Catholic Common Core – Parents Speak Up

A reader shared the following email that was sent out recently to family, friends, and parishioners regarding Common Core, and the adaptation of it into our Catholic schools.

It is hard to understand why so much effort is being given to separate the wheat from the chaff to make these standards “fit” into Catholic education. Square peg.  Round hole.

Feel free to use this letter for your own communications.

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Catholic Common Core – Bishop Gainer Responds

Several of us with Harrisburg Catholics Against Common Core requested a meeting with Bishop Gainer to discuss our concerns regarding Common Core. In lieu of a meeting, Bishop Gainer sent the following letter regarding his position on the adoption/adaptation of  Common Core in the Diocese of Harrisburg:

Bishop Gainer Response Regarding Common Core in Hbg Diocese Schools

I  mean no disrespect and I wish to express myself in a spirit of charity and deference to the authority of the Diocese to make these decisions on behalf of Catholic education, but I am disappointed to hear our Bishop tout the same ceremonial CCSS talking points we have heard ad hominem. It brings me great sadness and regret. I take no joy in disagreeing and do not wish to be disagreeable.  I realize I will have to make my own decisions in the best interest of my daughter at the appropriate time, and I am not sure if that includes continuing her education in the Diocese school system that is going along with education trends that are not founded on truth.

The entire Common Core premise is based on half-truths and semantic deception to create exaggerated claims about “evidence” and “international benchmarking” that has been shown to be simply non-existent. Much of this so-called “evidence” is based on policy papers written by those who were directly involved in the development of Common Core, or were paid in some way for their supportive opinions. It’s like the manufacturers of a new car telling us their car is great because those who designed and built it say so. It’s never been test driven and the driver’s manual hasn’t been fully developed, but no worries, just buy it and drive it home today. In the mad rush to push Common Core out the door, it has left our teachers to sort through new teaching strategies as students become little guinea pigs for a pedagogy that is wholly unproven and untested.

Sadly, in the debate over Common Core there is no debate.

Bishop Gainer states that the hallmarks of Catholic education are “creativity, critical and analytical thinking, real-world application, and academic rigor.” These are certainly laudable goals for education, but Gravissimum Educationis published 50 years ago states:

“Since all Christians have become by rebirth of water and the Holy Spirit a new creature so that they should be called and should be children of God, they have a right to a Christian education. A Christian education … has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society. Wherefore this sacred synod recalls to pastors of souls their most serious obligation to see to it that all the faithful, but especially the youth who are the hope of the Church, enjoy this Christian education.”

“The mission of the Catholic school is to prepare students for eternal life with God while its secondary goal is to prepare them for temporal work.  They accomplish this by pursuing Truth and by seeking to acquire Knowledge for its own sake.  In contrast, the goal of Common Core is the narrow training of students to become mere functionaries educated solely for earthly success.  Catholic educators should be leery of any standards that create automatons rather than humane individuals.”

We are educating our children to navigate through this world, but they’re ultimate destination is  wholly another. Catholic children today are facing a country and a culture that is at odds with the values, attitudes, and beliefs Catholics/Christians hold to be self-evident and based on natural law — and those who hold on to the time honored Truths and Traditions of the faith will find themselves swimming against the tide, as Pope Francis recently told a gathering of youth in one of his homilies. Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago recently wrote:

“The inevitable result is a crisis of belief for many Catholics. Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure.”

These are troubled waters and difficult to navigate, but as Catholics we must make our way without losing sight of our destination.

The term “academic rigor” is now infamous in Common Core doublespeak, as if we all have the same understanding of what it means. In Common Core/education “reformer” world, rigor does not mean difficult, challenging, or intellectually stimulating, instead it means, as Peg Luksik noted when she attended a teacher’s seminar on Common Core, that “Rigor meant… that lots of effort would be required.” Making something more rigorous, in this sense, does not necessarily make it a better way for our kids to learn. In fact, it might make many children more frustrated with learning these fundamental concepts and ideas.

Many prominent education advocates have spoken out about the developmentally inappropriate nature of the standards, especially at the elementary, that is grammar, school level. At a time when children are supposed to be developing a lifelong love of learning and getting the fundamentals of arithmetic, reading and writing, parts of speech, sentence structure and spelling we are asking them to have meaningful conversations or write essays about what they are reading and collaborate on projects. It is just too much, too soon.

There are early childhood education experts, including Louise Moats, who was originally part of the development of Common Core, but now say it is a disaster, especially for K-3 education and students with learning difficulties. The Alliance for Childhood issued a Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals  on the Common Core Standards Initiative in 2010. Why do our Catholic leaders not find their concerns legitimate and worthy of consideration?

It is truly unfortunate that Catholic education, which is founded on truth, goodness, and beauty has capitulated to the economic and secular forces in today’s education market, instead of forging its own way and presenting an actual choice for parents who want to escape state-run education and education marketeers who do not promote or acknowledge (and in some cases actually oppose) Christian beliefs.  There is simply no good reason for our Catholic schools to even consider Common Core. Sister Dale McDonald of the NCEA has said, we must “get on board” the Common Core train or our kids will get left behind at the station, but do we even know where it’s taking us?

Much of the texts and workbooks purchased from Big Education publishers for Catholic schools seem superfluous. There is not much in the early elementary grades that cannot be done with paper, pencil, a chalkboard, and some props. Kindergarten has been transformed from the original conception of  a children’s garden where learning is through play and exploration into a rigorous learning environment with homework and a myriad of worksheet assignments. Instead of lessons, including handwriting and vocabulary, that use beautiful Psalms and scripture passages, we get random poems and rhymes from the workbooks developed by education gurus at Houghton Mifflin Harcout, McGraw Hill, or printed off the internet.

