In an article from Crisis Magazine titled “How Common Core Literary Standards Undermine Education,” Michael Ortiz eloquently explains what is at the heart of our objections to standards based education, especially at the early learning stages:
The human individual” wrote philosopher Roger Scruton “is the single most important obstacle that all bureaucratic systems must overcome, and which all ideologies must destroy.” For the things of the spirit, the unfolding of a single soul, defies measurability.
Hence the pre-school years, as well as the primary grades, especially for boys, are absolutely vital. Enclose then in a fantasy world of no effort and constant ego-fulfillment, and curriculum standards, however well-researched, will not easily bring them into the joy of discovering being, the bedrock of truth, and the goal of all education. The temptation to escape to the effortless will be nearly overwhelming.
All the time we forget, amid our technical prowess, that the core elements of learning are essentially unseen to the eye, and certainly not fully accessible to reason: the soul of the child, his or her intellect, will, and heart. Our educational reformers tend to see everything except that which truly matters.
At the heart of this battle is a pround philosophical disagreement on the purpose of education and dignity of the individual person. It is much more than Common Core, by whatever name it is called, it is the moderate education system, that needs to be uprooted.
Apparently, many of our Catholic schools are using textbooks already aligned to Common Core, but at the time I began writing this the curriculum had not been fully developed as to what standards are being kept (the alleged wheat) and which ones are being left behind (the chaff). (As Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg explains, with CC there is no baby to spare when throwing out the bathwater.) Even if the curriculum is not changed, it is the methods and educational approach used in the textbooks that are the problem. Pearson and Achieve have manipulated the companies into adopting a nonsensical and progressive approach to presenting material. Therefore, it is important to remember that it is possible for students to be exposed to materials that are aligned to CC but are not necessarily appropriate for, or even required by, the Diocese. In some schools, these textbooks are purchased by the state as part of Pennsylvania’s Act 195/90 whereby the state purchases textbooks and instructional materials of non-religious items.
According to the PDE website:
Private and Nonpublic Schools (Kindergarten through Grade 12) which are licensed or registered with the Department of Education, excluding nursery schools, can participate in the Acts 195/90/35 Programs, which provides for the loan of textbooks, instructional materials and equipment to Pennsylvania studentsenrolled in private/nonpublic schools. In order to participate, each school must submit to the Department of Education an enrollment report indicating the number of students enrolled in the school as of October 1st of each year. Based upon the number of students, a per diem is calculated per eligible student which totals to an allotment for each participating school for the following school year. “
These state-supplied and owned texts are marked “Property of the Commonwealth of PA” inside the front cover. They might as well stamp this on our children’s foreheads at this point. Parents must sign a form requesting that the “loan” of materials be made on behalf of the student. I have never had to sign one of these forms, so perhaps my school purchased its own texts. However, the books the school is using are aligned to the Common Core, not PA’s own, special, customized, one and only Core Standards, but the Common Core.
Furthermore, via Act 89:
Auxiliary services includes guidance, counseling and testing services, psychological services, services for exceptional children, remedial services, speech and hearing services, services for the improvement of the educationally disadvantaged (such as, but not limited to, teaching English as a second language), and other secular, neutral, nonideological services of a supplementary and remedial nature.
These state-funded services are provided directly by the local intermediate unit to students enrolled in a nonprofit private school within the intermediate unit.
Now, there are many “public” school services from which private schools benefit as a result of laws such as this, including transportation. But no matter where we send our children to school, we all pay taxes that support and pay for government run schools. Our taxpayer dollars paid for the textbooks. Our taxpayer dollars pay the salaries of these state and quasi-state employees who provide ancillary services to the students. Our taxpayer dollars pay for the cafeteria workers who prepare lunch to public school students, while we provide for our own children’s lunches. Our tax burden is not less because we don’t send our children to public schools.
Devil is in the Details …
We are told by our Diocese that the adaptation of Common Core into our Catholic schools will not affect the Catholic identity. However, if we are using state-purchased textbooks or textbooks aligned to the Common Core how can the Diocese possibly protect our children from controversial, and in some cases unacceptable, material that may be covered or suggested as references for further research in these textbooks. Especially in the age of technology, where students are being given iPads.
Some of these text book refer students to online resources and “encyclopedias” that cover a wide range of “current events” that parents might find objectionable. But since the textbook publisher refers students to this information, parents may mistakenly believe it is safe viewing and is approved by the Catholic school.
