Five Reasons Christians are Concerned about Common Core

By Julie Roys
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A recent survey found that only 25% of public school parents support Common Core, the controversial national standards for English-language arts and math created in 2009 and currently adopted by 43 states. Part of this lack of enthusiasm likely stems from the frustration some feel over the cumbersome methods required by the Common Core. The math standards, for example, require students to learn multiple ways to solve even very simple problems and then to explain how they got their answers. But, perhaps most disconcerting for many Christian parents are the suspicions that have been voiced about Common Core’s true agenda.

Though Common Core ostensibly was sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the standards were actually written by Achieve Inc., a D.C.-based non-profit, which includes many progressive education reformers. And, bankrolling both Achieve and the adoption lobbying effort was none other than the Left-leaning Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For this reason and others, some say the standards have a very progressive, or even socialist, agenda. Yet, others maintain they are simply a means of standardizing public education. We’ll discuss this issue in detail tomorrow on Up For Debate. Until then, here are five common reasons some Christians are opposed to Common Core.

Please feel free to share your opposition or support in the comments below.

1. Common Core Amounts to a Federal Takeover of Education 

The Common Core standards are voluntary. States don’t have to adopt or follow them, and for good reason: the law that created the federal Department of Education in 1979 specifically forbids it from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” of schools.

But instead of direct mandates, the Obama administration is conditioning some federal funding on whether or not states embrace the standards. In fact, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the administration for illegally manipulating grant money in order to force adoption of Common Core.

With the recent federal mandates on gay marriage and other progressive cultural issues, it is easy to see why some Christians are concerned about having the government too involved in education standards, too.

2. Common Core Politicizes Learning

If the government is telling schools what they must teach, what is to stop them from requiring schools to teach things Christians oppose? The Home School Legal Defense Association examined the Common Core standards and writes:

“Three threads of philosophy weave through the Common Core—statism, moral relativism, and progressivism, which are revealed both by what is proclaimed and what is omitted. The statist goals of the Common Core are implicit in the lockstep uniformity that is the central thesis of the program. All children in all states will learn the same content in the same manner so that the children may become useful workers… Finally, we see progressivism in the view that all that is new is inherently superior to that which comes from prior generations of human knowledge.”

While proponents say that Common Core does not require the use of any certain curriculum that might contain a progressive agenda, Columnist George Will argued in the Washington Post that states will eventually have to conform to a common curriculum: “What begins with mere national standards must breed ineluctable pressure to standardize educational content. Targets, metrics, guidelines and curriculum models all induce conformity in instructional materials. All of this will take a toll on parental empowerment, and none of this will escape the politicization of learning like that already rampant in higher education.” 

One only has to look at the nonsense taught in colleges and universities in the name of inclusion and political correctness to get an idea of what could be forced on elementary, middle and high-school students in the future.

3. Christian Families Will be Forced to Comply

“Common Core creates another tool for big government (judges, legislators, and education policymakers) to control the beliefs and actions of parents and their students.” — Kevin Theriot, Alliance Defending Freedom

Technically, private Christian schools and homeschooled students don’t have to follow the Common Core standards. But some Christian parents are concerned about the consequences of not following them. Will their kids be able to get into college if they haven’t had Common Core tests? 

The primary author of Common Core, David Coleman, is president of The College Board, which administers the PSAT and SAT tests — both of which are being aligned to the Common Core. Students who want to attend college won’t be able to avoid the standards.

Writing for Christianity Today, Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the standards may threaten religious liberty. “Common Core creates another tool for big government (judges, legislators, and education policymakers) to control the beliefs and actions of parents and their students,” he said.  He added that government control “is likely to creep into parochial schools and even homeschooling through national education standards specifying what all students must be taught in order to move on to higher education.” 

4. Common Core Reduces Local Control of Schools

Traditionally, parents, teachers, and local administrators have had a great deal of control over the American education system through locally governed public school districts. One of the largest complaints against Common Core is that it leaves little room for districts to set their own standards.

“Common Core eliminates local control over K-12 curriculum in math and English, instead imposing a one-size-fits-all, top-down curriculum that will also apply to private schools and homeschoolers,” attorney Rachel Alexander wrote for Christian Post.

The group Truth in American Education points out that the standards are owned by non-government entities and can’t legally be modified by local schools: “States adopting the non-public domain, privately owned, copyrighted CCSS must adhere 100% without change. States may add up to 15%. The CCSS are privately owned by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, both non-government entities.” 

