Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, PA.
Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, PA.

A new white paper, After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core, released today by the Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, explains in detail why the low-quality Common Core standards are “incompatible with and unsuited for a traditional Catholic education.” According to several top Catholic scholars, the standards’ singular focus on workplace development conflicts with Catholic schools’ spiritual and moral mission.

After the Fall’s authors include Anthony Esolen, professor of English literature at Providence College, Dan Guernsey, Director of K-12 Programs at the Cardinal Newman Society, Kevin Ryan, founder and director of the Center for Character and Social Responsibility at Boston University, and Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project.

Raymond L. Flynn and Mary Ann Glendon, both former United States Ambassadors to the Holy See, explain Common Core’s “Catholic problem” in the paper’s preface:

“…Catholic schools have a unique spiritual and moral mission to nurture faith and prepare students to live lives illuminated by a Catholic worldview,” Flynn and Glendon say. “It is that religious focus that makes the Common Core standards particularly ill-suited for Catholic schools…”

Flynn and Glendon continue, “The basic goal of Common Core is not genuine education, but rather the training and production of workers for an economic machine… The goal is ‘good enough,’ not academically ‘excellent.’ The narrow aims of Common Core would undermine the historic achievements of Catholic education. As 132 Catholic scholars wrote in a letter to the U.S. Catholic bishops, Common Core is ‘a recipe for standardized workforce preparation that dramatically diminishes children’s intellectual and spiritual horizons.’”

Also Catholic schools have traditionally provided a classical liberal-arts education, using lessons from great literature to reinforce moral lessons and educate and inspire students toward a virtuous life and a fuller understanding of the human experience.

But Common Core cuts literature, drama, and poetry by more than half compared to the previous Massachusetts standards.  When great literature is included, it’s often only in excerpt form, robbing students of critical context.

The result, according to co-author Anthony Esolen, is “a strictly utilitarian view of mankind; man with his soul amputated.”

Common Core’s math standards largely end with a weak Algebra II course and don’t prepare students for college-level coursework in science, engineering, and math.  Even supporters have conceded that the math standards only prepare students for community-college-level work.

The authors argue that Common Core’s shortsighted focus on workforce preparation is incompatible with the larger goals of human excellence, spiritual transformation, and nurturing faith and character that are at the heart of Catholic education.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project and a co-author of After the Fall, argues that Common Core’s poor quality and its underlying philosophy put it at odds with the principles of Catholic education:

“Common Core has a Catholic problem,” Robbins explains. “A traditional Catholic education prepares children to become people of substance in their families, in their churches, and in their communities. It prepares children to fully exercise their liberties. Common Core locks children into a lower academic trajectory that intentionally seeks to develop them into human widgets, treating them as nothing more than human capital.

“Catholic schools have lapsed into following the fads in public education, a trend that is driven by progressives and greedy special interests,” Robbins concluded. “Catholic schools should shun that foolish idea and once again embrace the beauty of a traditional Catholic education.”

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