I don’t know if the Harrisburg Diocese is using any of these textbooks in these grades, or if its computer system has set up filters and blocks to keep students from accessing this information from their iPads or other computers. I am just posting this as an example of the precarious nature of adopting/adapting standards and textbooks written from a secular, modernist worldview. Square peg. Round hole.
Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2
Some Questions …
So, as always, we are left with more questions.
Why must we use textbooks designed for public education in our Catholic schools? I understand the cost issue, as well as “fairness” issues with regards to the taxpayer dollars that already pays for these materials. Wouldn’t we, as parents, be willing to pay a little extra to give our children authentically Catholic textbooks and worksheets? There is even a Catholic Schools Textbook Project underway that presents History from a Christian worldview, and not from the modernist, humanist viewpoint offered by Big Publishing designed for “secular, neutral, nonideological” public education.
Why put our students and parents in the situation of having to set up blocks and filters to control student access to external websites that are recommended in their textbooks? If students are refered to sites such as “InfoPlease,” will parents be properly notified so that they can monitor their child’s access to it at home?
Why are some of our teachers using worksheets from sites such as “abcteach.com“adorned with non-descript, uninspiring characters and “poems”? Catholic homeschoolers use worksheets, available at little or no cost, inspired by sacred scripture and adorned with beautiful religious imagery. As an example, see my St. Patrick’s Day post.
Why do our early elementary students needs these expensive textbooks and workbooks anyway? All they really need is good classical literature, a Catholic hymnal, poetry, pencils, crayons, lined paper, and some other tools and materials to learn the fundamentals of reading, writing, arithmetic, and the arts.
Why are students who require special guidance and counseling services relegated to “secular, neutral, nonideological services” when Catholic schools are blessed with priests, deacons, and in some cases religious sisters to guide these children? And if there are psychological issues of a more serious nature, why aren’t we using a Diocesan employee or at least a Catholic resource who CAN address the child from a pastoral and scriptural perspective?
Are these state-funded guidance counseling services being implemented in conjunction with the new ” social emotional learning” standards (see how Title I funds are being considered to promote this nightmare)? Anita Hoge has extensively researched how, under the guise of education reform, Common Core, by whatever name it is called, is a mechanism for introducing the evaluation of attitudes, values, and dispositions of our little ones and how various sources of funding have become a cash cow for schools while government increases its control. PA has apparently been a pilot state for the development, evaluation, and collection of data of these standards. In her article ‘The Medicalization of Schools‘ she details how the ESEA re-authorization bill is being used to push an agenda:
“Public, Private and religious schools will be required to make available equitable, identical services and interventions through CHOICE called “specialized instructional support services” and “direct student services” when Title I children are given CHOICE funds to go to the school of their choice. This will control what is taught in private and religious schools.” Again, I am not sure to what extent the social-emotional learning standards have crept into the Diocese standards, but it reveals this mindset of those involved in the education reform movement.
What are the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs being promoted in these CC-aligned assessments and do they align with Catholic teachings? How will our schools handle it if they don’t?
Furthermore, we have sacred scripture to guide these little ones in the development of virtues and values that are intrinsically part of Catholic education. I am sure the answer is money, money, money. But what will the ultimate cost be for this unholy alliance to the future of our Catholic schools?
Beware! Class Dojo Monsters Invading a Classroom Near You
So, one day last year, my Kindergartener bounced off the bus and made a fleeting comment about going on the computer to “change her monster.” We quickly went on to talk about other things and I kinda forgot about it, until the following day, when I received this email from her teacher:
I am so excited to tell you about something new we are starting in Kindergarten! We needed something to motivate us a little bit with our behaviors in the classroom and I just discovered http://www.classdojo.com ! With Class Dojo, each student’s behaviors will be tracked on our classroom smartboard, as well as through the Class Dojo app on an iPad. We have several target positive and negative behaviors; when students display these behaviors they have the opportunity to either earn or lose points throughout the day. At the end of each day, I can look at the students’ reports to see what we need to work on. You also have the ability to log on to view your child’s behaviors. Your child brought home a Class Dojo account code for his or her account. You can use this code to get online and view your child’s day.
