October 16, 2021

College Student asks ArchBishop to Drop Common Core

Loveland resident Paul Mittermeier, who wrote an open letter to Archbishop Schnurr opposing Common Core, in a photo taken for Hillsdale College.

Loveland resident Paul Mittermeier, who wrote an open letter to Archbishop Schnurr opposing Common Core, in a photo taken for Hillsdale College.

The following open letter to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr was published Monday in the Cincinnati Enquirer as “Student to Archbishop: Drop Common Core.” It has been republished by Ohio Catholics Against Common Core, Ohians Agains Common Core, and other groups opposed to Common Core State Standards. Reproduced with permission.

To the Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati,

It is with great reluctance that I address this letter to Your Excellency today, and it is with the sincerest concern for the hearts and minds of the children who have been entrusted to your Archdiocese, and for the integrity of our shared Catholic dogma that I bring to public attention a disturbing course of action on the part of the Archdiocese. As a lifelong Catholic and Cincinnatian, a student, and a product of the Dominican and Jesuit traditions, I know firsthand the difference a Catholic education can yield in the life of a child, not only from the perspective of holistic faith-formation, but also in an academic sense given the rigor and individualization of Catholic curricula. The unique merging of challenging academic content with Catholic doctrine in a socially-enriching environment is a school choice that I value exceedingly, which is why the Archdiocese’s adoption of the untested Common Core State Standards, which jeopardizes this distinct brand of education, dismays me.

Your Excellency, the exploration of quintessentially Catholic works is among the most valuable and characteristic functions of a Catholic institution. Given that CCSS drives standardized assessments, which shape the curricula of Catholic teachers who will now be evaluated by their pupils’ test scores in accordance with federal mandate, and given that Common Core ELA standards lend no credence to Catholic texts or concepts, where is the foreseeable value in the imposition of these standards? What a travesty that Catholic educators should be discouraged from assessing both the literary and theological implications of Augustine’s “Confessions” and other religious works in the classroom simply because they do not fit national consortia’s conception of what it means to be “college and career ready,” and what a pity that the Church in Cincinnati should condone such an insular and utilitarian understanding of preparedness. What a shame that Catholic education should be robbed of its definitive tenets and made to be like any other nationalized option, thereby decreasing school choice and indicting the rich heritage of Christian learning.

Moreover, if the Church contends that parents, clergy and Catholic educators are to serve as a child’s primary influences in learning and faith-formation, how might one reconcile the Catholic model with reforms that remove parents from the education process, reduce teachers to paper-pushers, and concern learning with the vocational rather than the metaphysical, thereby elevating state over church? Your Excellency, our Archdiocese already had standards; they regularly outperformed the standards of other local schools. Why, then, should we abandon them and adopt untried standards that cannot be altered due to national copyright, that experts have deemed developmentally inappropriate, that violate the principles of federalism via Race to the Top, and that mine students’ longitudinal data? I implore you to heed the mounting concerns of your flock and to reconsider your adoption of Common Core for the sake of your Archdiocese’s children and the integrity of Catholic education itself.

Paul Mittermeier, a sophomore at Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI), is from Loveland and is a graduate of St. Gertrude Elementary School and St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. An advocate of federalism and Classical education, he supports allowing Ohio parents to opt out of Common Core-aligned testing. This summer he testified before the Ohio Rules & References Committee in support of Ohio HB 597, which would repeal Common Core in the state.

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