During this week’s debate about whether corporations should be allowed to get involved with public education, my first thoughts went to The Simpson’s. In one episode, the school receives more funding and can afford real periodic tables instead of Oscar Mayer promotional ones (apparently the atomic weight of bolognium is delicious. Snacktacular is also an acceptable answer). In another episode, a private company takes over funding the school with the whole idea to do market research to develop a new toy: funzo! While certainly over-the-top examples, it does bring attention to the serious issue of whether private industry can become involved in public education while still maintaining the integrity of education.
The private sector has one thing in mind, a healthy bottom line, and there is huge potential to make money in the education sector! This article about Pearson highlights just how much money can be made in education. There is a large amount of world citizens in schools throughout the world, and that is a big market to be able to advertise to, collect data on, sell products to, and build brand loyalty. Education is supposed to be about critical thinking, working through biases, looking for facts. What message do we send when we have a class in which we teach students these skills and end with, “this lesson was brought to you by _______________(insert business name here)”
School boards are always in need of more money. There are always things to buy. If you really have it all, why not hire more teachers then and reduce class sizes? You will never run out of things to spend money on in education, and as such, there will always be funding shortfalls, just to different degrees. Steve stresses in his blog that funding should remain strictly in the hands of the public sector, as private interests just don’t align with educational goals. Kelsie discusses in her blog a point that Alec made in our class discussion which is that if private industries start chipping in money to public education, does that provide an out for government to not have to fund education as heavily? It’s not too hard to envision this happening.
Which is a shame.
I’m perhaps too optimistic regarding this situation, but I would like to envision a well funded public school ‘topped up’ by private contributions. I can envision a school with ample staff, state of the art equipment, the ability to fund amazing excursions. For the integrity of the education to remain, the companies that are pitching in would have to be doing so because they really believe in education, and are not trying to make a bunch of money off of the investment, more in it for the tax incentives than new business. Maybe the gymnasium is named after the company. I don’t know the exact details, but I believe that certain partnerships could exist that would work and would improve the education in the school without too many strings attached. Perhaps an Elon Musk would make a great partner for this kind of relationship.
Chevron has been involved in attempting to partner with school boards in B.C., with some agreeing and some not. It appears that Chevron has given the money simply as a donation, asking for nothing in return, but donations are typically given to create that positive company image which is somewhat self-serving, but is anything in this world truly altruistic? People sometimes give gifts because it makes them feel good, does that mean it’s not a nice gesture?
I’m open-minded on this issue. I can envision a great many situations of public education fusing with private industries and harming the integrity of the educational enterprise, but I can also envision some partnerships really providing opportunities for students that wouldn’t otherwise exist. It’s certainly terrain that needs to be treaded carefully.
Live long and prosper