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Response to Archdiocese Defense of Common Core
CUF Website ^ | 2/24/14 | Catholics United for the Faith

Posted on 02/24/2014 12:48:57 PM PST by schmootman

A Response (in red) to Reverend Shimek's Defense of Common Core in the Milwaukee Archdiocese (below):

Catholic Schools Can Make Good Use of the Common Core

When it comes to the Catholic Church’s fundamental mission in the contemporary world, Catholic schools are essential and not optional. (If Catholic schools are truly "essential and not optional," why do the American bishops spend millions of dollars each year supporting anti-Catholic community organizing groups rather than investing that money in Catholic schools, especially inner city Catholic schools?) In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, they are precious jewels that adorn our proud history of catechesis, social outreach, and fidelity to the Gospel. [Remember, just a few years ago in "our proud history," some of these "precious jewels" were aligning their sex-ed programs with Planned Parenthood in various ways ranging from curriculum to actual on-premise presentations by Planned Parenthood personnel. The "Catholic" educators who were running these schools then are, by and large, the same educators who are running them now. If it does nothing else, archdiocese entanglement with Common Core signals to these largely uncatechised educators that, just as in the Weakland era, sexual morality is "optional." See below for details.]

The sterling reputation of our system of schools is due, in large part, to the fact that Catholic education has always been an enterprise driven by evangelization rather than separatism from society. [Catholic education has been driven neither by evangelization nor separatism. If it has been driven by evangelization, perhaps Father Shimek could explain why, according to Pew Research , "one-in-ten American adults (10.1%) have left the Catholic Church after having been raised Catholic, while only 2.6% of adults have become Catholic after having been raised something other than Catholic."? Clearly, Catholic education, in its totality, has been an abject failure for the last fifty years. Moreover, the Pew research found that "one-quarter of lifelong Catholics say they attended Catholic high school . . ., roughly similar to former Catholics who have become unaffiliated (20%)." (Note: "Unaffiliated" means no relationship with any church.) So much for the great evangelization value of organized Catholic education.] In the public square, Catholic schools present a unique and indispensable contribution: A seamless and systematic blend of both intellectual and spiritual formation. (Sadly, given the above statistics, this kind of hyperbole becomes almost laughable.)

Parents, parishes, and educators invest in Catholic education — often at great sacrifice — because they understand that intellectual instruction and spiritual development go hand in hand. [This is just a personal observation, but it seems to me that the vast majority of the many CINO (Catholic in Name Only) parents who send their children to Catholic schools do so because of the complete chaos of the public schools rather than the sterling "spiritual development" offered by Catholic schools. And the only alternative to archdiocese Catholic schools for authentic Catholics who are not independently wealthy is home-schooling.] It is never possible to promote one at the expense of the other. Ours is a comprehensive approach to learning, based on the fundamental conviction that faith and reason are equal interrelated parts of what it means to be authentically human, educated, and mature.

Today, Catholic school parents expect academic excellence that consistently surpasses public competition, and they have good reason to do so. Our outstanding level of achievement reflects the fact that the Archdiocesan system of Catholic schools is organized around two principles: joint cooperation and local responsibility. (Joint cooperation with whom? Certainly not parents. I don't know a single Catholic parent who was aware that the archdiocese schools were contemplating "alignment to" and "measurement by" Common Core Standards until after the commitment was announced. The diocese has attempted to suppress the exchange of information, and on at least three occasions, diocese officials have declined when offered the chance to appear in public forums with opponents of Common Core. I'll leave it to you to interpret what that means.)

The Archdiocese articulates a unifying Catholic vision that allows for healthy diversity. (Excuse me, but "diversity" has become a modern code word for syncretism, and putting "healthy" in front of it doesn't change its connotation for the hundreds of uncatechised educators in our Catholic schools.) It identifies exit expectations and curriculum that prescribe what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Each school decides for itself, however, how to design instruction to meet those learning goals. In other words, the Archdiocese sets common learning standards and curriculum, whereas principals and teachers determine their own school’s instructional methods and resources. (Thank God for the last clause, because there are still a few Catholic schools with well catechised teachers.)

