Time to Speak — Regard the ‘Common Core’ with caution

By Father Matthew Hardesty

Father Matthew Hardesty
Father Matthew Hardesty

I want to express my gratitude to Leisa Schulz, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Louisville, for her excellent article entitled, “The Cure for the Common Core,” in the Fall 2013 edition of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky’s newsletter, “Witness.” I am grateful to her for her putting the debate surrounding the “Common Core” on my radar, for I had not been aware of it before I read the newsletter.

“Common Core” is a set of national educational standards developed under the supervision of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These standards are meant to promote consistency across the country in education outcomes and readiness for college and careers. Dioceses throughout the country are studying these standards to determine if they should be implemented in Catholic schools.

In the article, she describes the parallel Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (developed by the National Catholic Educational Association) which strives to “integrate these elements (of Catholic identity) legitimately while ensuring the rigor demanded by the common core standards.” In other words, it strives to “infuse” the standards with Catholic identity.

I would like to supplement Leisa’s fine treatment by suggesting that this initiative may not be enough to cure the Common Core.

Particularly helpful is the Cardinal Newman Society’s statement on this point: “[A]uthentic Catholic identity is not something that can be added to education built around thoroughly secular standards … our faith must be the center of — and fundamental to — everything that a Catholic school does.”

And this from Dan Guernsey of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools: “An organization’s mission should drive its standards ­— and the Common Core doesn’t match the Catholic Church’s mission of educating the entire child.”

Furthermore, we can ask if these new standards are even needed, with Catholic schools routinely outperforming public schools.

I advocate, with the Cardinal Newman Society, that we regard the Common Core with caution until it can be further studied and evaluated and until the conversation has included more Catholic parents (the primary educators of the faith), teachers and principals.

For more information, see the Society’s website: www.CatholicIsOurCore.org.

Father Matthew Hardesty is pastoral administrator of Holy Trinity Church in Fredericktown, Ky., and Holy Rosary Church in Manton, Ky.

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