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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Education & Business don't mix

Like oil and water, education and business don't mix. And they never will. This should be obvious, but "news" articles across the country are confusing readers. This shows just how talented marketing departments are at spinning data. I should know, I used to work in one.




It is pretty simple why education and business don't mix and never will. Business people do not have an innate understanding of what goes on in a classroom, which includes the ever important interpersonal interactions and relationships, which is why we are seeing the push for flipped classrooms, blended learning, and on-line learning. It is profitable to sell schools more tech products and claim it is "innovation".  However, actual research tells us children don't learn as well these ways, despite marketing claims for "21st century learning".


Edupreneurs do not view education through the lens of developmental psychology, but instead see niche markets and opportunities for profit. Our last US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was no exception. Ironically, he has no degree in business or education (BTW, I have degrees in both). Duncan graduated from the elite, private, Chicago Lab School and then Harvard, where he majored in sociology. (This makes me chuckle, as Duncan & the DOE have pushed STEM and has undermined the liberal arts, like his own major.)

Business people like to take data and spin it in order to make the sale, which may be fine for consumer products. As they say, caveat emptor. That said, educating our nation's children should not be a buyer beware situation. 

Diane Ravitch shared this article, where the author reports the following:

"Thanks to Arne, many entrepreneurs were encouraged to sell stuff to schools. The U.S. Department of Education is a marketing machine for the tech industry. Wanna buy a new ap? Check with ED. How else to explain the transition of almost every public school in the nation to online testing, even though studies show that students test better when they use paper and pen/pencil? Did anyone ask for that? Other changes that Arne was responsible for: an explosion of publicly funded private schools (charter schools); Common Core; closing thousands of public schools in black and brown communities; massive collection of personally identifiable student data; data mining.
How many billions were wasted on ed tech and Common Core that might have been spent to reduce class sizes and improve teachers’ salaries or to encourage desegregation?"


 There is no doubt the US Department of Education have sold out our public schools. As we all know, they started with our cities. Kids and families of color are still reeling from the reforms that cut the arts, then closed their neighborhood public schools to create demand for charter schools. The marketing experts knew that cutting the arts, physical education, etc. would allow for charter schools to pop up and fill that niche. That's what marketers do; they create demand and try to convince people they want the product, even if it a poor quality product.

However, there are no public schools that are safe, not even the ones in the leafy suburbs. Duncan showed us his hand when he came after white suburban moms who are well-educated and rejecting the neoliberal ed reform ideas, like weeks of high stakes standardized testing. New York state is the leader in opt outs, especially Long Island. About HALF of the students on Long Island opted out of their state tests this year. We knew he was full of it when he tried to discredit the moms. He misogynistically stated, “The opt out movement consists of white suburban moms who are disappointed to discover that their child is not as brilliant as they thought he was.”



 As any well-educated marketer should know, "Moms hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to household purchases. They are the primary decision makers, influencing a $2.4T in spending every year (yes, $2.4 trillion dollars!). This buying power alone qualifies moms as one of the most critical demographic segments for brands."

Sorry, Arne. Moms seem pretty powerful to me.

We need to pay attention and question all of the latest and most "innovative" ideas that are creeping into our schools. We need moms (and dads – please dads, speak up with us) to ask the tough questions and demand our locally elected school boards stop the implementation of bad ideas that sound too good to be true.

"There is a sucker born every minute." Don't let it be you.


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