In recent years, many American Catholics have felt abused by Barack Obama Administration policies that clearly violate Catholic doctrine, especially with regard to contraception mandates written into the President’s signature healthcare law. In addition to concerns that the Federal government is attempting to violate religious freedom by requiring Catholic employers to provide for contraception and abortion in employee insurance plans, American Catholics are also increasingly speaking out against an overall assault on their religious identity being carried out by the education system.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic organization that promotes and defends traditional Catholic education, issued a statement last month regarding the controversial Common Core education standards being used in schools throughout the Nation. In its statement, the group proffered secular and spiritual concerns about the standards and urged Catholic educators to consider some of Common Core’s most egregious affronts to the faith-based community.
From the statement:
We have grave concerns. This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests. At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian “readiness for work” mentality.
Well-intentioned proponents of adopting the Common Core in Catholic schools have argued that Catholic identity can be “infused” into the Core. This approach misses the point that authentic Catholic identity is not something that can be added to education built around thoroughly secular standards, but that our faith must be the center of—and fundamental to—everything that a Catholic school does.
The Common Core revolution in American education was launched behind closed doors and rushed to implementation in public schools with the promise of tax dollars as an inducement—even though all the Standards have not yet been completed, and those that have been released are controversial among many expert educators and parents. Catholic educators need not rush to follow this potentially dangerous path.
Among the many complaints that Common Core opponents share is the lack of value the new teaching standards place on family. And supporters of the new teaching standards haven’t helped to alleviate concerns.
In a promo spot that aired in April MSNBC host and Common Core supporter Melissa Harris-Perry offered insight into the progressive justification for discounting the importance of family in modern education.
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘These are our children,’” she said. “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everyone’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.”
Statements like Perry’s are very worrisome to the Cardinal Newman Society, as the Catholic Church considers the parents to be the primary educators of children. And not only are parents marginalized in Common Core lessons, but they have also been largely left out of the debate about Common Core. Instead, bureaucrats have been left in charge of the educational development of children throughout the Nation and are hamstringing the ability of Catholic educators to promote faith and traditional values.
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told Breitbart, “[Common Core] is national and monopolistic, untested, inconsistent with the classical foundations of Catholic education, vulnerable to political pressures through federal funding, squeezes out innovation and diversity, and induces Catholic educators to emphasize workplace skills over students’ spiritual and intellectual formation.”
Catholic schools are not currently required to adopt Common Core standards, but many have done so because the schools have traditionally used a combination of State and Catholic faith-based education materials. As some Catholic schools have taken steps toward using Common Core (partly because of a $100,000 promotional effort from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), parents have raised major concerns about what their children are being taught.
Reilly contends that educators, Catholics in particular, should “stop and take a closer look.”
“Our Common Core is the Catholic Faith… The reason we set standards, the reason we have certain curricular decisions in how we teach is all based on our Faith; it’s all about formation of students, it’s not fundamentally about getting them into entry-level positions,” he said.
If Catholic and other faith-based and private schools fully accept Common Core, Reilly says there will be grave consequences.
“If they can coerce Catholic schools to accept the Common Core, it’s done. Our nation will have one plan. It’s an experimental plan, it’s not tested, it’s not proven that this will even work,” he said. “And it wipes all opportunities for future innovation in states and in Catholic schools because we will all be doing the same thing.”