Public Schools: Education
in the Marketplace
of “hegemony” is necessarily an educational relationship.
1.1 The privatization of public schooling is cause for considerable concern.
Students and their families increasingly face corporate, for- profit schools
with unproven credentials as their only alternative to currently existing
public schools. Teachers face a weakening of their labor rights when for-profit
schools hire non-union teachers in order to keep their expenses to a minimum.
Education researchers risk marginalization of pedagogical innovations
that may adversely affect a company’s bottom line and condemnation of
research that critiques private sector involvement in schooling. Social
integrity and personal freedom are in jeopardy as corporations increasingly
exert their influence on the curriculum and the discourse of schooling.
1.2 Privatization of schools and other public entities is a consequence of
the hegemony of the market economy. Over the last twenty years the rise
of the market economy has been facilitated by a convergence of neo-liberal
economic power and neo-conservative socio-political power. The processes
taking place have been described in terms of a conservative restoration (Apple, 1996) and the rise of
the rich (Gran, 1996). The ascendancy of market economy
power has resulted in many localized relationships of hegemony as well
as the wide-ranging hegemony known as “globalization." As
a consequence, public life everywhere is in an increasingly precarious
1.3 Nevertheless, this dismal scenario offers opportunities to develop transformative
educational relationships. Parents, students, teachers, and researchers
can organize around issues of concern such as school privatization, and
work together to improve schooling. Educators can join with other cultural
workers (i.e. organic intellectuals; popular educators; environmentalists;
and social justice activists) to seize these hegemonic relationships as
opportunities for organizing around a multiplicity of issues. Adopting
a comprehensive understanding of the interconnected forces that create
and sustain hegemony brings together various constituencies that can form
a broad base of mutual support and resistance. The educator’s responsibility
here is two-fold: to elucidate these hegemonies as interconnected, global,
and local issues; and to organize for change.
1.4 I would like to address how the rise of the neo-liberal/neo-conservative
convergence of power has accelerated the trend toward school privatization.
I include illustrations of resistance to privatization in order to interject
a sense of agency and hopefulness that is vital for building strong counter-hegemonic
movements. The struggle against market hegemony has become especially
important in education as privatization is legally sanctioned; government
funded, and bankrolled by substantial private capital.
1.5 Two distinct yet mutually accommodating discourses (among others) that
advance the right-wing agenda for education are neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism.
Coming from fundamentally different perspectives, the partners in this
new alliance had to overcome certain ideological differences. Religious
conservatives among the neo-conservatives are generally wary of self-indulgent
monetary enrichment while economic conservatives among the neo-liberals
generally distrust the discursive power of religious fundamentalism. In
order to accomplish a merger between the two, a new ideology evolved based
on the metaphor of the “invisible hand” (Block, 2002). The invisible hand--or
the power of market forces--is able to influence behavior as it metes
out rewards and punishments in a seemingly rational system. It becomes
a proxy measure of success, providing an explanation for the failure of
the disadvantaged while ensuring that the privileged remain so.
1.6 Concerned with issues that involve control of the body as well as the
mind, neo-conservatives rely on government sanctions and legislative enforcement
to fulfill their vision of a moral society. Often driven by fundamentalist
religious convictions, they frame their concerns as issues of personal
morality, family values, and social mores. The educational issues that
most concern them involve curricular content (i.e. creationism vs. evolution,
and sex education), textbook adoption policies; and practices such as
school prayer. Neo-conservatism exerts ideological hegemony by shaping
the discourse of schooling and influencing curriculum content.
1.7 Neo-liberals are primarily concerned about exercising their rights in
a “free market” economy. Descending from the liberal tradition in economics
that calls for the free reign of market forces, they desire leniency or
the absence of any government regulatory intervention that might interfere
with the functioning of market forces. Politically conservative governments
often empower neo-liberals by enacting legislation favorable to their
interests in order to gain their political support and harness their economic
resources. Neo-liberalism is lately imposing its marketplace mentality
on the discourse and practices of schooling as evidenced by the increasing
privatization and commercialization (see Molnar, 2001) of schooling.
1.8 Just as the “invisible hand” metaphor facilitates a neo-liberal/neo-conservative
ideological merger, the hegemony of accountability enables neo-liberal
and neo-conservative incursions into schooling. As Mathison and Ross (2002)
note, “Accountability has become the means of enforcement and control
used by states and businesses.” It is a form of social control that can
restrict individual opportunities while imposing the authority of official
knowledge. This is accomplished through standardized curricula, proficiency
tests of both students and teachers, regulation of textbooks, and undue
corporate influence on the research agenda (see Giroux, 2002). The hegemony
of accountability serves the corporate sector’s interests by indulging
its quest for "knowledgeable," compliant workers; manipulating
research results and highlighting its largesse in the form of research
endowments; not to mention increasing its bottom line through sales of
tests, textbooks and curricular material.