The Archdiocesan exit expectations and curriculum have always been developed in conversation with the work being done by other experts, scholars, and colleagues in the field of education. Since 2007, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have been developing a set of Common Core State Standards. Parents, teachers, and various professionals all weighed in on that process. (The backhanded nature of the way these standards were developed and approved has been extremely well documented. And why did Drs. Stotsky and Milgram, the only two content experts on the Common Core Validation Committee, refuse to sign the final CC document?) As a result, these bi-partisan benchmarks in Math and Language Arts create new high-quality academic expectations that are evidence- based. [Where to begin? Listen to the testimony of Dr. Stotsky concerning "quality" and "evidence." Read the evidence-free testimony of the arrogant Dr. Tony Evers concerning Common Core. I haven't seen a single statement by Dr. Evers or the archdiocese that credibly demonstrates the "evidence," or that directly refutes the testimonies of Drs. Stotsky and Milgram. Further, the Republicans who have signed onto Common Core Standards have been hoodwinked, except in the case of Luther Olsen, the Republican driving force, who has a clear conflict of interest. Common Core may be minimally bi-partisan in a political sense, but it is not bi-partisan in the moral sense of good vs. evil. Here and here and here.)

They are designed to be relevant to the real world, focusing on the knowledge and skills that our students will need to succeed in college. They are also intended to address America’s international academic standing and our students’ place in a globalized workforce. (Please, please watch the EWTN interview with Mary Jo Anderson to understand the totally unCatholic "man as widget" worldview from which the Common Core Standards have arisen.)

The standards have been endorsed by the National Catholic Education Association. (The same NCEA that included numerous very un-Catholic books books in its list of approved Common Core exemplars.) Roughly 100 Catholic dioceses and 35 states are making use of them in some way. (Yes, and 132 Catholic scholars have signed a letter to the American bishops detailing the enormity of the mistake the bishops have made in endorsing Common Core.) The Iowa Basics, ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests are being realigned to correspond to them. (Great! If Iowa Basics, ACT, and SAT were realigned to test skills in devil worship, would it be right for Catholic schools to endorse the good aspects of "Satan Core"?) In the private sector, many Catholic and other independent schools across the country are thus utilizing the Common Core Standards both voluntarily and selectively, with no state or federal strings attached. (In the case of Catholic schools, that "voluntary" utilization has been influenced by the advice of the National Catholic Educational Association, which accepted a $100,000 gift from Bill Gates and also gets generous contributions from the big book companies. Also, Catholic schools are privy to a variety of state goodies such as vouchers which are at risk if they don't toe the line.)

Curriculum committees comprised of educators from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, as well as our Catholic colleges and universities, wrote the Mathematics and Language Arts curriculum for the schools in the Archdiocese. They compared our exit expectations with the Common Core Standards, making sure that our students will continue to be held to a superior academic standard that incorporates the best of both systems. In the many areas where we already surpass the standards we will continue to do so. But in some areas, where the standards actually introduce a higher level of academic expectation, we will rise to the challenge. In other words, we are using the Common Core Standards as a floor rather than a ceiling. (I would certainly agree that Common Core represents the bottom floor of standards, both educationally and morally.)

Using these standards in such a selective and limited way means that they will in no way detract from the Catholic identity of our schools. After all, they are not having any impact whatsoever on the substantial majority of the subject matters we teach. And where they are relevant, their integration into our exit expectations is directly managed by the Archdiocese, making sure that nothing unacceptable is embedded in them. Moreover, there is a big difference between standards and a curriculum. (The last sentence contains the most misleading ten words in Father Shimek's statement. What ever happened to common sense? Standards inevitably drive curriculum. Period. And if they don't, they are functionally useless.)

