NCTE 2012 Reflections: The Corporatization of the American Classroom

I went to a session this morning that featured Linda Christensen (chair), Troy Hicks, Jory Brass, and Allen Webb, entitled “School TM: Teacher Decision Making in the Era of the (For-Profit) Corporate Classroom.” The conversation got heated and emotional very quickly, and I want to use this space to make the comments that I was going to make in the session (but we ran out of time).

Before I reflect, though, here is a link to a wiki the panelists set up describing the corporate invasion taking place in America’s schools. As one of the panelists noted today, if you enter at any point in the corporate network, you’re basically talking to the same group of people; Pearson meets Gates meets ETS… it’s all one big beast.

Click here to see their Wiki and learn more about the corporate culture of American schooling.

Click here to view the backchannel that the panelists set up on TodaysMeet.com.

Now for my two cents…

I wonder about the impact of this corporatization on teacher education and how we can fight back against it. It came up briefly during the discussion, but then fizzled. However, I see some of the effects of this corporatization, though delayed (as always), starting to trickle into our teacher education classrooms as students become concerned about whether or not they are going to be “good enough” at teaching. This pressing question isn’t problematic (it has haunted the minds of pre-service teachers for centuries, I’m sure)… at least, not until “good enough” comes to mean their students’ scores on standardized tests are “good enough” for them to keep their jobs. My pre-service students worry about test scores in the same way juniors in high school have increasingly worried about their scores on the SAT and ACT over the past few years. And I can’t blame them. These early career teachers are receiving very mixed messages about the role of tests and corporate-sponsored technologies and texts in their teaching.

At one point during the session, someone noted that it is the express goal of these corporate networks to decrease enrollment in teacher education in the coming years by something on the order of 30%. Well, it’s working; I’m starting to see the impact in my own school of education. Our last three cohorts have totaled 27 students (this is down from years when we would have multiple cohorts of 18+). This, I believe, is the compounded result of many factors, not least of which include negative portrayals of teaching in the media and the recent upswing in TFA recruits from our university. Each of these things are products of this corporatization of American schooling. Don’t believe me? Read the arguments on the panelists’ wiki.

I left this session fired up. Frustrated. Shaking a little bit (though that could’ve been the double-shot latte I downed beforehand). Which one participant argued was exactly what we should be feeling — angry. Angry that our system is so heavily influenced by people who know nothing about education or the important role of differentiation (not sameness) in educational equity.

But anger never got me very far, so here, I’m trying to consider ways in which to respond positively and productively to this discussion. I think step number one, at least as far as teacher education is concerned, is to make visible to our pre-service teachers the role that corporatization is likely to play in their professional lives such that they can resist it by relying on their (and others’) professional knowledge. Knowledge gained from working with kids, with other teachers, and with individuals who understand what is best for our nation’s schools.

More reflections to come, I’m sure, as I wrap up my weekend in Vegas.

3 thoughts on “NCTE 2012 Reflections: The Corporatization of the American Classroom

  1. Will

    I think you know I share your anger. Here are some thoughts:

    What the teachers did recently in Chicago was as good an example as any of the real firepower teachers can use to fight back. They went on strike with demands that weren’t only about maintaining their own standard of living, but about the quality and type of education in Chicago public schools. As the CTU president said, the strike was about “the very soul of public education.”

    In my opinion, in the long term, we should try to work together towards establishing teacher run schools. If that became a widespread and realistic demand, then that would also free up schools of education to prepare future teachers not only for the classroom, but for the difficult and rewarding collaborative work of running a school.

    Imagine how interesting a teacher prep program might look if that were in the cards?

    At least one school has done this already: http://www.democracyatwork.info/learn/?topic=examples&title=school&type%5B%5D=audio&type%5B%5D=video&type%5B%5D=text&type%5B%5D=offsite

    I am actually working with a few people now on a plan now for a cooperatively run language school in the private sector here in Ireland, where the benefits are even easier to see. If there is no owner extracting profit from the school, there is all the more surplus left for decent teacher salaries and classroom tech, supplies, etc.

  2. Pingback: (One More) NCTE Thought: the common core « Gone Digital

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