The Cardinal Newman Society, whose mission is to promote and defend Catholic education, has long been concerned about the encroachment of Common Core into parochial schools. They have been at the forefront in the Catholic church questioning the potential harm that the new standards initiative could have on Catholic education, even though CCSSI is not mandated for Catholic schools. The Holy Father backed up their concerns in an interview on Vatican Radio calling for an end to what he termed “educational experiments” with children and young people, pushing a “dictatorship of one form of thinking” on them in the name of a pretended “modernity”.  CNS’s Renewal Report for Summer 2014 sums up their views on Common Core nicely and introduces us to a word that we all should consider adding to our lexicon – Subsidiarity.

CNS writes,

In the Church, the principle of subsidiarity directs that human events are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the individuals affected by the decisions being made. …This principle provides a great strength for Catholic schools as it gives the local diocesan and school community the ability to make decisions at the school level related to guidelines and curriculum. It also allows for adjustments and adaptations to be made by teachers and administrators for the children under their care.

So many things wrong in education today are a result of the loss of subsidiarity:

  • School lunch programs that are resulting in increased cost and waste streams
  • Age and content inappropriate literature selection in schools due to standards text recommendation
  • Zero tolerance policies resulting in things like a 5 year old having to sign a confession for sexual harassment.
  • Washington state losing its NCLB waiver because their teacher evaluation program did not completely match the ideal set in Washington DC.
  • The eternal beg for money for education because districts are chasing someone else’s goals which were not set with their needs or financial limitations in mind.

We can see how far we have strayed from subsidiarity in Missouri when we look at districts who feel stuck in limbo because of the new law passed here, HB1490. For a period of two years we will have a set of standards in the state which local districts will not be held strictly accountable to and many of them don’t know what they will do for those two years. That is because they have become so accustomed to someone from outside the district tellking them what to do that when that flow of directives stop they are lost. I have no doubt that if they felt they had subsidiarity they could easily develop curricula and lesson plans that fit the needs and limitations of the local district. The loss of subsidiarity leads to weakness in our local leaders, and that weakness is being laid bare right now.

Its always better to be FOR something than simply AGAINST something. Those of us fighting the four assurances in Race To The Top, the NCLB waivers and the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds are fighting for subsidiarity. If we are able to achieve it, our local leaders will become stronger and finally things will start making sense.


Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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