Are Public Schools Selling their Souls to Corporations?

Hello everyone!

This week in EDTC 400, we had our seventh debate. Many schools now get funding from big corporations to buy educational technology, sporting equipment, and many other things that schools need that the government cannot fund. This week’s debate topic focused on this issue and was “Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests”. This week’s debaters were Liz and Shaleen. Liz argued that public education HAS sold its soul to corporate interests and Shaleen argued that public education HAS NOT sold its soul to corporate interests.

Pre-Vote

To start off this week’s blog, we had the usual pre-debate vote. This week’s vote was fairly even, but still swayed to the agree side. To start this debate I was on the majority side. Initially I agreed with the statement that public education has sold its soul to corporate interests. I did not know as much as Liz did about the influence that corporations have on schools, but I knew that big corporations have heavy influences on high schools and universities.

The Pre-Vote for EDTC 400 Debate 7

THe Agree Side – Liz

To start off the debate, the class watched Liz’s introduction video, which is below. Liz had five major ideas in her video, which are:

  1. The Common Core Standards – the implementation of standard core curriculum nation-wide is an issue.
  2. Standardized Testing – Corporations supply standardized tests and are making them more difficult so students will need to retake the test and the corporations make more money.
  3. Textbooks – Most textbooks are tailored to suit the needs of students from specific regions.
  4. Corporate Sponsorships – Corporations offer students opportunities and sponsorships but students are exposed to sugary drinks at an early age.
  5. Universities – Most corporate jobs require a university degree

Liz raised a lot of good points in her argument that I did not think of before watching her video and reading the articles she asked us to read after class. I did not realize that Pearson, which is a major textbook company in the United States also creates many of the standardized tests that students are required to pass in order to move on to the next grade. I did not realize that these tests cost between $15-30 per test as mentioned in the short video that Liz asked us to watch. When students fail these tests, they must retake them and then the company is getting another $15-30 for the retaken test. Making the standardized test more difficult ensures that less students are passing the test the first time and thus must retake the test to pass their grade. With more students retaking the tests, the company that is supplying the tests is making more money.

The Disagree Side – Shaleen

Even though Liz made a very good argument that argued that public education has sold its soul to corporations, Shaleen made a very good counterargument that argued that public schools have not sold their souls to corporations. The class watched Shaleen’s video, which is below. Her four main points are:

  1. Technology in the Classroom – In order to gain funding for expensive technology, such as iPads, or laptops that are used in classrooms, schools need funding from big corporations to buy the technology.
  2. Schools Determine Which Platforms the Use – With multiple companies and funding in educational technology, schools can choose which companies they would like to receive funding from.
  3. Schools are Moving Away from Bad Businesses – Schools are ending their contracts with companies such as Pearson.
  4. Ethical Consumptions – Every person uses technology, just like schools use technology in the classroom. If schools are selling themselves out to corporations, then so is every individual.

Shaleen made some very great points in her video. One of the biggest points that stuck out to me was the first point Shaleen mentioned. Education technology is becoming more of a requirement in classrooms rather than a luxury. Most classrooms use a projector, laptop and some other sort of technology in the daily classroom activities. Education technology can be quite an expensive piece of the classroom and not every school can afford to fund it with the funding given by the government. Many schools need the funding from corporate companies in order to pay for the technology that will benefit their students. It is important to look at the benefits that corporate funding can give to schools that cannot afford educational technology, sports equipment, field trips, or anything else that will benefit students. Corporate funding can help many schools afford the things that government funding will not cover.

The Debate

During the debate, the class discussed a lot about the influence that Coke and Pepsi had on our high school life. Most of my classmates, including myself, went to a high school that was funded in some way or another by Coke or Pepsi. I remember in high school having Pepsi machines in my high school that sold full sugar products. Having access to sugary drinks in high school is not beneficial to students. This early exposure to sugary drinks and junk food can lead to children’s weight gain as mentioned in Tom Philpott’s article. These sugary drink companies do supply a lot of sugary drinks to students, but they also supply funding for things like educational technology and sporting equipment.

Photo Credit: Like_the_Grand_Canyon Flickr via Compfight cc

The class focused heavily on the influence that companies can have on schools. The class discussed the influence that advertisement can have on schools and used the example of the Boston Pizza sign at the University. Advertisement in schools, especially in the gyms, can be very influential in school communities. Schools, even universities, can gain a lot from the funding from corporations.

My Thoughts

One of the things that did not get heavily discussed in the debate that I found very important in both Liz and Shaleen’s arguments is the influence of corporate companies on the academics of students. Katia slightly touched on the influence that companies can have on academics. She mentioned that some textbook companies are funded by oil and gas companies. This funding might skew the information that is given to students that ensures that oil and gas companies are not put in a bad light. The influence that major companies can have on the information that students receive or are being tested on can be a lot more than I initially thought. Even though a lot of schools still use Pearson standardized testing in the United States, many schools are discontinuing their contracts with Pearson as mentioned in the article by Valerie Strauss that Shaleen asked the class to read.

Overall, this debate caused me to think more about this topic than what I initially thought I would. I initially was very much in agreement that public schools have sold their souls to corporations. I did not think a lot about the influence that funding can have on schools. Corporate funding can negatively influence students lives by providing them with sugary drinks from a young age, but corporate funding also supplies the funding for educational resources. Like with many of the EDTC 400 debates, this debate topic requires balance. I do not think schools have sold their souls out to corporations, but I do think corporations have heavily influenced the lives of students in schools. Many schools rely on the funding that is given by corporations to get the resources that they need that the government funding cannot cover. I think the government needs to put more money into the funding of schools and resources such as educational technology and the educational field trips that students go on. If schools must rely on corporate funding and sponsorship in schools, especially if it is a junk food company, schools must educate students about a healthy lifestyle and the health risks of over-consumption of junk food and sugary drinks.

Post-Vote

The final thoughts of the class did not align with my thoughts now. In the end, the class voted almost all in favour that public schools have sold their souls to corporations.

The Post-Vote for EDTC 400 Debate 7

Conclusion

I think schools are not the only ones to blame in the situation of funding from corporations. I think big corporate companies, the government and schools all play a role in the issue of corporate funding in schools. Schools need more funding and when the government cannot provide the funding schools need for educational technology, educational field trips, or sporting equipment, schools must turn to big corporations to gain the funding that they need. The question is, is it public schools’ fault that there is not enough funding and they must turn to corporations for the funding they need?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading my blog post!

Ashley Osachoff

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