School-Business Program Survives Challenge in California System
Davis, Calif--A widely used national program that brings business representatives into junior-high-school classrooms has survived, at least for the time being, what appears to be its first serious challenge.
Without taking a formal vote, trustees of the Davis Joint Unified School District in this University of California community 13 miles west of Sacramento gave permission on Nov. 3 for the trial program to continue until an evaluation can be conducted at the end of the current semester.
The program, called Project Business, is operated by Junior Achievement, the well-known national nonprofit organization. Its officials estimate the program will reach 11,000 classes enrolling 275,000 students nationwide this year.
Under the program, trained business representatives appear as guest speakers in junior-high classrooms--usually for one hour each week for 15 weeks--to discuss such basic business principles as supply and demand, competition, production, marketing and consumerism, and career exploration.
Project Business came under criticism in Davis from parents who objected that the curriculum was "simplistic" and "capitalist propaganda." After accounts of the criticism appeared in newspapers here and in Sacramento, the school board began a review of the program.
Until last month, the program had not encountered serious opposition anywhere in the nation, and demand is "so high we can't meet it," said Claudia B. Barlow of Baltimore, Project Business director for the Atlantic Coast region of Junior Achievement.
"I have never seen this kind of controversy over our materials and the style we use," said Ms. Barlow, who visited Davis at the request of local supporters of the program.
"If anything, we get high praise," she said.
At Holmes and Emerson Junior High Schools in Davis, Project Business is a unit in a new American-studies course--a two-hour combination of English and social studies--that is being offered as a pilot program this semester.
Enrollment has been open to about 30 highly motivated, high-achieving 8th-grade students at each school. A bank vice president has conducted one of the Project Business classes, and a travel-agency executive has conducted the other.
Mary Gottlieb, a parent and former teacher, told the school board that the program's curriculum is "unbalanced, pro-business, pro-profitmaking." Ms. Gottlieb said the program was a "further dilution" of an earlier American-history course, and she questioned the desirability of a "sales pitch" in the class. "I really feel the program should be stopped right now," she said.
'Very Worthwhile Program'
However, Dr. Arthur B. Dublin, chief of neuroradiology at the medical school of the University of California at Davis, described the program as "very worthwhile."
It seeks, he said, "not to try to sell a product, but to educate children to the real world, part of which is business. ... I think that if one has criticisms about the capitalist system, one should at least be exposed to it and try to understand it."
Robert Jacobson, financial vice president of a Sacramento computer firm, said the Project Business organization in this area invited Ms. Barlow to come from Baltimore because of "some gross inaccuracies" in the way the program has been portrayed by its opponents.
Ms. Barlow said the business representatives appearing in classrooms are instructed: "Don't preach. Present the facts as you know them--the kinds of things you know by your own experience."