Has public education sold its soul to corporate interests?
Saint Augustine: So when exactly will I get my complimentary breakfast? Is it before or AFTER I sign off my soul? I heard they make their hollondaise IN HOUSE, no one does that anymore! SOURCE: Michael Pacher
Last night’s debate was extremely interesting because it asked a question that I’ve wondered a lot about myself. Our guest speaker, Community Manager of Discover Education , Dean Shareski made some strong points for the disagreeing side of the debate, saying how it would be rather arrogant for schools to claim that they do not need outside funding and support to meet their needs. In a lot of ways, Dean is absolutely right. Schools are definitely underfunded and sometimes the only real answer IS external funding. This goes without saying that the nature of these transactions aren’t at least questionable.
The agreeing team made some huge points that only solidified what I already believed. Companies such as Pearson are giant businesses that are cashing-in on standardized testing and essentially running the show with our curriculums. Articles such as this one show us how big businesses and corporations have quite the power over what is happening in our classrooms.
Furthermore, with all these companies dictating what we’re doing in our classrooms, I can’t help but wonder at what point does the integrity of our work get compromised? How are these factors affecting WHAT we teach? And who is this going to benefit in the long-run? At what point do corporate interests begin to mold and map out our curriculums to comply with THEIR motives?
I couldn’t help but wonder about the nature of these markets and why Pearson for example, has such a strong grip on our education programs. I question this a lot because at the end of the day, this is a corporation. Companies such as Pearson may be offering and complying with a lot of the things our school boards are looking for, but at the end of the day, who’s making the big bucks? The schools sure aren’t, and if this isn’t problematic to you, then you may not be looking at the bigger picture.
We need to be honest here, education is a mind-bogglingly large market, NOT taping into it would be absurd, which is why I agree that we’ve definitely sold our souls to corporate interests.
In many ways, I think we sort of have to. Partnerships with soda companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi CAN have their benefits. The following article describes some of the perks of signing a contract with big soda companies. This particular example comes from the U.S. but it gives us a good idea of how things work:
“Under the existing 10-year contract, Coca-Cola paid the district $4 million upfront and an additional $350,000 a year to sell its beverages in schools. The annual payments have funded field trips, gym uniforms, SMART Boards and other frills that individual school budgets may not otherwise have afforded.”
Sure, partnerships with these companies may be providing much-needed funding for schools, BUT we can’t be blindsided by these things alone. Again, this is a giant company; and not just any company either, this is COCA COLA, literally one of the BIGGEST corporations in the world. Sure, they may be helping the schools, but in no way are they doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. They have a lot of money to spare, and truthfully speaking, they’re not only building a business relationship with school districts, but they are also creating new clients with the students. This is an investment for THEIR future. If this isn’t an incredible business opportunity, then what is? It’s not like these companies are coming out empty handed, they are creating customer loyalty and making a lot of money while doing it.
Not only that, but how is this affecting our kids? For one, these products are extremely unhealthy and are responsible for spikes in obesity and other health concerns. Many would also argue that advertising and product placement has no place in the classroom either. But everywhere we look, our classrooms are exclusive to brands. At my school (and all others really), any tablet that we may have is definitely going to be an Apple product. The same can be said with our laptops. Our school has replaced everything we had with Google Chrome books, on which we use Google apps to do everything from our homework, emailing, presentations and blogging.
Although companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple have contributed greatly to developing modern Ed. tech that a great majority of us use on a daily basis, we can’t assume these companies are developing these tools solely for the good of our students. Education is an ENORMOUS market that IS going to be exploited, whether we want to see it that way or not.
And then we have universities. We’re told everyday about the value of education, yet we rarely ever question the nature of these institutions and how they work.
I love school. I wouldn’t be taking my master’s in education right now if I didn’t, but I know how universities make a hefty profit off all of us. I’m not going to get into all the logistics of how Universities have turned into giant corporations (but check out this link and this one) but the nature of these institutions is to make a profit.
And if that wasn’t enough, we take it a step further by offering services such as private schools and high-profile, elite universities. After all, there’s always going to be someone who “wants the best of the best”. So why not cater to these clients? At the end of the day, we can make a big buck off them anyway.
So, have we sold our souls to the devil so to speak? Have we compromised the integrity of our work and our kids’ health and safety from corporate greed for some extra funding? Unfortunately, I think we have. Is there much we can do about it? At this point, I don’t really think there’s much we can do to avoid these things other than become more aware of them. Unfortunately, even then, the fact is, we live in a capitalist society and regardless of how “sacred” something may be, we’re always going to find a way to make a profit out of it.
So… who’s got a pen?
Thanks for reading everyone,