For years now, the U.S. public educational system has been the guinea pig for what many call “corporate education reform.” What is it? It is both a mindset and a group of specific measures foisted on school districts, including standardized test-based “accountability” systems, the spread of charter schools and vouchers, and the overall privatization of public schools. This primer explains it this way:
Let’s look for a minute at what corporate reformers have actually achieved when it comes to addressing the real problems of public education:
First, they over-reached and chose the wrong target. They didn’t go after funding inequity, poverty, reform faddism, consultant profiteering, massive teacher turnover, politicized bureaucratic management, or the overuse and misuse of testing.
Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority. And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools.
Look again at the proposals the corporate reformers have made prominent features of school reform efforts in every state: rapid expansion of charters, closing low performing schools, more testing, elimination of tenure and seniority for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation.
If every one of these policies were fully implemented in every state tomorrow, it would do absolutely nothing to close academic achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, or expand access to college.
But this isn’t about their support for the standards. It’s about how they view public schools and students. Here is a quote in the WOSU story from Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, that tells you pretty much what you need to know about how this corporate school reformer really views students and public schools:
“The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future.”
And there you have it. Education isn’t so much about exploration of the world or learning how to be a knowledgeable citizen who can participate in American democracy, but rather to serve the economy. If you didn’t know before, now you do.