The book StoryKillers by Terrence Moore discusses in detail how the “Common Core” way is destroying the art of teaching classical literature and how classical literature, although still given honorable mention, is being used as a springboard to modern authors whose works are often controversial and quite radical.  Furthermore, Common Core and it’s “close reading,” reduces the joy and beauty of reading classical literature into assignments about plot summary, literary devices, and compare and contrast that completely miss the point of reading such works —  that is, for the story and character development that often lead us to, as Moore says, “an endless probing of the complex human psyche and of the English language.”

In Chapter 5, Mr. Moore states:

“…Either the authors of the Common Core are hopelessly naïve or they think that we are hopelessly naïve. It must be one or the other. The Common Core, as it is written, encourages superficiality in reading and bias in thought. Either there exists no coherent philosophy of education governing the arrangement of texts within the document, or there does exist a coherent philosophy: that of obscuring the high, powerful truths about virtue, freedom, suffering, and happiness found in great works of Western literature…”

As Daniel Katz, PhD recently wrote about implementing the standards as an English teacher:

“When you add together the structure of the standards with the heavy testing regimen that have been tied to them and actual career consequences for teachers tied to those exams that were simultaneously put in place with the adoption of the CCSS, I find it hard to believe that very many teachers, on their own, are going to be able to use these standards to promote children’s love of literature from any social or experiential angle.

If children in classrooms using the CCSS English standards learn to love reading on a deeply personal and affective level and develop a life long relationship with reading as a means of self exploration, it will be in spite of those standards, not because of them.”

And although great works of literature are often included on reading lists, they are taught in such a superficial manner, that they end up killing great stories.

Common Core seeks to complicate the simple — all in the name of ‘rigor.” As any parent who has been inundated with worksheets of math homework can attest to – the concrete thinking of basic math has been turned into abstract arts and crafts project where our children make and color-in boxes, dots and other shapes and write “number sentences.” I’m surprised they’re not writing poems, such a Ode to the Number Six, as an assignment.

There is so much that could be, that is not. And not all of it is because of Common Core, but a much deeper, much more serious problem of Catholic identity.

The national debate over Common Core has brought out into the open those forces working behind the scenes to transform education in our country. If enough parents wake up because of Common Core, maybe it will end up being a blessing in disguise.

The fact that these standardized tests will be based on CCSS is no excuse for adapting any of it into our schools. Post-secondary institutions know full well that private education as well as homeschooling produces more well-rounded, well-educated children and are often more than happy to consider these children for their schools. And actually, I believe the adaptation to CCSS will put our students at a disadvantage, not at an advantage. And as Terrence Moore said in his book Story-Killers:

“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.”

One one hand, the Bishop, guided by the USCCB, says we need to adapt to CCSS because of the standardized tests, then he claims that Catholic schools are in complete control of the curriculum. One of the major concerns with Common Core is that these tests ultimately drive curriculum. I have been told that my daughter’s school uses and older, paper version of the IOWA test, but for how long? New versions of the IOWA test are aligned with Common Core and will be computer based. Once these tests are computer based and mandated (in a the most non-mandatory seeming way, of course) because of CCSS, they can be changed on the fly and adapted to each student. Will we know the content of the questions they get? The Common Core’s focus on informational texts makes it easy to emphasize particular schools of thought. Students taking the redesigned SAT, ACT, or the Iowa Tests could soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles. Those who control the standards and control the assessments—the assessments are the key— control education.

The word problems and reading samples used in the tests provide the opportunity for ushering in controversial content, and the correct answer according to the test makers, may not necessarily be the “right” answer. It is all very concerning. As parents, under state law, we have the opportunity to review these tests and opt our child out if we feel the test violates our religious beliefs. But with computerized testing, we are potentially facing a moving target.

The SAT/ACT are slowly losing their luster as the gold standard of entrance into a college. As a February, 2014 article from USA Today reveals, “A recent Bates College study found that high school GPA is the best indicator of success in college — not standardized test scores.” Additionally, many colleges are jumping on the “SAT not required” bandwagon as they are realizing that these standardized tests are not accurate predictors of academic success nor do they provide any meaningful “picture” of the actual individual behind the test score.

Catholicism has stood as a stalwart against the forces of modern culture and the trends and fads of the day. It has stood for what is right, good, and true instead of what is popular.

If the leaders in Catholic education think that by giving-in to these modern forces of education “reform”, that they will become more marketable, especially in the era of the “school choice” movement, I would caution that although enrollment may increase, school choice is ultimately a false choice for Catholic parents. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

For more information on how Catholic schools,under the guidance of the NCEA, have “infused”and consulted with the Common Core to adapt it into our schools please see the excellent research and resource documents Pittsburgh Catholics Against Common Core has compiled.

Corbett’s Common Core Conundrum

After being told to “move along, there’s nothing to see here” by the PA Department of Education (PDE), many representatives in our state legislature, and the “business community” heralding the Common Core and negating concerns regarding the “common” data collection system that has been created in tandem with these “common” standards, Governor Corbett now decides to toss the anti-Common Core crowd a bone. We’ve had over two years of discussions, hearings, meetings, and resolutions about Common Core. Where were Governor Corbett’s strong words of concern and opposition before now? The silence from his office regarding Common Core has been deafening.

Pardon my confusion, but I thought PA had already wiped its hands clean of the Common Core and created its own very rigorous, very “college and career ready,” and very “21st Century” PA standards that were definitely NOT Common Core, even though we were originally told Common Core was the greatest thing to come along in education since the mimeograph machine. All these lofty, loosely defined terms about “rigor” and “21st century economic skills” are tossed around as if those of us in the cheap seats understand education ‘reformer’ doublespeak and use of semantic deception to garner support for ideas that if explained truthfully most people would outright reject.

