Editorial: Catholic Schools Should Proudly Keep ‘Catholic’ as Their Core


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Common Core co-developer David Coleman believes that Catholic schools should have the “moxie” to preserve and celebrate their Catholic identity and emphasis on the liberal arts — and The Cardinal Newman Society wholeheartedly agrees, despite our clear disagreement about whether the Common Core fits well within that Catholic education.

The Cardinal Newman Society continues to have serious concerns about the Common Core’s impact in Catholic schools. For that reason, Coleman may seem an unusual choice for a Newman Society interview. We certainly haven’t changed our position.

We reached out to Coleman out of curiosity, when we saw this National Review column in which he defended religious liberal arts education and the religious freedom of a Christian college. It seemed an interesting paradox; Coleman not only helped write the Common Core Standards but also is CEO of The College Board, which is revising its college entrance exam (SAT) to reflect the Common Core … and yet he has good things to say about serious liberal arts education.

Coleman supports the Common Core in public schools and disagreed with some of our concerns about its place in Catholic schools — and on that we must continue to disagree. But his comments reinforce our consistent position that Catholic schools must have non-negotiable standards of Catholic identity and should emphasize the liberal arts. They should not compromise those standards for any reason, whether it is societal pressure or sweeping school reforms.

Moreover, the interview supports our argument that Catholic dioceses need not rush to embrace the Common Core Standards simply because they want their students to do well on Common Core-aligned tests. Coleman, who is producing the new SAT and AP exams, says that students getting a solid Catholic education that preserves a traditional emphasis on the liberal arts have no need to worry about getting lower SAT scores.

We believe that changing curricula, textbooks, testing and literature standards in order to “keep up” with the Common Core is not in the best interest of Catholic schools and the students and families they serve. We interviewed Coleman not to suggest a weaker position, but in fact to strengthen arguments against the uncritical rush to conform Catholic schools to public school standards.

The Cardinal Newman Society works with wonderful Catholic schools across the country that continue to have great success providing a traditional liberal arts education with a strong Catholic mission. Catholic educators should “be proud of what you have to offer, which is different,” as Coleman said. Let’s stand in confidence with what we know and believe.

[This editorial was amended from its initial version to better clarify The Cardinal Newman Society’s position.]

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