Our target behaviors currently look like this:
Positive behaviors, students will earn points:
On-Task: includes paying attention, staying focused
Negative behaviors, students will lose points:
“bullying” – this we are using to include unkind words and actions, such as not keeping hands to self, name-calling, etc.
Calling out and causing disruptions
Disrespect – this includes being disrespectful to teachers, the classroom, materials, etc.
Off-Task – includes not listening, not following directions, not paying attention in class
I am hoping that this will be a positive experience for all of us and help us to reach all of our goals for the remainder of the year. I ask you to please be patient with me as we get this new program started. The students seem very excited about their “monsters” and about earning points which makes me very excited as well! Today we kept all of the points positive to get acquainted with the system and help the students feel motivated.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this new system. We are very excited and I hope it continues to motivate us to make great choices.
I also received a paper which provided a Student Access Code and a Parent Access Code that looked like this:
I. Don’t. Think. So.
It took me only a few minutes of searching the world wide web to discover a never ending parade of testimonials lauding the virtues of this “free” classroom application. And the more I saw, the more disturbed I was and the more absurd this Class Dojo world seemed. It was like being in a never ending episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!
Here is a horrendous little video I found of school children singing a mind-numbing anthem to Class Dojo with their beautiful faces covered by Class Dojo monster avatars.
“It makes us feel like kings and queens.”
“We get our own secret code.”
What, in the wide, wide world of sports, is going on here?
Having these children create avatars depicting themselves as one ‘one-eyed, one-horned, flyin’ purple people eaters’ just seemed bizarre, and very inappropriate, to me. But then again, I’m just a 40-something curmudgeon who thinks classroom behavior management involves paddles, rulers, and dunce caps (just kidding) and who also loathes the overuse of technology in the classroom just as much as I loathed it when teachers used the overhead projector instead of writing on the chalkboard. I loved the chalkboard.
I also found the use of these “avatars” unsettling. I discovered that the origin of the word “avatar” is rooted in the Hindu religionand represents the incarnation of a deity in human or animal form. Did I mention this is a Catholic school? Of course, I realize the little ones, and the teacher, have no idea that their avatar represents anything more than a cute fuzzy monster, but philosophically and as a matter of principle, this has no place in parochial education. But, then again, last year my daughter came home with a Buddah coin she pulled out of a “treasure box” one of the teachers had in her classroom, so I guess this is just par for the course. Yes, a Buddah coin.
Please understand that I do not believe the teacher who implemented this had put any more thought into it than that it seemed like a cute way to motivate the little “monsters” to behave better in class. But I have to wonder who approved the use of something like this in a Catholic school. And I certainly don’t believe there is anything sinister in the intentions of those who created this application to help distressed teachers manage the unmanageable behaviors of our petulant little ones. But as always, the devil is in the details and we must always look ahead to the unintended consequences.
Privacy Please …
As we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so I had to wonder about offering this application “free” to classroom teachers. Just like many of the free apps we download onto our phones, the “terms and conditions may apply” requirement is often a catch all phrase that permits information about us to be shared with whomever these app folks choose to share it. And I have learned enough to know that in the age of Big Education, Big Data, and Common Core capturing data on our little ones, including psychometric data, is a desirable commodity. I wondered where this data would be stored and who would ultimately have access to it.
As I was penning this post, a friend sent me this email she received from Class Dojo, Incorporated. It seems Class Dojo has recently undergone a beauty makeover of their totally awesome privacy and use policies.
The updates include lots of good things like not allowing advertising on ClassDojo, and committing to never selling or renting your or your child’s information to anyone for any reason. You can read about all the changes in our blog post at http://blog.classdojo.com. This will be effective from April 21st, 2015.
We’ve also made a beautiful new Privacy Center to give you a simple overview of how ClassDojo protects your family’s privacy and security! You can find some helpful resources about privacy there for you and your child’s school. Check it out at http://www.classdojo.com/privacycenter.
We hope this helps! Thank you for using ClassDojo to communicate with your child’s teachers this year :)Cheers,
So, I guess they were getting the message from schools concerned about privacy issues. Even though they are doing “good things” like not selling or renting (?) student data, can they give it away for free? Or can they allow “researchers” to access their system? Could schools eventually integrate these behavior reports into the state longitudinal data systems? But, then again, their Privacy Center is so beautiful now, so I guess it really just doesn’t matter.
