Matt C. Abbott
Catholics and the 'Common Core' controversy
By Matt C. Abbott
December 17, 2013

      Pardon the comparison, but Common Core is a bit like abortion: It seems OK if you don't question what you are told by those who are invested in it, but once you have knowledge and understanding of what abortion truly is, you can't un-know the truth; you can only deny it.

      – Tonchi Weaver (Catholic wife, mother, grandmother and activist)

In recent times, there has been considerable controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

In an article for Crisis Magazine, Mary Jo Anderson writes:
    The education reform known as Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for grades K-12, adopted by forty plus states and more than half of the U.S. dioceses, is designed to produce a universal 'work force ready' population prepared to self-identify as 'global citizens.' Many education professionals have been critical of CCSS. But even they may not know the philosophical reason why financiers like Bill Gates have bankrolled the Common Core system. The same sources of funding for Common Core in the United States are promoting similar methods and aligned texts world wide through the auspices of the United Nations....

    Some have decried Common Core as the nationalization of American education. Far more dangerous, however, is the globalism of Common Core that demotes American values, undermines American constitutional principles and detaches students from their families and faith. Common Core is simply the newest attempt in the decades-old battle (Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000) to impose a U.N. globalist worldview aimed at 'peace,' sustainability and economic stability at the expense of freedom.... (Click here to read the Crisis article in its entirety.)
The Diocese of Madison, Wis., is one diocese that has decided not to adopt the CCSS:
    Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison will not adopt the Common Core State Standards. Rather, our parish elementary schools will continue to use our own diocesan academic standards ... The Diocese of Madison stands firm, both behind our standards and behind the mission and philosophy of Catholic education, which far exceeds any other common standards. (Click here to read the diocese's statement in its entirety.)
Also, Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay wrote in his column last month:
    The Diocese of Green Bay is blessed to have strong Catholic schools. It is because of the great work of so many that our students perform at the highest levels on state and national tests and our graduation rates are between 97 and 100 percent. I am so very proud of our Catholic school teachers, students and parents for their commitment and hard work in making this possible; after all, it is about the children.

    As of late, the Common Core Standards initiative in the public school system is fueling a fire storm of debate and heated discussion in the Diocese of Green Bay, the state of Wisconsin and the nation. The Common Core, as it is referred to, is a relatively new set of math and English/language arts standards designed to help children in public schools 'race to the top.' It is an initiative, backed by government grants, intended to raise academic achievement and improve graduation rates in public schools. This initiative was developed in response to long-standing concerns by business, industry and leaders of higher learning indicating that young people are not sufficiently prepared for the work force or higher education.

    Is it necessary for us to 'adopt or adapt' the Common Core Standards? No, it is not necessary.... I have instructed our diocesan department of education staff, school principals and school system administrators that they not 'adopt or adapt' the Common Core Standards, but may use them only as a reference to improve the curriculum we already have. It is my directive that the schools of the diocese utilize the diocesan standards previously in place and not substitute for them with Common Core Standards.... (Click here to read Bishop Ricken's column in its entirety.)
Tonchi Weaver, a Catholic and conservative activist who resides in South Dakota, has done quite a bit of research on, and is a vocal opponent of, Common Core.

She writes:
    We often hear that Common Core is just a set of standards, not a curriculum, only guidelines. But standards drive curriculum in much the same way that laws drive regulations. Are we to believe that if we like our curriculum, we can keep our curriculum – period? Textbooks are changing rapidly to align with Common Core, and the increasing amount of work that is done on electronic devices in the classroom with e-textbooks decreases the amount of work done at home under the watchful eye of parents.

    Like many Catholic schools across the nation, our local Catholic schools use secular textbooks provided free from the public schools in order to save money. Students in Catholic schools are therefore at the mercy of whatever is contained in public school textbooks.

    Many of the classroom lessons in Common Core compliant material are designed to dismantle what are considered the 'invalid' attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the students and transform them to align with those acceptable to the group. The developers of Common Core refer to children as 'human capital' to be marked, sorted and directed on career paths (our state calls them pods) according to the needs of the economy and as determined by the results of high-stakes tests.

    The next phase of Common Core (2014-2015) involves science, history and national sexuality education standards. Representatives of Planned Parenthood and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are among the notables who formed the K-12 advisory committee. Are these the authorities we want teaching children about sex under the guise of 'health'?

    Parochial schools have always been a safe harbor from the cultural rot so prevalent in public schools, but many dioceses have decided that they will utilize Common Core. It seems parents and their desires and responsibilities for the education of their children were the least considered in the entire course of events. Again, this is contrary to the rights of parents as defined in paragraphs 2228 and 2229 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Pardon the comparison, but Common Core is a bit like abortion: It seems OK if you don't question what you are told by those who are invested in it, but once you have knowledge and understanding of what abortion truly is, you can't un-know the truth; you can only deny it. Truth bears the burden of responsibility to speak and to act, even if one becomes the object of scorn. That's why I consider Common Core to be a life issue – eternal life – ours and that of the next generation.

    We must guard the souls of all God's children, whether or not they attend a Catholic school. We cannot abandon any of them. Under Common Core, children become separated – from God, from parents and family, and ultimately from themselves. Their God-given uniqueness is chipped away and invalidated as they are molded to suit the collective. If we allow this to happen, we will have as much to answer for as if we turned a blind eye to abortion because, well, no one in our household will have one.

    Catholics believe their children in Catholic schools are above the negative effects of Common Core. That arrogance prevents them from realizing their children are the trophies of social engineering.
Last month, 132 Catholic educators and scholars signed a letter to the U.S. bishops asserting "that implementing Common Core would be a grave disservice to Catholic education in America." Click here to read that letter.

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

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