Corporate Sponsors in Schools

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Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers”

~ Jean Piaget [Swiss Psychologist. Pioneer in the study of child intelligence. 1896-1980]

“The purpose of education is to enable us to develop to the fullest that which is inside us”

~ Norman Cousins [Essayist, Editor associated with Saturday Evening Post 1912-1990]

“America’s noble experiment, universal education for all” may have become but an idealized theory.  In practice it long seemed the impossible dream. However, for the hopeful this statement was a reverie, although the veracity was virtually unrecognizable at best. Still the notion lived on.  The powerful prose marveled many. That is all but believers in a for-profit privatized educational system. Today, corporate aficionados have conquered.  Commerce controls School District Administrators. It shapes decisions made. Countless elementary and secondary school campuses are transformed in accordance.  Big business buys and sells city classrooms.  Our forefathers would have thought present-day headlines could only appear in fictional accounts.  Nonetheless banners blare, “This Class Is Brought to You By. [fill in the corporate enterprise of your choice]”  

A formidable future has found novel ways to weave itself into our city schools.  In  Los Angeles the Unified District Approved Corporate Sponsors in their Schools.

The advantage, or what was posited as such, is shorter summers. “District officials said the plan would benefit students, who will be on a calendar that is more in tune with testing schedules and that mimics the college calendar.” Surely, the public is assured, every pupil prefers to synchronize his or her personal lives with assessment agendas. What child would not wish to coordinate his or her datebook with the desires of school Administrators?

After all, a little learner has nothing better to do than to take a standardized test at the behest of statisticians, test publishers, school staffers, and those policy brokers who sit in stuffy offices. This is the mindset of a society who has forgotten its mission.

Might we consider what occurs when we rely on the rote, the scores, and the easily observable gains? Some social scientists have.  Pedagogues comprehend the corporate world’s involvement in our schools has already influenced or impaired our children’s creativity.  The effect of our belief in efficiency, as extolled by a free enterprise system, has had a huge taken a huge toll on education.  For decades, curriculums have been changed in order to conform to a company culture.  Prospectus and pupil guidelines parallel what is evident in an industrialized economy.  Every effort is examined, rated, and ranked; even originality is observed as though it too can be accurately calculated.

A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative  

By Sue Shellenbarger

Wall Street Journal.

December 15, 2010

“Americans’ scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group, says Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans’ scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardized test that’s considered a benchmark for creative thinking . . .

Might it be true that an increased industrial presence portends further deterioration?  Even creativity has become but a measure.  Lest we forget as countless adults have; as children many were frustrated by a grade that assessed how we performed on a multiple-choice visual examination.  [I know as an abundantly analytical audio-learner, I was.  Indeed, I still am.]  Nonetheless, as a society we insist that the invisible progression known as learning can be calculated in the details of single appraisal.

In our current educational system, stimulated synapses, or the electrical currents that race through the brain as we process information, are read as if they were currency.  Count the change or experience it through an Educator’s personal transition.  A Scholar, who studied with Theodore R. Sizer, a prominent education-reformer, Shael Polakow-Suransky once affirmed, “Until we start seeing assessments that ask kids to write research papers, ask them to solve unfamiliar problems, ask them to defend their ideas, ask them to engage with both fiction and nonfiction texts; until those kinds of assessments are our state assessments, all we’re measuring are basic skills.”  . . if that. The soon to be second-in-command of New York City Schools in the past understood that what occurs in a young person’s life each day effects his or her performance on a standardized test.

Yet, as The New York Times reports, this same sage now thinks More and “Better” Testing is needed.  Journalist Fernanda Santos writes after a lengthy investigation, “In his evolution from an idealist teacher to a data-mining administrator, Mr. Polakow-Suransky, personifies the seismic changes in education that were beginning to take shape just as he was drawing up his first lesson plans.”

Shael Polakow-Suransky had been an advocate for more authentic, observable, classroom performance and portfolio assessments.  Today, as Chief Accountability Officer of the New York City Department of Education, Polakow-Suransky prepares for another supremely institutionalized position.  As he steps on stage as second-in-command for the New York City School Chancellorship Shael Polakow-Suransky acknowledges that while tests are imperfect, standardized examinations are an essential measurement tool. “To put it very simply,” he said, “how do you know that the kids are learning?”

Perchance, lost in time and space, as is the idea [ideal] of a “universal education for all,” this Administrator, and America, has forgotten how creativity is born and articulated.  Thankfully, there are a few who think imagination is invaluable.  The construct is invisible. Then mind’s eye cannot be captured and  scored, nay measured a stressful testing moment.  Nonetheless, these experts fear that what was once considered fiction, corporate control of curriculums,  is now the folly experienced as everyday life.

