Schools Should Be for Education, Not Profit

Schools Should Be for Education, Not Profit
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This article was written by Andrea R., an Essex County, NJ Middle School Student.

The following article is a part of a new series, “Listening to Youth Voices in the New Year.” Each Sunday, articles written by Essex County Middle School students will be published, each week relating to a new topic. You can learn more about this series here.

As most children do, they look up to their mothers, including me. Her chosen career was an elementary school teacher, a job I envied since I was little. I always thought teaching in a school was the best job in the world, and it is a really great job. But as I've gotten older, I've began to see that school isn't just a place of learning anymore, it's a place of business. My mom taught me that there were different sides to every story, and I would like to show everyone what kind of side I see of schools in the U.S.

School is defined as an institution for educating children. School is a public place where students go to learn. Even the origin of the word “school” was from the ancient Greek word skholē, which means leisure and a safe place for discussion and learning. Yet, now the classic definition of school is being rewritten by companies. There have been no dictionary definitions which state public schools are for profit. However, the United States has slowly adopted schools as a business model. Schools have become the newest economic industry, earning huge corporations billions of dollars, and or creating new educational markets which earn billions of dollars. Schools are now being turned into businesses as corporations sell their textbooks and standardized tests as they are becoming a necessity to most college students. Companies abuse their power and exploit schools by turning schools into businesses to make a profit.

Unfortunately, so many Americans are unaware of the process by which many companies create vasts amounts of tests that exploit schools and their education system. According to PBS, when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, millions of standardized tests were mandated across the United States. Many companies saw it as the perfect time to capitalize on these new government mandates. They postured themselves to be in the position to market and sell standardized tests to the government and public. They saw money in the tests they could sell. Companies such as Pearson preach that their tests are helpful because as Pearson states on their website, the tests share “meaningful feedback” and help parents “advocate for their child”. NJ Education found that Pearson, a massive educational corporation, makes millions of dollars each year. Pearson has contracted with the state of New Jersey to the price tag of $108 million dollars for the use of PARCC, otherwise known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Pearson has fully contracted with 7 other states, as well partially in 3 additional states. This computerized standardized test is their newest financial investment. Pearson as well as other educational publication companies have had a long history of profiteering off of public school budgets, American’s tax dollars.

As many know, the reality is students are not all the same; they’re diverse in every aspect. Not all students have the same style of learning. Thinking that a single standardized test for all students will accurately measure their knowledge base is unrealistic. Some tests are discriminatory towards students with Individualized Education Program (IEPs), as they are given sparse changes in instructions as to the regular test. In fact, it is another form of contemporary oppression for those in poverty. When schools in poverty stricken communities do not have the same tools to meet the current standards in education, the majority of those students cannot match or exceed the scores of students who come from affluent schools. Standardized tests disrupt daily learning for all students. Districts that are equipped with enough technology and support services and enough certified teachers have a higher passing level than districts that do not.

State data from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities confirms that poor students who attend better-funded schools have a higher chance of passing high priority standardized tests. Standardized testing is not an adequate tool to measure knowledge. The idea that there are only right or wrong answers doesn’t relate to real life, where deeper and critical thinking is required. In real life you need to hypothesize, experiment, observe, reflect and reassess in all aspects of your life. A test does not measure resiliency, perseverance or ethical behaviors, which are far more important for the good of society. Standardized testing is a sorting tool to pit individuals against individuals, communities against communities, thus separating the poor from the wealthy. It further isolates the poorer communities from the general population and feeds the media propaganda that that class of people are inferior. Businesses are marketing a tool that targets the privileged children in America. Companies manipulate this tool to gain one goal, to make a bigger profit.

Unfortunately, not only are companies taking advantage of capitalizing on statewide purchasing of their standardized tests, but also capitalizing on the purchasing of their school textbooks. Publishers often rewrite a chapter or two and market it as updated edition, making sure to keep full priced texts on college book stores, rather than be excluded from the profits of the “Used Book” resale shelf. The National Association of College Stores stated that the average college students spends an annual of $655 on textbooks. As inflation rises, a single textbook can cost as much as $300. Since the U.S. has industrialized education, there is a plethora of so called educational resources. So it is to be expected that the three largest educational publishing companies will invest millions in advertising and selling their programs to schools and universities across the United States. The monopoly within the educational publishing world primarily owned by three main companies: Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will go to great lengths to retain their monopoly. According to Politico half of Pearson’s 8 billion dollar budget comes from its North American education division alone.

As expressed, educational publishing companies abuse their power and influence on America's Education system by taking advantage of federal educational reforms as being the solution to schools meeting these standards. These companies work in tandem with government agencies to monopolize the standardized testing and textbook market. Furthermore, media corporations take advantage of schools declining budgets by offering compensation in exchange for platforms to market their brand. These partnerships come under the guise of benevolence, but truly they are self-serving as they promote subliminal advertising and branding, which in turn increase company profits. Companies expect to earn an annual of $30,000 according to USA Today. School buildings and grounds are used as advertising space to inundate youth and the general public with their brand. These are highly profitable sponsorships for the media corporations.

It is imperative for the U.S. to realize that turning schools into businesses will decline student’s overall education and well being. Free choice and thought are compromised. School is a place where students learn, discuss and voice their opinions. Company's main goal in the education industry should be to help and support students with no strings attached, not to make a profit. America as a whole, should realize the power we could hold if we used our collective power to revolt to these monopolizing companies. Americans need to know that we are being taking advantage of by companies who say they are here to help.

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