Gail Collins wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times earlier this week entitled “A Very Pricey Pineapple.” This article highlights the increased influence of big business in the US education system since the No Child Left Behind Act passed Congress.
The article raises concerns about whether the companies who profit from education are more interested in improving kids’ educational attainment, or whether their main interest lies in improving their bottom line.
This story is directly related the post I wrote earlier this week about the new book by Professor Michael Sandel, entitled “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” That book appears to argue that certain fundamental things should not be subject to market whims and to the eternal quest to increase corporate earnings.
Access to health care comes immediately to mind. I realize this is a highly contentious issue currently being debated in a wide variety of venues, from the corner coffee shop to the Supreme Court. Of course, the morality of the market determining what type of health care a person can access is not what the Supreme Court is debating; they are simply deciding whether people can be required to purchase health insurance and whether the federal government has the authority to enact the law. Even if these provisions of the law are upheld, the market will still dictate which insurance a person will purchase.
For all of the opposition in some camps about “Obamacare,” in many ways, the Affordable Care Act was one of the greatest corporate subsidies ever passed by Congress. This is a stark example of the tendency of policymakers in the United States to cater to the marketplace, regardless of the issue. Campaign financing plays a major role in this, as it does in most policy decisions. When the largest campaign donations consistently come from large corporations, policy decisions are inevitably impacted. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision will likely only make this worse.
Education is another area where corporate influence should be minimized. In a time when educators feel constrained by the need to “teach to a test,” it is disturbing to learn that the tests that have become so ubiquitous in our schools deliver a hefty corporate profit and may or may not be delivering actual value to the students and educators. The influence of the corporate lobbyists in crafting the No Child Left Behind law is striking as well.
What do you think? This raises the persistent question regarding the appropriate role of government in our society. Is there really anything wrong with a corporation making a profit on educational testing if the outcomes lead to better educated students? Are there safeguards that could be put in place to ensure that the interests of students are placed above the interests of corporate shareholders? Are teachers finding that they must cater their classes to these tests? Do they find that this inhibits their ability to cater to an individual child’s needs? Are you concerned about the move to privatize government services and programs or do you believe that this will improve services and programs?
Please take a minute to share your thoughts. And thank you for reading!