Confronting Common Core



There seems to be much ado about Common Core these days, including noteworthy buzz in the Catholic blogosphere and media.  Like most modern controversies, the dilemma about whether or not Common Core is negatively affecting our children’s education vacillates between the naysayers and the proponents of well-renowned Catholic writers and speakers.  Though I am neither well-renowned nor a popular writer or speaker, I admit that my husband and I are in the “Against Common Core” camp, and I’ll tell you why.

I grew up with a Catholic education, attending the same school for first through eighth grade; following the primary grades, I chose to attend a very large and (then) reputable public high school for my secondary education.  To admit that a scathing and glaring ridge between the superiority of a Catholic education and the subpar public education would be a grave understatement; let’s just say I was bored stiff throughout high school and coolly skated through my classes to obtain my Academic Honors Diploma and move on.  Most Catholics would concur that there is something rather striking about a solid schooling from the private and religious institutions.  Sadly, that gap between private and public schools is narrowing rather quickly these days, and much of it can be attributed to the sketchy understanding and implementation of Common Core.

Political arguments and analyses aside, all can agree that Common Core’s main goal is simply this: to prepare students for a postsecondary career.  At first glance, this appears noble and righteous. However, if Catholic dioceses across the nation either blithely comply or at the very least ignore the implications of Common Core upon Catholic education, then the excellence for which Catholics have striven will be quickly exterminated.  The reason for this is as simple as the one given for the Common Core Initiative: Catholicism educates the whole person.

Our Catholic schools must up the ante in advocating for this beautiful gift we offer children: the gift of a whole and wholesome education.  Catholics know full well that we cannot teach our children about one aspect of their entire lives; we cannot compartmentalize them into career subcategories.  To do would be a grave sin against the very dignity of all humanity.  Instead, we must continue to view people through the lens of love, which necessarily means that we guide them to know God deeply, to appreciate beauty through classical art and literature, to value and respect all people and creation through morality and ethics classes, to encourage self-respect by reminding them that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Only one aspect of human existence involves his or her career, and I will boldly and unabashedly proclaim that our identities are not found in our careers.

Work is, of course, good, and the Lord desires that we work to provide for ourselves and our families, to be able to trade our goods and services fairly with others, to assist those in our communities, etc.  Work in and of itself is good.  But to strive for the exclusivity of selecting and aiming for a career path when one is yet a child negates the intrinsic value of how and why modern education was born.  Let’s incorporate career counseling in our schools, but let it be peripheral to the higher aspiration of molding small souls for their eternal destination.

When I ponder the mess of the Common Core evolution, my heart is filled with a deeper sorrow than I can adequately articulate here.  Mainly I think of my daughter and people like her everywhere: people who were born with a physical or cognitive difference, people who aren’t considered mainstream.  How do they fit into the Common Core image of career preparation?  The truth is they don’t.  But they do and always have had a place in Catholic education, because Catholicism sees beyond the exterior of one’s appearance or the economic value of one’s potential career into the heart and soul of every human being.  Let’s keep it that way.

Copyright 2014, Jeannie Ewing


About Author

Jeannie Ewing believes the world ignores and rejects the value of the Cross. She writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. As a disability advocate, Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters and is the author of From Grief to Grace , A Sea Without A Shore , and Waiting with Purpose. Jeannie is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic magazines. She, her husband, and three daughters live in northern Indiana. For more information, please visit her website


  1. I can only speak for my own Catholic school….any child with a special education label is not welcome. The reason…money. They just don’t have the resources to educate them. The school does have the comment core curriculum, but I don’t see this fragmenting you speak of. What specifically precludes schools who have adapted the common core from educating the whole person?

  2. I guess we read Common Core differently. Our Catholic School adopted CC and it’s going very well. I never read it as preparing children to go towards a specific career path. In fact our experience is that it’s better for children because there are efforts to address all types of learning styles. Now, the public school in my area also adopted it and it’s been a disaster. The difference? The teachers in our school had a say in how to approach the curriculum and were allowed to tailor the programs based on the need of the students.

  3. I really don’t see any significant change in this set of standards versus the previous set of standards. I fail to understand the many claims that they are going to have a disastrous affect on our children. Most people I run into have formed their opinions without ever reading the standards. And with regard to the Catholic school I attended it was never the goal to teach to the standards but to always well exceed them

    • Becky, I am a former high school counselor, and my husband and I did read the standards; he printed the 600+ page document from the Indiana Department of Education website! 🙂

  4. There is much more tied to common core than just standards. Yes, some of the standards are just fine. But, some are developmentally inappropriate. And much of the curriculum that has been bought up by our Catholic schools to adopt the new standards was hastily developed, contains errors, and is not adequate. I guess we can consider ourselves lucky that our teachers have more of a say in implementation than public school teachers, but I’ve certainly learned that the tuition paying parents are allowed no such forum to voice their concerns. And there are many of us with concerns who just want to have an open dialogue. Please do your research on who actually developed the standards (not many K-12 teachers, if any at all) and who is paying millions to promote them. And find out who stands to benefit the most from the development of ALL new curriculums and assessments that must be aligned to common core—and I don’t think it’s our kids. Please research how your states have given up much local control of education to the federal govt by adopting these standards for the sake of money. Please research the data mining that is/will be occurring due to the new educational reforms under the common core umbrella. Personally I feel that Catholic schools have been losing their Catholic identity for much longer than common core has been around…but it is definitely one more step in the wrong direction.

    • Steph – Thank you for your comments. Can you please post some of your sources so we can broaden our understanding?

      • Also, as for a forum as where parents can discuss curriculum, our school is very good about open communication and parent participation in curriculum decisions. School Board meetings are open to everyone. I think, like all things, it depends on the school and their policies.

        • Mia-It is good to hear you have openness of communication at your school. It gives me hope. In our area, there are many parents at several schools in our archdiocese who are being dismissed and ignored by their own schools and the archdiocese itself. As far as sources, probably the best place to start is the Click on Catholic is Our Core. There is MUCH information on that site. There is also an interesting article in the Catholic Exchange by Ann Hendershott, “Bill and Melinda Gates: Controlling Population and Public Education”. She has another article in Crisis Magazine, “The Federal Takeover of Education.” The Alliance for Early Childhood issued a statement, “Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative”, signed by educators, pediatricians, developmental psychologists, etc, that is enlightening. The Washington Post posted an analysis by Valerie Strauss, “A tough critique of Common Core on early childhood education.”(updated January 29th) You can find many more sources provided on the Cardinal Newman website and in these articles. And if you are interested in how children with reading/learning differences may be impacted you should read, “Reconciling the Common Core State Standards with Reading Research”, by Louisa Moats. Hope that is enough to get you started! 🙂

          • Thank you, Steph, for providing the sources the other women were asking for. I just now checked the comments, as I was out of town last week and returned home late Sunday night.

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