The Corbett administration’s “No Child Left Behind” (ESEA) Waiver request stated that:

 “Pennsylvania educators from across the state convened in 2012 to meld the PA Academic Standards with CCSS standards. … Overall, the PA Common Core Standards reflect a rigorous set of standards that embraces the CCSS Anchor Standards in English Language Arts as well as the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice…”)

Sadly, I fear we’re stuck on “repeat play” with the same old Common Core song – the Name Game — and dance — the Hustle. For the most part, these supposedly unique PA Academic Core Standards were merely an exercise in the use of synonyms and superfluous words and phrases, as well as some clever re-ordering, that do not in any meaningful way alter the original Common Core. So, if I seem cautiously optimistic, if not downright skeptical, about yet another round of the Common Core kerfuffle, I apologize, but it’s been quite a journey on a road paved with duplicitous intentions.

Why would PA need to “meld” and “embrace” something we supposedly moved away from? Why must our standards be anchored to Common Core at all? Furthermore, if the Corbett administration is concerned about a “top down takeover of the education system” then why did it apply for and receive $51 million from the federal department of education for PA’s early learning education program?

It is through this federal grant aid system that the federal government bypasses our state legislature and Constitutional rule of law and pushes policies and programs like CCSS and the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) into our state. Granted, Congress appropriates the money that funds these federal bureaucracies, but beyond that it exercises little, if any, control over how these funds are used. These grants went not only to the PDE, but also to the PA Information Management Systems (PIMS) and the Department of Labor and Industry. And, as we can see, once implemented, these programs and policies are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, no matter who gets elected to office.

Common Core is a lesson in the importance of Constitutionally limited government, the rule of law, and states’ rights via the Tenth Amendment as well as the principle of subsidiarity, which focuses on protecting the proper and natural functions of local communities from oppressive control and manipulation by more comprehensive power. It directs the functions of government to the most local level possible.

The crux of the matter is this federal grant aid system, in addition to the collusion of crony capitalists and big government, that ignores the authority of our elected representation and creates a massive bureaucratic administrative state. It is a system that more resembles Fascism than a Constitutional Republic. In order for this “top down takeover” to end, we must stop making deals that further erode our ability to function as a sovereign state and violate the principle of subsidiarity, especially when it comes to education. We can’t have it both ways. We end up groveling for our own taxpayer dollars back from the federal government, and yet only receive cents on the dollar in return. Furthermore, we are abdicating the authority and responsibility of our locally elected school boards to a federal leviathan with an insatiable appetite for centralized power.

The Student Aligned Systems portal (SAS), which includes a “Voluntary Model Curriculum” with lesson plans that align perfectly to the “Core” and to the Keystone Exams, runs contradictory to the claim that the PDE does not meddle into curriculum at the local district level. In fact, this “voluntary” curriculum, available on the SAS portal, was a big selling point for the federal government panel that evaluated PA’s grant application in which representatives from the PDE made it clear that “when we have made mandatory things available, pretty much everybody is using them.”

Act 82 of 2012 put a temporary moratorium on “certain Data Collection Systems and Data Sets” for both the early childhood learning database (called PELICAN) and the PIMS, which manages the “womb to workforce” data system. PA received $24+ million in grant money from the federal government specifically for the creation of this SLDS a/k/a “womb to workforce” data system. Act 82 includes a long list of exceptions to this moratorium including the catch-all phrase: “any data pursuant to other Federal requirements to meet eligibility requirements for Federal Funds” and it lists all the federal laws that apply.

I realize that any mention of data collection and privacy concerns brings on snickers and mockery of the “tin foil hat” brigade, but do any of us really know what data is/was the state required to collect and share to meet eligibility for federal funds? How can the state possibly guarantee privacy of our children’s data, especially when this data is stored in the “cloud” environment – such as with the MMS Student Information System. And even if the Corbett Administration put the brakes on Common Core and “common” data collection, can another administration come along and reinstate it? Would all this work now being done now to eradicate Common Core and fortify data privacy be wiped away in one election and a changing of the guard in our state bureaucracies?

If Governor Corbett has indeed has seen the light, I thank him and welcome his voice in the fight against Common Core, and all it entails. I sincerely hope this bone we’re being tossed has real substance, instead of just being more of the same hollow rhetoric. And I hope Governor Corbett will begin to realize that our rights as citizens of a sovereign state are not up for sale to the highest bidder, nor is the privacy and safety of our children in state-controlled schools. And although this may seem like an election “Hail Mary” pass for Corbett, given the alternatives, I am hoping for a completion.

PA’s Early Learning Challenge

The Corbett administration applied for and was awarded $51 million of federal taxpayer dollars via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge in FY 2013. So, we, the taxpayers, send our hard earned money to the federal government, then our states grovel for some of it back via this federal grant-aid boondoggle and as long as we do what the feds want us to do, we might get the money. Or, we might not get the money, but we still end up doing what the feds want us to do anyway, as was the case with the first two rounds on Race to the Top.

The Early Learning grant was a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education. In its application, PA submitted early learning standards, which can be found in the Appendix documents.

These early learning standards cover the years that include Pre-K (which apparently begins at “birth”) through 1st Grade and include lessons under categories such as “Environment and Ecology, ” “Markets and the Functions of Government,” “Economic Systems,” and “Scarcity and Choice.” These economic lessons seem to be designed to teach our little ones about “fair share” and redistributing classroom resources to be sure everyone gets the same amount. It also starts them early on the “humans are bad and are destroying the earth and all its creatures” mantra embedded throughout much of the “Environment and Ecology” learning standards.

For example, the Pre-Kindergarten Standard 6.1 – Economic Systems, states:

“The learner will: … Attempt to distribute items equally among a group such as snack, materials or toys.”

And in the supportive practices column for this lesson:

“The adult will:
– Ask open-ended questions about unfair distribution such as one child has more or less.
– Assist with equal distribution.”

In the Kindergarten learning standards, this is concept further reinforced, where the

The learner will: … correct the problem if one child has more or less than another.”

And, under supportive practices,

The adult will: … Discuss why everyone should have a fair share.”

This goes well beyond encouraging children to share/take turns or promoting altruism. There is a world of difference between “sharing” and “fair share.” One is done voluntarily as an act of charity the other is done by forced redistribution. And, good luck “correcting the problem” when it involves taking snacks or toys away from toddlers. Mine! Mine! Mine! Teachable moments become tantrum time.  It reminds me of my experience with a local mom’s club during an Easter egg hunt. My daughter was older than the other children and they went around and collected the eggs and the leader announces that after all the eggs are collected, the kids would empty their baskets and then the eggs would be divided up equally among the children. The little ones were happy with whatever was in their basket, but my daughter was old enough to realize that she was getting ripped off.  Now, I had told her at the beginning that because she was older, she needed to be aware of letting the little ones find eggs too, instead of just grabbing them all up. We didn’t make a stink, but it definitely sent a message.  I’m sure the mommy leader was just trying to be nice, but, if anything had to be done at all, the better thing to do would be to encourage the children to voluntarily give an egg to someone who had not found any, making it an act of the will, and not a lesson in collectivism.

For 1st Grade, the preface to the Social Studies early learning standards states that children will:

further expand their understanding of their role in the community, larger democratic society and as a global citizen.

This is not education; this is indoctrination. These children are too young to understand facts versus opinion, economic theory,  or to question their parents when they are taught about such things in a classroom environment that may contradict or conflict with the values they are taught at home. Much of it is developmentally inappropriate. They have taken the elementary school standards and worked backwards to create these standards for early childhood learning. It defies logic or common sense.

Also, thanks to the ‘Early Learning Challenge’ grant, we now have a  Kindergarten Education Inventory (KEI) managed through the Office of Childhood Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), that assesses not only academic readiness, but things such as: “Emotional Regulation,” “Self Awareness,” “Conflict Resolution,” “Behavior Regulation,” “Collaborative Communication,” “Curiosity and Initiative,” and “Engagement, Attention and Persistence.” These are five and six year olds. I don’t know many who engage in “collaborative communication” or have developed “conflict resolution” skills.  This is all part of a national trend for “social emotional learning.”

PA worked with the CASEL organization and in 2013 adopted a set of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards .  CASEL published a report titled “Aligning Preschool through High School Social and Emotional Learning Standards: A Critical and Doable Next Step” published in November 2013, which states:

“Our call for the alignment of SEL standards is in harmony with the growing attention to SEL by state and federal policymakers (e.g. NASBE, 2013) and a rising trend toward more global preschool through early elementary integration and alignment. For example, in 2012 the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors’ Association joined together to host a forum titled Aligning and Implementing Birth‐3rd Grade Learning Standards: A Strong Foundation for College and Career‐Training Readiness.”

These are the same groups involved in the development of Common Core State Standards.

According to the CASEL report:

“The Pennsylvania Standards for Student Interpersonal Skills (SIS) are organized around four grade bands (Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, grades 1-5, 6-8, and 9-12). As with the Illinois standards, Pennsylvania also based its standards on the CASEL framework. The SIS address three sets of skills intended to delineate how students should be prepared to “navigate the social world of family, school, college, and career not only in America but in the world of the 21st century and the global marketplace” (Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2012; p. 3). “

Am I the only one who finds it absurd that we are now beginning to consider “college and career readiness” at birth?  On whose authority was it decided that my child needs to learn she is a global, and not a uniquely American, citizen and be prepared for the global marketplace, starting in pre-school? Who defines these social emotional standards and how are they assessed? And where is the data from these assessments on our little ones captured and stored?  House Resolution 338 and the revised Chapter 4 regulations only protects “personal family data.”

The RTTT Early Learning Challenge application states:

“OCDEL contracted with the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) in July of 2012 to develop a web-based data system that allows for an easy collection of student outcomes. On a secure website, teachers log-in and enter both demographic information for each student in their kindergarten class and a skill level for each of the 34 indicators on the KEI. (p. 238)”

and

“OCDEL started the process of including KEI data into the SLDS in the summer of 2013. (p. 246)


Remember, the SLDS is the State Longitudinal Database System (a/ka/a “womb to workplace.“)

According to the No Child Left Behind Waiver Request submitted by the Corbett Administration:

“OCDEL has been piloting its Kindergarten Entry Inventory for the past two school years and will be piloting an electronic database this year.”

For more information on early learning data collection, see my post on  Big Data & Early Learning.

Catholics & Common Core – A letter to the Diocese of Hbg

Please see my page Common Core & Catholic Education for more information and links to great resources.

The following is a letter that I sent via email to Livia Riley, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Harrisburg prior to the May 2014 school board meeting. I received no response as of yet.

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Re: School Board Meeting May 8, 2014
 
Dears Ms. Riley, Ms. Barrett, & School Board Members:
 
I have contacted Ms. Riley in the past regarding my concerns about Common Core. I have also written an extensive letter to Administrator Gillelan, in the absence of a Bishop, regarding my concerns. In light the upcoming School Board meeting for the Diocese of Harrisburg, and in the view of the fact that these meetings are not open to the public, nor is the public provided opportunity to comment during the meeting, I am sending this letter to express my grave concern regarding the alignment of Catholic education in the Diocese of Harrisburg to Common Core.
 
Sister Dale McDonald of the NCEA claims Catholic schools need to “get on board” because it will be hard for schools to procure textbooks or for teachers to attend professional development without accepting Common Core. It’s all hearsay and propaganda from both state and federal government bureaucrats, and now the NCEA, who are pushing these standards onto our schools and into our lives. Over and over again we hear the Common Core buzzwords: robust … rigorous … deeper understanding … higher level learning … competing in the global economy … 21st century workplace … college-and-career-ready. Such buzzwords thinly disguise an agenda of replacing the objective measurement of knowledge and skills with subjective appraisals of students’ attitudes and behavior as global citizens.
 
Sadly, over many decades we have witnessed a transition of our schools where time honored Truths and Traditions have been watered down to more closely align with secularized public education. Instead of standing as a stalwart against the dramatic shifts in popular culture, the Catholic schools have morphed into something that may still be considered a parochial education, but more in tune with the secular world. And now Common Core is the culmination of this merger.
 
Why, given the exceptional history of Catholic education in America, would Catholic schools adopt a utilitarian, one size fits all approach to education that view individual children as human capital? This is contradictory to everything that a Catholic is supposed to believe about each individual’s unique essence. The purpose of education is to create thinkers and develop each individual child’s intellect to the best of his abilities, not to create workers for so-called jobs of the future, which are unknown and cannot be known. 
 
The crisis is tied to the fact that the Common Core is ushering in to Catholic schools all over the country a new pedagogy and various unproven teaching and learning theories and methods, not to mention the prospect of a massive data collection system on each and every child.  With this, it is much more then just standards; it is a radical movement and agenda that will destroy Catholic education and our schools. It removes the beauty and wonder and goodness from all that a Catholic school is.  It harms the souls of each individual child so that they can be groomed for a workforce and have “common” behaviors.
 
The clandestine manner in which Common Core was developed and adopted raises red flags and does not inspire trust in the motives and methods of the individuals behind Common Core.  Parents were completely left out of the process and we now find ourselves trying to catch up to a train that has already left the station. Most of our state legislators were also blind-sighted by Common Core and are now facing upset parents who are demanding answers and all they can do is respond with “white papers” from the PA Department of Education lauding the standards.
 
At the heart of Common Core are data, assessments, and transformation of human relationships of teacher/student to facilitator/learner. These assessments (which use to be called tests) will ultimately be the vehicle for ushering in controversial content into our schools. I understand that Catholic schools are not required to participate in the data collection, which is part of a State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) designed to capture data from “Birth to College/Career” (called P-20) or to use PA’s standardized testing (Keystone Exams, PSSA), and I pray that this continues to be the case. As parents we are given no choice to opt our children out of this invasive and unnecessary use of data on our little ones, nor was our consent obtained to have data collected in the first place.
 
These assessments are designed to test not just knowledge and mastery of material, but also, attitudes, values, and beliefs. And the values, attitudes, and beliefs that are considered “correct” according to those who created the assessments, may conflict or contradict with what the child’s parents and/or the Catechism/Magisterium teaches. Are we going to teach our children to capitulate their beliefs in order to give the “right” answer?
 
Phyllis Schafly recently noted in her letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy:
 
“The mission of the Catholic school is to prepare students for eternal life with God while its secondary goal is to prepare them for temporal work.  They accomplish this by pursuing Truth and by seeking to acquire Knowledge for its own sake.  In contrast, the goal of Common Core is the narrow training of students to become mere functionaries educated solely for earthly success.  Catholic educators should be leery of any standards that create automatons rather than humane individuals.”
 
As Christians, we have watched as God and the Word have been pushed out of our state-run school system. We have watched an agenda that leaves behind time honored traditions, objective truth and understanding of natural law and replaces it with opinions and moral relativism where children are no longer able, nor is it acceptable, to distinguish right and wrong. Truths become opinions and opinions can be changed to meet the consensus. 
 
In fact, the Common Core Next Generation Science Standards intend to do just that – replace scientific method with consensus as the means of establishing scientific truth. Please see the article titled: Public School Science Standards: Political or Pure? By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D available at www.cornwallalliance.org. The Cornwall Alliance is “a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, policy experts, and others, and is committed to bringing a proper and balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” This “green” movement is actively promoted and encouraged as many have bought into the lie of human caused climate change, which is not about being good stewards of God’s creation, but about population control and redistribution of resources. It is unfortunate that many of our Catholic leaders, priests, and teachers have also bought into this movement believing they are helping to save the planet and serving the poor, when it is doing neither. It is a dangerous liaison.
 
In a commentary written for the July 15, 2013 issue of The Catholic Witness, Father Quinlan was responding to President Obama’s disparaging statements in Ireland about the divisiveness of Catholic education. Father Quinlan said:
 
“For over two centuries, Catholic schools have served the mission the Church envisioned for them … They have prepared young people to become leaders of the Church and civic community. … I respectfully submit that Catholic schools are in many ways the very glue that helps hold our American community together by helping to prepare well-educated and morally literate citizens.”
 
Furthermore Father Quinlan references the Supreme Court case Pierce vs. the Society of Sisters (1925) where the court recognized the right of parents to raise and educate their children according to their faith, noting that “the child is not a creature of the state.” 
 
Bishop McFadden echoed this sentiment when asked about Common Core during a Penn Live interview conducted on March 19, 2013 during the following Q&A exchange [emphasis mine]:
 
Comment From Guest: Hello! Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. I was wondering if you are aware of / and how you feel about the Common Core education standards that have been adopted by PA and now by the Harrisburg Diocese, and if you are concerned about the impact this will have on parental rights, public intrusion in the Catholic schools, a national standard that seeks a one-size-fits all approach, and privacy, with the vast data requirements that will follow children from pre-k through college and the workplace.
 
Bishop McFadden: The question about schools is very important to me, and would suggest is important to Pope Francis because he is an educator. I believe very much in parental rights. In our country, the educational system has become an educational monopoly of the government. While there have been battles over school choice, I believe the real issue is parental rights. I believe that parents have an inalienable right to choose the education that best meets the needs of their child. Children belong to parents, not to the state.
 
Bishop McFadden: I think that the common standards are a beginning point in helping us to ensure that children have a minimal education. But they should only be the starting point. We need to seek a system that is less concerned about standards and is more concerned about helping each child achieve their educational potential. Standards may make us feel good, but they do not accomplish the task. We will be better off when we get parents back involved in the education of their children. This is especially true for the poor parents who, in many urban areas, are consigned to a failing school system, as though the parents are not able to recognize what is best for their children.
 
I have to question whether Bishop McFadden, may he rest in peace, was properly informed about Common Core and all that it entails because his comments are completely the opposite of what Common Core represents. And I continue to pray that Bishop Gainer will recognize that Common Core does not belong in our Diocese schools.
 
The Classical Education model which served generations of children so well has been replaced with an outcomes based system that involves training, not teaching, our children. We have been battling these influences over our children’s education for decades. It did not start, nor will it end with “Common Core.”
 
And there already exists an education system that is less concerned with standards and more concerned with helping each child achieve his potential! Classical Liberal Education based on the Trivium! The classical education model does not rely on textbooks, which are pre-digested facts analyzed and reduce by someone else, and instead uses actual source documents and literary and artistic works relevant to the topic and time period being studied. With classical education, schools are not at the whim of textbook publishers and their worldview and agenda they wish to promote.
 
My daughter goes to a school in the Diocese. I am under the painstaking decision process as to whether to continue her education there, send her to a local “Christian Academy,” or homeschool. I am truly heartsick over being placed in the position of having to make this decision. I discovered that Catholic schools had adopted Common Core after I had already registered and enrolled her in the school. She is currently finishing up her Kindergarten year. I am astonished at the expectations place on these little ones who are just beginning the long journey in their education. Kindergarten is no longer the “children’s garden” of learning through play, songs, and rhyme that it was intended to be and instead is now focused on high stakes learning standards and curriculum. And the teacher proudly claims how she knows the children will rise to these new expectations. But why do they have to? And, no, this is not about a mom not liking things being “too hard” for her child, as many try to portray those of us with legitimate concerns. It is about frustrating these little ones at an early age and turning them off to learning. It’s a mom’s concern about why Kindergarteners need to have “meaningful, deep conversations” instead of just enjoying story time or why they need to know about “making inferences” from a story about bugs at an age when they cannot grasp this concept. It is a mom’s concern about education being developmentally appropriate and making children jump through hoops to show off how “challenging” it all is, especially when the challenges serve no good purpose.
 
There a few bastions of hope in PA for authentic Catholic education, but sadly these schools that use the classical education model are too far away for me to consider. I encourage you to look at the curriculum and philosophy of the Reginal Luminis Academy in Downington, PA. Catholic parents are hungry for a return to the classical liberal education model, based on the Trivium model, and many of them, realizing that Catholic education has abandoned this philosophy and model have been left with no choice but to homeschool their children. Many of these parents would probably flock back to Catholic schools if classical education were to return. At least each school in the Diocese should have the flexibility to decide.
 
If in order to “get on board,” as Sister Dale McDonald said, Catholic schools must purchase the same textbooks used in public schools and attend the same professional development courses as public teachers, what is the point exactly of sending our children to Catholic schools?
 
Furthermore, Common Core violates the principle of subsidiarity as is it a top down centralized approach to education.
 
It seems Catholic schools are no longer a safe haven from the politically motivated agenda that has permeated our education system. Many of the individuals behind Common Core have the same worldview as Bill Gates, who funded nearly every entity involved in the development of Common Core, in terms of global citizenship, radical egalitarianism, and radical environmentalism that goes beyond authentic Catholic teaching about being good stewards of God’s great creation and social justice founded upon sacred scripture and objective truth. Instead it is based on lies and half-truths. Bill Gates openly advocates for forced sterilization, abortion, and birth control as a means of solving the “problem” of overpopulation. And yet, his deep pockets seem to be attractive to organizations involved in Catholic education, including the NCEA.
 
Under the banner of diversity and multiculturalism, an anti-American and anti-Christian sentiment permeates much of the education materials that are published for today’s education market. Multiculturalism, under the guise of fostering knowledge, understanding, and respect of other cultures, actually serves the purpose of casting America, Western civilization, and especially Christianity, in a negative light. And the contributions and influence of Christianity, specifically Catholicism, are misrepresented or hardly mentioned at all. These are evident in the History/Social Studies standards that are under production as part of Common Core. I want my daughter to understand the world, but I do not want her to be taught that she’s “global citizen.” Furthermore, I do not want her taught under education policy and goals developed by the United Nations, which is the origin of  this 21st Century Learning and globalization efforts.
 
Please reconsider Common Core and halt its implementation in our Catholic schools. However, eradicating Common Core is just the beginning of restoring Catholic education to become the model that will lead the way, not follow in footsteps of failed education policies and a popular culture in decline. I implore the Diocese to disassociate itself from the voluntary alignment to PA Academic Standards and the use of textbooks and materials designed for secular education. With the Classical Education, children learn what is true and beautiful and standards really aren’t even necessary. The breadth of knowledge attained with classical education provides a strong foundation for children to reach their full potential as God intended.
 
Furthermore I ask that the Diocese advise school staff against attending NCEA conferences, conventions, and meetings in various cities. The NCEA is aggressively promoting all things related to this progressive and secular education agenda – 21st Century learning digital learning and Common Core.
 
If you have not yet seen it, I urge you to read the letter written by Gerard Bradley, Professor of Law, and signed by 132 Catholic scholars expressing their grave concern regarding Common Core. It was sent to all US Catholic Bishops and can be found at the following link:
 
 
 
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg penned and open letter addressed to Dominican Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Click here to read the National Catholic Register‘s Jan. 27, 2014 interview with Sister Fleming, to which Mr. Rummelsburg is responding.
 
