The corporate takeover of our kids’ future
The corporate takeover of our kids’ future
Over the past years in the United Kingdom there has been a push for ‘failing’ schools to become Academies. Academies were the brainchild of the former Labour government, but have really taken hold under the current conservative. Since their re-election, the push has become much more overt, with the criteria now shifting up from ‘failing schools’ being forced into Academy status to schools that retain their ‘good status’ being pushed also because they have been ‘cruising'.
The corporate takeover of our schools, the rejection of governmental responsibility for its most vulnerable citizens, our children, has begun in earnest.
Since the early 1980s there has been a push to downsize the role of governments and turn over more and more of their job of providing their citizens with the necessities of life to corporate interests and the profit motive.
Governments are now less in the business of providing their citizens’ life needs and now more in the thrall of corporate interests.
The sell off of public goods to private corporations has not actually occurred only to save money, as governments claim, but to reward the corporate powers whose money plays a major role in the campaigns of those who get elected, particularly the embrace between Big Finance and the media barons. It is further driven by ideological beliefs, which see the free market as the ultimate arbitrator of all policy planning.
So economy is now the yardstick by which all success is measured. But should it?
Is the economy the only or even the best measure of human happiness? Our standard of living, the measure of economic success, keeps rising, but can we truly say the quality of our lives is also? Has this economic focus and push toward privatization improved the quality of our lives? Many would say a resounding ‘no’ and with research by Unicef placing English and American children as the unhappiest in the developed world confirming that it is indeed not working.
This push to privatise and the lust of corporations to penetrate ever more into our lives is accelerating. Corporations are constantly looking for new opportunities to profit, and our ideologically driven and craven governments oblige.
Until recently, education has remained within the sphere of governments, at least for most children. But now corporations see the takeover of government education as their goal, a place where they can make rich profits. In the United Kingdom this has taken the form of the Academies. Academies are formerly government schools that are now managed for a profit by private interests. Initially, this was seen as a way to ‘lift’ the performance of poorly performing or ‘failing’ schools.
In an attempt to understand this push, I spoke to head teachers at several primary schools in London. The more I asked questions the more it became obvious that the government was abdicating responsibility by off-loading the local authority’s educational responsibilities to Academies. These responsibilities are being handed over to the Academies, saving the government significant amounts of money, or so it claims. But will it in the long run?
If profit is the motive, prices will rise to gain more profit. The greed of the pharmaceutical companies is a salutary lesson of where corporate control of needed public services leads.
What is the cost of this to our children?
When schools become part of a corporation with CEO and executive heads, they quickly become removed from the community they are there to serve.
Teaching and education are a calling, a career that people are compelled to follow because they can feel the purpose and love that is possible in working with the education of a nation. This may sound rather grand, but it is the truth: how you educate a generation will inform the adults that then run the country.
Service, purpose and love cannot be sustained when the intention of the school becomes about the bottom-line needs of a corporation or business: to make money, and ever more of it.
Corporations have a ‘corporate culture’ to which everyone is expected to conform. So, in these privatised Academies everything becomes homogenised: all policies are the same, teachers are to behave like ‘xyz’ in line with corporate expectations, without their expression being honoured or more importantly being encouraged. In a system where, for example, you have a CEO head teacher in charge of twenty schools, all those schools pay the executive money allotted by the government for education. Incomes become salaries based on school performance, with league tables becoming even more important indicators of success – such tables are the typical way that corporations register their competitiveness.
But should competitiveness be how we measure educational success?
The best results in human history have always come from working together cooperatively, in a team. No one thrives in life on their own, contrary to the individualist free-market-based ideology behind the drive to privatisation.
We are in danger of sleepwalking into a disaster that will scar our children indelibly: schools losing all sense of what it is to be a teacher, rather than a corporate employee.
Teachers will come to feel that they are doing a job for ‘pay for the boss’, rather than caring for the nation’s future. Appreciating the absolute privilege it is to bring a child up from 5 – 11 years, to guide them to be all they can be, will be lost forever, as schools are reframed to be just another assembly line turning out products for the corporate world, to be sold in the market place for a profit.