Catholic CC – Who Owns Your Child’s Catholic Education?

IMG Property of PAWhose Students Are They Anyway?

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 students enrolled 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.

For example, Prentice Hall, which is owned by Pearson, is a major textbook publisher. In its history books, it refers students to an online encyclopedia called “InfoPlease.” Besides promoting propaganda for the radical environmentalist agenda and a providing one-sided perspective on global warming/climate change, a few clicks will bring students to a section called “U.S. – Gender Issues.” Here are some of the topic your little one can peruse:

IMG PH Info Please

Sigh.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

St. Thomas Aquinas. Pray for us.IMG St Thomas Aquinas

Blessed Mother of Divine Grace, Pray for us.IMG Blessed Mother in prayer

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Catholic Common Core – Informational Text or Propaganda

Are “informational texts” a gateway to promulgating propaganda in new CC books?

IMG Read CC Book Cover no name

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:


Ready Common Core – Close reading – Part 1

Ready Common Core – Close reading – Part 2

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:

IMG Ready CC Polar Bear

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 ….

THE BIBLE?

BIBLE Creation

Catholic Common Core – Junior Achievement

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.

Jr Achievement Book

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.

So I looked up this Junior Achievement organization. Here is what their website says:


Junior Achievement’s Purpose:

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:

21st Century
global marketplace
global economy
work-readiness

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.

http://seton.dorschools.org/files/filesystem/JA%20in%20a%20Day%20at%20Seton%20-%20Program%20List.pdf

Everything Is Awesome

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:

Jr. Achievement - What I Want

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.”

Catholic Common Core – Special Lenten Novena & Rosary

Novena In Honor of the Annunciation of Our Lady

Annunciation

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.

 

Here is a print friendly version in PDF format:

Novena In Honor of the Annunciation of Our Lady

Sorrowful Mysteries in Latin

The following link contains the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in Latin –- I plan, in all my muddled pronunciation, as best I can, to pray this Latin Rosary along with the above novena.

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary in Latin

UPDATE: For those of you who are “latin challenged” like me, here is the YouTube audio of the reading of the Rosary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJvjMNPOEJ0

Thank you to Ann Barnhardt for posting and sharing this rosary.

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.

————————————————-

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.