The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can't Be Businesses

The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can't Be Businesses

The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can't Be Businesses

The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can't Be Businesses

Synopsis

"Ford Motor Company would not have survived the competition had it not been for an emphasis on results. We must view education the same way," the U. S. Secretary of Education declared in 2003. But is he right? In this provocative new book, Larry Cuban takes aim at the alluring clicheacute; that schools should be more businesslike, and shows that in its long history in business-minded America, no one has shown that a business model can be successfully applied to education. In this straight-talking book, one of the most distinguished scholars in education charts the Gilded Age beginnings of the influential view that American schools should be organized to meet the needs of American businesses, and run according to principles of cost-efficiency, bottom-line thinking, and customer satisfaction. Not only are schools by their nature not businesslike, Cuban argues, but the attempt to run them along business lines leads to dangerous over-standardization--of tests, and of goals for our children. Why should we think that there is such a thing as one best school? Is "college for all" achievable--or even desirable? Even if it were possible, do we really want schools to operate as bootcamps for a workforce? Cuban suggests that the best business-inspired improvement for American education would be more consistent and sustained on-the-job worker training, tailored for the job to be done, and business leaders' encouragement--and adoption--of an ethic of civic engagement and public service.

Excerpt

To the renowned social reformer Jane Addams, business leaders’ selfinterest and what children were taught in public schools converged. Addams told a meeting of the National Education Association in 1897: “The business man has, of course, not said to himself: ‘Iwill have the public school train office boys and clerks for me, so that I may have them cheap,’ but he has thought, and sometimes said, ‘Teach the children to write legibly, and to figure accurately and quickly; to acquire the habits of punctuality and order; to be prompt to obey, and not question why; and you will fit them to make their way in the world as I have made mine.’”

Two decades later, the ardent progressive school reformer and Stanford University professor Ellwood Cubberley went further than Addams in describing the links between U.S. businesses and public schools: “Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.” . . .

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