Now to be honest with everyone, I do not totally agree with the idea that public education has sold its soul to corporate interests – but maybe we have been making some deals with the devil himself. LOL
Education and companies have had relationships for a very long time. It is these companies that we get our basic resources from such as paper, pens, textbooks, etc. As Audrey Watters discussed during our class on Tuesday, this connection has also been there but what type of relationship is it?
According to Alex Molnar’s article Corporate Involvement In Schools: Time for a More Critical Look, there are many ways in which corporations get involved in education (ways of making relationships) – such as:
*Exclusive Agreements such as the Pepsi (donated 2 million dollars to help build a football stadium in return for the exclusive rights to sell its product in the school district – making them approximately 7 million dollars) and Coca-Cola (signed a ten year exclusive vending agreement worth 8 million dollars for the company).
*Incentive Programs such as the Pizza Hut “Book It” reading incentive program
*Sponsorship of Programs & Activities such as Duracell Invention Challenge and Milk sponsorship in Athletic Activities SHSAA
*Fundraising– the most wide spread commercial activity
*Appropriation of Space-such as allocating school space to advertise
Being involved in these ways makes it a win – win for both the schools and the business. But if we were to examine these in more detail would we find out that it is the businesses that are profiting more? You bet they are. Unfortunately education is seen as a business and therefore people see it as a way to make money. Do businesses/corporations take advantage of the education system for their own financial gains? You bet that some of them do.
Companies utilize spokespeople to peddle their product to schools and school districts. Many school districts/divisions make critical friends with these people in order to strengthen an area that needs improving. Some see these critical friends as a positive while others see them as a way for businesses to make money. I believe that overall critical friends are a great, they provide guidance and support for the professionals in the district. In our division we have made critical friends with some that are sponsored by specific companies. Sue Jackson has spoken to our teachers on several occasions, discussing reading strategies that are based on Scholastic resources. Another critical friend that our division has is Dr. Marian Small who has all of her works published by Nelson Literacy. She has been a critical friend with our division for many years and her ideas have been implemented in almost all the schools. Are the ideas and resources that Jackson and Small present to us good? Yes, they are very good but sometimes it feels that we are pressured into using “their” resources in order for us to have success. Many teachers also feel pressure to abide by these “new” ideas because the division has told them to. It is hard for many teachers to fully implement these ideas because they had little to no input into what new ideas they wanted to learn abut. More and more teachers are feeling disconnected from the division personnel because they fell they do not understand the issues teachers are facing in the “trenches”. And “pushing” these new critical friends on the teacher (even if they are great resources) is sometimes met with resistance.
Now are there companies that are invested in education for the right reasons and want students to have success? You bet there are. Dean Shareski stated during our debate that there are many partnerships that are founded on a common goal – success for kids. But there may be some companies that project a sense of “doing good” but are they mainly in it for the financial gains. Companies such as Pearson have been involved in almost every aspect of education for a very long time. Many people have been making absurd amounts of money in this company as detailed in Alan Singer’s article.They have an invested interest in education but some of their interests seem suspicious as seen in this video:
Even comedian John Oliver has taken into looking at Pearson (around the 10:30 mark) and the potential corrupt behavior associated with the company.
The question that still subsides in me is why do we (as school divisions) invest so heavily into companies that may be slightly corrupt (I am not saying they are for sure…wink, wink) but that supply us with resources that are not what we need. For example the M-Comp (a Pearson product)screen that is used three times a year in some divisions to check on students’ math computation skills does not fully screen what the students are expected to know. The example of the Grade three screen having 10 percent of its grades based on questions that ask students to multiply beyond their expected knowledge base. Why put these stresses on the kids or teachers. Divisions question screen results that really do not ask what the kids need to know. Why utilize a product like this when we could simple have a conversation with the teacher and gain an understanding of where the kid is at? The answer is that the TRUST is gone – ministry has lost the TRUST in divisions and now the division has lost the TRUST in the schools and teachers. It’s a vicious cycle.
Now I am not stating that relationships that are made with businesses or corporations are endangering our kids but are all of these relationships based on the same common goal? I would hope the goal is to have success for all kids but some businesses might have the goal of money first and student success second. Therefore maybe we have been making some deals with the devil… you’re welcome Lucifer. I really hope I am wrong.