Sunday, April 13, 2008

CTS Conference, Canmore Alberta, 2008

I have just returned from Canmore where 5 of my students and I attended the 2008 Career and Technology Studies (CTS) Conference. I have mentioned before that my students have prepared and presented a presentation entitled Issues Facing Business Education. In February they presented at the WESTCAST conference and as a result they were invited to the Alberta CTS Conference in Canmore.

The CTS area appears to be an amalgamation of Business Education, Home Economics, Cosmetology, and Industrial Arts (perhaps amongst others - to say I was confused is understating things).

My students presented to a number of people who were interested in the issues they brought forward and the discussion was lively.

That's the good news.

The disturbing news is that this conference showed me a future that is very bleak for Business Educators. Most teachers I spoke to there considered themselves CTS teachers and were hard pressed to voluntarily identify themselves as Business Education teachers. In fact the majority that I spoke to weren't - they were Phys. Ed or Maths prepared teachers who either 'fell into' business education or have an interest in technology (read that as computers and software) and started to teach business classes.

By definition CTS instructors focus on careers. The information provided from all quarters pointed teachers to career pathways to which their courses should be linked. I have no problem with career preparation but having this as the only perspective regarding Business Education limits and defines Business Education in ways that are proving, in my opinion, to make a well-rounded business education unsustainable perhaps even unattainable.

In a career oriented environment there seems to be little place for personal financial management, the study of business as a ubiquitous environment, 'consumer' approaches to marketing and entrepreneurship, etc. It seems in this environment that if the course isn't providing usable career oriented skills then the course doesn't work.

And even in the courses that did fit the career perspective (in particular the technology courses) there seemed to be very little if any business context provided. Teachers spoke about teaching spreadsheets, data bases, desktop publishing in dissociated and technical terms. No one that I spoke with saw these as tools for solving business problems and when this topic was brought up very few saw this approach as a reasonable one for at least two reasons: primary reason - they didn't have the business background, secondary reason - that's not the way the curriculum is written!

My students are hoping to revitalize the Business Education area. I hope they are successful. To say the least I believe the first step is to liberate Business Education from the confinements of the Career and/or Practical education environment.

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