In the second of a series of reports on the Common Core State Standards published by The Cardinal Newman Society, education expert Dr. Andrew Seeley finds that the Standards are inconsistent with Catholic schools’ roots in classical education.
The report is part of the Newman Society’s Catholic Is Our Core project to educate key stakeholders in Catholic education—Catholic families, pastors, teachers, principals, superintendents and bishops—about concerns with the Common Core and its potential impact on Catholic education.
Dr. Seeley, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., writes in “The Common Core vs. the Classical Roots of Catholic Education”:
Today’s best schools retain at least some key elements of classical education, especially with regard to the study of religion, history, and literature. A closer look at the goals and methods of the Common Core reveals that they are fundamentally at odds with the discovery of Truth at the heart of an authentically Catholic education.
While acknowledging that critical thinking is a key objective of both classical education and the Common Core, Seeley finds that the Common Core Standards require grammar school students to apply critical thinking techniques much earlier that they are developmentally able to do so.
[Y]ounger children… naturally learn by absorbing language and facts. They are not ready for critical thinking; they are ready to trustingly accept whatever is presented to them in an orderly, engaged manner. Learning by heart and careful observation are key powers to be developed, not just with facts and vocabulary, but with the beautiful rhythms and rich images of the best poetry and prose. The Common Core intends to make critical thinking, embodied in literary analysis, the focus of every grade level.
The emphasis of Catholic education is the “discovery of Truth,” and key to the “discovery of Truth” is an understanding of the development of a child’s mind. Seeley explains that Common Core requires at each grade level “dialectical/logical/critical activities” which are more apropos for “pre-adolescent and early adolescent years of questioning and challenging.” By exposing students to these activities at an earlier age, “Common Core methods… push young children into finding their own truths….”
The Common Core standards are driven by a desire to allow American students to “compete successfully in the global economy,” Seeley writes.
The Common Core wants to educate for life; but it articulates life’s highest goals as career success and productive contribution to the global economy. Content must be drawn from a wide-range of cultures, leading students to be able to work well with the variety of cultural and personal viewpoints of their future corporate fellow laborers.
Is this what we want of our Catholic students? Seeley notes that “under the guise of mutual understanding, curricular materials are likely to usher in an aggressively secular orthodoxy,” and the Common Core will in fact become a “dictatorship of relativism.”
Such relativism has already woven itself into Catholic education, whereby “information needed to master prescribed subjects” replaces “faith and reason.” By contrast, a Catholic school that has maintained a “time-tested classical approach engages children to discover the truth of reality, both visible and invisible.”
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