Notre Dame law professor and noted Catholic educator Gerard Bradley says it’s time for Donald Trump to focus on eliminating the Common Core standards by lighting a fire under the grassroots movement that drew attention to the federal reform some years ago.
“It is time to refocus President Trump’s attention upon Common Core and persuade him to ignite a national movement to roll it back,” writes Bradley at the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse.
Bradley, who is Witherspoon’s chair of the academic committee of the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution, is especially concerned about Catholic schools that have adopted the nationalized Common Core.
The stated objective of Common Core is to produce “college- and career-ready” high school graduates. Yet even its proponents concede that it only prepares students for community-college level work. In truth, Common Core is a dramatic reduction of the nature and purpose of education to mere workforce preparation.
As Breitbart News reported in 2013, Bradley led some 130 Catholic scholars in a letter to the United States Catholic bishops, requesting that they abandon implementation of the Common Core in Catholic dioceses. At that point, about 100 of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the nation had adopted the standards reform.
The letter asserted that Common Core does “a grave disservice to Catholic education” and is “contrary to tradition and academic studies on reading and human formation.”
Referring to the Common Core’s emphasis on informational reading, the scholars charged that supporters of the Core were seeking to “transform ‘literacy’” into a ‘critical’ skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.”
Calling Common Core “so deeply flawed,” the scholars continued:
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.
Common Core adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education. The heart of its philosophy is, as far as we can see, that it is a waste of resources to “over-educate” people. The basic goal of K-12 schools is to provide everyone with a modest skill set; after that, people can specialize in college – if they end up there. Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities. Only those destined to major in literature need to worry about Ulysses.
“The contrast between a sound Catholic education and Common Core could scarcely be sharper,” writes Bradley today, citing the joint publication of the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project titled, After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core.
Bradley further explains that attempts by Catholic educators to “work with” or adapt the Common Core standards are useless.
“Common Core is so philosophically at odds with a sound Catholic education that an acceptable modus vivendi is unavailable,” he states. “Trying to pour Common Core into such venerable wineskins will burst them.”
Bradley observes the move to adopt Common Core in many secularized or independent “Catholic” schools is consistent with the fact that the “Catholicism” in the schools is already of the watered-down variety.
These schools are already far down the path of transition from providing a truly Catholic education (as it is so aptly described in “After the Fall”) to being more like a religiously inspired, affordable private alternative to dysfunctional public schools. The appeal of this denouement is undeniable: urban “Catholic” schools might be the best route up and out of the ghetto for thousands of non-Catholic children who deserve that opportunity. But this encouraging effect is and must be just that: a welcome side-benefit of providing a genuine Catholic education.
Just as more parents are withdrawing their children from Common Core public schools and choosing to homeschool them instead, Bradley warns the same will happen to Catholic schools that have signed onto the Core, a situation that risks more Catholic young people with little to no knowledge of their faith.
“Adopting Common Core will surely accelerate this exodus, a hemorrhage of precisely those students who should form a Catholic school’s backbone,” he adds.
Trump’s education secretary nominee billionaire Betsy DeVos has for years financed and served as a board member of organizations that promote Common Core, but she has recently denied that she is a supporter of the standards.