Our last debate was rather interesting. I found myself having a number of ah-ha moments- as this is one topic that to be honest I have not thought much about before. My laptop screen was filled up with “what about ” comments as I took notes. I found myself getting rather amped up over this topic and I did not expect to.
In the article Justine and Tyle shared called Corporate Involvement In Schools: Time For A More Critical Look out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Alex Molnar outlines 8 areas in which there has been significant increase in corporate investment in the last 15 years.
- Sponsorship of Sports and Activities
- Exclusive Agreements
- Incentive Programs
- Appropriation of Space
- Sponsored Education Materials
- Electronic Marketing
After seeing these categories, two things occurred to me. One, is that we as Canadians have a tendency to look to our neighbours to the south on this issue in particular and make assumptions that corporate involvement in schools is an “American” thing. Two, that this assumption is incorrect. While it may be more prevalent in the United States, it has come to my attention through this is happening in Canada too.
Andres Araneda stated on his blog that “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.” I would have to agree with this, and accept the fact that we wont be moving away from marketing in education anytime soon. So this is on my radar……now what?
I keep coming back to guest speaker/troublemaker Audrey Watters staying that “public schools were viewed as failing – failing to educate, failing to enculturate, failing to produce career and college and military-ready students. (Of course, public schools have always been viewed as failing.) They were deemed grossly inefficient, and politicians and administrators alike insisted that schools needed to be run more like businesses.” (Hack Education, 2016) So if education systems are perceived in this way, how are we ever supposed to move away from the idea that we need to be saved by funding from outside of government? Especially, as Dean Shareski who is the Community Manager of Discover Education brought up; when we cant be so ignorant to actually believe that we don’t need funding from outside of government. After the lovely announcement from the Saskatchewan Party that occurred in the middle of our class, it is very clear that we as educators and the education system and a whole are in a very tough ethical and financial spot.
Another topic that Audrey spoke to that resonated with me was that “there’s an inherent conflict, I’d argue, between a culture that demands learning efficiency and a culture that recognizes learning messiness. It’s one of the reasons that schools – public schools – have been viewed as spaces distinct from businesses. Humans are not widgets. The cultivation of a mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized. (Hack Education, 2016) This resonates with the teacher in me and brings up the importance of stories and narratives in the lives of my students, who certainly cannot and should not be mechanized. To me, this theory of education brings in a bigger issue of what exactly education is. I think Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud would agree as she stated that“Stories resonate with me and it’s how we make sense of and remember the world… perhaps not always accurately as our stories are influenced by our own perspectives.” Getting away from the business model in school and capturing the messiness, the story…is easier said than done when you need the business model to keep you afloat.
In conclusion, I see a big problem here but am struggling to come up with a solution. I don’t want to sound like Eeyore over here, but I feel that when Danielle stated in her blog that “maybe it’s going to become a case of the private sector stepping in to help out. As long as we do our homework, work alongside the corporations we deem trustworthy, begin steering clear of the ones (like Pearson) who are not, and proceed with our eyes wide open, I really don’t see any other rectifiable way to find a solution for the problem Saskatchewan is currently in” she, and others out there are also struggling with this the reality of this predicatment.