Opinion
Education Opinion

The Corporate Invasion of Schools

By Walt Gardner — August 29, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When I warned before that public schools are succumbing to sales pitches made by corporations, I was taken to task by a handful of readers for exaggerating the magnitude of the problem (“Be Wary of Corporate Inroads Into Education,” Dec. 17, 2010; “Are Public Schools Supermarkets?” May 6, 2011). Perhaps the latest evidence will help change their minds (“Pearson’s plan to control education, Report to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation,” Jun. 30).

According to the investment research firm Sanford Bernstein & Co., Pearson, the world’s largest education company, has undertaken a series of steps that will “revolutionize how education is delivered to students around the world, starting with the United States.” It claims that its products and services “will raise student and teacher performance while at the same time cutting [sic] spending.” That’s an offer that no state can refuse. Truth to tell, if I were in a position of power, I too would be all ears. After all, if what Pearson says is true, it has manufactured a silver bullet.

But as the adage warns, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. What Pearson is selling falls into that category. Public schools have always contracted with big corporations for textbooks and for construction. There’s nothing at all wrong with that practice. However, the line in the sand between education and business is increasingly blurred. When that happens, curriculum and instruction no longer are in the hands of professional educators. Instead, they are items on corporate books. Texas provides a case study of how the matter plays out (“Education Inc., Texas Observer, Sept. 6, 2011).

Texas is not alone. Kentucky’s Education Department approved a $57 million contract with Pearson in Apr. 2011 to operate the state’s testing program. What raised a few eyebrows was that the award followed on the heels of a series of trips overseas for ten school superintendents paid for by the Pearson Foundation, a non-profit arm of Pearson (“New Questions About Trips Sponsored by Education Publisher,” The New York Times, Jan. 1). A spokeswoman for the state commissioner denied that the trips and the contract selection were in any way related. Pearson has used similar tactics in Illinois and in New York.

I’ll let readers decide for themselves if they should be concerned about Pearson’s inroads into public education. But I think this is only the beginning of a trend that will make education strictly a business. Beware of the consequences.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Senators Put YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat on the Defensive on Kids' Online Safety
Senators questioned executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.
5 min read
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
Richard Drew/AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Vulnerable Students Left Behind as Schooling Disruptions Continue
The effects of unpredictable stretches at home can mirror those of chronic absenteeism and lead to long-term harm to learning.
4 min read
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Richard Drew/AP
Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo