Catholic scholar responds to critics of letter to the bishops.

Professor Anthony Esolen

Common Core supporters can’t help but offer one weak, conflicting argument after another. When your position is so far from the truth, it seems to be the only available strategy. A letter sent to the US bishops, signed by 132 Catholic scholars, called upon them to oppose the adoption of Common Core by Catholic archdioceses. The letter argues the differences between the underlying philosophy of Common Core and Catholic education and makes a compelling case for the continuation of traditional Catholic education.

Common Core supporters couldn’t stop themselves from making yet another weak argument. They criticized the letter and called for its dismissal because these professors were from the disciplines of math, English, and the humanities, not from Schools of Education. According them, those who are educated in the field of education know better than those who actually teach the subject matter. Like I said, another weak argument that conflicts with any sense of logic. If that’s the best they got, this should be over quickly.

A signatory to the letter, Anthony Esolen, a professor of English at Providence College, aptly answers this criticism by Common Core supporters and cautions against taking direction from the Schools of Education when they have a track record of failed initiatives. The letter is copied below in its entirety with his permission:

 The following is in response to many who question the credentials of those who penned and signed the recent letter sent to every US Catholic Bishop. The oft-heard complaint is that they were not from “Schools of Education.” (Shared with Professor Esolen’s permission.)

From: Anthony Esolen

Date: November 20, 2013 at 12:36pm

Subject: Re: Question on Common Core

Thank you for your kind words, and thank you also for standing up for a truly human and Catholic education.

What to say to your priest? A couple of things:

1. The leading professors of education in the US, beginning at Teachers’ College (Columbia) in the days of John Dewey, have been steadfastly opposed to any orientation, in the education of children, toward the transcendent, much less toward God Himself as revealed in the sacred scriptures.

2. Why should we take our lead from them? Who was it who dumbed down our readers- remember the “basal reader,” with its artificially limited vocabulary? Professors of education. Who was it who sidelined the old teaching of phonics? Professors of education. Who was it who thought it would be really fine to de-emphasize arithmetical competence, a “number sense,” and replace it with theory of sets, in the so-called New Math? Professors of education. Who was it who abandoned geography and folded it into Social Studies, which has now become little more than Current Events? Professors of education. Who was it who recommended ditching classical poems and stories for the supposedly “relevant”? Professors of education.

They have a lot to answer for.

3. The Catholic Church upholds the prime responsibility of the parents to educate their children. Schools receive from the parents whatever authority they have. It is an offense against human dignity, and against the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, that any curriculum, even a decent one (which this is not), should be imposed de jure or de facto from far away, from on high, by people with no personal attachment to the human beings we are teaching.

4. Some of the signatories are professors of education, at that. But do the rest of us have no say? I have been teaching young people for almost 30 years — literature, and, to a lesser degree, history, theology, philosophy, and art, from 2000 BC to the present. I am now meeting Honors students, freshmen at college, who have never even heard the NAMES of the great English poets — Chaucer, Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, etc. The CC exacerbates the worst features of the system we already have.

5. WHY on earth cannot Catholic schools take a cue from their successful friends, rather than from their inept and inane enemies? Classical Catholic schools are springing up all over the place, and the main problem they have is money. They are remarkably successful, with parents and children enthusiastically committed to them, and making great sacrifices to keep the schools going, because they usually have no diocesan help and no free building space. Catholic homeschoolers have been remarkably successful, too, and get into colleges at GREATER rates than do their schooled counterparts. I’d start with these.

Why should the people of God follow the Philistines?

Tony Esolen