Education's Return to Basics

September 12, 1975

Report Outline
Emergence of Swing Toward Tradition
Major Trends in American Education
Some Current Directions in Pedagogy
Special Focus

Emergence of Swing Toward Tradition

Causes of Parental Dessatsfaction With Teaching

As the fall school term opens, there is a growing feeling among many parents that the public schools have not paid enough attention to the three traditional standbys—namely reading, writing and arithmetic. On one level, this feeling is related to dissatisfaction with the educational innovations of the 1960s and the belief that the schools have become too permissive. On another level, it is related to the growing mistrust of American institutions in general and the desire to recapture the stable, traditional values that have somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. “Some people are looking for greater regimentation,” said Alonzo Crim, superintendent of schools in Atlanta. “As they view society in somewhat of a shambles, they feel a more conservative approach is better preparation for their young people.” “People are worried their children aren't respecting the old values,” Bob Mackin, director of the National Alternative Schools Program at the University of Massachusetts, told Editorial Research Reports, “so they want to impose the basics on them.”

The desire to return to traditional methods of teaching also goes hand in hand with the fiscal conservatism of the times. “‘Back to basics’ implies things used to be better,” said Dr. Vito Perrone, dean of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Dakota. “I don't think this is the case, but the slogan sells well in a time of recession.” According to a nationwide survey of school district budgets conducted by Market Data Retrieval, an educational research company based in Westport, Conn., the average cost of educating a student in the nation's public schools rose from $553.95 during the 1967–68 school year to $1,168.22 during 1974–75. Many parents are beginning to wonder if they are getting their money's worth. “As things begin to cost more, we tend to look at them more closely,” said George Weber of the Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit educational organization in Washington, D.C. “The public is getting more information on the outcome of innovative teaching methods and they're finding out the innovations aren't giving results.”

Weber also pointed out that parents have noticed an increase in disciplinary problems in the schools. “Rightly or wrongly, the public tends to associate discipline problems with poor academic performance,” he remarked. In five of the last six years, Americans have regarded discipline as the biggest problem facing public schools, according to the annual Gallup Poll of Public Attitudes Toward Education.

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Sep. 12, 1975  Education's Return to Basics
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