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Why Corporations Want Control of Public Education

After reading an essay by Alfie Kohn, entitled, “Turning Learning Into Business”, from his book, “What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?”  I got curious if the essay he had written might possibly have been exaggerated. I started my own research to verify what he had written.  The results I found out were straight out of the movie “Pelican Brief.”

Our story starts in 2017, with an Internet site called Executive Paywatch, which reported that the CEO’s of the Standards & Poor (S&P) 500 index made $13.98 Million dollars of compensation. S&P are known for their marketing intelligence. The information they gather benefits their clients who are willing to pay for it.

[FLASH BACK]   In 1992, I took an in depth course in becoming an Info-Broker.  The type of clients I worked for needed information that was current, like today, and would benefit their company tomorrow morning. I found out that information could be bought, sold or traded. I remembered that employees from the RAND corporation were also  taking the same course.  They were learning how to gather information for their clients too! High profiling clients that were heading for the Olympics in Spain. Safety and security for those clients was paramount, and they required information that was current to the hour.

[BACK TO STORY]  What about S&P clients, who are they?   They range from corporations to schools. Regarding schools, the S&P was the first to tabulate, organize, and package education information from test scores that were eventually sold back to states who were interested in what was happening in their own schools.   Who could benefit from knowing student scores? Maybe your parent company to start with.  Guess who is the parent company of  S & P?  McGraw-Hill,  the same company that makes school textbooks.  Interesting huh?

Standardized testing is a machine that collects valuable data that can be organized into information. This is why corporations are not interested in the Arts, because the Arts can’t be standardized. If they can’t be formed into standardized data they are worthless.  The Arts are subjective, whereas math, science and English are objective and can be tabulated. So explains the push to downsize and remove the Arts and promote math, science and English scores.

  While schools play into the illusion of which school is the best, the real gold is being mined in the classroom as schools compete with each other. Who supports the efforts of these testing and reporting companies? Business Week has printed the top business schools, as well as the top STEM schools in the nation.  Business week writers gather their evidence from test scores.  By the way, did I forget to tell you who is the parent company of Business Week?  If you guessed  McGraw-Hill you’re getting ahead.  But hang on, the plot takes some interesting turns.

Oh yes, the more I dug, the more shadows seemed to appear behind dark corridors.  I could envision Dan Brown writing a novel concerning a global conspiracy to control schools.  To control the minds of students and their futures. Of course, to make such a novel you would probably need the Church and several key corporate head characters, who were all Masons, all sitting around key educational school boards around the country.  All being controlled by one silent and cryptic person.  Then you would have a good novel right? Well,–that’s another story.

Some business corporations have intertwined so skillfully into education that the public only perceives a mask representing education.  We have already discovered a couple of the corporations who already control the $20 billion to $30 billion dollar a year textbook and standardized testing industry, and this doesn’t even count the online, apps, and other electronic media that has surfaced like an enemy sub off the coast.

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Picture from Hypertextbook.com https://hypertextbook.com/eworld/choice/

  For example, Apple computers; Lest we forget they make and sell computers–and schools are their best customers. Another company that seems safe is Proctor and Gamble.  Did you know they have their own G&P School where they send their products in the form of lesson plans to teachers all across the country? Sounds nice until you realize they are paving the way for future customers by presenting their product in a very clever and hidden bias.

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Gateway to College Students take their Math final exam at Lake Washington Technical College, Kirkland WA

So where does this leave us?  The majority of schools throughout the United States have mission statements that generally cover these three basic common goals for the 21st Century: (1) To develop creative thinkers; (2) to develop productive global citizens and  leaders; and (3) to develop lifelong learners.

If big business controls the curriculum and standardized testing how can we develop creative thinkers.  If we want students to become productive global citizens and leaders students must be taught how to ask the right questions–not how to answer the correct multiple choice question. Finally, if we want lifelong learners, education must be stimulating not stagnant.

The only way to change this, I believe, is to allow teachers to teach.  I remember several years ago, I met with a school board made up of businessmen.  One was a podiatrist.  I remember discussing with him a biodegradable suture thread I had read about and strongly suggested he consider using it.  He told me that it had some benefits but couldn’t be used in every case.  I strongly suggested it could.  He replied, “I’ve been a surgeon for 25 years and I think I know my business better than you.”  I retorted, ” I’ve been in my field for 30 years, and I think I know my business as good as you do yours.”  He responded, “Good come back.  I get it!”  Corporations really don’t understand what is going on in the classroom.  That’s why  professional educators are hired, but it is the silent business partner who seems to have a say into what is important to teach and how it is to be taught.  Teaching to the standardized test was not developed by educators.

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Wikipedia Image: creative connections

No standardized test would complete without a scantron sheet and a #2 pencil.  It’s the  “Scantron” company that makes the millions of scantrons students from elementary to university use. Their parent company is M&F Worldwide whose Scantron Division  provides data management solutions and related services, including testing and assessment solutions, patient information collection and tracking, and survey services to educational, commercial, healthcare, and governmental entities..  The parent company of M&F Worldwide is MacAndrews and Forbes.  Finally, MacAndrews and Forbes is owned wholly by the billionaire investor Ronald Perelman.  It’s amazing where these trails end up.

For the past 20 years, the corporate business world has put down educators and told the world they can produce a better student.  In those 20 years,  the government and corporate world has invested $60 billion dollars into technology and Internet infrastructure.  State laws  have been influenced to incorporating standardized testing and assessments, the business world has  had more influence and input into school curriculum development.  However, the results published by PISA (Programme International Student Assessment) has shown that in those same years the ROI in grades for 15 year old students has remained average or below average in the United States.  Out of 71 countries the U.S. ranks 19th in science, 30th in math, and 27th in reading.

