Catholic scholars oppose Common Core

More than 100 Catholic scholars have signed a letter to the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops urging church leaders to reject Common Core Standards for Catholic schools, reports Education Week. Gerard V. Bradley, a Notre Dame law professor, wrote the letter.

More than 100 dioceses and archdioceses have adopted the new standards, reports Ed Week.

Common Core expects too little of students, charges the letter. The “bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education . . . shortchanges the central goals of all sound education and surely those of Catholic education: to grow in the virtues necessary to know, love, and serve the Lord, to mature into a responsible, flourishing adult, and to contribute as a citizen to the process of responsible democratic self government.”

Bradley spoke at a Common Core conference at Notre Dame along with other critics such as James Milgram, a Stanford professor emeritus, and Sandra Stotsky, a University of Arkansas professor. Milgram believes the standards don’t prepare students for college math, especially if they plan math or science majors. Stotsky, who played a leading role in writing Massachusetts’ standards, opposes Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction.

Gay-unfriendly student wins speech case

In a teacher-initiated discussion on anti-gay bullying, a Michigan high school student said he “couldn’t accept gays” because of his Catholic faith. The economics teacher equated the statement to saying he “couldn’t accept blacks” and kicked him out of class, writing up a referral for “unacceptable behavior.”

In a June 19 ruling in Glowacki v. Howell Public School District, a federal district judge ruled that the teacher violated the student’s right to free expression, reports Ed Week.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of Detroit awarded damages of $1 to Daniel Glowacki, who was a junior at Howell High School in the fall of 2010.  Howell Public School District, which took no action against the student and reprimanded the teacher, was not liable, the judge ruled.

“Public schools must strive to provide a safe atmosphere conducive to learning for all students while fostering an environment that tolerates the expression of different viewpoints, even if unpopular, so as to equip students with the tools necessary for participation in a democratic society,” Judge Duggan said.

Glowacki did not disrupt the class, the judge ruled. McDowell engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

When asked about the move by the remaining students, McDowell said a student could not voice an opinion that “creates an uncomfortable learning environment for another student,” according to court papers.

Imagine how lively class discussion would be if no student was allowed to make another student feel uncomfortable.

Glowacki transferred to another economics class.

Girls (not boys) take no-cursing pledge

A Catholic high school in New Jersey has asked girls to take a “no-cursing” pledge, reports NBC. Boys have been asked not to swear when girls are within earshot.

School officials want “ladies to act like ladies,” said Lori Flynn, a Queen of Peace High teacher who organized the campaign.

Brother Larry Lavallee, the school’s principal, says girls use the foulest language.

. . . Dana Cotter, 16, thought that male students should join the pledge because “boys should be more like gentlemen.”

Teachers said they hoped that if the girls focused on cleaning up their speech on campus for a month, their improved manners would take hold and rub off on the boys. They timed the initiative to Catholic Schools Week and the old-fashioned romance of Valentine’s Day, promising lollipops as rewards and handing out pins showing a red slash through a pair of pink lips.

Nicholas Recarte, 16, said, “It’s unattractive when girls have potty mouths.”  But Recarte, a pitcher on the school baseball team, said “he can’t help shouting obscenities” when things go wrong in a game.

Schools that work, literally

In Schools That Work, Literally in National Review, Samuel Casey Carter praises the Cristo Rey network of urban Catholic schools which send students into corporate jobs one day a week.

“The educational quality of the program is fundamentally different in kind from what anyone else offers,” says Christopher Connor, the CEO of Sherwin-Williams, “because these students are employable. They have work skills and life skills to match that come through the work-study program.”

As much as 70 percent of school costs are covered by students’ earnings, allowing the schools to charge very low tuition to low-income and working-class parents. If students work extra days, they keep their earnings.

 Cristo Rey provides rich and regular opportunities for its students to acquire the skills, relationships, and professional behaviors of successful adults by exposing them to the rigorous expectations of the professional workplace.

Despite the four-day academic week, Cristo Rey students complete college-prep courses. At the school in Boston, all graduates were admitted to a four-year college or university this year. One girl is headed for MIT.