Back-to-basics is an educational movement and a curriculum stressing a return of American public schools to a fundamental core curriculum based on English, mathematics, science and history. It is so-called educational “frills,” such as home economics and other personal improvement courses. Launched in the early 1970s, its roots lie in the early 20th-century “essentialism” movement that educator William Chandler Bagley developed in opposition to the progressive education movement of John Dewey.
Back-to-basics advocates would reinstitute strict classroom discipline and give primary and secondary school students little or no choice over what courses they would study. Although there are widespread differences regarding which courses constitute the required basics, they generally include those that pro- vide basic academic skills such as reading, writ- ing, spelling, punctuation, penmanship, a range of calculation skills, history and civics, biology, chemistry and physics. Some back-to- basics advocates also include music and art in their suggested core curriculum.
Proponents of back-to-basics also condemn open education and “cafeteria-style” curricula that offer students a wide choice of personal-improvement courses such as human interpersonal relations and “soft” academic courses such as media studies. Back-to-basics proponents also call for elimination of the general education track, in which 25% of the cred- its are earned for physical and health education,