by 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.
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.