Catholic Diocese Chooses Classical Curriculum Over Common Core

The Michigan diocese of Marquette plans to reject the Common Core State Standards and choose instead a classical Catholic academic curriculum for its schools.

“After much consideration, the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Marquette will not adapt or adopt the Common Core State Standards which were developed for the public school system,” announced Bishop John Doerfler in a statement.

The bishop continues:

That said, we acknowledge that there is a base of adequate secular material in the Common Core State Standards that faith-based schools could reference as part of their educational programming. While we respectfully understand that other private and Catholic schools may discern to adapt or adopt the standards for these and other reasons, we do not believe that such actions would benefit the mission, Catholic identity or academic excellence of our schools.

The diocese will begin implementation of a Catholic Liberal Arts Education curriculum, reports the Heartland Institute. The foundations document for the curriculum takes its inspiration from Pope Benedict, who told American Catholic teachers in 2008 at the Catholic University of America: “The dignity of education lies in fostering the happiness and perfection of those to be educated.”

“[O]ur curriculum seeks to form our graduate’s character, aiming as high as its perfection,” says the document.

The curriculum is founded on four areas:

Ordered basic knowledge – which the document says is the “knowledge of God and his revelation,” and includes theology, science and mathematics, history, philosophy and the arts, and moral knowledge.

“God created us ‘in his own image and likeness’ and will not deprive us of the truth necessary to orient our lives,” states the document. “The ability to make judgments about what is true and what is false and to make choices based on these judgments is the goal of learning basic knowledge in the elementary school.”

Basic skills or tools of learning – the abilities to listen, speak and write clearly, and read critically; logical thinking and math computation; use of the scientific method; proficiency in art, music, and technology.

Development of the moral imagination – “The development of the student’s personal aspirations are derived from inspiration and reflection upon the ideals of the good, true and beautiful found within the curriculum and subject content taught,” states the foundation document.

Principle of correlation between subjects – With religious instruction as the central core in the correlation of the curriculum, teachers make connections across subjects for their students.

“When we study Christian doctrine through Scripture texts, Bible history, and Church history, the moral law and the forms and ceremonies of public worship we can make direct connections with literature, history, philosophy, poetry and music,” the document states.

As the Cardinal Newman Society observes, the Catholic liberal arts curriculum has been welcomed by parents and teachers alike.

“We are enthusiastic about our early successes,” Marquette diocese superintendent Mark Salisbury said. “Teachers are happy with the results as well. We have improved our ability to teach students how to write well, students are learning and memorizing more poetry.”

Salisbury added that the program’s inclusion of Latin studies “has helped students with English grammar, vocabulary and critical thinking skills.”

He cites a survey of over 440 parents for the 2015-2016 academic year which showed 76 percent of parents were highly satisfied with the curriculum in its trial year.

The team that developed the program adopted the goals found in Archbishop John Michael Miller’s The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools. In his book, Miller states that Catholic schools should hold to five essential principles:

  • “Inspired by a supernatural vision”
  • “Founded on Christian anthropology”
  • “Animated by communion and community”
  • “Imbued with the Catholic worldview throughout the curriculum”
  • “Sustained by the Gospel witness of the teachers and staff.”

“We began our curriculum foundations document with the supernatural vision — that is, with the end in mind — namely, that our students will develop friendships with Christ because this is the foundation of true happiness in this life and the next,” said Salisbury.

Dr. Jamie Arthur, senior fellow and manager of the Newman Society Catholic Education Honor Roll praised the Marquette diocese’s curriculum for being “fundamentally different, in that students are provided an opportunity and the tools to develop an interconnectedness of knowledge centered on our faith and God.”

Arthur observed that as parents have become more familiar with the Common Core standards over the past five years, they have shown greater interest in classical education, and are seeking “alternatives” to “secular standards.”

He added, however, that a classical program could succeed only through the efforts of teachers who nurture their own personal relationships with Christ.

“As Catholic educators, we understand the great value of collaboration and team effort between all educational leaders who have the first and best interest of the child in mind — helping him or her to know, love and serve the Lord,” Salisbury said.

As Breitbart News reported, more than 130 Catholic scholars sent a letter to the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2013, requesting that they abandon any implementation of the Common Core standards.

The letter reads:

Promoters of Common Core say that it is designed to make America’s children “college and career ready.” We instead judge Common Core to be a recipe for standardized workforce preparation. Common Core shortchanges the central goals of all sound education and surely those of Catholic education: to grow in the virtues necessary to know, love, and serve the Lord, to mature into a responsible, flourishing adult, and to contribute as a citizen to the process of responsible democratic self-government.

“In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now,” the scholars asserted.


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