Have we sold our soul?

This week was by far the toughest debate topic for me to wrap my head around. Maybe it’s because my head was in the sand with regards to this topic prior to the debate. Before the debate I hadn’t really given that much thought to the role that corporations play in our schools. Obviously I know they are involved as we use their textbooks and resources on a daily basis. But I hadn’t really thought about what they are gaining from having their materials in our schools. I know how businesses work and I know that they are getting richer anytime we buy resources from them but I have never given it much thought beyond this.

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

I found myself reading a lot of blogs this week because I wasn’t quite sure which side I agreed with. Just like Erin, I feel that if schools want to have resources and funding that sometimes we might have to go beyond what the government is giving us. Let’s be honest, in recent years education hasn’t exactly received any huge payouts by the government so it would be helpful if we could look to the private sectors to help out. However, that being said we need to be mindful of the reasons why corporations want to be involved because most of the time it is to benefit themselves in some way. Kelsie did a great job of discussing this in her last post. We need to consider the reasons corporations want to be involved with education and ask ourselves the why questions.

In our chat on Tuesday we brought up the idea of companies funding schools or providing bursary’s where students receiving funding would have to agree to give back to the company by working for them for an agreed term. My friend was given a scholarship from Shoppers Drug Mart in while she was in pharmacy at the U of S and part of her getting the scholarship meant she had to agree to work with Shoppers at a location in a smaller city in Saskatchewan for two years after completing school. I think this is a fair way for them to help out. She was given help in paying for her school and in return she provided them with work for two years. After the two years were up she was able to leave and work wherever she wanted. Not a bad deal, but I know that’s not always the way things work.

Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc

One thing that really struck me while reading and thinking back to the debate and chat was the idea that education is thought of as a business. Typically most businesses make money, in terms of education, that just isn’t the case. Schools don’t make money. We spend money. We spend money on resources and teachers to provide an education to students who we hope will become contributing members of society. The money is spent on investing in the future through these students. It seems as though the government is always looking at ways to cut spending and save money in education. I agree that there are probably areas that we can save money like transportation, printing and supervision but in my mind, if we cut back in those areas in order to save, that money should be put towards other areas. I feel like if we do cut back that they will just continue us to cutback in all areas rather than taking the money and using it for educational assistants or more support staff.

In terms Pearson and everything I learned about that corporation this week, I don’t know what to think. First off, I didn’t realize they were a British company (I had assumed Canadian). I also didn’t realize that they create so many of the standardized tests for the United States. I thought that we had a pretty large number of standardized tests here in Canada but I was amazed to hear how many some states have. My problem with these tests is that they are all the same. There is no adaptations for anyone and I believe them to be biased in many ways. At my school we find that they can be culturally biased so students who have come from other countries struggle to answer the questions properly. We have to question what the goals of the standardized tests are. Are they really helping students? Is the data helping teachers see student weaknesses? Are students taking the tests seriously (insert student groans and eye rolls here)? We mentioned in class that teachers have a good idea of where their students stand academically without the tests, so does it make sense to have them? I know the standardized part of it plays a big role in government decisions and statistics because all students are scored using the same evaluation and test. I don’t teach any classes that involve standardized tests so I can’t comment much more on them but John Oliver always does a great job of shedding light on a controversial topic in a humorous way and he does just that in this video about standardized tests.

The last thing I wanted to comment on is the idea of evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores. There are so many ways this could go wrong. You could have the teacher that teaches ONLY what is on the test and leaves out anything else in the curriculum missing valuable material. You could have a dishonest teacher hint towards answers or give answers to students to increase scores. What about when students find out that teachers are being paid and evaluated based on the test scores? If they don’t like you, will they purposely answer incorrectly? These are all things that we have to take into consideration and I don’t believe that we should pay teachers based on these scores. There are far too many things that could go wrong if this happens. Teachers should be evaluated by superintendents or school administration who are able to observe the teacher teach on a number of occasions.

I think I just rambled on and on and I’m not sure I made much sense, but I’m not sure I fully understand all the details in order to provide a strong response. It’s a different look at education involving politics and business which I’m not well versed in. I hope I was at least able to give you something to think about.

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