Sunday, October 28, 2012

Schools & the New Business: Making Money by "Not Really" Reforming Education

NCLB has helped to turn U.S. education into a business. Many educational policies have allowed for the different sectors of schooling to be privatized, taking more power away from the people in the communities in which these schools are located.  Saltman attacks the notion of EMOs and their affects on schooling. Because education has been given to the market, the public feels like they are fighting for a limited amount of resources (Saltman, 56).  This beliefs allows business owners to conduct a school like a commercial business, allowing for monetary values to be attached to individual students and turning schooling into a for-profit business. But schooling is a business,  isn't it? Our understanding of American schooling has been disheveled by the NCLB policy, neoliberal values and deregulation (Kovacs, 2). I believe that NCLB has allowed for schooling to not be seen as important and the privatization of the educational market has the power away from the general public.

The privatization of education has turned education into a for-profit industry, allowing business people to instill business-like values on students turning them into dollar signs. However, there is no proof that test scores will help students in our society economically (Kovacs, 9).  We have learned that standardized tests are designed for the culture of power (white, middle-class, male), however we allow them to continue to be used to determine educational advancement. NCLB still has work to do with closing the achievement gap but that cannot be completed with the strict rules that have been put in place due to the policy (11). It seems that the gap has grown because more students are being excluded from having access to a quality education.

I do not want to be a pessimist, but it seems like NCLB is not working. It has only helped to turn society farther away from schooling and perpetuate the divide among communities. We are confusing choice, freedom, and access. Not all students have access to the same resources allowing education to be a place where more social divides occur. Money has allowed us to turn away from the original purpose of schooling. We are no longer concerned about creating better citizens, but more about beating Japan in the next technology race. The privatization of the educational market informs the public that they will have more “choice” in educating their children, allowing them to attend any public, private, or charter school in their area. Problems occur when everyone does not have the same access to this choice. School is now a place where students and administrators are judged for producing poor standardized testing results. We have allowed the teaching profession to be dehumanized and devalued (Saltman, 74). We must learn to care about students as individuals and not by the test scores they produce. This can happen if the power is given back to the public, allowing the community to have a presence in schools. We have gotten too far away from community-based education. We have to understand that all levels of society can aid in the education of children (Kovacs, 13).  But we must not confuse this with tolerating people without educational experience to be leaders in our classrooms.


  1. As C.J. noted, “the privatization of education has turned education into a for-profit industry, allowing business people to instill business-like values on students turning them into dollar signs.” What is important to note too is that these business people or elite are often unelected (Kovac and Christie 2), but they tend to have the final say on educational policies just because they have the money and influential power, and they do so without the consent of others. This anti-democratic process sets the undertone for the market-based educational reforms that are then implemented into policies where only certain people are allowed to have the final say on what educational practices can be carried into the classroom and what is going to work best. Not only do these powerful people have a reigning influence on educational policies, but they also use prevailing assumptions and propaganda to back up their claims and garner support from the communities. Saltman points out that the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation derives their educational activities from a variety of key assumptions about public education policies, many of them false (59). Kovac and Christie also note how many educational management organizations oversimplify data, make false claims, or simply leave out pertinent or important information (8). For example, the Friedman Foundation states that “public schools…respond positively to competition,” however there is no such evidence to back up such claims (Kovac and Christie 2). Not only is this disconcerting, but it makes you wonder what other sort of information we are being fed and being made under false pretenses. Who is making our decisions and what sort of information are they really using to back up such claims?

  2. I agree with CJ that there needs to be significant change in the education system—that we must change our educational values, focus, and the way in which the system interacts with students. However, like CJ, I have also struggled with staying optimistic about our education system and the ability to change it so that it actually serves the needs of the students and helps solve problems of inequality. While I do believe change is possible, I often question how and when it will become probable. For one, the dishonest discourse of “reforming public education to serve the needs of oppressed communities,” which is backed by so many powerful people, limits the public in understanding the way in which the current education movement limits democracy and serves private interests at the expense of millions of children.

    It really bothers me that so many people have NO idea what is going on, and champion charter schools with out realizing their detrimental effects. Furthermore, both Kovacs and Saltman make it very clear that powerful groups and corporations are spending billions of dollars to fund the problematic charter school movement, thereby influencing politicians and community members to continue this disgusting process of destroying public education. I agree that any meaningful change must be bottom up, if it is going to serve the needs of the public, but I question if this is probable because of the resistance that would be met from most politicians, including both presidential candidates, as well as a large group of powerful people and corporations. How do we give the public the knowledge and power necessary to push back against those perpetuating the system? Will those in power ever care enough about the awful effects of the movement to oppose it instead of supporting it?

  3. CJ raised a lot of good points that I had intended on touching upon. Kovacs and Christie and the Saltman article make it clear that education is being taken advantage of for private gains: “venture philanthropy treats schooling as a private consumable service and promotes business remedies, reforms and assumptions with regard to public schooling” (Saltman 56). Clearly this is the completely wrong way to go about handling public schooling, and yet everyone allows it because the power is in the hands of the elite and the wealthy, who are these “venture philanthropists.” We have been talking all semester about how education is NOT a business, and should not be handled in such terms. However, without someone willing to step in and cut the power away from these businessmen, schooling will continue to run like a business, and education will continue to be privatized.

    Until the government understands that they need to either step in or step out, nothing will improve. Obama’s Race to the Top only further damages the public school system by applying rewards and punishments based on student and teacher performance. The government either needs to allow the public school system to actually run as a public school system without federal intervention, or they need to intervene but in a different way. I’m clearly no expert on how schools could be reformed in the best way possible, but it is obvious that how they are being run currently is not working. Schools themselves should be the ones running the show, as they are the ones being affected by this mess. Schooling should not be based on its monetary value, as seems to be the case currently, but instead a place for children to learn to the best of their ability.