure and triumph — about the nature of humanity itself. The Common Core takes no interest in such non-job-related concepts.Ugg Boots Cyber Monday Deals.

Moreover, prominent child psychiatrists and psychologists have heavily criticized the standards as being age-inappropriate for young children.   In that regard, Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center argues that “The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”

The philosophy of Common Core is antithetical to true Catholic education. It is a workforce-development scheme that treats the individual as human capital, to be shepherded where needed in aid of a centralized, corporatist economy.  Schools are factories where children are trained, and the teachers are their supervisors. The focus of this is to produce workers who have the “skills” to “compete in the 21st century global economy.”

That is far removed from the Catholic understanding of education. In an address to American Catholic educators in New Orleans, Blessed John Paul II emphasized that the goal of Catholic education is “transmitting the full truth concerning the human person, created in God’s image and called to life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, drew the contrast between this vision of education and the workforce-development model:

Unfortunately, far too many in government, business, the media, and even the educational establishment perceive education to be merely an instrument for the acquisition of information that will improve the chances of worldly success . . . . Such an impoverished vision of education is not Catholic.

Archbishop Miller specifically rejected the “skills and competencies” philosophy of education that is embodied in Common Core:

A Catholic school . . . cannot be a factory for the learning of various skills and competencies designed to fill the echelons of business and industry. . . . Education is not a commodity, even if Catholic schools equip their graduates with enviable skills.

Although Catholic education officials insist that they are “adapting” and not “adopting” the Common Core.  That is not possible.  One cannot teach more informational texts and simultaneously teach more classic literature.  One cannot teach fuzzy math while emphasizing the traditional standard algorithms.

A group of Catholic scholars recently sent a letter to every bishop, asking them to intercede to return to traditional Catholic education.  Parents, too, are rising.  They are forming groups like Catholics for Classical Education (which has a listing of many other networks across the country) and Louisiana Catholics for Excellence in Education, which was launched last week as an on-line petition to their bishops.  Catholics are looking to their bishops to reclaim control of Catholic education and to return to tradition and excellence.

You can learn more about the fight against Common Core at American Principles in Action and Truth in American Education.

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15 thoughts on “Why Catholics Should Oppose the Common Core

  1. Will says:

    At least present both sides of the discussion. Some do not like it but many educators support Common Core. Some do not like anything that comes from above. Yet as a mobile nation Common Core gives some uniformity. We need to separate the politics from the education.

    1. brians says:

      You mean we need to separate the federal government from education.

  2. Rob Schebel says:

    This article brilliantly sums up the problems with the train wreck that is the Common Core. As an English teacher who concentrates on teaching literary classics, I’m deeply concerned over this new obsession with skills-based learning through short non-fiction pieces. It’s already an up-hill battle trying to teach student whose primary cultural influences are twitter, instagram, and youtube. I don’t need the educational establishment putting more obstacles to critical thinking and cultural depth in my way.

  3. Michael Severance says:

    BRAVO!

    This article is a MUST-read for every American still inebriated with John Dewey’s “New School” of rational empiricism, a relativistic philosophy of learning which sees the human being’s growth in knowledge ultimately in terms of what is potentially useful and tangible to the individual.

    Paradoxically what is now most “useful” to Western society and scores of individuals suffering the pandemic of the Great Recession is exactly what pragmatists like Dewey have traditionally understood as “useless”: a wholesale attitudinal restoration of virtue in the workplace, where human relationships and exchanges occur fundamentally for the “mere enjoyment and beauty of doing them”, where goodness, truth and other-directed altruism are sought for their own sake and cement the foundation of all human actions, exchanges and relationships.

    Furthermore, what is often seen as the most “useless” metric of human output in the business world is exactly what disenchanted customers now turn to when carefully choosing retailers, contractors and service providers they can trust.

    These are the very same virtuous business men and women who do not see their fellow human beings primarily in “practical” terms, because they build their trades and crafts on a love of what they do and joyous serving of others in the process of “doing” business.

    If we seek success according to the pragmatic model, we not only rob our children of the true educational core built a moral anthropological vision of the human person, but also have expropriated their core constitutional right to the pursuit of human happiness.

  4. Randy Hebert says:

    It’s not just a Catholic School problem. It’s a stifling of our children’s character growth. We’re not just building stock employees or brainy scientists but a generation which will surface in the future to lead our nation. We’re nurturing real men and real women of strong courageous values.

  5. Brent Robbins says:

    Home school. Period.

  6. Omar O. Ortiz says:

    As an educator in the Catholic school system, I agree with the premise that the Common Core has stripped our students of the cultural literacy that enriches the lives of our students and disregarded the connection to the human person. As an educator, it is my job to still incorporate that, as much as possible, and to seek those “teachable moments” to highlight the human soul and continue to prove that we are creations of a loving God. But I also feel that the Common Core has many merits of what I believe helps society to create not workers, but life learners. The focus to predict,support points made with text evidence, and to problem solve are exactly the skills needed to be a productive citizen of the world. Would you not agree that the problem solvers are the ones who make a difference in our world? The Common Core does make a strong push to do exactly that in our educational system. Now, are there things that went wrong and continue to be a problem, for sure! But I would not want to lose the rigor language I see in the standards and figure out a way, in our Catholic school system, to be who we are- teaching students to be successful people of God.

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