This week we had another great debate by Liz and Shaleen! They debated the topic of “Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests.” Before entering this debate I was unsure where I stood, I understood that corporations do have a say in the schooling, however, how much say do they really have? For my pre-vote I disagreed with the statement; let’s see where the rest of my class ended up!
As we can see from the picture above the votes were pretty close to being equal! We were in for another great debate so let’s hop right into the points Liz and Shaleen made in their videos to support their side!
Let’s begin by looking at the agree side! Liz made some awesome points that really got me thinking and leaning towards, that yes maybe the public education system is selling their souls to corporate interests! Let’s take a look at her points:
- The Common Core Standards: These standards started in 2008 and were nationwide. They were implemented with no test trial to see if they were going to work or if they would be successful. These standards focus on the skills in mathematics and English that students would need after each grade to continue through their schooling. They were in place to ensure career and college ready individuals would be leaving their high school walls at graduation and ready to be contributing members of society. These standards did not take into account curriculum as place, and how depending on the location there should be importance on different information and content being taught. As we can see in the article linked above, as well as this article these standards were put in place to simply educate students one way, holding importance on certain subjects, and having the end product of students moving into the workforce. In this day and age, we understand that all students learn differently and that these differences need to be accommodated to create an educational environment where all students can learn at their best abilities. By having these strict regulations in place, this freedom of instruction became very limited which resulted in hindering students learning.
- Standardized Testing: The second point Liz laid out to support her argument is the move toward standardized testing and how the textbook company Pearson profits from these examinations. These standardized tests are created by big companies such as
Pearson and as this video states, they make these exams harder and harder to ensure they have students who fail, if a child is to fail they must retake that exam and it is $15 to $35 dollars to retake depending on the exams. This money goes to the textbook company, they are making a profit off of our young individual’s failures. These standardized tests also reinforce the important and unimportant information that teachers should be teaching their students throughout the school year to ensure they succeed. They are now to only focus on the content of these exams, which leaves out so many valuable lessons that students should be taught through their schooling years.
- Textbooks: Textbooks are often made for a wide range of schools, however, that does not mean that all these different places are represented equally or accurately. Let’s again look at Pearson. The state that buys the most textbooks is Texas, with that Pearson, tailors the content inside to the Texas demographics and all the other states and countries are to learn that information, if it is even relevant to them or not. This is another example showing how large corporations heavily impact schools and the content that students are being taught and seen as important.
- Corporate Sponsorships: The last point Liz gave to support her side was looking at how schools are always being sponsored by big corporations such as Coca Cola. Pepsi. Oil rigs, etc. These corporations not only sponsor and give money to the schools
to allow them to go on field trips or buy new supplies, but they also expect to see their companies being represented throughout the school! This becomes very problematic to our student’s health when looking at these sugary beverages as well as it impacts their beliefs about the world around them. For example, if a nearby oil rig was a sponsor in their school, what information would they be receiving about this process? These sponsors will create single stories to our students and thus form biases and lens for them to view the world.
- Universities: Universities are also seen as corporations trying to pull students into their school. With society showing such importance to a degree, students are now often being pressured into attending these schools where they become overloaded in debt and some do not even finish. This article shows how universities are now being seen as corporations and businesses and less about schooling.
Now that we have heard Liz’s side to this debate it is now time to hear from Shaleen. Shaleen disagreed with the statement that public education is selling its soul to corporate interests. Let’s take a look at what she has to say!
- Technology in the classroom is beneficial: The first point Shaleen states to support her side of the debate is that with the society we live in technology is everywhere, and with that, there is an importance of it being in schools as well. Understanding that technology platforms and devices are becoming a necessity in our schools brings on the importance to have sponsors and support to bring in these platforms to assist in our students learning. With limited budgets, individual schools have to support this type of learning, and how costly these devices are; schools
often team up with companies such as Microsoft to bring in their devices into the classroom. However, I believe there is always some kind of catch that we as individuals of society may not always hear about!
