Funeral Ethics Organization Calling Out The American Board of Funeral Service Education – Letter Below

April 8, 2010

imageThe Funeral Ethics Organization is calling out the American Board of Funeral Service Education in a letter it is sending to the Council on Higher Education Accreditation today.

Below is a copy of the letter the FEO is sending.

Dear Ms. Gilcher and Ms. Eaton:

The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Education and the


Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the accreditation

agency for college and university programs in Funeral

Service and Mortuary Science Education in the U.S. The Funeral

Ethics Organization believes that ABFSE has not established

appropriate or adequate standards and policies to accredit these


We ask that, per 34 CFR 602.40 (2), you require that

ABFSE make significant improvements to the curriculum content

and accrediting policies within the next 12 months.

The most significant flaw of the criteria on which ABFSE bases

its accreditation approval is the requirement that at least 60% of a

school?s students pass, on the first try, the National Board Exam

published by the International Conference of Funeral Service

Examining Boards (ICFSEB). This requirement can be found on

pages 9-12 and 9-13 of the ABFSE Accreditation Manual

Mortuary schools have little or no motivation to address in-depth

curriculum issues if a critical or major goal for accreditation is

how many students pass a certain test. A survey of schools regarding

cremation education done by the Funeral Ethics Organization

in 2005 revealed that some schools openly admit that they ?teach to the exam,? which means that critical relevant topics may not be

covered in the classrooms. (For example, the study guide for the

test has nothing on operating a crematory or on contemporary

cremation issues, such as, ?Can you ship cremated remains by Fed

Ex?? No.) ABFSE has effectively abdicated its curriculum standards

to the testers.

The testers (ICFSEB) are equally impaired by an apparent lack of

academic rigor or honesty and transparency or even accountability.

ICFSEB has refused to share with a Ph.D. candidate any data

and documentation for how the exam was developed, information

that might have been important or helpful in studying ?criteria for

mortuary education,? which is the topic of his thesis. There is no

one to ?accredit? the testers.

In fact, a review of the study guide for the exam shows that it is

outdated by about 40 years and generally irrelevant for today?s

funeral directors, according to various industry practitioners who

have been asked to review it. (See enclosure.) Prepaid funerals are

not mentioned at all. The failure to test for knowledge of the

Federal Trade Commission?s Funeral Rule is astounding, as

violators are now at risk of $16,000 fines for failing to give a

General Price List to a consumer in a timely way, among other

FTC requirements. (One mortuary student contacted Funeral

Consumers Alliance to learn more about the Funeral Rule, as

faculty couldn?t answer his questions.) No sample questions deal

with ethics or who has the legal right to make funeral arrangements.

(Thirty-eight states now have a designated-agent-for-bodydisposition

law, helpful when family members are estranged or

can?t agree.)

In addition to the inappropriate use of the ICFSEB exam as an

accreditation measure, the ABFSE curriculum is itself seriously

lacking content in important contemporary funeral issues, in

violation of 34 CFR 602.16 through 602.21. In the curriculum

outline in the accreditation manual cited above, pages 9-5 through

9-8, there is scant mention of cremation, a rapidly growing choice

of Americans that is over 50% in some states. That failure is

echoed in the detailed ABFSE curriculum, where only two pages

out of 432 mention cremation.1 There is a gross lack of cultural

and religious diversity training. Six pages vaguely mention cultural

or religious issues, predominantly European, with little from

Africa, Asia, India, or Latin America. There is no mention of

Native American rituals or practices whatsoever.

Instead, there seems to be a preponderance of curriculum attention

to embalming, an option more and more consumers are declining

because of cremation or an interest in green burials. Some states

have a separate license for embalmers. Funeral directors need not

learn embalming in those states. Mortuary students say they are

still being taught that embalming protects the public health, at

odds with information from the CDC.

Most consumers will be depending on these mortuary graduates to

care for their deceased loved ones at some time in the future.

Consumers have a right to expect that mortuary graduates will

serve a diverse public in a meaningful and responsible way. We

respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Education and

CHEA order ABFSE to drop its policy of using an exam over

which it has no control for any measure of accreditation. We also

ask that your committee review a revised ABFSE curriculum

guide at some future date to see if academic omissions have been



Lisa Carlson

for the board of the Funeral Ethics Organization

What do you think?


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