Hillsdale Professor Dr. Terrence Moore: Common Core Destroys Minds and Souls


Terrence O. Moore, professor of history at Hillsdale College says that today’s students are not prepared for college:


The students going off to college these days, at least those who come from the public schools, for the most part, cannot have a serious discussion about even one work of literature. Not one. The freshman year of college… is a crash course in learning how to read and write at anything beyond a basic level. Learning, in short, what high school did not teach you but should have taught you. And the new [Common Core] Standards that we’re talking about are not going to help that. In fact, they will make it worse.

Moore, a former Marine with a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh served as the founding principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools for seven years and is the principal advisor to Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Initiative where he has helped start four classical charter schools and is helping found a dozen others. He recently gave a lecture about the Common Core Standards at Hillsdale’s Allen P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington, D.C. based on his book, The Story-Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core. Moore says that more important than the recently-invented notion of “college and career readiness” is the question of “what kind of mind, indeed, what kind of soul will you have” after going through the Common Core?

The outlook is grim, according to Moore. “In short, your English classes would have taken you down one of two roads: that of utter boredom caused by all the nonsense you had to suffer, or if you actually took these lessons seriously, down the depressing path of a prematurely jaded, post-modern, anti-heroic view of life.” In the later case, says Moore,“you would have been intellectually and morally debilitated.” And in neither case would you have learned how to be more human.


The Common Core will “take away the great stories of the American people and replace them with the stories that fit the progressive liberal narrative of the world.” Moore calls the architects of the Common core story-killers saying, “they’re deliberately killing the greatest stories of the greatest nation in history.” The great works of literature are being replaced by “informational texts” and recent articles written by journalists. Not only are we losing the great works of literature, but, Moore writes in his book, also “what we might call the Great American Story of people longing to be free and happy under their own self-government.” They will be killed by a “deadly combination of neglect, amputation, misinterpretation, subtle and not-so-subtle criticism, and a further dumbing-down of the nation’s classrooms.”

Moore rejects calls for what the so-called experts refer to as “college and career readiness for a 21st century global economy,” asking where we can find the college presidents who are calling for such an education and which schools have tested these new standards. “The 45 states that have adopted the Common core standards with little — almost no — public discussion bought the farm sight unseen.” He explains that attending college and obtaining a career are byproducts of a good education that should include studying truth, beauty, goodness and the virtues of courage, justice, industriousness and prudence.

“For almost 400 years in this country and almost 2000 in the history of the West, truth and knowledge and beauty and virtue were the aims of education.”



Moore’s Story-Killers book goes painstakingly through the Common Core standards and textbooks to demonstrate the devastating loss of our cultural heritage if states continue with their implementation. His speech at the Kirby Center gives an overview of his findings, including the elimination of  authors like Benjamin Franklin, Hans Christian Anderson, and Plato and the absence of texts inspired by religion.

“We used to speak of our culture as being descended from two parents: Athens on the one hand, Jerusalem on the other. What’s going on in the Common Core standards is they’ve killed off one of the parents — that’s Jerusalem, and the other one is ailing, so pretty soon we’ll be cultural orphans.”

He also demonstrates the cultural and anti-American biases in the standards and in the new textbooks that are aligned to the standards and concludes, “When you actually get into the textbooks you descend into the world of absurdity and bias and lost opportunities.”

Perhaps the broader point that you will come away with after watching this lecture is how modern American children are being shortchanged and how the education they receive in most schools today not only bears almost no resemblance to what was considered a “good” education for most of our American history, but it also leaves them woefully unprepared to deal with the complexities of modern life. “The discussion over education in this country has been impoverished for so long that anything proposed as a school reform can look attractive to people who are grasping at any solution, any remedy. In a town that doesn’t have a doctor, sometimes the snake oil salesman looks pretty good.” And so we have students arriving at college incapable of having a serious discussion about even a single work of literature.


Moore concludes that all Americans have a stake in the Common Core debate, whether or not they have children in the schools. “And so if your taxes are going towards creating the kind of citizen and even a kind of human being who is very unlike what the founding fathers had thought this nation ought to be and very unlike, frankly, what nature says we ought to be, then you have a dog in that fight,” he says.

“And you need to fight that issue as hard as you can. And that is what I think is happening in the common core. It’s galvanizing a lot of people who weren’t in the fight and that’s a great thing.”


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