When does corporate assistance become meddling?

Businesses have been contributing money to public schools for a long time, and in most cases the financial help has been put to good use. But in recent years, with legislators in Texas and other states cutting back on school aid, a new pattern of corporate giving has been emerging.

According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, linked below, corporate donors have started writing curricula for schools, designing and teaching classes and training principals.

The story cites several examples, including IBM’s involvement in opening an innercity public high school to prepare young people for entrylevel technology jobs, possibly at IBM.

Many budgetstrapped educators are welcoming this privatization of the public schools, but others are worried about what kinds of strings are attached and the ultimate effect on the role of public education.

Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a CommercialFree Childhood, a Boston advocacy nonprofit, is concerned that some of these publicprivate partnerships will benefit sponsoring companies more than the schools and their students.

“It gets down to an ancient debate about what the purpose of education is,” Linn said. “Is it to create a literate population who can think critically…or to train a workforce?”

Some would argue the purpose of education is to accomplish both goals, but corporate money and its potential strings also raise other questions.

If bankers begin helping schools draft curricula for money management classes, what will they want students to learn about the role the banking industry played in the recent financial meltdown? Will they want them to learn anything about it at all?

What will oil company sponsors want science students to learn about global warming? Will they demand it be omitted from a public school’s curriculum?

Corporate intrusion into the classroom, regardless how wellintended, is full of potential problems, although it obviously is very tempting for many educators.

-From Education Week


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