Common Core: Bad for Catholics, Bad for Everybody

Published October 24, 2016

A new academic study finds the Common Core State Standards undermine the premises behind Catholic education. In critiquing Common Core, the paper’s authors reveal why the very notion of national standards is fundamentally flawed.

“After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core,” published by the Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project, finds Common Core is academically and morally insufficient for Catholic schools. “The national standards’ unrelenting focus on skills that transfer directly to the modern work world conflicts with Catholic schools’ academic, spiritual, and moral mission,” Pioneer states on its website.

Study coauthor Jane Robbins told me “the goal of Common Core is fundamentally opposed to the goal of Catholic education.” Robbins says Common Core is “a workforce development model,” whereas the purpose of a Catholic education is “to develop children into the people that God intended them to be and to give them an appreciation of more fundamental things, such as truth and beauty and goodness.”

Though the “After the Fall” study examines the rift between Common Core and Catholicism specifically, the paper’s conclusions apply to any faith, institution, or person whose beliefs do not identically match the ideology of Common Core.

“Ideology”? Yes. Common Core and the corresponding tests don’t create simple, minimal standards to ensure students have mastered phonics-based reading, adding, subtracting, multiplying, etc. by certain grade levels. The standards are designed to influence children far beyond facts and figures. Although public schools are forbidden from teaching religion and are not supposed to influence students’ personal beliefs, governments are made up of people, and the people government attracts and employs tend to be those with a penchant for power and control (strictly from a sense of altruism, of course). Hence governments are intensely interested in controlling how and what people—even, and maybe especially, children—think.


Common Core is a particularly egregious example of that effort.

“The Common Core is not meant to produce individuals willing to take initiative and innovate in the model of our [nation’s] successes over more than 200 years,” Ivan Larson writes for the Wyoming Liberty Group. “Instead, it is designed to produce a graduate who is more willing to fit into a collectivist model. It teaches a heavily revisionist history in which America’s past consists of almost nothing but slavery, segregation, and other forms of racial oppression. These distortions impede the maintenance of a free and democratic America.”

Of the English Language Arts (ELA) standards, Robbins writes in The American Spectator, “The Common Core list of recommended texts for ELA classrooms eliminates (except for minimal Shakespeare) British literature. No Austen, no Dickens, no Stevenson. In place of great British novels it suggests soft-core pornography such as The Bluest Eye.”

Education scholar Marion Brady nicely summarizes the true purpose of these national standards in the Washington Post, writing, “The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).”

The Eagle Forum, in its Education Reporter newspaper in 2011, pointed out not only is there “no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national assessments, or national curricula,” there is also “no consistent evidence that a national curriculum leads to high academic achievement.” Writing in the Daily Caller, Mitchell Blatt quotes a study showing academic achievement does not determine economic competitiveness:

“An analysis by Keith Baker, a retired researcher for the [U.S.] Department of Education, found that when comparing the United States to countries that outscored us on the [First International Mathematics Study] test, the U.S., on average, outranked those countries in the categories of economic growth, quality of life, livability, democracy, and creativity,” Blatt writes.

In essence, Common Core is a set of standards ideal for no one and corrosive to the beliefs and goals of many. The Common Core website claims the standards are meant to “ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” But the results are in, and Common Core is failing kids, causing them stress, leaving them unprepared, and frustrating teachers and parents alike. Our international test scores are no higher, not that it matters.

Oh, and Common Core has cost taxpayers billions, too. Either the people behind Common Core are utterly incompetent, or the true goal of the standards is in fact indoctrination into collectivism and dependency. Or perhaps both are true.