Researchers believe growth in the time kids spend on computers and watching TV, plus a trend in schools toward rote learning and standardized testing, are crowding out the less structured activities that foster creativity. Mark Runco, a professor of creative studies and gifted education at the University of Georgia, says students have as much creative potential as ever, but he would give U.S. elementary, middle and high schools “a ‘D’ at best” on encouraging them. “We’re doing a very poor job, especially before college, with recognizing and supporting creativity,” he says.”

In an earlier era, creativity was what we craved.  In America, ingenuity and inventiveness were venerated.  Innovations were highly valued.  Instruction was intended to inspire.  Education was a gift granted by the goodness of our fellow man.   Long before we were an established nation, people in this territory thought it vital; government must “fulfill its responsibility to educate citizens.”  However, over time, this notion has been altered.

Possibly, what was the worse of our educational practices has become the norm.  In truth, equitable access to educational resources has never been veracity in the States.  Now, it is not only thought to be other than viable, it is no longer envisioned as essential.

Privatization has become our newfound instructional priority.  On every street corner people posit, schools cannot, must not, be “controlled” by the State. Innumerable legal residents of the country claim that only their child’s needs matter.  Even these can come at a cost that countless people without children are unwilling to pay. “No new taxes.”  “Cut all tariffs;” these are common cries amongst American citizenry.  Teach the children?

Others believe the price is worth the rewards.  These individuals think if we do not serve our children well, the commonweal will suffer as a whole.  Those who endorse a hundreds years legacy feel certain that privatization would be the death of what delivers creativity and breeds curiosity.  The destruction or deconstruction is already apparent. It has been verified as well as felt.

Education endorsed and encouraged can nurture the future.  Privatization skeptics believe that the more powerful corporations become, the more commerce and calculations will dominate our school system.  Indeed, it has.  Yet, apparently, the Los Angeles Unified School District worries not.  Therefore, Los Angeles Schools Sought Sponsors.  Subsides were found.

What has been a common fear since the first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock is the newer truth in Southern California, in Wisconsin too.  Indeed, in many ways the drift to corporate sponsorship in schools has been slow, subtle; yet, long present.

Some may recall a time when sports stadiums and arenas were named after a team.  Long ago, highways were maintained by government agencies.  At present, fields and portions of freeways are sponsored by for-profit businesses.  So too are our schools.  The times, they have changed.

Much of the public believes this newer reality is better.  For them, the government is just too big.  We must take the State out of our every endeavor. After all, in the United States, free enterprise is the way. An open market is trusted by most to be wiser than any other system.  Businesses, it is said, balance books.  The statistics a company gathers guarantee greater productivity and proof of greater success. Numbers rule.  That is why people currently trust the federal, state, and local budgetary concerns must be our priority.  We, as a nation have no dollars and near nil cents [sense.]

Creativity? Curiosity?  Critical thinking?  These are trends of the past.  Progress?  Only you can decide for yourself.  We might all wonder; what will the children conclude.

References and Realities Realized . . .



    • banger on December 20, 2010 at 16:08

    I did think about education quite a lot when my kids were of school age. My conclusion was that schools don’t work for two major reasons.

    One, the design of public education was basically constructed a century or more ago and is just not relevant. By that I mean that children are not even close to being properly educated in any meaningful way, i.e. the original sense of the word which means to draw forth or bring out what is inherent within. Today we live in a drastically different culture where pitfalls are much more subtle and children need to be taught to be skeptical at an age when they shouldn’t be. Society has unleashed weapons of mass-hypnosis and mind control on children starting as toddlers. Even if you eliminate commercials the sort of entertainment offered in the mass-media are engineered to seduce children not nurture them. Parents have to be very careful in what they expose their young children to and, in my view, TV and other entertainments should not be allowed for children under five. My personal experience of raising children was to make sure they had either no exposure or very limited and rationed exposure to television and all of them have remarkable ability to concentrate on tasks copared to their contemporaries. Without going into detail even the way subjects are divided and the lack of survival training like ability to forage, understanding of human physiology including first-aid, basic remedies, understanding of machines and electronic devices is almost nil. Also, the arts particularly which have been proven to be effective educational experiences helping all other learning endeavors have been almost completely eliminated from schooling. What has replaced it? In a word: bullshit and testing.

    Second, we are a deeply divided society that cannot agree on the most fundamental aspects of life. How could those who believe in scientific inquiry and the western humanistic tradition a liberal social millieu have any common ground with those who believe that the Bible trumps science and the prime goal of education is to teach children to obey rules. Without some common agreement on the meaning of life the role of the citizen in this society we cannot have a sane or healthy educational system.

    I see no good future for public schooling in this country. I don’t think Americans are interested, at any rate, in education except as a kind of slogan that makes it seem they are interested in their children’s future ability to make a living. I don’t think there’s much interest in actual learning and I don’t think we’ll ever see a return to deeply passionate teachers interested in knowledge and educating children–that is, we won’t see them in public schools but they will take positions, sometimes for less, in private schools that do treasure learning for its own sake.  

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