 
I continue to pray for hearts and minds to realize this grave error and reverse course. I would appreciate feedback from the School Board addressing my concerns.  Thank you for your time and attention.
 
Yours in Christ,
Frances A. Fulton

Common Core – Big Data & the State “Core’ Model

The State Core Model

Another document that exposes Big Data’s push is: “The State Core Model: A common technical reference model for states implementing P20 state longitudinal data systems”

The State Core Model is:

“… a common technical reference model for states implementing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). It was developed by CCSSO as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) adoption work with funding from the Gates Foundation. The Model includes early childhood (EC), elementary and secondary (K12), post-secondary (PS), and workforce (WF) elements, known collectively as “P20,” and establishes comparability between sectors and between states. The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia.”

This document discusses the challenge of collecting data in view of the federal education privacy law (FERPA). The FERPA regulation:

“… allows education agencies and institutions to disclose personally identifiable information to other school officials within the education agency or institution whom the education agency or institution has determined to have legitimate education interests in the information. This allows disclosure to individuals within the education agency or institution, such as teachers, who need the information in order to perform their duties for the education agency or institution. The education agency or institution is responsible for determining which individuals have legitimate education interests in personally identifiable student information contained in education records. This exception does not authorize sharing student information with non-education agencies that may have legitimate educational interests.”

So as long as an entity claims to have an educational purpose, the state can decide to allow them access to education data. Then under ‘Disclosure to Its Authorized Representative’ the regulations state:

“The SEA [State Education Agency] may disclose student information without prior consent to an authorized representative of the SEA to perform activities on behalf of the SEA. An “authorized representative” of an SEA must be under the direct control of the SEA as an Employee or a contractor.”

So, can the state just declare an organization as a “contractor” to make then an “authorized representative” to get around the parental requirement? Sounds like that’s how it works.

Collecting data in itself is not necessarily a problem, but who can access it (beyond the classroom teacher and school principal) and the manner in which it’s used is of a great concern, especially when there are so many entities who seem determined to gain access to it.

Next: Data & Technology in the Driver’s Seat

“Sometimes I Wish We Didn’t Exist” – The Dark Side of Green

“Sometimes I wish we didn’t exist.”

These tragic words of a sixth grader being interviewed during an Earth Day “celebration” cannot say more about the detrimental impact of the radical green environmentalists agenda on the human psyche.  The moral implications of this are staggering. Respect for human life and human dignity must remain at the forefront of any of these causes, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem.

Here’s the interview (it’s only about 1:30):

Truly awful.

Just to pass some time before going to a friend’s house over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped at the Patuxent Wildlife Conservatory in Laurel, MD, which is run by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Even though I am well aware of the propaganda being used to promote “humans are bad for the planet” agenda, I left feeling pretty crummy. Maybe I was brainwashed by the creepy video they showed at the end of the tour.

Below are some photos I took during our Orwellian experience. One of the exhibits was about  wolves. The narrator said they were “misunderstood” animals and that were hard to study close up in their natural habitat. Yeah, because they’ll eat you! These people would have saved the dinosaurs. Poor misunderstood and unappreciated T-Rex! Chomp.

Another 175 People Join the World Each Minute!

Patuxent 175 PPL“People have become one of the most numerous animals on earth.” And we just keep on coming.  Everyday, 175 more mouths to feed, clothe and support! As the little sidebar says, we’re “Crowding together like chickens in a coop.” Kinda makes ya  look at your fellow human polluters with disdain and disgust.

Plants, Animals, Humans – We’re All Citizens of the World!

Patuxent Citizens of the WorldWhat? No passports required? Not when you’re a free-flying global citizen! I think next time I head up to Niagara Falls and cross over into Canada without my “papers” I’ll just declare that I’m a migratory bird and a citizen of the world!

 

Billions and Billions of Tons of CO2

Patuxent CO2 Blanket

Even if human “animals” were to become extinct, it would only affect 4% of the total CO2, which is only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere. Actually, our decaying bodies might unleash even more CO2. And the pursuit of this miniscule reduction in emissions is costing us dearly as resources are diverted from real problems we can actually solve.

DDT – Banned for Life

Patuxent DDT Eggs

The controversy over the ban on DDT continues to this day, decades after Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring.  As Ronald Bailey from Reason.com magazine wrote:

“In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson asked, “Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power.”
“Banning DDT saved thousands of raptors over the past 30 years, but outright bans and misguided fears about the pesticide cost the lives of millions of people who died of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The 500 million people who come down with malaria every year might well wonder what authoritarian made that decision.”

Furthermore, in Ronald Bailey’s article Greens vs the World’s Poor, he states:

“The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome” in humans, says Amir Attaran. “No study in the scientific literature has shown DDT to be the cause of any human health problem,” concludes Richard Tren and Roger Bate in ‘When Politics Kill: Malaria and the DDT Story,’ a new study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Look! Non-Point Pollution – And the reason for Maryland’s Rain Tax:

Patuxent Look Non Point Pollution

Humans are just too dirty to live near water.  Well, except the elites crowding up the coastline of CA  and FL  as well as Martha’s Vineyard, they can stay.

Wetlands – Environmentalists’ Holy Land

Patuxent Man IslandDeclaring places “wetlands” has become yet another excuse for curtailing most human activities.  Looking at the map, the entire state of Florida should have never been developed.

It’s More Than Numbers

Patuxent More Than Numbers

That first sentence alone sent chills down my spine. Ugh, humans and our wants and needs, like food and land further compound “the problem” of our mere existence. We scrape and scour land to steal resources from the plants and animals that deserve it more than we do. This stuff was written by fellow humans, right? As far as I know, the Whooping Crane doesn’t write.

Resources for the Future – There Just Aren’t Enough

Patuxent Resources for Future

And the more people there are, the more “resources” we’ll be hogging up …  especially us ugly Americans. When Al Gore  and all his cronies begin living in a hippie bio-dome communes and pooping in a compost toilets full-time, then come see me.