- The Decision Process: The second point that Shaleen used to support her argument was that corporations and sponsors do not just get brought in by the snap of fingers. There is a process that is used to reach the conclusion that is wanted. The schools look into factors such as cost, ease, reliance, and benefits before picking the products that are being brought into the schools. This article lays out some of the concerns that come along with making decisions about bringing tech into the classroom. Some of the main concerns revolve around budget and staying up to date with the ever-changing products. In my own personal experience, however, I am not sure if I completely agree with this argument. Our school often got technology that the teachers had no training and did not use because they were unsure how to teach us how to use it. The laptops they were given by the division were the laptops they had to use, and they did not work effectively nor with ease. This makes me wonder how much say teachers and staff truly have towards the technology coming into their classroom!
- Moving away from businesses: As teachers begin to notice the multiple problems with some businesses coming into the school such as Pearson and bringing sponsors such as coca cola, the schools begin to move away from these businesses. Let’s take
Pearson for example, this article states that the textbook company has been losing huge testing contracts with schools throughout the country due to these unfair standardized tests as well as the content within the pages. This then shows the agency that school divisions have with what content is being used in the schools, but to what extent? Yes, some places may be pulling these textbooks but not all school divisions will see this as problematic and the testings will continue.
- Ethical Consumption: The last point Shaleen stated to support her argument was, if schools are being sold to corporate interest, then we are all being sold to corporate interest. Shaleen stated almost everything we do is linked to a corporation, with that how do we not get involved with corporations? Saying schools have sold themselves to corporate interests is hard because how do you not, as Shaleen states that everything we do is linked to a corporation in some way.
After hearing both sides from the debaters the conversation was then open to the class to hear their opinions. This is where I started to critically think of ways in which the public education system was being sold to corporate interests! Aurora shared the documentary “Consuming Kids” which looks at how larger corporations make marketing tools that suit the interest of the child to make life-long consumers. This documentary also shows how schools have been the target for these marketing schemes, which then truly shows how much corporations have a say in the education system. To go along with the point Aurora made, we need to look at how corporations are marketing their companies in schools. For example, having Pepsi or Coca Cola sponsors in school, will often bring in sugary drinks that lead to unhealthy habits and lifestyles, not the best way to help students to take care of themselves when they can walk down the hallway and have endless options of drinks filled with sugar and caffeine! Let’s also take a look at gas companies, or mining companies that sponsor schools. What viewpoint is this putting on the students if they are constantly seeing positive advertisements of these companies? Our students’ ideologies and beliefs are shaped by the events and experiences they see in their everyday lives, if they are always seeing these advertisements what viewpoint will they form on the environment? The next topic the class discussed was the reason for these corporate sponsors in schools. Schools are so underfunded from the government that they rely on these sponsors to supply materials to enhance students learning, but at what cost do these sponsors enhance a child’s learning and hinder their learning? Sure, these sponsors may allow for new Chromebooks in the classroom or field trips, but how are these activities being shaped by corporate interests? For example, many of my classmates discussed the types of field trips they went on as a kid, and now reflecting back wonder if that was because of the sponsors. Field trips such as Boston Pizza, KFC, going to a pet store, etc. The last point I want to draw on that the class discussed is how much say do teachers, parents, students, and anyone who is personally involved with the schools and students have a say in these decisions? It is important to point out that it is not the teachers or admin of the schools bringing in these corporations, but it goes higher than that, it goes to the government and school divisions, the ones who are not being affected.
As we can see from above, the class had many great conversations around this topic. It is hard to understand how budgeting and funding work out, however, it is important that it is discussed and changed for the better of our students. From pre-vote to post-vote we saw quite a shift in opinions. We went from almost a 50/50 split to a drastic change of almost everyone agreeing that public education is selling its soul to corporate interests.
As for myself, I also changed my vote from disagreeing to agreeing. It is hard to know all of the factors that need to be discussed about a situation to get a full understanding of what truly is going on. I believe that the public education system is selling its soul to corporate interests, because of the little funding that is offered to schools. It is important to point out that only certain people have a say in this manner, and with that, it is hard to make changes. To see a change it must begin higher up, to remove corporations from schooling we must look at government funding and funding distribution to than spread it more equally throughout the schools. It is a long road ahead, but I believe if we put enough like-minded individuals together to bring this issue to the public, we may begin to see change.
To conclude, I have a question for all of my readers:
What do you think it will take to remove corporations from schools? Do you think that all corporations need to be removed or just some? If so what corporations do you think enhance schools and what corporations hinder schools?