Erin Manning, who is an orthodox Catholic (check her blog out here), has this to say on the Common Core thread in general, and on the Bradley Letter in particular. The Bradley Letter is a letter 130 Catholic scholars signed protesting Common Core as dumbing down education, and faulting it for being “innocent of America’s Catholic schools’ rich tradition of helping to form children’s hearts and minds.” Erin dissents. I’m interested to know what you Catholic readers who have your kids in Catholic school (or who have sent your kids there) have to say about it:
This may surprise a few people, but I’m going to say it anyway–on the Bradley letter, even though it was signed by people I respect and even though I agree with some of the general principles re: Catholic education being needed to form the whole person and thus not being a good fit with this particular set of standards, I have only one comment: where the hell have you people been for the last 40 years?
I was educated in Catholic schools all over the country from first grade until tenth, when my frustrated, exhausted, and financially drained parents began homeschooling us. If you think we were getting a “values and virtues” education permeated throughout with deeply Catholic understandings of literature and history and the liberal arts, if you think our science courses were filled with ethical considerations, if you think our math instruction was modeled on Euclidean geometry–you have no idea what a diocesan Catholic K-12 school looks like today or has looked like for the past 40 years.
To put it bluntly, diocesan Catholic education then and now is nothing but a public school education with a lightly Catholic veneer (but nothing too extreme that would cause discomfort among the parents of the non-Catholic students, who are not just welcomed but aggressively courted when they can contribute generously to the school’s fundraising efforts). Many of the textbooks used for literature, history (or “social studies), science etc. are the exact same books being used at the public schools down the street. Oh, but the teachers are Catholic, right? Some few of them may be–and God help them if they are, as I know a former Catholic school teacher who was fired for bringing up the topic of abortion during the human reproduction unit in an eighth grade biology class–this was about fifteen years ago.
When I was a student, one of the things I remember most vividly about my schools was the open and blatant hostility and contempt my teachers had for my parents’ openness to life (there were nine of us all together). Pretty nice for a seventh-grader to hear a supposedly Catholic teacher snickering to another teacher about how my parents clearly hadn’t figured it out yet (as if I wouldn’t understand what they meant). Virtues, values, the deep nurturing of the human person, a shining witness to the Catholic faith? Nothing of the sort–in the Catholic schools I experienced class warfare, bullying, dissident Catholicism, leftist political teaching, and not much else; and as for literature, apart from “To Kill a Mockingbird” we read nothing but junk in grade school and could select our own books from a list in 9th grade (I always picked the classics, but there was no indication that anybody had to read them in favor of trendy novels). My 10th grade teacher finally started giving us the real thing, a bright moment in a series of disappointments overall.
And for the privilege of sending us to these schools my parents forked over thousands of dollars a year. That problem has only gotten worse. Catholic schools in *most* parts of America today are for the upper middle class and up. All the poetic waxing about truck drivers reading Milton in the world can’t change the fact that the future truck driver’s parents can’t even begin to dream of an education that will cost them between $5 ad $15 thousand dollars per year, per child.
Common Core is probably nothing more nor less than the latest trendy federal mandate designed to make the lives of the teachers in the trenches and on the ground worse than they already are; what good does it do to command solemnly that third graders shall know their times tables when the third grade teacher in an inner-city school is desperately hoping to reach a goal of postponing cannibalism among her feral charges? But it will not and cannot be the ruin of American diocesan Catholic education. That was accomplished a long time ago.
Let’s hear your reaction.