Common Core is a set of academic standards for K-12 students in math and English that outline what students should know at the end of each grade level. The standards were created to establish consistent education goals across the United States and ensure students graduate high school with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and careers.
Common Core has been adopted by 42 states, but has also faced controversy and opposition from some parents, educators, and legislators. Critics argue that Common Core represents government overreach into education, imposes developmentally inappropriate expectations on students, collects extensive data on children, and uses untested teaching methods. Some Christians specifically take issue with perceived conflicts between Common Core and biblical principles.
As Christians, how should we think about Common Core? What does the Bible say that might guide our perspective? This post will examine Common Core standards in light of scriptural principles and wisdom.
- The Bible supports education but does not prescribe specific standards or methodologies. Christians have liberty in determining how to best educate children.
- There are some concerning aspects of Common Core, like developmentally inappropriate expectations and data collection. Christians should thoughtfully evaluate these factors.
- The Bible emphasizes wisdom, truth, virtue and service. Common Core’s focus on college and career readiness is limited; Christian education must aim higher.
- Parents have the primary authority and responsibility over their child’s education and worldview formation.
- Christians can thoughtfully engage with Common Core, utilizing what aligns with biblical principles and rejecting that which contradicts. We do not need to uncritically accept or completely reject Common Core.
The Bible Promotes Education But Does Not Mandate Specific Standards
The Bible highly values wisdom, knowledge and education. Proverbs 4:13 says, “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life.” We read throughout Proverbs exhortations to pursue knowledge, wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 4:5, 7, 8, 23:12). Moses instructed the Israelites to teach God’s commandments to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, 11:19). The prophetic writings also portray education in a positive light.
However, the Bible does not prescribe exactly what children should learn at different ages or grade levels. It emphasizes the cultivation of wisdom but does not impose specific academic standards or methodologies. Christians have liberty to determine what constitutes a solid education. This grants the flexibility to thoughtfully interact with and evaluate systems like Common Core against biblical principles.
Some Concerns With Common Core Are Valid
While the intentions behind Common Core may be good, there are some concerning aspects that warrant consideration:
Developmentally Inappropriate Expectations – Some education experts and child development specialists believe Common Core imposes academic expectations on young children that are unrealistic and inappropriate for their developmental stage. This can cause undue stress and frustration.
“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)
Jesus taught that children have a special place in God’s kingdom. We should thoughtfully consider developmental appropriateness.
Data Collection – Common Core assessment systems can collect 400+ data points per student, tracking their academic progress throughout their school career. While good data can improve education, excessive data collection raises privacy concerns.
“Each of you should be careful not to share your wisdom with the proud, but be humble and open to what God is teaching you.” (Proverbs 3:7)
Children are not statistics. We should be cautious about tracking data on kids that could be misused.
Untested Methods – Common Core presents new teaching methods that have not been field tested or proven effective. It is concerning to implement sweeping, untested changes to an education system.
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)
Wisdom cautions against hastily adopting unproven methods that could inadvertently harm students. Changes should be incremental and carefully evaluated.
Common Core’s Focus Is Too Narrow
A significant focus of Common Core is preparing students for college and careers. While this isn’t bad, it represents a limited view of education’s purpose. True Christian education must aim higher.
David wrote that the purpose of education is to make one “wise in the ways of the LORD” (Proverbs 9:9). Beyond intellectual knowledge, education should impart wisdom, virtue, character and biblical truth that enables one to rightly follow and serve God. Jesus said to first “seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). While practical skills matter, the foremost goal of education should be forming students’ character to fulfill their calling in God’s kingdom.
Common Core’s emphasis on college and career readiness fails to encompass education’s higher spiritual purpose. Christians should thoughtfully evaluate if Common Core’s standards wisely guide students toward knowledge and character that aligns with biblical truth.
Parents Have the Primary Educational Authority Over Children
A foundational biblical principle is that parents hold the primary responsibility and authority to direct their children’s education and upbringing. Common Core shifts education authority away from parents toward government bureaucrats.
The Bible instructs parents:
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
Parents are accountable before God to provide their children with a godly education rooted in biblical truth. Standards imposed without parental involvement usurp the parent’s God-given authority. Christians should consider if Common Core improperly subordinates the rightful educational authority of parents.
Christians Should Thoughtfully Interact With Common Core
How then should Christians respond to Common Core? We need discernment to distinguish valuable aspects from concerning elements. Rather than uncritically accepting or completely rejecting Common Core, we can interact thoughtfully.
We can utilize what aligns with biblical principles – rigorous standards or effective teaching methods – while rejecting problematic elements that contradict Scripture and wisdom. We should be informed truth-seekers, wisely navigating challenging issues.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Rather than reacting reflexively, Christians must renew their minds through God’s word to discern His perfect will, even in complicated matters like education. We can thoughtfully engage Common Core through the lens of spiritual discernment.
Specific Biblical Principles Relating to Education Standards
Beyond these broad principles, we can also examine specific biblical themes and verses that may relate to education standards:
A Well-Rounded Education – Standards should encompass not just STEM subjects but also humanities that develop wisdom.
“Select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials” (Exodus 18:21)
Standards should equip students with biblical wisdom that enables good leadership and governance.
Developmental Appropriateness – Standards should align with children’s developmental stage.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child…” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Children think differently than adults. Standards shouldn’t force advanced reasoning prematurely.
Rest and Balance – Standards should not overburden students but allow rest and enjoyment.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3)
Children need to experience joy and wonder, not just rigorous academics.
Instruction in Righteousness – Standards should develop character and values, not just intellect.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Academics should connect to character development. Standards shouldn’t only cover raw informational knowledge.
Love, Mercy and Justice – Standards should incorporate biblical themes of mercy, justice, reconciliation, kindness, etc. that reflect God’s values.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Biblical principles should infuse standards across subjects, not just religion class.
The Great Commission – Standards should not prohibit students from freely sharing their faith or restrict religious expression.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)
Christian students should be free to live out biblical faith as citizens in public schools.
The Bible does not definitively endorse or prohibit Common Core. Christians have freedom to evaluate these education standards against biblical principles and determine what is best for their children. There are aspects of Common Core that may be concerning, like developmental appropriateness, data collection, and untested methods. At the same time, high standards of academic rigor can be valuable. Wise and discerning engagement with Common Core is needed.
As Christians, we must aim higher than simply college and career readiness. Education must impart true wisdom, virtue, character and biblical truth to equip the next generation to serve God’s kingdom. Parents have the primary authority over their children’s education. Overall, Christians should critically and thoughtfully interact with Common Core – utilizing what aligns with biblical values but rejecting what violates developmentally appropriate expectations, parental authority or religious freedom. Through spiritual discernment and Scripture, we can make wise decisions about these standards.