Class Dojo in action
I found many “you tube” videos posted online depicting the fabulous results teachers were getting with Class Dojo. One video showed a teacher who had implemented Class Dojo sauntering around a classroom of high school students with his iPhone in hand, tapping away at the screen giving students points for staying “on task” or doing the assignment correctly. The inspiring “Dojo doink” sound was enough to break the class’ concentration on their work to see who was the lucky recipient of the “doink” on the big screen. Whatever happened to a nice, but gentle, dare I suggest, pat on the back and or simply telling the student “Hey, good job?”
Do we really need less, not more, human interaction?
Do we really need more folks obsessively focused on their phones and tablets, especially in the classroom? Do teachers really need daily score cards on each child to know who’s naughty or nice or to track behavior trends?
And then there is this enormous “smartboard” (an overhead projector on steroids) that, in our case, gets wheeled in and out of the room. The one our school has takes up almost the whole front of the classroom and displays the colorful array of monsters representing each student.
Where is the dignity of the individual child respected here?
Besides serious philosophical and religious objections to Class Dojo, I envisioned how distracting this could be in a room full of Kindergarteners, who would spend their day looking up at the board to see whose monster was the funniest and who changed their avatar the night before. Not to mention the daily obsession my daughter would have over logging in to “her” account to re-create her “monster.”
Here is a 8-minute tutorial presented by a super cool “20-something” explaining the pure awesome-ness of this program. Maybe I’m just being stuck up and/or stuck in the 1800’s, but it comes across as unprofessional and juvenile.
But wait, there’s more … Spawn of Class Dojo
And just recently another parent informed me that the spawn of Class Dojo is being implemented in her son’s Catholic school. It is called ClassCraft and it takes Class Dojo to a whole new level.
“Real” risks and rewards? In a video game?
“Gamifying” the classroom “experience?”
“Meaningful collaboration” and making success “interdependent?”
I find it all incredibly creepy and new-agey. Again, I am sure whoever developed this application had the intention of “making learning fun.” But life is not a video game. But who knows, maybe it will be once this generation comes through the system. I fear we are creating a world of narcissists who are accustomed to instant gratification and who believe they really are the “healers, mages, or warriors” represented by their “avatars” in video game world, before they have even accomplished anything real and meaningful in their lives.
Besides, what is ClassCraft doing in Catholic schools???? We have real warriors in our Saints, like Saint Joan of Arc! We have a real wonderful counselor “healer” in Jesus Christ! We don’t need mages/wizards wielding magic spells. We have the Almighty One wielding his powerful Word!
Here’s the promotional video for ClassCraft:
And what is the worldview of the application’s creator, Shawn Young? I found this from an article on venturebeat.com: [emphasis mine]
“Going after that group mentality is key for Young, though, and he doesn’t think the education system values it enough. “Our whole system of [pupil] rewards is based on individual assessments,” he says, “and that’s not useful for them. What’s useful for them is seeing the value of your team succeeding as opposed to yourself, working together to make your collective level go up.”
Young points out that when somebody dies in Classcraft their whole team gets punished by losing hit points. “The game is very finely balanced — risk versus reward,” he says. “There’s a collective risk of somebody dying, but at the same time there are all these incentives to collaborate. That really transforms the classroom.””
Going after group mentality? Individual assessments are not useful for them?
Believe me, I understand all about teamwork and collaboration. I attended many in-services given by professional consultants who earned big bucks teaching us that there was no “I” in T-E-A-M player and that the word TEAM was an acronym for Together Everyone Achieves More. There are certainly times when this is true and working together and collaboration are valuable experiences, but there are other times when going along with the group can put one in great peril – in more ways than one.
In the “real world” we don’t always have “everything is awesome when you are part of a team” collaboration. Besides, do we want children to seek acceptance or to seek truth? Consensus/groupthink does not necessarily lead us to the truth or the “right” answer, instead it can lead us to deem something true simply because people generally agree upon it.
Furthermore, we don’t always receive immediate rewards or accolades when we do what’s right and good. Sometimes we don’t get any external rewards at all. Good deeds are still good deeds even if no one is around to praise you for them.
In ClassCraft world, what motivates the students? External rewards from video game and phony interactions between avatars? Doing good “for goodness sake?”
“…your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:5
From the Catechism:
1889 “Without the help of grace, men would not know how “to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse.” This is the path of charity, that is, of the love of God and of neighbor. Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.””
