Friday, June 08, 2012

The corporate takeover of society and education.

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This blog has been based on an interview on National Radio with Richard Hil author of ‘Whakademia- an insider’s view of the troubled university.’Hil’s particular area of concern is the corporatisation of the university system.

Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society.   As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.

Students at the tertiary level (and parents with regard to selecting schools) can be seen as consumers or ‘shoppers’, selecting from an educational market. All that is missing is some form of comparative ‘league tables’ to provide data for parent choice – this is sure to come.

New bureaucratic practices are now well in place in all public organisation and increasingly in education. Corporate jargon is now common in this new educational environment  – inputs, outputs, targets, key performance indicators, performance management, efficiency, accountability, benchmarking and quality assurance, all based around maintaining top down corporate discipline, brand distinctiveness and market share.

Corporate domination, to be put in place,  needs an acquiescent and  disciplined workforce – in schools the principals and teachers. Through compliance requirements a workforce supportive of the corporate approach is developed.

The corporate model is pushed on schools by policy makers imposing a policy framework model on schools – policy makers who have little or no experience of the reality of the classroom and deliberately the ‘voice’ of educationalist are ignored.

To achieve such a compliant workforce constant monitoring and surveillance, through regulatory mechanisms of review, assessment and evaluation, all under the guise of transparency and accountability and quality assurance, have been put in place. All sorts of byzantine assessment process are now to be found in schools producing lots of data but little enlightenment. Students are assessed against narrow arbitrary standards resulting in a narrowing of the curriculum and, in turn, a lack of provision for students to express their diverse talents and gifts – ‘one size now fits all’. This demeans the intelligence of both teachers and students. There is no time to do fewer things well to develop important attitudes and dispositions educationalists believe are necessary for students to thrive in an uncertain future. Such aspects are far too hard to measure.

The net result of such monitoring has been the lowering of the professional status of the teaching force. Teachers have developed a sense of being constantly surveyed and swamped by red tape, a loss of creative license, intellectual freedom and job satisfaction.  Many teachers increasingly feel stressed and many are considering leaving the profession. As a result teachers are feeling there is a lack of time for the important consideration of teaching and learning and grappling with growing numbers of needy students.

As a result of disgruntled and unhappy teachers there is a growing educational malaise.  There is also a growing disenchantment in schools about the mutations caused by the corporate ideology in education.

As part of the corporate strategy was the demeaning the teaching profession through finger pointing and blaming them for student failure while at the same time ignoring the effects of poverty on student achievement. The market forces  corporate ideology places value on hardnosed economic growth and demonizes teachers and schools as failing students and being stuck in the past. To reform this seemingly failing situation a standardised model has been implemented which has resulted in a one dimensional approach to education with success being determined and measured by narrow literacy and numeracy levels in primary school and NZCEA levels in secondary.

Through this corporatism education has been reshaped to suit economic and vocational ends – only measuring what can be simply measured and all this in a world where we need more rounded, globally aware, citizen minded citizens who subscribe to the common good and not self-centred greed.

What is now needed is to turn the growing dissatisfaction with the corporate model to ‘our’ advantage by reframing the current reality with a vision of what might be, rather than complying meekly with what is being imposed.  New Zealand needs to formulate a vision that faces up to the ‘big picture’ facing us all – with a focus on developing the diverse gifts and talents of all students if we are to solve issues of poverty, climate change and sustainability.

Educators, along with other citizens, need to be liberated from the petty tyrannical managerial control and excessive administrative compliance demands they now suffer under.

In our school system there are many who have succumbed to the imposed excessive measure for a variety of reasons, more often simply to ensure their and their schools success in a competitive market. Some have come to believe that there is no other alternative (TINA).

Out of dissatisfaction there are alternatives waiting to be articulated, including picking up on democratic and humanist ideals from the past. There is a need to reframe the current reality with a vision of what might be. To make a change will require courage, leadership and working collaboratively with others who share similar concerns.

This how the corporate model itself was imposed but it has had its time centre stage – time for a new narrative to replace its narrow pragmatic ideals.  Corporatisation, based on economic growth for its own sake, is unsustainable - fighting battles of a past world.

What is needed is a fundamental change from the individualistic and materialistic values of corporatisation. A new narrative for society, and in turn, education is required to replace the destructive winners and losers corporate model.

 What is required is to establish the conditions, at every level of society and in every school, to develop the creativity, initiative and innovation that the heavy hand of the corporate model is stifling.


Allan Alach said...

2Well summarised. The key point, that everyone needs to take on board, is that this is not just a NZ issue. This is a well organised, devious scheme aimed at enabling corporates to add education to their profit stream. There is nothing educational behind this. As with much of the neo-liberal agenda, the trail goes back to Milton Friedman, who really pushed the economic/business model that you describe. The neo-libs hit NZ with Roger Douglas in 1984, and their attack on education started a couple of years later, as John O'Neill has outlined. Tomorrow's Schools was the outcome, resulting in the first shot at charter schools. Think about it - what is each school required to have? Why?

Standards arrived soon after, as the curriculum achievement objectives arrived. That didn't work as planned, so the neo-libs have reworked things to try again - this is what we are now battling. Don't believe any of the rhetoric from the government about raising achievement, etc. Their language is so similar to that of American school deformers, that it is clear this is no coincidence. League tables are coming - read the MOE statement of intent.

There is a bigger agenda, apart from mining schools to increase profits and incomes for shareholders. Any kind of testing/ranking system is aimed at ensuring that the children of the 'deserving' (i.e rich) are advantaged and thus prepared to continue the hegemony in the future. The extensive research about the effects of poverty and socio-economic issues on learning shows that the probability is that the children of the rich will 'achieve.' As in the past, the system is designed to sift children into levels of 'achievement'. The socio-economic influences will mean that the 'deserving' get a rich education, while the rest just get the 3Rs. Workers in this model are seen as intelligent machines, and, indeed, are replaced by machines as soon as possible.

The alternative, of course, is the New Zealand Curriculum, but this is dead in the water.

Anonymous said...

The future of education lies with a change of government - simple as that.

marie said...

It's also called bullying.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Corporate bullying it sure is. Teachers have failed ( a handy myth spouted by our politicians) and now have to do what they are told ( backed up by cherry picked research).

Bruce Hammonds said...

Allan, as ever, you are right. And you have paid the price for it! When it all unfolds in NZ at least teachers can't say they weren't warned by voices such as yourself. Trouble is so many teachers have no real idea of what is being imposed on them. Too busy, too distracted, some just don't want to know, and some haven't noticed.

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