Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Change Is Key to Survival

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Change Is Key to Survival

Article excerpt

As America continues to move from an industrial to a technological and information-based society, an acceleration in school reform initiatives has occurred across the nation. The call for school reform began in 1983 with the report "A Nation At Risk."

Unfortunately, the reform movement of the 1980s used the rearview management approach--we looked to see where we had been in the past to determine where we should go in the future with respect to American education. This approach suggested that American students needed more of the traditional academic curriculum with higher standards measured by standardized, multiple choice tests.

Business education, the largest elective program in most schools, suffered substantial enrollment declines as schools prepared to enrich their traditional academic programs. Most business educators were extremely frustrated. Although their discipline was teaching many of the skills needed for an information-based society, it received the hardest hits in terms of enrollment. Now, 12 years later, many states and the federal government are rethinking the direction of the school reform movement. New initiatives like tech prep and school-to-work and various state reports show that, while rigorous academic standards are important, standards also must be relevant.

Throughout the U.S., business educators are hopeful. They know that their discipline provides rigorous and relevant standards for students. Initiatives such as the business education standards by the National Education Association, lend credence to that belief. But here is a strong word of caution to business educators. Based upon my work in Europe and Asia, my direct involvement with school reform commissions in many states and my leadership positions in Washington, D.C., I am increasingly convinced that business education may again find itself on the low end of the enrollment spectrum.

Increasingly, state and national leaders are looking for ways to make academic disciplines more relevant, not to create new courses or to encourage enrollment in courses such as business education. They believe that the point of departure for school reform still needs to be a strong academic curriculum. Business educators see the flaw in that thinking because most academic teachers cannot provide the relevancy students so desperately need. …

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