Less Dojo, more Dogma
Do either of these new-age applications incorporate authentic Catholic teaching or reference sacred scripture as it relates to how we, as Christians, view and interact with the world?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Do things like this lead children closer to Christ and His teachings on what we, and God, expect from these little ones? I realize they get this spiritual nourishment in other aspects of their school day, but I firmly believe, first and foremost, all aspects of their education, including behavior management, should be centered in Christ.
Where is the truth, beauty or goodness in these intrusions into our classrooms? It all seems superficial and inauthentic, at a time when we desperately need authenticity. From the old Sesame Street days, let’s play, “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong …”
Do we fully know the consequences, intended or unintended, of “gamifying” the classroom “experience?” Besides, do students really need more time in front of computers and video games? Do they really need more stimulation and entertainment? Instead of seeking more ways to appease this “gaming” and social media mentality, why wouldn’t we offer them real opportunities to engage each other as their true selves, as children of God, and not disguised as some meaningless “avatar?”
Does the evidence show that these types of reward systems really work in the long term to instill into the hearts of little ones the values that lead to good behavior and the development of good character?
Do we really need more opportunities to potentially expose personal information and leave children and their parents vulnerable online to data mongers and other third parties, including these so-called “researchers,” not to mention hackers, who have an insatiable appetite for information on the behaviors and attitudes of our children? Will Catholic schools use applications like this to “Monitor the Mission,” as was presented by Center for Catholic School Effectiveness (Boyle) in 2011?
This all comes at us at such a fast pace it is hard to keep up. It’s like the whack a mole game, just when you get a whack at one of them, another one pops up. And those of us who question any of this are treated like neanderthals who miss the good old days when students tapped out their assignments using a rock and chisel.
So, what happened to Class Dojo in my daughter’s school?
I sent a rather long-winded response to the teacher in which I expressed my concerns, among other things, about student privacy, citing the “Term of Use” and “Privacy” agreements of this application, the fact that my consent was not obtained before my daughter’s account was set up, requesting to know if and how the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) may apply, and objecting to the use of term “bullying” in the manner she described. Class Dojo was subsequently eliminated. I also expressed concern over the fact that this system fails to instill or incorporate scriptural and pastoral teachings to guide these little ones to understand the teachings of Jesus Christ and how we are called to know and love God and to love one another.
I shared the following quote from Pope Benedict XVI in an address to Catholic educators in 2008:
“First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.”
Are “informational texts” a gateway to promulgating propaganda in new CC books?
A fellow CC warrior shared some pages from her son’s new Common Core aligned English Language Arts book being used in a Catholic school. His assignment including using “informational texts” and “close reading” techniques to evaluate a writer’s effectiveness in making valid arguments:
The reading samples present “information” about global warming/climate change (the kind that is the fault of human beings and “toxic” CO2, not the kind that occurs naturally in God’s wondrous creation as the result of sun cycles), the glories of alternative energy juxtaposed against the evils of fossil fuels as well as commentary from the CO2 exhaling, “carbon footprint” depositing, fabricator of inconvenient lies, bloviating billionaire guru of the “green” movement, Al Gore. And, of course, the obligatory reference to polar bears and melting ice caps. Here’s one way the global warming “debate” is framed from “different” viewpoints:
So, the student has a choice: one argument in support of global warming or another argument in support of global warming. There are also arguments presented on the fracking where at least both sides of the argument are seemingly presented.
Beware! If you read these materials too closely, as the “closing reading” sidebar item suggests, you might get bowled over by the stench of B.S.
There are so many other “arguments” that are less controversial and would have served the purpose without injecting dubious and misleading scientific “information” into the classroom, especially as part of “language arts.” Under the guise of developing critical thinking skills, they are really training minds on what to think, not how to think. Welcome to top-down, centrally controlled, government run education.
The textbooks have already been purchased, in most cases by the government, and placed in front of our Catholic school children. And those of us who disagree are expected to “tolerate” their ideas and accept the “settled science” of global warming or whatever other controversial issues they want to promote and ignore the fact that over and over again our children’s young, impressionable minds will potentially be exposed to misinformation, and, in some cases, outright lies. After all, this is just “language arts,” not science class, right? And no doubt, these Common Core aligned texts correspond very nicely to what will be on the Common Core aligned standardized tests.