At the local level, principals, teachers, and families make decisions about how to meet these newly integrated exit expectations. The standards are the destination, so to speak, but there are many good paths open to our educators. In view of their trustworthiness, proximity, and hands-on experience, it is only right that they should be the ones to freely teach curricula, decide what books and materials to use, choose instructional methods, plan their lessons, select modes of evaluation, and so on. (See the above comment about the Weakland era. Does Father Shimek believe that the grim reaper has taken all the Catholic educators who, in the words of one national pundit, have made Milwaukee a "Catholic wasteland"?)

Now, we live in an increasingly secular society that is indifferent, if not hostile, to the spiritual aspects of reality. Our First Amendment may enshrine the universal human right to religious liberty, but more and more, our government threatens the Church's autonomy, freedom of conscience, and any role whatsoever for religion in the public square. Nevertheless, isolationism is never an orthodox option. (This represents a false choice if there ever was one. There is nothing more hostile to "the spiritual aspects of reality" than Common Core.)

Indeed, we must remain both active and vigilant when it comes to public policy, asserting our legitimate independence and defending our Catholic identity. However, we cannot be so proud as to imagine that we have nothing whatsoever to learn from those with whom we may disagree on some matters. Our careful and controlled integration of these standards reflects the fact that, when it comes to the Common Core as a whole, we are picking out whatever is valuable and leaving aside the rest. That is prudence, not compromise. [This is the latest version of the old "Jesus ate with sinners" argument. Jesus did indeed eat with sinners, but the net impact of those meals was not to lend credibility to the sinners' sinful worldviews. And in the end, the whole Common Core debate is about worldview. The total lack of critical analysis of Common Core in both Archbishop Listecki's and Father Shimek's statements (except for the vague comment about disagreement "on some matters") can only be interpreted by "low information" Catholics, especially the poorly catechised educators, as endorsement. Bottom line, the archdiocese should be preparing the faithful for the coming, all-out persecution of authentic Catholics, not endorsing the societal movements and organizations that will be doing the persecuting.]

Radical rejection of the world, simply because it is not yet Christian, is the antithesis to evangelization and to the very missionary nature of the Church herself. Good Christians bring the light of Christ to all the pathways of this present life. That is why, down through the ages, the saints have never been extreme separationists; they’ve been good citizens, evangelists, and most importantly, fine teachers. (The saints have never been separationists from the world? What about Saints Thomas More and John Fisher? Seems to me they separated pretty totally and radically from Henry VIII's world . . . for the same reason the Milwaukee Archdiocese should be separating itself totally and radically from the world envisioned by Common Core.)

Rev. Joseph J. Shimek, S.T.L., J.D. works in the Office of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: catholic; commoncore; milwaukee
Don't be fooled by the Archdiocese publicity machine.
1 posted on 02/24/2014 12:48:57 PM PST by schmootman
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To: schmootman

Subtract 15 minus 8 using tens...


2 posted on 02/24/2014 1:07:22 PM PST by GraceG
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To: schmootman

In terms of Catholic schools, the ones run by SSPX are among the very best.


3 posted on 02/24/2014 1:09:16 PM PST by steve86 (Some things aren't really true but you wouldn't be half surprised if they were.)
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To: schmootman

The catholic church with its seemingly endless hierarchy, is at best most fickle. IMO just saying!

And so also the rest of the worlds religions.


4 posted on 02/24/2014 2:09:21 PM PST by PoloSec ( Believe the Gospel: how that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again)
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To: PoloSec
seemingly endless hierarchy

Actually the Catholic church has perhaps the most streamlined management structure of any organization of that size. I've seen business consultants use it as an example.

5 posted on 02/24/2014 2:13:10 PM PST by nascarnation (I'm hiring Jack Palladino to investigate Baraq's golf scores.)
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To: PoloSec

-— The catholic church with its seemingly endless hierarchy -—

Let’s see. At the top is the Pope, followed by the bishops (of which cardinals form a subset), and finally priests.

How many layers is that? It doesn’t seem too top-heavy to me, for an organization counting 1 billion members.


6 posted on 02/24/2014 2:22:31 PM PST by St_Thomas_Aquinas ( Isaiah 22:22, Matthew 16:19, Revelation 3:7)
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