Trouble in Paradise Patuxent Trouble in Paradise

Oh, these poor plant and animals who “lived in isolation” (as if they had any concept of this)  before those nasty settlers arrived on the shores of Hawaii.  The first time I read this, I thought they were referring to the explorers as the “plant-munching, disease-carrying, egg-eating animals,” but they must mean the predators and rodents that were brought into the area along with the human “animals” that disrupted the peaceful lives of the plants. Right?

Caution – Pesticide Application

Patuxent Caution PesticidesBut I guess not all nature is worth saving. It’s ‘do as I say, not as I do’ at this taxpayer funded natural habitat.  Just as long as it’s not DDT!  Maybe I should have reacted like these truly caring people to the loss of vegetation from these pesticides.

Yes EarthFirst! is the group from which the following quotes emanated:

“I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.” – John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.” Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!

 Gee, maybe someday the animals and trees will begin a “save the humans” campaign.

 

 

 

 

Common Core – So What Can We Do?

So What Can We Do?

This is the big question that is always asked. I wish I had a satisfying answer.

Our legislators tell us that we’re too late,  the train has left the station. Well, what do we do with a runaway train? Just let it go or do everything you can to stop it so that it does the least amount of damage to the least number of people?

Eradicating Common Core, in all its forms, is just the beginning. The foundational bricks for this Tower of Babel were laid long ago and it has gotten mighty high at the hands of these elites who believe they have the power to control and maintain the human beings with their data, technology, assessments, and power. They can’t, they never will, and the pursuit of their utopian dreams will destroy our education system and our nation. And then they’ll be there looking at the wreckage, pretending like them that broke it, can fix it.

Educate, Inform, Debate

It is going to take an entire culture change and many who have fallen asleep to wake up before things can really change. Many parents just don’t want to get involved. They don’t want to hear it because once you know the awful truth, you must fight it. And it’s no cake walk. We must approach with the facts and the truth. The truth is on our side and it’s all we need.

Many of our fellow citizens have bought into the agenda without truly understanding that under the veneer of  “nice” sounding philosophy and ideas is an agenda that seeks to destroy what it purports to reform and in the end helps no one get ahead, except a small group of elites who are unaffected by any of their own nonsense. Many teachers have come up through the college system learning one way of doing things. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. And many just don’t want to believe it.

Just as Charlie, who created a blog called the Blue Hat Movement, woke up to the truth, we must talk about this whenever the opportunity presents. Charlie describes his own “come to” experience in hearing about Common Core and Pearson publishing at a dinner party:

“Next thing I know Jen starts telling me that she does some kind of curriculum research and as it turned out she had quite a story to tell.  And to be honest, she sounded a bit crazy.  But it is crazy the way all diabolical truths can sound crazy.  It is so hard for us to accept that fellow human beings are willing to manipulate and hamper the happiness of their fellows that when we hear the truth of it, it is just soooo much easier to pretend we never heard it.”

Bingo!

Investigate

Put on your Columbo coat and dig in. Once you understand the “quiet revolutionaries” behind this reform movement – from corporate cronies and their political allies to progressive/collectivists who want to project their vision, their ideas, and their beliefs onto us all — you will understand that we cannot allow them to control our children’s education and you will understand that there simply is no compromise.

We are up against a savvy bunch of people who have been playing this game a lot longer than we have. Names and terms are constantly changing or being misapplied. It’s called semantic deception and doublespeak. Arm yourself with the truth. And we must not let them intimidate us into cowering away when they dispute any of our claims.

Check out my Common Core links pages for excellent resources on learning more about this whole “reform” movement.

A great starting point, which is one of the first things that got me fired up is:

A Mother Speaks Out: Children For Sale by Alyson Williams.

Another great resource that you can hand out to your legislators and others you may talk to is this 16 page handout that was developed by Utahns Against Common Core:

What the State Office of Education Isn’t Telling You About Common Core

Maybe you have time to peruse the grant applications:

Follow the money

As scripture tells us, love of money is the root of all evil. Which is sadly is a big part of this movement – love of money — and lots of it. The “strings attached” grant money flowing into the state of PA is much more than just the stash that came from the stimulus. Mercedes Schneider does an outstanding job in a five part series that audits the Common Core Gates money trail.

Opt Out of the Tests

As it stands now, the only way might be able to get rid of this is for enough of us to stand up and just say “No.” Opt your children out of the tests. The state cannot make you take them. A group of parents in Lancaster have a website with information on your rights a parents called Lancaster Opt Out.

UPDATE: Pennsylvanians Against Common Core’s FB page has some good info on the opting out movement. Here is a link to a good blog post:

sweeneyosity.blogspot.com/2014/03/keystone-exams-and-project-based.html

Vote

Find out your candidates’ position on Common Core and education policy in general, and vote for representatives who vow to extricate PA schools from this tangled web and to return control to our local schools.

Engage

  • What the new FERPA (the federal education privacy rule) rules mean – in plain language – about our childrens’ personal information and why is parental consent not required for this data collection?
  • What is contained in the student’s “educational record”?
  • Exactly what leaves the school and the district in the form of data, who receives it, and how do we know it is secure and anonymous?
  • What assurances can they provide, if any, that our data is safe and secure?
  • How do we opt-out of this data sharing?
  • Is there a privacy agreement between the parent and the school?
  • How much is all this data collection going to cost in terms of equipment, maintenance, and labor?

There is no reason why the state or federal government or any other entity needs all this data on our children to properly educate them, and especially not without our express consent and an explanation of exactly what data is being collected, how this data will be used, and by whom.

I’m very sorry for any of our legislators  and members of the business community who have bought into this lie and refuse to see the truth. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.