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Uncommon Catholic Core

The Obama Administration’s Common Core education initiative may be problematic for private Catholic schools as well as the public ones the program is designed for.  “Over one hundred dioceses and archdioceses have decided since 2010 to implement the Common Core,” 132 Catholic professors [1] wrote in a letter to Catholic bishops. “We believe that, notwithstanding the good intentions of those who made these decisions, Common Core was approved too hastily and with inadequate consideration of how it would change the character and curriculum of our nation’s Catholic schools.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB [2]) 2013 November General Assembly in Baltimore will be held on November 11-14. “Common Core adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education,” the Catholic scholars point out. “The heart of its philosophy is, as far as we can see, that it is a waste of resources to “over-educate” people. The basic goal of K-12 schools is to provide everyone with a modest skill set; after that, people can specialize in college – if they end up there. Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities. Only those destined to major in literature need to worry about Ulysses. Perhaps a truck-driver needs no acquaintance with Paradise Lost to do his or her day’s work. But everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidean geometry, and everyone is capable of it.”

Professor Anthony Esolen, of  Providence College, who teaches literature and poetry to college students, told a South Carolina legislative committee that Common Core evinces a “cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form.”

“We are not programming machines,” he said. “We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women.”

“These new standards will very likely lower expectations for students, just as the Common Core math and English standards have done,” the scholars conclude.  “More important, however, is the likelihood that they will promote the prevailing philosophical orthodoxies in those disciplines. In science, the new standards are likely to take for granted, and inculcate students into a materialist metaphysics that is incompatible with, the spiritual realities –soul, conceptual thought, values, free choice, God– which Catholic faith presupposes. We fear, too, that the history standards will promote the easy moral relativism, tinged with a pervasive anti-religious bias, that is commonplace in collegiate history departments today.”

The signatories of the letter, who have taught at such colleges and universities as Notre Dame, Princeton and Georgetown, are more than familiar with those “prevailing philosophical orthodoxies.” Indeed the signers of the letter, other than Esolen, include:

Gerard Bradley
Professor of Law
University of Notre Dame

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Princeton University

Anne Hendershott
Professor of Sociology
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Kevin Doak
Georgetown University

Joseph A. Varacalli
S.U.N.Y. Distinguished Service Professor
Nassau Community College-S.U.N.Y.

Patrick McKinley Brennan
John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies
Villanova University School of Law


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [3].
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [4].