School Teacher Career Development

Education Administrators Associates
Consultation and Resource for Educators
Education Administrators Associates was initiated by Dr. John Brownridge, an educator and school principal with extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Education, and experience in both North America and the United Kingdom. EAA's objective is to offer resource, assistance, and consultation to professional educators in the English-speaking world.

A variety of issues of interest and concern to educators will be presented and considered in this blog on a weekly basis. All educators, whether teachers, administrators or consultants, are invited to comment on the Contacts Page.

None of us can be experts in every field. Yet, as teachers we are expected to be knowledgeable on a whole range of topics, especially those that relate directly or indirectly to education. The parents of our students frequently have questions and concerns about curriculum, special programs, and new innovations they have heard about through news media. Our colleagues, friends and acquaintances may seek explanations and definitions. It is in our own interest to have a cursory knowledge of issues outside our areas of expertise, and to be capable of providing some insight into a variety of educational topics.

This weekly blog will explore many educational topics. Please check in on a regular basis, and do feel free to submit your comments and questions on the Contacts Page. As teachers, we have a wealth of experience to share.

John Brownridge

This Week

Societal Concerns About Declining Standards in Education

Some philosophers and sociologists, notably Pierre Bourdieu, have discussed the phenomenon of dominant and exclusive practices within a single culture. Prevailing or governing groups, it is claimed, are able to subjectively legitimize their values and priorities to the disadvantage of subordinate groups. These values are then portrayed as desirable societal values and any variation or modification is seen as deplorable and unacceptable. This attitude has historically been evident in cultural practices, in life style, and in political structures, but in the late 20th century it has been most evident in education.

The pejorative term “dumbing down” has been frequently used to refer to an inappropriate simplification or degradation of intellectual standards to the point that creativity and innovation are seriously affected. It is thought by some that standards themselves are undermined and trivialized by the introduction of non-traditional courses at the university or college level. As the knowledge base of popular culture infringes on areas of traditional academic excellence, many traditionalists are alarmed and shocked at the apparent departure from academic standards. The changes are evident, but they are not necessarily detrimental to the needs of a modern society.

Many western countries, including the United States, have taken positive steps to expand opportunities for higher education in recent times, and some have identified targets of up to 50% student enrolment in such programs. This combined with an urgent need for funding has led to a major increase in university places and the acceptance of many students with poor high school grades into three and four-year degree programs. Media reports have been highly critical of this development, claiming that standards have been drastically reduced to accommodate students whose applications would have been otherwise rejected.

Some programs such as psychology, media studies and political science have become key targets for criticism, although the representation of such courses is often erroneous or inaccurate. Critics claim that the content of these courses is not as rigorous as one would expect, though they do have relevance and application in the labor market. The main criticism, however, is directed at so-called vocation courses offered at the university level. The introduction of such courses represents a radical departure from traditional academic programs.

Some institutions of higher learning have been surprisingly bold in their expansion of curriculum content and perhaps they have gone too far. It is now possible for students to find degree-level programs in Golf Management, Surfing Studies, Boxing, and Wine Evaluation. A British university was severely criticized in the media recently for introducing a course in David Beckham Studies as part of its Sports Science program.

No one can doubt the relevance and practical value of vocational programs. The question is whether or not they should be part of a degree program. Realistically, however, it should be remembered that many polytechnical institutions and colleges have been converted into ‘new’ universities over the past twenty-five years and they continue to fill an urgent need for practical courses as well as continuing an academic tradition. Perhaps vocational courses are less intellectually rigorous, but they are necessary nevertheless and by providing them, the new universities are responding to an essential need.

John Brownridge

Next Week

Standards of Evaluation in Education