This is not education, this is indoctrination. I realize there are many people who have bought into the “human caused climate change is settled science” argument, including teachers. But that does not make it true. And the pursuit of truth should be the guiding principle in making arguments, instead of just trying to convince someone that you are right by whatever means necessary. Students are being programmed to be little social activists for causes the government finds of importance without being mature enough to understand the issues in full context. They are learning to use fallacious reasoning and appeal to emotion to plead on behalf of a cause instead of using logic, reason, and truth.
Denise Donohue, Ed.D., Deputy Director of K-12 Programs for the Cardinal Newman Society, provided some insight and understanding as to how Common Core is using techniques like “close reading” in a way it was not intended and that leads to faulty reasoning:
Close reading is an instructional approach advocated by the Common Core which was originally designed for the analysis of poetry in the 1940s and 1950s and called New Criticism. It was designed to scrutinize the different parts of a poem in detail – word choice, meter, syntax, and so forth. It is now being used for all different types of literature and is only one method of studying texts. Common Core has chosen this method over many other approaches such as the reader/response or moral criticism (the later would perhaps be better used in Catholic schools). It hones a students attention into the text presented directing the student to only that text or texts for “validation” instead of including outside sources. What happens during actual instruction is that by the time a teacher has taught the lesson working through all of the requirements of the curricular material, the student is left to believe that whatever they have read was in fact true and the only legitimate viewpoint on the subject.
In Catholic schools, the pursuit of truth is a hallmark of our schools (God as Creator of all things cannot contradict Himself, so we have nothing to fear). When we read all pieces of literature (and “Yes”, even these informational persuasive essays) we are to ask ourselves is this True? Is this correct in response to reality? Is the premise that is being put forth, in content, a true premise?
What is happening in this piece you sent is the confusion between the two different types of logic. Formal logic and Material logic. Formal logic is the structure of the thinking. Did the author put forth a premise and follow it up with sufficient evidence? If he did, then the conclusion is Valid (as the papers indicate), but the argument can still be materially invalid if the premises set forth are false.
In my opinion, what is happening here is the authors are using formal logic to convince students about the “validity” of using geothermal, solar power, and wind power over fossil fuels. They are using “Formal Logic” instead of “Material Logic” that relies on the correctness of the original premise – and that is what I would be concerned about -especially in a Catholic school! When using these types of topics to learn about citing text evidence, teachers need to be very cognizant of allowing enough time for multiple viewpoints to be read so as 1.)not to fall into the revisionist history, political ideology of the new texts and 2.) to work toward the authentic pursuit of truth.
I have an idea for a close reading/informational text assignment – how about , oh, I don’t know ….
Okay, so last week my daughter, who is in first grade, came home and said that the mother of one of her classmates came in to talk to them and she showed me this little booklet.
In it, it talked about people in a community and the things they do to help each other and to take care of the community. I have since learned that this a K-12 entrepreneurship program that is very popular with many parents, but something about it all just irked me.
Junior Achievement inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy.
Junior Achievement Sparks Student Success
…Our volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential. With the help of more than 213,000 volunteers, JA students develop the skills they need to experience the realities and opportunities of work and entrepreneurship in the 21st century global marketplace.
Learn about JA’s Blended Learning Transformation
Junior Achievement is incorporating a blended learning approach into its programs, creating a scalable, relevant, and responsive student experience. By blending our current face-to-face approach with digital opportunities to access JA content, we can reach more students in more relevant ways that better accommodate students’ diverse learning styles and provide them with 21st century skills that will equip them to be successful in the global marketplace…
Common Core Buzzword Alert
Blech. Blech. Blah. Let’s play how many CC buzzwords we can find in the above paragraphs:
This program is sold as a way to introduce children, starting in Kindergarten, how to understand wants versus needs and to figure out what kind of job they can do and the skills they will need to develop, or what kind of business they can start that will bring them success. Why is it necessary start this “career readiness” so early on? Besides, don’t students learn about communities, from the local on up to the big wide world, as part of history and social studies? And, since they are in Catholic school, won’t they learn about being helpful neighbors in their community by knowing that Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us?
Maybe I’m just not getting it. Here is a sample of the program from a Catholic school in Rochester, NY.
