High, comparable education standards are “a dramatic reduction of the nature and purpose of education to mere workforce preparation,” Gerard Bradley, a Notre Dame law professor, argues on the Witherspoon Institute’s blog. “Rebels” should refocus President-elect Trump’s attention back to “ignite a national movement to roll back [Common Core].”
The philosophy behind higher standards, the piece adds, “is a waste of resources to ‘over-educate’ people… Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities.”
Bradley further argues, “Catholic education, in particular, is undermined by adopting these national standards.” Comparable education standards, the piece suggests, are incompatible with a Catholic education.
There are a number of issues with Bradley’s argument.
First, higher education standards are meant to better prepare all students with the skills they need to succeed in college, careers, military service, or whatever path they may choose after high school. They are intended to help young people develop the critical thinking and analytical abilities they need to compete and lead in today’s modern economy. They are not, as Bradley suggests, a means to for “mere workforce preparation.”
Second, the argument that Catholic education is undermined by high standards has been repeatedly debunked. Rigorous standards are predicated on the belief that all students can achieve to high levels. “The Bible implores us to provide children with an edifying and full education that trains them to meet life’s challenges,” Dr. Antipas Harris wrote in the Christian Post previously. “By making high academic standards the basis of our schools, we can answer that charge.”
“As Christians, we are called to honor the imago dei in every person, enabling each to fulfill the potential God has given them,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explains. “High academic benchmarks are the path to a high-quality education…And the end of the journey is a bright future for all students.”
We have pointed out before, Catholic schools have full discretion to determine which academic goals are appropriate for their students. Even if their states adopted the Common Core, as private institutions Catholic schools are free to determine their own learning criteria.
Many church leaders acknowledge that high, comparable academic expectations can inform faith-based schools. The Archdiocese of Chicago wrote previously integration of college- and career-ready education standards could serve to “complement the existing expectations for academic excellence that have historically been at the core of Catholic education.”
With high standards aligned to college and career readiness, educators have found greater flexibility and room for creativity in their classrooms. “Contrary to popular perception, Common Core was designed to be less prescriptive than many states’ previous standards,” Lisette Partelow, a former educator, wrote in US News & World Report.
That empowerment helps explain the improvement states are beginning to make to improve student performance. This year a majority of states made significant gains in math and reading proficiency. Some of the biggest improvements were among third-grade students, who have spent most of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards.
“These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” explains Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education. Both public-school and faith-based education leaders should insist on rigorous, comparable education standards to better ensure their students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to lead a full and fulfilled life.