5. Common Core Distorts the Reason for Education

“The omission of the pursuit of truth as a core goal of the Common Core demonstrates its alliance with the dominant philosophy of modern education that there are neither absolute truths nor absolute values.” — Home School Legal Defense Association

Instead of education as a pursuit of truth, Common Core emphasizes training of good workers. It’s a philosophy that is in opposition to what many Christian’s see as the goal of education.

“Traditionally, education has been premised on the notion that all education of value is designed to know truth that only can be fully known in God,” the Home School Legal Defense Association writes. “The omission of the pursuit of truth as a core goal of the Common Core demonstrates its alliance with the dominant philosophy of modern education that there are neither absolute truths nor absolute values.” 

Of course absolute truth is a bedrock of Christianity. Teaching children that there is no such thing understandably concerns parents.

“I want my children to know that two plus two is four, that there are absolutes, that there are right and wrong answers,” Alice Linahan, cofounder of Women on the Wall, told NBC News. “These kiddos are not developmentally ready for this deeper, rigorous thinking.” 



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4 thoughts on “Five Reasons Christians are Concerned about Common Core”

  1. I usually side with Christians on social issues. But for the concerns of Common Core, I have a hard time understanding those who oppose the standards. I’ve been in the education filed for about 10 years now. I have conducted extensive studies on the math standards because it is my job to teach teachers how to implement the standards. I have yet to find a standard I vehemently oppose or thought was futile. In the beginning of the article you stated that the CC math standards require students to explain their reasoning. What is so wrong about justifying your thinking? Pastors do it every sermon. We do it everyday. Why do we oppose kids explaining how they got an answer and why? Why do you oppose kids learning multiple strategies to solve a problem. We do it daily. When I’m faced with an issue, I look at the issue from different perspectives and I believe that’s what strategies do for kids.I live in Florida and due to the opposition to CC, we made very little changes to the standards (depending on which grade you are referring to) and changed the name to Florida Standards. Because of a name change most people are okay with the standards. That ludicrous. My review of the standards show theirs not drastic change between CC and our old NGSS standards.
    The reason I bought into CC is because I believe the expectations should be the same for every child regardless of their homestead. For example, why should students in Massachusetts learn tougher contents than students in Alabama? Shouldn’t the expectations be the same. What if a kid moves from Alabama to Massachusetts? If that child is not use to the rigor of Massachusetts standards then they will struggle. Another thing I noticed is that other countries like Singapore; a country who consistently outperform the US in mathematics, have a single curriculum. Everyone in the country learn the same standards. This makes sense to me. This levels out the playing field. Again, as a Christian I try to side with Christians on all social issues but I have not heard an efficient and yet articulate argument against Common Core.

  2. I could not agree more with Mickii. I am a Christian and an educator and I get frustrated at the ill-informed reasons so many Christians/conservatives jump on this fear ban-wagon of anti-Common Core. I work in a school with dozens of good, principled, dedicated, believing, (and on the average) conservative teachers. Not one of them, after learning and studying the CC standards, has come to the nefarious conclusions that are plastered all over the internet by conservative conspiracy theorists. The Math Standards encourage deeper understanding of the foundation principles of mathematics; the reading standards encourage a higher degree of critical thinking. I fail to see the virtue of a campaign against such goals.

  3. Thank you Mikki and Matt. I too am a Christian math educator (teaching math for 39 years in public schools). Both of you made great arguments for Common Core standards and I will not repeat those here. I only know math so my comments will only refer to that subject. The basis for the Common Core standards in math were developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (also known as NCTM), a large association of math teachers and professors. In 1989 the NCTM leadership put out some standards which are now called the Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP), and there are 8 of them. In a shortened version, one is “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them” (or persevere and don’t give up). Students tend to “give up on math” when they don’t get it quickly — not a trait we want our children to have in any area of their lives, including their Christian “walk.” The purpose behind this SMP is to get students to think and make connections to previous mathematical concepts they have learned — this idea in itself will take them far in school and college. I have actually taught using these standards since 1991 when my own daughter was in my classroom and learned to persevere in math. I only wish her daughter (my granddaughter) would have had the same opportunity so that as a college student she wouldn’t need tutoring on topics that were “covered” in her math classes in high school, because she did not “learn” them; something you truly learn is knowledge you retain. (And, by the way, I am not “running down her math teachers — they were teaching as they had been taught to teach.) Her teachers taught her to memorize the processes to do math, not to understand the concepts behind them. Understanding the math concepts is what the Common Core Math standards strive for. (You can go to and see all the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics from kindergarten through high school, as well as the complete list of the Standards for Mathematical Practice.). The pursuit of truth is involved in “understanding” math, and I too fail to see any virtue of a campaign against such goals.

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