Vacation Bible School? Common Core Knows No Bounds

Published July 13, 2015

The pervasiveness of Common Core from preschool to academe and the workforce is well-documented, but news of its invasion of a vacation bible school (VBS) in one major metropolitan area had to startle even close followers of the systemic-change gang.

Before this summer’s round of VBS, some 30 Louisville-area church officials gathered for extensive training by area government-school officials in how to line up their Bible studies with Common Core and stock their libraries with properly CC-complaint materials.

“We’re still using Bible stories,” one VBS curriculum director told The [Louisville] Courier-Journal (July 8), “but we’re asking questions that are tied to Common Core. What we’re trying to do is ask questions in a different way, a way that’s aligned … to the critical thinking and other questions in Common Core.”

One can only imagine how Common Core’s pushing of children to detect writers’ opinions and insert their own might affect VBS analyses of Bible stories.

Would the story of Jesus’s feeding 5,000 people by dividing just five loaves of bread and two small fish prompt critical thinking and questioning about who or what might be the modern “Bread of Life” – the federal school-lunch program, perhaps? Would the story of Jesus’s healing of a paralyzed man lowered through a roof and presented to him by four friends prompt critical thinkers to tout socialized medicine as today’s performer of miracles?

After all, Common Core English has no use for parables or poetry, and it draws heavily from government documents. Students must seek out the bottom line as they will do when they become fully trained worker bees.

Good grief! What manner of church leader would invite in government agents to modify the content of their little children’s summertime spiritual retreat? Or were they pressured in some way? That may become more evident as this contagion spreads from Kentucky, the first state to adopt Common Core, to other places, as it almost surely will, given that USA Today (July 8) quickly distributed the story.

An online look at vacation bible schools across the nation indicates most still adhere to the traditional format many parents and grandparents may remember from their childhoods. Enrollees typically are very young kids, ages four and five and those in the earliest school grades. A description the First Baptist Church of Abingdon, Massachusetts posted online stated VBS “is a fun-filled week of learning about God’s great love for each and every one of us. It is a time for crafts, games, music, skits, contests.”

It may seem crass for Common Core absolutists to intrude on early childhood fun and faith, but the peddlers of pervasive standardization already have shown their determination to make the nation’s kindergartners little soldiers in a forced march to “college and career readiness.”

Most of the touted “rigor” of the nationalized K–12 standards seems to have squarely slammed five-year-olds, who are all expected to know (among many other things) the difference between explanatory and opinion writing, and to be able to satisfy math requirements to “decompose” numbers in more than one way and then explain themselves with drawings or equations.

Five years ago, 500 experts in early childhood education denounced the then-incipient national standards for being too hard on kids just making the jump from playground to school. The Core’s elitist crew ignored them.

Early results are not pretty. Writing in the June 1 edition of the Baltimore Sun, Loyola University physics professor Joseph Ganem reflected on underlying reasons for only 47 percent of Maryland preschoolers recently being judged ready for kindergarten, compared with 83 percent last year. The problem, he said, is not with the children but with “educational standards that are not aligned with even the most basic facts of human development.”

In defiance of all logic and wisdom, “it is expected that children should be at the same cognitive level when they enter kindergarten, and proceed through the entire grade-school curriculum in lock step with one another. People who think that all children can learn in unison have obviously never worked with special-needs children or the gifted and talented.”

Nor may Common Core absolutism allow for children just having fun, as in the absurd intrusion into vacation bible schools.