According to the Junior Achievement website, “classroom volunteers transform the key concepts of our lessons into a message that inspires and empowers students to believe in themselves, showing them they can make a difference in the world.” It strikes as being philosophically rooted in materialism and brings to mind the ‘Everything is Awesome’ world from the Lego movie.
For Catholic students, in terms of spiritual growth, what does it mean to believe “in yourself?” What about reinforcing a belief in God and a firm reliance on Him for guidance on how they will “make a difference in the world?” Do the classroom volunteers interject and remind the children that God willed each one of them into being and that they will finding meaningful work that allows them to provide for themselves and their families while serving God and their fellow man? For Christians, success should be much more than merely finding temporal work. And what about vocations and callings that transcend the “global marketplace” like the priesthood or religious orders and the important role they serve in the community?
One Big Glaring Omission in Jr. Achiever World
Looking at the “Junior Achiever community” above, I see a lot of busy people and a lot of recycling and trash pick up going on, but what I don’t see in the busy Junior Achiever community is a church. Of course, since this is designed for secular education, if they put a church, they would probably have to depict all places of worship on the cover. But, I am not sending my daughter to public school. I am sending her to Catholic school.
And if this program is so valuable to later “success” in this life, why can’t Catholic schools create their own version of this program that incorporates Catholic beliefs, values, and virtues?
My Junior Achiever ‘Dear Mommy’ letter:
This was the little Junior Achievement assignment – a “Dear Mommy – What I Want or Need letter” my daughter brought home:
At least she knew these were “wants” and not “needs.” But, as her parents, we have already explained these things to her and she already does chores around the house. But for some reason, those of us who are responsible, engaged parents are being subjected to the “schools must also be parents because parents just don’t know” mentality that permeates education nowadays. I did write her back and told her, much to her disappointment, that she is not going to get a horse or a DS for making her bed.
All this aligns very nicely with the Common Core world of “21st century skills” and preparing students for “jobs of the future.” It coordinates with the categorizing and sorting of the units of human capital (that would be the students – our children) to see where they fit as global citizens in a global marketplace.
God Does Not Require That We Be Successful
I recently heard the following quote attributed to Blessed Mother Theresa:
“God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
And, as Terrence Moore says in his book StoryKillers (which is excellent by the way):
“The man or woman who understands human nature and history, and who has a tolerable work ethic and a sound character, will never have trouble getting into college, nor landing a job, nor gaining a public voice, nor knowing what counts for truth, beauty, and goodness in the world. As such, that man or women will have a much greater chance of obtaining the great end of human life: happiness — the happiness that comes from pursuing truth and living virtuously.”
Well, as I had feared, below are photos of some of the St. Patrick’s Day “busy work” my daughter came home with … from Catholic school. I really feel like quite a curmudgeon for nitpicking all this stuff. I guess my expectations were a little high for our “modern” Catholic education system.
NONE of the work she came home with referenced St. Patrick or the story/legend of how he used the clover as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, or any of the symbolism in the renderings of St. Patrick, such as his staff and the snakes. I asked and she said they did learn about “St. Patrick” but that she just couldn’t remember what they did. I have no doubt that Saint Patrick was indeed discussed. The attention span of a first grader is short lived to be sure. But what will she remember more, St. Patrick or leprechauns, four leaf clovers & pots of gold? Of course, I made sure to reinforce what I knew about Saint Patrick and we did some activities at home.
I certainly don’t think there is anything terribly wrong with hearing about mischievous little leprechuans and the Irish fairy tales based on them, but I just expected so much more in sending her to Catholic school where we can actually talk about the Saints instead of using pagan customs and modern traditions that were established so that these religious holidays could also be celebrated by those who do not wish to acknowledge anything religious but still participate in them. Focussing on leprechuans is like diverting attention from the true meaning of Easter and Chrismas by making it about visits from Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.
I thought Catholic school would be where instead of writing an “acrostic poem” about being lucky, she would copy down a verse from Hail, Glorious St. Patrick! But alas, modernism has crept into our Catholic schools where some teachers (but certainly by no means all) don’t even seem to look to Catholic resources for classroom materials.
The worksheets pictured below came from www.abcteach.com. So I went to the site to see what choices they offered for classroom activites to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. None of the activities referenced or even mention Saint Patrick (except for using his name to describe the day) or anything Catholic for that matter.
