I was listening to NPR earlier this week (but I usually have trouble listening for very long, since they really should be NCR or National Corporate Radio, but that’s another story). One of the (non-)advertisements was about the Broad Foundation and their program of recruiting corporate CEO’s to become school superintendents. I was flabbergasted. How much more blatant can it be that the real agenda for schooling is corporate? Yes, this is just what we need… more people “in charge” of schooling who have never set foot in a classroom (other than being a student).
So, what is the corporate (and political… I think they’re the same) agenda for schooling? Corporations want employees at the massive lower levels of labor who will not question the authority of those above them. They want employees who will follow instructions and “policies” without questioning or thinking about the assumptions that underlie these instructions and policies. For instance, how many times have you tried to work out a problem with an employee (even at the supervisor level) of a corporation only to have them keep repeating the policy without listening to your problem? Usually this happens to me on the phone, but it happened last week at Costco. I tried returning a TV a friend of my son’s gave him. However, since we’re not “members,” it is against “policy” to return an item. Does this make any sense? How could anyone buy a gift for someone else? Of course, the supervisor looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about and just repeated the “policy” over and over again. The same sort of “policy” routine was just encountered at my doctor’s office when the staff people said it was against their “policy” to accept a patient (my son) with secondary insurance (I’m sure my doctor has no idea this policy even exists). Of course, when I mentioned that “policies” only serve to kill an organization (like a physician’s practice), they looked at me like I was talking in some foreign language. “Policies” prevent any kind of adaption, personal relationships, and flexibility of any kind. But, this kind of reaction by employees is just what corporations want. They don’t want employees who can think at deeper levels, who can actually relate to customers.
Corporations also want employees who will (unquestioningly) conform to certain (arbitrary) standards. This conformity can be in dress and appearance (which used to be the characteristic of IBM, gray suits, no facial hair, short hair, etc.), behavior, thinking, talk, and so forth. Individuality is not a value in such contexts.
In schools today, blind obedience, not questioning authority, and conformity are usually the standard practice, along with reams of policies. And, no where (with the exception of some individual teachers and principals) are concerns for the individual child to be found. No Child Left Behind is a prime example of a super-“policy” that has no concern for children. NCLB is concerned with political capital and with keeping teachers so busy with teaching-to-the-test that they can never teach children how to think, teach them in ways that develop deep and meaningful understandings, teach them in ways that help them develop their full capabilities and unique passions, and teach them in ways that allow them to develop into decent and creative human beings.