Advice to Parents Worried About Common Core: ‘Get Actively Involved’

Dr. Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 Programs at The Cardinal Newman Society, offered advice to the parents of children in both public and Catholic schools that use the Common Core State Standards during a recent interview, urging them to “get actively involved” and engage in “soul-expanding, character-building” discussions with their children.

Guernsey was a guest last week on The Heartland Institute’s education podcast discussing the recently-published report After the Fall: Catholic Education Beyond the Common Core — for which he was the lead author — and the Newman Society’s new Catholic Curriculum Standards, developed by Guernsey and the Newman Society’s Dr. Denise Donohue. The Heartland Institute is a nonprofit research and education organization that has been critical of the Common Core.

“Get actively involved in your kids’ education,” Guernsey entreated the parents whose children are studying under the Common Core standards. Parents should make sure that they hold their children to a higher standard than the insufficient standards offered by the Common Core. He warned that the Common Core’s focus on college and career preparation is “not what engages the human soul and it’s not what develops human character.”


A partial transcript of the roughly 16-minute interview follows:

Teresa Mull, The Heartland Institute (12:53): What is your advice to parents concerned about their kids who might be in a school where Common Core is going full throttle? What should they do if they can’t do anything to get rid of Common Core?

Dan Guernsey: I have different advice for public school-parents and Catholic school-parents.

For our public school parents, watch what they’re doing. If you can read what your child is reading in literature class, read it with him or her and discuss it with them. Ask them questions about, “What does this mean to you?” and, “How does this text comport with our own family’s values, with the values of our country, with the culture we’re trying to transmit to you as the next generation?” You need to have these conversations about the meaning and value of what’s being studied and its place within the moral and social life of your students.

The Common Core’s focus on utilitarianism, pragmatism and on stuff you need to know for [your] career … [is] not what engages the human soul and it’s not what develops human character. Parents in the public schools want to make sure [they’re] having those soul-expanding, character-building discussions with your [children]. Keep close to your students and talk to them about the values you have and why you hold them. Have them read good literature if they’re not getting exposed to it in their school; read a good book with them. … Get actively involved in your kids’ education. Good advice even if the Common Core wasn’t in place, but now it is in place and you [have to] take the extra step.

To Catholic school students’ parents, I would say have your Catholic school take a look at the new Catholic academic standards developed by The Cardinal Newman Society. We just put those out this week. It does lay out what we attempt to do differently in literature, history, science, and math that Catholic school administrators can look at to make sure they are embracing the fullness of reality from within the Catholic tradition.

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