If I mention it, they will say they are just trying to make things fun for the children as if children could not possibly understand or appreciate the lives of the Saints. And even if they are a little bored, so what. Aren’t we supposed to educating future saints here?
Here are some of the activities she did in school:
There was an activity about the Irish flag, Celtic musicians, and an information sheet on the origins of the harp, with the only “religious” reference being “The harp is at least as old as the Bible.”
Wearin’ Of the Green
Complete the Story
And they had this little story assignment about the life of St. Patrick .. oops, I mean about leprechauns, gold, and shamrocks …
She also colored a lovely pink shamrock and wrote an acrostic poem about being lucky.
One of My Activities
For our own activity here at home, I had printed off this activity from the awesome website http://www.catholicinspired.com. I also did the mobile pictured below. The child cuts and pastes the beautiful and inspiring images of God, Jesus & the dove (Holy Spirit) onto the shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity, three in One.
Compare & Contrast
Just to “compare and contrast” (a favorite Common Core language arts technique) – here are two St. Patrick’s Day craft activites that involve making a mobile:
Lord, forgive me for the many years I thought this day was about green beer & hangovers. Here’s hoping my daughter doesn’t come home from Catholic school with a coloring pages full of leprechauns, rainbows & a pot of gold … [See UPDATE – yep, she sure did … ]
HAIL, GLORIOUS ST. PATRICK
(words: Sister Agnes / tune: ancient Irish melody, 1920)
Hail, glorious St. Patrick, dear saint of our isle,
On us thy poor children bestow a sweet smile;
And now thou art high in the mansions above,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
On Erin’s green valleys, on Erin’s green valleys,
On Erin’s green valleys look down in thy love.
Hail, glorious St. Patrick, thy words were once strong
Against Satan’s wiles and a heretic throng;
Not less is thy might where in Heaven thou art;
Oh, come to our aid, in our battle take part!
In a war against sin, in the fight for the faith,
Dear Saint, may thy children resist to the death;
May their strength be in meekness, in penance, and prayer,
Their banner the Cross, which they glory to bear.
Thy people, now exiles on many a shore,
Shall love and revere thee till time be no more;
And the fire thou hast kindled shall ever burn bright,
Its warmth undiminished, undying its light.
Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth,
Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth,
And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam,
For God and St. Patrick, and our native home.
In the nine days leading up to the great feast of the Annunciation, from Monday, March 16 thru Tuesday, March 24th, let us fast and offer up the following novena for the intercession of our Blessed Mother and St. Gabriel in our efforts to have our voices heard within the Diocese of Harrisburg regarding not only Common Core, but the restoration of Catholic education and of our true Catholic identity. We recognize that the heresy of modernism has taken deep root with the church and is the basis on which grave errors like the Common Core find its way into our churches and schools.
Please unite this prayer with the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary during this Novena.
I greet you, Ever-blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Throne of Grace, miracle of Almighty Power! I greet you, Sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity and Queen of the Universe, Mother of Mercy and refuge of sinners!
Most loving Mother, attracted by your beauty and sweetness, and by your tender compassion, I confidently turn to you, miserable as I am, and beg of you to obtain for me from your dear Son the favor I request in this novena:
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we ask for your intercession and the intercession of St. Gabriel. We seek a storm of mercy for Bishop and those in positions of authority to open their doors and open their hearts to the parents and other faithful who so desperately seek the restoration, not only of Catholic education, but also of the true Catholic identity. We also pray for the rejection of the heresy of modernism, on which these grave errors are founded. We beg of you to carry our intention to the foot of Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer. Enlighten and strengthen your Bishops in the United States of America with wisdom and discernment to take bold action against the influences of Common Core State Standards of education, in all of its forms, on our Catholic schools. Renew and restore our Catholic schools to be institutions which seek only truth, beauty, and goodness as well as teach discipline and inspire holiness in its students, teachers, and administrators alike. Let the standards of Catholic education be founded in Christ, first and foremost.
Obtain for me also, Queen of heaven, the most lively contrition for my many sins and the grace to imitate closely those virtues which you practiced so faithfully, especially humility, purity and obedience. Above all, I beg you to be my Mother and Protectress, to receive me into the number of your devoted children, and to guide me from your high throne of glory.
Do not reject my petitions, Mother of Mercy! Have pity on me, and do not abandon me during life or at the moment of my death. Amen.