In a post last week entitled "The NCEA and the Common Core: Who speaks for Catholic schools?," The Motley Monk reported that in September 2013 the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) accepted $100k+ from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"So what?", many people may ask. "The NCEA got money from the Gates Foundation to use to assist Catholic schools to implement the Common Core. They should be grateful to have received the grant money."
Insofar as The Motley Monk is concerned, the problem isn't that the Gates Foundation has been very active in promoting the Common Core (CORE) moment--a controversial set of standards, curriculum, and assessments imposed by individual states with funding from the federal government--as an antidote to what ails the nation's public schools.
Nor is the problem that the NCEA will use the money to support teacher training and materials for implementing CORE standards, ostensibly in Catholic schools.
The problem is that research conducted by the Cardinal Newman Society indicates that 60 principals representing some of the nation's top Catholic high schools have expressed strong reservations about adopting the CORE.
That's what's important: The nation's Catholic schools must not be CINO ("Catholic in Name Only")--very good private schools with a patina of "Catholic" that keeps bishops, pastors, and parents happy. They must be imbued with a Catholic ethos that animates everything transpiring in the school.
The Cardinal Newman Society is now reporting that the NCEA President, Brother Robert R. Bimonte, FSC, has responded to the questions raised concerning the grant money. In an email to NCEA members, Brother Bimonte noted that his organization is committed to working with its members to build academic excellence, defining that as "a rigorous curriculum infused with Catholic values as we prepare our students for this life and life everlasting."
In Brother Bimonte's defense of the NCEA, it seems to The Motley Monk that he may have put the proverbial "cart before the horse." Catholic values--the "grammar of Catholic schooling" that distinguishes the ethos of education as distinctively Catholic--come first, not a "rigorous curriculum" that educators then then "infuse with Catholic values" in much the same way that cooks sometimes infuse their Thanksgiving turkeys with broth to add moisture and additional flavor.
This isn't nitpicking simply because those values aren't "add on's" to a curriculum. No, they must be embraced and shared by every educator in every Catholic school...that is, if their schools are to distinguish themselves as Catholic schools.
Brother Bimonte's listing of other Catholic organizations that have received grants from the Gates Foundation--including the Archdiocese of Seattle, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic University of America and the Cristo Rey--is irrelevant. Why? An examination of those grants by the Cardinal Newman Society reveals that none are related to the CORE.
In his previous post, The Motley Monk concluded by writing:
For more than 100 years, the NCEA has presented itself as the
organization that speaks on behalf of U.S. Catholic elementary and
secondary education. In this instance, The Motley Monk wonders
whether the NCEA may not be speaking on behalf of Catholic schools
nationally, having embraced the secularist educational agenda those
60 principals fear may compromise their schools, including their
Catholic identity and curriculum.
Brother Bimonte's email fails to address that issue and doesn't inspire confidence. As NCEA President, he may have put the horse before the cart.
Let the discussion begin...
To read The Motley Monk's post "The NCEA and the Common Core: Who speaks for Catholic education?", click on the following link:
To read the Cardinal Newman Society's first report about the NCEA's grant, click on the following link:
To read the Cardinal Newman Society's follow-up report about the NCEA President's response, click on the following link: