I blog weekly for Education Week. I think it is a wonderful publication and a great newspaper of record for education.
On my blog, I have been free to write whatever I want. No one has ever told me that I can’t say what I think. I respect Education Week for that editorial independence. I mention this because a friend wrote today to ask me if I started my own blog because of problems with Education Week. Absolutely not! I just have more to say and comment on than can be contained in a weekly piece or in tweets, and sometimes I want to write something on the spur of the moment, blow off steam, or just jot down whatever I want when I want. Like now.
At this moment, I am upset that Education Week has become intertwined with the online for-profit industry. I got an email today, one of those automated things, announcing a webinar on May 8, called Education’s “Constructive Turbulence”: How Innovation and Technology Can Help Improve Student Learning. The webinar is sponsored by Apex Learning, which is a for-profit online corporation.
That bothers me. It bothers me for several reasons. First of all, I don’t like for-profit corporations that seek to replace schools. I understand that they meet certain legitimate purposes, providing instruction for students who can’t get to a physical school for whatever reason. I understand that for-profit corporations sell textbooks and testing and pencils and software and hardware. I just have this really bad feeling about for-profit schools. I keep thinking that they give more thought to profits than to pupils. I worry that the bottom line will matter more than imagination or unfettered inquiry. I hate the idea of machine-scored essays, which seems like a living example of an oxymoron.
The email says that technology–that is, the opportunity to sit your child in front of a computer for a longer period of the day or maybe the whole school day–will supposedly address the triple threat of tight budgets, teacher shortages, and the need for higher achievement. I think we should all be fighting to protest the budget cuts, not supinely accepting them as inevitable. And with so many layoffs, I am not convinced there is a teacher shortage. I think what Apex really means is that school districts can replace teachers and save money by putting more kids in front of computers and having larger classes and fewer teachers. Curious that we hear so much about the importance of education but aren’t willing to pay for really great education, which requires teachers and resources.
The other thing that really bothers me is the very notion of “Constructive Turbulence.” Why do children need turbulence in their lives? What’s “constructive” about “turbulence”? Why would be we pay a corporation to produce chaos for our children? Aren’t children’s lives sufficiently turbulent these days? Don’t they need constructive stability, constructive relationships and caring? There are far too many adults who think that children need to be in an environment of disruption and risk. I don’t know any parents who want their children’s lives to be chaotic and turbulent. That may work for entrepreneurs, but as a mother and grandmother, I don’t believe it is right for children.
Almost every day, I get an email from some sponsor telling me how entrepreneurs will re-invent education and make money at the same time. I wish they would stick to soap and toothpaste and leave our children alone.
If you haven’t seen this article by Lee Fang in The Nation about the for-profit online industry, please read it now: http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools?page=full. That’s an important article.
Some people say that the movement towards privatization is a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. I don’t agree. As more parents wake up to what is happening, there will be more push-back against privatization.
The push-back is happening now against high-stakes testing. It will happen against privatization too, as the public catches on to what is happening to their public schools. I heard this afternoon that Kenneth Cole decided to take down his obnoxious anti-teacher billboard. What that says to me is that corporate interests are even more sensitive to public opinion and to controversy than public officials. But that’s a subject for another blog. This juggernaut can be stopped.