Education for Sale

textbooksby Jean Schiffbauer

In tumultuous times, is it possible to define the ‘public interest’ as something more than a compilation of private and powerful commercial concerns?  When schools are public in name only, do we the public even know what is being taught or how?  We will run a series of posts on curriculum issues facing our schools.  Here is our first post by a long time curriculum specialist at a K-12 laboratory school.


I joined the League of Women Voters because I was overwhelmed by the problems that are confronting our country and felt helpless to bring about any constructive changes. For thirty years, I was an educator and always knew I could impact students, teachers and administrators in a variety of ways. I didn’t change the world, but I did impact individuals. I hope, as a member of the LWV, I can help inform the public about the successes and problems in education today and worked together for new solutions.

I am attempting to update my knowledge about the current status of school curriculum. Naturally, I started by typing in my request on Google. During my search, I came across this headline from the Washington Times‎: “School curriculum aims to produce energy workers.” I continue to search and am both surprised and dismayed by my findings. Recent headlines from around our country show how many diverse groups are attempting to influence school curricula. These are some examples:

“Humane society gets $9K for curriculum”    The Rhode Island Foundation announced last Thursday that it has awarded $9,000 to the Humane Society of Jamestown to expand its education program.

“School curriculum aims to produce energy workers”  December 17, 2014 The energy industry is beginning to influence academia throughout the county, according to Paul Keidel, STEM coordinator at the Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy.

 “Koch brothers shape North Carolina’s history curriculum”   December 17, 2014

 “Oakland schools to reinstate curriculum about Mumia Abu-Jamal”   November 19, 2014 Oakland school officials, under pressure from supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal, have agreed to reinstate a controversial curriculum that includes a lesson comparing the convicted cop killer to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Progressives Gnaw at the Curriculum the undermining of AP U.S. history is typical of their work in our schools”  December 12, 2014

So, why would these findings upset me? Many people may scan through some of these headlines and get excited the private industry has decided to give “back to the their communities”. Most likely, the majority won’t even give the headlines a second glance. Why they should take a second glance and the real question is “Could what our students learn be determined by those groups who have a personal agenda?”

What is the purpose of education? Jefferson believed in the education of the common man as the most effective means of preserving the democratic ideal. If we give private corporations the opportunity to determine “WHAT” is being taught to our children, then we are not preserving democracy, we are promoting products. Our children are no longer free thinkers, they are predetermined buyers.

Posted in Books, Charter Schools, Common Core Standards, Curriculum, No Child Left Behind, Public Education, Reform.


  1. Curriculum is absolutely vital. I taught AP US History, AP World History and AP Government, both US and Comparative. I always told my students that one could be the proudest of their country if they could recognize it, warts and all, and still say it was the best place for them to live. So I take issue with the article written by Mona Charen in the National Review Online that is linked to this blog. Our students need to know what she wants in the curriculum but not to the exclusion of the critical pieces. The question is how does a teacher find the time to teach it all when it is only reading, math and science that are tested by NCLB? We are losing social studies in our elementary schools – it is still there on paper, but it loses out to reading and math b/c of the notorious test score mentality. We must change the mentality if we truly want thoughtful curriculum.

  2. I just read the article describing how “Progressives” are taking over the curriculum. Here’s an excerpt, “The new “framework” for the teaching of AP history, which is studied by thousands of America’s top-performing high-school students, emphasizes oppressors and exploiters, while scanting liberators and pioneers.”

    I’m sorry, but I worked with history teachers at all school levels, as we sought to develop standards, and I never saw such omissions (e.g., of Benjamin Franklin). It sounds like the writer and the former teacher she interviewed might be reacting to the emphases in the guidelines provided for teachers. Conservative critics of AP history have done this repeatedly; they didn’t look at everything that was taught, only at recommendations about focus. Meanwhile, I haven’t heard a peep about the Texas curriculum, which omits Thomas Jefferson so they can gush about Phyllis Schafly!

    Besides, I’m not as interested in the pieces of knowledge students have or don’t have. I’m more concerned about their ability to analyze and evaluation information. I like Dewey’s definition of education—it’s not dumping in more knowledge, it’s opening the mind.

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