This past weekend, Superbowl LIII, sponsors invested $5.25 million dollars for a 30-second spot.  Was that money down the drain?  Of course not.  Yes, it does seem like a David and Golliath scenario, and I am only one voice, but I’ll say it anyway, “It’s time to return the class over to those trained to teach, and remove business out of classroom.”

Rough and Tumble: Parent pointers

Rough And Tumble Play Can Be Good, Clean Fun

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(NAPSI)—Most parents have seen it before—their kids begin playing so hard that it looks as if they are becoming aggressive. However, this kind of intense physical activity can actually be good for a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

Called Rough and Tumble play by the experts, this activity is a positive and necessary form of play for children, especially boys, says Rae Pica, a children’s physical activity specialist.

“Rough and Tumble play gives boys an opportunity to learn their power and boundaries, develop competence in their motor skills and imitate their role models,” Pica said.

Rough and Tumble play can be perplexing for parents, who have to gauge when it turns to a form of aggression. The difference lies in the intent: During appropriate Rough and Tumble play, there is less risk of injury than with combative play because there’s an understanding between the players.

For boys, the closer the friendship, the more intense the Rough and Tumble play can be, so children should collaborate and agree on limits.

Parents can help reinforce those limits by following these tips:

1. Set some basic rules, such as “no touching of faces” and “no shoes.”

2. Let children be in charge of making some of the rules and enforcing them.

3. Intervene only when the play turns combative; if parents intervene too often or too soon, children won’t learn conflict resolution on their own.

4. Not sure if it’s playing or fighting? Ask the participants if they see the difference and if everyone agrees.

5. Parents should also engage in Rough and Tumble play with their children—whether it’s wrestling with Dad or “tickle fights” with Mom. The physical contact helps kids build relationships.

If play turns combative, parents can redirect the children’s energy by inviting them to race outside as fast and for as long as they can, as well as provide pillows or soft toys such as Mattel’s new Brawlin’ Buddies with which they can wrestle. “Brawlin’ Buddies offer kids a toy to actively engage with alone or with other children to foster physical connection,” said Pica.

Modeled after WWE Superstars such as John Cena, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio, the 16-inch plush figures are built tough to take a pounding that will trigger one of 10 signature phrases recorded by these athletic stars. Kids can flip, toss or throw down the figures, go one on one or form a tag team Superstar battle.

Toys such as Brawlin’ Buddies encourage children to safely re-create action-packed story lines and experiment with speed, force, cause and effect, balance and spatial relationships. “The open-ended, heroic play lets children create their own stories while also fostering the kind of active play that kids need,” said Pica. “Rough and Tumble play, when directed properly, can be a very positive experience for kids—and their parents.”

Madison Avenue Doesn’t Have the Answer

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

I have just finished reading an article written by Michael Horn, for Forbes magazine called, “Building Motivation, Instilling Grit: The Necessity of instilling Mastery-based Digital Learning.”  The author presents his arguments that unmotivated students are unmotivated because they have not been instilled with the purpose and potential of competency-based and digital learning.  The author states the reason for this is two-fold:  First, they (students) want to feel successful and make meaningful progress. Second, they (students) want to have fun with their friends.

The author goes on to blame educators that their feedback is generally slow and lacking.  So, when was the last time your boss came by your cubicle to tell you how well you were doing?  Today, many schools have their grades online and have Cloud access.  After work has been graded, by the teacher, it is posted online for access by both parents and students.   Obviously, the author is not quite up to date  in the latest educational technology developments.

The author continues, “So how do we help students who aren’t buying what schools are selling?”   The response is a loud affirmation that digital learning is the all purpose solution.  It slices, dices and can even do your homework.  But more importantly, it will motivate the unmotivated.  Sorry, but technology has been around for over 50 years in education from 16mm film projects to today’s Smartboards.  Technology is a tool, it is not a motivator but an enhancer, in the hands of an expert educator, it can be used to explain complex subject matter, demonstrate with both visual and auditory equipment, but it can’t motivate anymore than the 1958 16mm film projector or DVD player in the 1980’s could.

It all sounded like a great sales pitch, and then I realized, I was reading a Forbes magazine article.  The author named one of his sources–Madison Avenue.  Now, Madison Avenue may understand Marketing but the article proved it still doesn’t understand Education. Three authors, who did not identify themselves as educators, wrote a white paper called, “Rethinking Student Motivation,”  The paper first states that, to date, there is no one size that fits all. They were right! And then they try to ‘market’ their position as the solution. The paper is a testament to Industrial Age Mentality that many schools have been trying to evolve from. Education is not about jobs, it is not about getting a job.  It’s not about selling education as a commodity.  The last time I looked I had a choice of either buying something or not.  Education is compulsory in the United States, students don’t have a choice.   If education was a choice, like at the college level,  we might need selling techniques for our K-12 students–Ah! But, it is compulsory and that’s the rub, the problem, the issue facing all educators in trying to find techniques to motivate the unmotivated.

Brain studies, behavior intelligence, multicultural studies, and socioeconomic, and global education studies are now part of the 21st educator’s arsenal for motivation. Education is about motivating both the group as well as  the individual.  The motivated and the unmotivated.   In the business world of marketing the industry focuses always on the group. The individual is passed by. We can’t do that in Education.

But let’s leave on a reflective note.  The Forbes article does have one positive supporter and that comes from the author’s last comment,  “A competency-based learning system on the other hand literally embeds grit—sticking with things until you master them—in its DNA.” Yes, it is the perfect tool for Standardized Testing, which has already shown itself as a failure  along with it NCLB program.