Why We Don't Use Common Core

 photo credit:  Steve Rhodes  via  photopin   cc

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

By Michael P. McKeating, J.D.
Headmaster
Chesterton Academy of Buffalo

             At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo we do not follow “Common Core.”  We do not use Common Core standards, curricula, tests, or Common Core-aligned textbooks.

            We follow the Classical Model of education.  We teach all subjects through the lens of the Catholic Church, using wherever possible the Socratic method.  We do so because this model is far superior, as proven by the experience of centuries.

            The Common Core is a comprehensive system of standardized, top-down curricula, textbooks and tests for grades K through 12, conceived and funded primarily by Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation and promoted by President Obama and the federal government.  Its stated purpose is to make children “college and career-ready.”  It is entirely pragmatic and utilitarian, based on the educational philosophy of John Dewey, with a strong overlay of Postmodernist philosophy for frosting. 

            It is pragmatic and utilitarian because it emphasizes uniformity and conformity.  It wants all students to meet the same standards, but it wants to accomplish that by lowering the standards.  It also seeks to impose a uniform, politically correct content.  It stresses the information necessary to get into college or to get a job.  These are two laudable, and in most cases, necessary objectives.  But it stresses them at the expense of denigrating the study of great literature, philosophy, history or foreign languages. 

            At Chesterton Academy of Buffalo, we seek to educate the whole person.  As humans, we are composite beings, made up of body and soul, not robots.  The pagan, secular philosophy of John Dewey and his followers—which is really the foundation for Common Core—sees faith and reason as incompatible and mutually exclusive.  We see faith and reason as not only compatible, but complimentary.

            Common Core seeks to teach and test students in the reading of government documents and manuals, because it is useful.  It stresses information.  We teach students to read the great works of Western Literature:  The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, the Confessions of St. Augustine, The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales Hamlet, Macbeth.  We introduce them to the works of Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, John Donne, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, G.K. Chesterton and Flannery O’Connor.

            We require four years of philosophy.  Why do we do this? Because it teaches students to think, a skill in short supply today.  In today’s culture, everyone has an opinion on everything, but few can explain or defend their opinion.  We teach the principles of logic—how to reason, from first principles, through propositions to conclusions.  In short, we teach students how to explain and defend their beliefs.  We also teach Music, Art, Drama and Debate.  We seek to form the whole person with a comprehensive world-view, not narrow specialists.

            Common Core teaches skills in separate, unconnected compartments.  We teach that all knowledge is interconnected.  In each year we show how philosophy, theology, history and literature, music and art are interconnected and interwoven in a cohesive whole.  And we teach that all knowledge is interconnected through the central mystery of human existence:  the Incarnation of Jesus Christ—God become Man.

            In summary we don’t use Common Core because we use something far better.  The superiority of the classical education has been tested and proven by the experience of the centuries.  In the words of Dale Ahlquist, the founder of the Chesterton Network of Schools, “We are doing something new by doing something very old.”