Educators Challenged to Strenghthen Programs In Partnership with Law, Business Professional
Reno--Representatives of the nation's business and legal communities have challenged state boards of education to join them in new alliances aimed at increasing students' academic competence and awareness of their responsibilities.
The separate invitations were made here during the 19th annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Education (nasbe). And state board members, noting the federal government's move away from the development of educational programs, said they welcomed the offers of cooperation from the professional communities.
"What business really needs are people who are 'fundamentally literate,' and we haven't been getting them," said Sol Hurwitz, a senior vice president of the Council for Economic Development (ced). "I'm not here to place blame, but rather to suggest how business and the schools can work together to improve the education of tomorrow's adults."
His comments were echoed by Norman Gross, the staff director of a special law-related education committee of the American Bar Association.
'Basic Skills Training'
"We hear a lot today about basic skills training and the renewed emphasis on the three R's," he said. "These are important, no doubt, but training in citizenship skills is equally important and there's plenty of evidence that shows that this is no longer taking place in the nation's schools."
The direct participation of businessmen and members of the justice system in the classroom, both Mr. Hurwitz and Mr. Gross agreed, would help the nation's schools solve these two problems.
In support of that view, Mr. Gross cited the findings of a recent study indicating that law-related education programs can help reduce juvenile delinquency.
The programs, according to the lawyer, "don't try to preach the goodness of law to students, but rather force them to grapple with legal problems, and force them to think about methods of solving them."
According to the two-year study, which was funded by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, students in law-related education courses were less likely to accept the use of violence as a means to resolve conflicts.
Students in the courses also became less involved with delinquent peers and reported that their parents, teachers, and others students viewed them less negatively, according to Mr. Gross.
Much Strong Support
He said there are more than 400 law-related education projects in the country today, four times as many as there were a decade ago. He credited strong support from legal officials for the concept's success.
Most law-related education projects, he said, train teachers in fundamental legal concepts and provide them with a variety of approaches for introducing law into the curriculum. In addition, some programs actively involve lawyers in the classroom through mock-trial and moot-court competitions.
"Most people view law as a punitive and prescriptive thing, a negative thing to be avoided," Mr. Gross explained. "What we're trying to do is emphasize the promotive and protective aspects of law."
The message to the state board members from the business community was similar. "The business world has experts in every field who can act as adjunct teachers in the classroom," said Mr. Hurwitz, who delivered the6speech of scheduled speaker Fletcher L. Byrom, chairman of the ced. "Not only would this put additional resources at the disposal of overburdened teachers, but it would give an added dimension to the learning experience of the students," he said. "It would remove some of the barriers that separate the classroom from the 'real world'."
'A Terrible Headache'
The idea of bringing in outside experts to teach, even part time, might give teachers' unions "a terrible headache," he continued. But "the truth is" that, rather than eliminating the need for teachers, "using adjunct teachers would enhance the ability of classroom teachers to mobilize their resources more effectively," he said.
Mr. Hurwitz likened the use of businessmen as teachers to the assignment of supplementary reading assignments to students. "Although textbooks organize the curriculum in a useful way," he said, "if students were to rely solely on the information found in texts, as they unfortunately often do, they would be receiving a very shallow introduction to a subject and miss its depth."
Jack Whiteman, secretary-treasurer of nasbe, then issued a challenge of his own. He invited the ced to meet with state school board leaders within the year to develop a program based on the council's suggestions.