Wow. Has it really come to this? To dissent on Common Core gets you banned from using Church property?
An event established to discuss the Common Core curriculum and its role in Catholic schools has been barred from a parish after the Superintendent of Schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee discouraged them from hosting the event.
The Milwaukee chapter of Catholics United for the Faith was forced to reschedule their upcoming lecture “Common Core: Dangers and Threats to Catholic Identity” with Dr. Duke Pesta, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh and a former Catholic high school teacher, from a parish hall to a nearby hotel.
The event was originally scheduled to take place on November 17th at St. John the Evangelist’s Church Hall in Wisconsin, according to the flyer from Catholics United for the Faith.
But, A.P. Szews, President of St. Gregory’s VII Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, received a phone call alerting him that the event could not be held on parish property any longer because of Dr. Pesta’s involvement.
Pesta, who is one of the foremost critics of the Common Core curriculum, testified against Common Core in at a public hearing in Wisconsin and has been outspoken about the dangers of the new curriculum to Catholic identity. He even recently appeared on the Drew Mariani show on Relevant Radio to discuss this issue.
Szews called the archdiocese shortly receiving word that the event was banned from using the parish hall and received a response from Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, via email.
Cepelka wrote that while she has no direct authority over the parish she did say she had been asked about the event with Dr. Pesta. She wrote, “I discouraged having him speak at St. John’s because it’s my understanding that he has shared views in other places which are contrary to the good faith efforts of St. John the Evangelist School and the entire Archdiocesan Schools program which attempts to provide the strongest academic program possible for our students.”
Szews told me he was stunned that just questioning the Common Core curriculum was sufficient to get an event barred from a parish. “There is no dogma or doctrine involved here,” he said. “This is about the powers that be not wanting people to make up their minds based on the facts that Dr. Pesta is going to present.”
Dr. Pesta told me, “Without being hyperbolic it’s borderline Inquisitorial.”
“In her email she makes the argument that whether or not Common Core is good or bad, to argue against it is against their good faith efforts and therefore not permitted,” he said. “She’s not willing to let parishioners make up their minds for themselves.”
Cepelka was quoted in the archdiocese’s Catholic Herald saying that the archdiocese is working to align courses in Catholic schools with the Common Core State Standards.
“What Common Core involves is developing thinking skills in students. There is no dictation at all of content or curriculum,” she reportedly said. “Common Core is a set of benchmarks or goals we would want any student who graduates from our schools to develop.”
Julie Wolf, the communications director for the archdiocese, confirmed to me that the CUF’s presentation was scheduled at the parish but the principal of the parish school contacted Cepelka and asked for her “advice and input.”
“Typically those decisions are made at the parish level,” said Wolf. “We don’t mandate what the parishes or schools do but sometimes people come to her for advice.”
It was shortly after Cepelka shared her advice that the event was cancelled.
The CUF was forced to attempt to get the word out late about the change in venue to a nearby hotel. “Maybe this is what the good Lord had planned all along,” said Szews. “Sometimes the Lord just wants to see if you can make lemonade out of lemons.”
Calls to St. John the Evangelist parish were not returned.