Catholic Education Director Says Betsy DeVos Shares Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s View of Common Core

In this Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 photo, a student works in an eight grade algebra class at Holy Spirit School in East Greenbush, N.Y. The Diocese of Albany, New York, announced recently that it will reduce the frequency of the Common Core-aligned tests while sticking with the standards. The decision …
AP Photo/Mike Groll

The director of K-12 programs of the Cardinal Newman Society says President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the education department shares the same view of the Common Core standards expressed by Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Dan Guernsey, who co-authored a Pioneer Institute/American Principles Project (APP) study titled “After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core,” said in an interview with National Catholic Register that he is skeptical of Trump pick Betsy DeVos.

“Her position seems to be that Common Core seemed like a good idea at the time, but that, according to her statement, ‘along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle,’” Guernsey said. “This is the default position of virtually all former and even current Common Core supporters, including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.”

“Her position should have been from the start: Do not let the national government, businessmen, bureaucrats and billionaires (she now represents all four of these) design a national education program, and let the states decide on their own,” he asserted.

Though DeVos has funded and served organizations that promote Common Core – including Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education – upon her nomination, she launched a new website and said this about Common Core:

Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.

I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense.

Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.

However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.

The Cardinal Newman Society is a vocal opponent of the Common Core standards in Catholic schools. In his column at the Newman Society, Matt Archbold writes, “As Catholics, we welcome all converts. Let’s hope DeVos’ conversion away from Common Core is genuine.”

“And, to be clear, Common Core didn’t get boondoggled along the way,” he adds. “It was a federally supported bureaucratic know-it-all one size fits all boondoggle from the beginning.”

In “After the Fall,” co-authors Guernsey, Providence College professor Anthony Esolen, APP senior fellow Jane Robbins, and Boston University professor emeritus of education Kevin Ryan, write, “[T]he Common Core is undoubtedly and unacceptably workforce-oriented, thereby misinforming student character and impoverishing academic content.”

The authors continue:

At the heart of the Common Core agenda is a century-old dream of Progressive educators to redirect education’s mission away from engaging the young in the best of human thought and focusing instead on preparation for “real life.” While a reasonable but quite secondary goal, workforce-development is dwarfed by Catholic schools’ transcendent goals of human excellence, spiritual transformation, and preparation for “the next life” as well.

Noted Catholic educator and Notre Dame law professor Gerard Bradley also recently wrote, “It is time to refocus President Trump’s attention upon Common Core and persuade him to ignite a national movement to roll it back.”

“The stated objective of Common Core is to produce ‘college- and career-ready’ high school graduates,” Bradley continued. “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.”

Bradley led some 130 Catholic scholars in a letter to the United States Catholic bishops, urging that they abandon implementation of the Common Core in Catholic dioceses. 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.”

Describing Common Core as “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.

“The contrast between a sound Catholic education and Common Core could scarcely be sharper,” Bradley wrote.

Trump vowed to eliminate Common Core, which he frequently described as a “disaster” while on the campaign trail, and criticized Jeb Bush for his support of the controversial reform. He also said he might cut the U.S. Department of Education.


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