Cardinal Newman Society Calls for 'Catholic Core,' Not Common Core, in Education

The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic organization that promotes and defends faithful Catholic education, has launched “Catholic Is Our Core,” a project to help parents become involved in the debate about the increasingly controversial Common Core standards and to emphasize that Catholic faith is the “core” of Catholic education.

On December 20th, the Cardinal Newman Society issued the following statement regarding the quick adoption of Common Core by some Catholic educators, despite the fact that the new standards have been largely untested:

We have grave concerns. This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests. At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian “readiness for work” mentality. 

Well-intentioned proponents of adopting the Common Core in Catholic schools have argued that Catholic identity can be “infused” into the Core. This approach misses the point that authentic Catholic identity is not something that can be added to education built around thoroughly secular standards, but that our faith must be the center of—and fundamental to—everything that a Catholic school does.

The Common Core revolution in American education was launched behind closed doors and rushed to implementation in public schools with the promise of tax dollars as an inducement—even though all the Standards have not yet been completed, and those that have been released are controversial among many expert educators and parents. Catholic educators need not rush to follow this potentially dangerous path.

Of grave concern to the Cardinal Newman Society is that parents, whom the Church states are the primary educators of children, have been largely absent from the debate about Common Core.

Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told Breitbart News why Common Core is a threat to faithful Catholic education.

“There’s a foundation of trust built among Catholic educators and the states,” Reilly said. “Many Catholic schools have, for years, accepted broad state standards and continued to excel over the public schools. This has coincided with a renewed emphasis on Catholic identity in our schools.”

“The Common Core is different,” however, Reilly stated.

“It is national and monopolistic, untested, inconsistent with the classical foundations of Catholic education, vulnerable to political pressures through federal funding, squeezes out innovation and diversity, and induces Catholic educators to emphasize workplace skills over students’ spiritual and intellectual formation.”

Asked why Catholic school parents have not been as involved in the Common Core debate, Reilly said, “From our perspective, it was Catholic parents who got us involved. We have been hearing from parents who are concerned that Catholic schools retain their distinctive identity and mission.”

“But they lack information; they feel powerless to exercise their proper authority over the education of their children, when the Common Core has come on so quickly and parents – as well as teachers, principals and even bishops – need more time to assess what the changes mean for Catholic schools.”

The Cardinal Newman Society acknowledges the confidence of Catholic educators who believe Catholic schools can maintain their strong faith identity while they adopt the secular standards of the Common Core.

“But we do not share this confidence, in light of the sad experience in recent decades of many Catholic colleges, hospitals, and charities that believed they could infuse Catholic identity into the secular standards that they embraced,” the Society stated.

In November, the Cardinal Newman Society joined with the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools and the Catholic Education Foundation to present a seminar on Common Core during the annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The points made included the following:

  • Catholic schools do not NEED Common Core…our core is the Catholic Faith.
  • Catholic schools are already among the best in the nation.
  • Catholic schools already prepare for college and careers.
  • Common Core is not required for Catholic schools.
  • Catholic schools do not WANT Common Core…Common Core seeks radical change in education.
  • Common Core is untested and experimental.
  • The Common Core standards are flawed.
  • Common Core aims for nationalization, not pluralism.
  • Common Core poses a creeping threat to schools’ Catholic identity.
  • Bishops, parents and educators are being ignored.

“Catholic Is Our Core” hopes to inform the dialogue about the Common Core while expanding the discussion to include parents, teachers, and principals who have been largely absent from the conversation.

Beginning December 30th, the Cardinal Newman Society will be publishing a series of papers by experts analyzing the Common Core and its potential impact on Catholic education.


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