Friday, January 17, 2014

Freeing them from this meddlesome issue

N.L. posts at The Economist's Democracy in America Blog on the controversy surrounding Common Core education standards.
"Many more horror stories will unfold about the common core this year. And you never know, one or two of them may even be true."
For example, in a letter to the members of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education defending Common Core, three members of the faculty of Loyola University of Chicago wrote,
"Many opponents of the CCSS point to Appendix B as proof that objectionable texts are required and that some classical texts are prohibited."
You might here expect them to show how the texts referred to are not objectionable. They do not.
"The concern that Catholic schools won't be allowed to use their own texts is a misread [sic] of the Common Core State Standards. No Catholic school is required to use any of the texts in Appendix B and they may add other texts."
This letter was published as an op-ed in the print edition of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald of December 5, 2013. As such, it has no binding authority. There does not appear to be anything to prevent our local Catholic schools from using the adoption of Common Core by our Archdiocese as authorizing or prohibiting various texts. That might be a kind of bait-and-switch, but that is not an unheard-of approach to putting preferred policies in place around our Archdiocese.

As you probably expect, no opponent of Common Core is named or quoted in the letter. The writers conclude by urging the bishops to pay attention only to "the true experts", that is, people like them. Which is already policy. The CUF Milwaukee newsletter for January 2014 announces that Common Core critic "Dr. Duke Pesta will again discuss 'Common Core' in Catholic schools Jan. 19"

"Again, because Dr. Pesta is still 'persona non grata' in the archdiocese (and we cannot meet in any parish hall), this meeting will be at the Country Springs Hotel."
As you recall, a presentation by Dr. Pesta at a parish was canceled by the pastor after its Director of Administrative Services contacted the Archdiocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, who discouraged permitting him to speak. (See my earlier post CUF issues Clarion call on Common Core.) While the decision is, in form, the pastor's, it sure looks like any pastor knows what the Chancery thinks, and that what the Chancery thinks equals the right decision. So how do we know this doesn't go on all the time, making the pastor a front and his discretion a sham? The Superintendent's objection was to the explicit or implicit allegation of lack of good faith in advocating for Common Core. Even if we assume Common Core is good on its merits and its advocates acting from good motives, that doesn't mean that this way of suppressing opposition isn't manipulative.

Here are the Common Core State Standards (66 pp.[!]) and the grades K-5 texts and grades 6-12 texts. On page 7, the portrait of students who meet the standards includes that "They evaluate other points of view critically and constructively." I'm not seeing that in the Superintendent's, or for that matter our Archbishop's, handling of this controversy.

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