Professors Hit Common Core on Anti-Liberal Arts Stance

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 13, 2012

There is a new proliferation of momentum against the Common Core by Professors determined to defend the liberal arts from the anti-liberal arts onslaught of the Common Core.

As Shane already pointed out, first English Professor Mary Grabar of Emory hit Arne Duncan in a Roll Call article “The Gradgrinds of the Common Core”:

How good a player would Arne Duncan, former basketball pro and current secretary of Education, have been had he not been allowed to play a pickup game or idly bounce a ball? How many great players would there be had they not been able to play at the corner lot, instead forced through endless drills?

Kids would not have learned the lingo and mannerisms of basketball, or imagined themselves shooting jump shots next to Shaquille O’Neal or Larry Bird. The sport would have become a serious business; no longer would it be about the love of the game.

In short, the culture of basketball, so cherished by fans and players alike, would never have developed.

Yet Duncan proposes standards that make reading and writing a drill-like business. In the new Common Core guidelines, high-school English teachers would have to spend more than 50 percent of their time on nonfiction and informational texts such as court opinions, Federal Reserve bulletins and computer manuals!

Read the whole article here.

Now, influential speaker, lecturer, editor of the Catholic liturgical series the Magnificat, author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and English Professor Anthony Esolen of Providence College (a Catholic College run by the Dominican Order) writes a similar article for the Catholic Thing, “Humanist, Where Art Thou?”:

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death ye will find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Tho’ all the world betray thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
Could not bring his proud soul under;
The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said, “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free.
They shall never sound in slavery!”
(Thomas Moore, commemorating the Dublin uprising of 1798)
      “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’”
(David Coleman, Department of Education, 2012)

According to new Common Core State Standards, drawn up by the David Coleman quoted above, English teachers in high school shall spend more than half of their time teaching their students how to read nonfiction: not essays, but “informational” texts, such as bulletins from the Federal Reserve, court decisions, and computer manuals. That is because the students must grow into their roles as players in a global economy.

I am sorely tempted to double the consonant in that word, making it “globbal,” because in point of fact it is a contradiction in terms to suppose that anyone can be a “citizen of the globe.” Citizenship implies a city, and a city exists in a place and a time, with these neighbors, and not mountain dwellers in Tibet or fishermen on the Congo. It also implies the existence of real human beings, with thoughts about the good, and with sometimes unruly passions, who, regardless of their wealth or their age or their station in life, must address the great existential questions. What shall I love? Why am I here? Where am I going? Whom should I obey?

An image comes to my mind – Samuel Adams, having been granted a vision of the people for whose liberty he was fighting, their descendants now submitting prone to the dictates of a vast bureaucracy of education. There I see him, retching over the side of a boat in Boston Harbor. What has happened to the people’s love of liberty? Where has it gone? I suggest that it has gone the way of our belief in the dignity of the human person, who is never to be reduced to a mere counter or cell or drab functionary in an economy, globbal or otherwise. There is a connection to be drawn between disdain for liberty and disdain for the things that are peculiarly human – for example, loyalty to our parents and forebears, or our often faraway longing for what is beautiful and virtuous, or an abiding sense of the sacred, or our common worship of God.

The whole thought-provoking article (worth reading for Catholics and non-Catholics interested in or critical of the Common Core) is here.

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