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Catholic Ed. Leaders Urge Schools Not to Adopt Common Core Standards

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This post, written by Catherine Gewertz, originally appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

A group of more than 100 Catholic scholars have signed a letter to the nation's Roman Catholic bishops condeming the Common Core State Standards and urging the church leaders to resist adopting them, or abandon the standards if implementation has already begun implementation.

The letter's 132 signatories include professors in many disciplines, including theology, philosophy, political science, and architecture. And they come from not only Catholic universities, such as Fordham University, but also private and public nonsectarian institutions like Princeton University and Texas State University. Bringing the scholars together is Gerard V. Bradley, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, who is circulating the letter, dated Oct. 16.

The letter notes something we reported to you last year—that the common core has caught on strongly in Catholic schools. More than 100 dioceses and archdioceses have embraced the standards in math and English/language arts. But Bradley and his co-signers argue that those educators are doing "a grave disservice to Catholic education in America."

The signatories align themselves with the arguments of University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky and Stanford professor emeritus R. James Milgram, who consider the new standards lacking in rigor sufficient to prepare students to do well in college.

They argue that the common core "adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education" that "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 letter contends that the standards set too low a bar for the literature and mathematics that should be expected of all students. Critics such as Milgram have long argued that the standards fall short of preparing students for the math they'll need in college, especially if they plan math or science majors. Stotsky contends that the standards' emphasis on nonfiction will displace important literature from the classroom, and she also argues that English/language arts standards are meaningless when they don't require students to read the classic literary canon. (The standards are accompanied by a list of recommended "exemplar" texts, but the only specific texts they require are a Shakespeare play and a group of foundational American documents.)

Bradley appeared with Stotsky, Milgram, and other high-profile common-core criticis at a common-core conference sponsored by the American Principles Project at Notre Dame in September.

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