Business lobbyists argue that students should cover specific content and achieve certain learning outcomes, such as basic proficiency in reading, writing and maths. Rather than tailor the curriculum to the interests and talents of the children, the aim of the standardised testing movement is to define core knowledge and coerce schools to teach it.
In Australia, for example, “support for more rigorous examinations was coupled with demands for a more traditional academic curriculum and demands for an end to undiscipline, moral license and progressivist experiments.”
Critic Kevin Donnelly, who writes on education policy for the Australian corporate-funded think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), criticised the progressive paradigm for seeking to teach students rather than subjects and being based on “a belief that education was essentially a political process where students had to be ‘socially critical’ and ‘empowered’ in order to enable them to ‘challenge the status quo’”.
Businesspeople, policy makers, think tankers, and politicians around the world began pushing for a return to education as character building in the 1980s, under the banner of ‘excellence’. Excellence was a euphemism for discipline, business-determined standards, a narrow academic approach, and traditional values. The call for “excellence for all” was a way of displacing concerns about equity.
Many of the characteristics of a Back-to-Basics education are being reintroduced into schools, under the rubric of the business push for educational excellence. Various US reports published during the 1980s by business-funded groups (including reports from the Carnegie Foundation, The Twentieth Century Fund, and The Governor’s Commission on the States) agreed that what schools needed included:
Alfie Kohn, author of several books on school education, notes that in many business publications:
You will see derision for such innovations as whole language, cooperative learning, inclusive education, and an emphasis on the active construction of ideas. You will see very little commitment to helping students become lifelong learners and questioners, caring and cooperative people who value democratic participation and social justice.
Learning is implicitly conceived as filling students with facts…
If you have any examples or updates you would like to contribute please email them to me and I will add them here. Please give references for where you sourced the information.