2.1 The private sector already plays a large role in public schooling, mostly
in the form of contracts for food, transportation, and maintenance services
(Saltman, 2000). But more recently privatization has insinuated itself
in schooling through contracting out for school management and remedial
education services; and voucher programs that turn education into a purchasable
commodity in the private sector. After being deemed failures, public schools
taken over by for-profit corporations are no longer completely accountable
to the public yet are still paid for with taxpayers’ money. Recent legislation
that employs the language of choice, efficiency, effectiveness,
and accountability will greatly facilitate the process of publicly-funded
2.2 For neo-liberals, having school “choice” is a reform in and of itself,
based on the belief that applying market forces to education will lead
to school improvement. But putting schooling within the arena of the marketplace
is inappropriate for several reasons. The fundamental flaw of this logic
is expressed by the political editor of SeeingBlack.com:
Considering that the only choice that matters is choosing a better school
over a struggling school, the underlying problem with the “choice” movement
is clear. There shouldn’t be any bad schools in the first place. The
fact that the bad schools are concentrated in our communities should
move us to fight the entire system--not search for a better place within
it (Themba-Nixon, 2001).
2.3 Charter schools are touted by many as the answer to academic failure in
public schools and educational management organizations are seen as offering
the solution to school management problems and funding inadequacies. The
neo-conservative political agenda fosters privatization by cutting funding
to public schools and enacting legislation favorable to private sector
ventures; encouraging the proliferation of charter schools and allowing
educational management organizations to run public schools. Adopting a
school choice program does not necessarily guarantee academic improvement,
however. In fact, examining the voucher programs that have led to privatization
reveals that they are fraught with problems. Privatization schemes are
by no means being embraced by the communities, students, administrators,
and teachers that are confronted with them.
2.4 Several school districts across the nation have already implemented voucher
programs, among them: Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore
(see Orr, 1999), Cleveland, and Boston. Looking at the voucher programs
already underway offers insights on such issues as how students with disabilities
have fared in private charter schools (Zollers & Ramanathan, 1998),
media handling of the issues (Mitgang and Connell, 2001), policymakers
attitudes (Laitsch, 2002), constitutional issues such as the separation
of church and state (as in Cleveland and Milwaukee), labor issues, and
2.5 I focus here on the experiences of two of the cities that have adopted
voucher programs-Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Milwaukee case reveals
the workings of neo-conservative influence in attempting to create a favorable
picture of voucher programs in order to garner public support. The Philadelphia
case reveals the tenacity of a private sector educational management organization—Edison
Schools Inc., to maintain its foothold in the school district despite
widespread public rejection and its own dismal financial results.
Deep Pockets and Marketing
3.1 Initiated in 1990-91, Milwaukee has the longest running voucher program
in the U.S. It started with 1,500 low-income students receiving vouchers
for five secular, private schools. But by the end of four years, one-third
of those students had left the private schools and the program was amended
to include private religious schools. In 1997, the Wisconsin legislature
expanded the program to accommodate 15,000 low income students. The inclusion
of religious schools however precipitated litigation and the Wisconsin
Supreme Court upheld the legislation for the start of the 1998-99 school
year (Carnoy, 2001). This resulted in a program in which most (70 percent)
of the school choices available were religious schools (Miner, 2000).
3.2 Milwaukee is also home to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, benefactor
of right wing projects to the tune of about $40 million annually (Levine,
2002). Among the projects funded by the Bradley Foundation are the Heritage
Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute,
Marquette University’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning,
research on voucher programs conducted by Harvard University faculty;
and $1 million that supported Charles Murray’s book, The Bell Curve.
3.3 In addition to paying legal fees in defense of voucher programs and funding
research studies and conservative think tanks, the Bradley Foundation
in August 2000 created an organization called the Black Alliance for Educational
Options (BAEO). The BAEO’s “public information campaign” targets African
American families with its pro-voucher message through direct mailings,
radio, internet, and newspaper ads as well as door to door solicitation.
The Walton Family Foundation (Walmart) contributed $900,000 toward project
start-up. A federal grant of $600,000 from the Department of Education
was also given to the BAEO. The Black Commentator (Author, 2002)
succinctly describes the scenario as follows: "A phony 'movement'
invented by rich, racist white men in Milwaukee, is being foisted on a
Black and Latino public, paid for with the people’s tax money"
[emphasis in original].
Whether out of ideological commitment or as part of a larger privatization
plan the corporate sector and political sector have worked together closely
to promote school “choice” programs. Richard DeVos Sr. (Amway) donated
$10 million to convince voters in a Michigan referendum to use public
money for vouchers and also gave $764,500 to Republican campaigns. In
addition to other privatizing efforts such as turning a former military
base into the first privatized national park, Donald G. and Doris F. Fisher
(Gap Inc.) offered the state of California
$25 million if it would agree to turn management of its schools over to
Edison Schools Inc. The Fishers’ son owns four percent of Edison. Theodore
J. Forstmann initiated the $20 million pro-voucher “Campaign for America’s
Children” that spread its message through newspaper and television ads.
Forstmann founded Empower America, a conservative group that among
other issues lobbies for school vouchers and privatization of Social Security.
Forstmann and John Walton each put up $50 million to create The Children’s
Scholarship Fund, the nation’s largest privately-funded school voucher
program. (The Mother Jones 400, http://www.motherjones.com/web_exclusives/
Privatization initiatives and voucher programs are funded by the private
sector because corporations such as EMOs stand to benefit from them directly;
and they are funded by the government sector because it gives the appearance
that those holding political office are responsive to the needs of people
who are disserved by public education. And more than occasionally these
motives are interchangeable as when politicians have a personal financial
stake in privatization, and when corporations wish to appear that they
are concerned about social issues.
Politics and the Persistence
of the Corporate Sector: Philadelphia
and Edison Schools Inc.
4.1 The largest school district to have experimented with privatization is
Philadelphia's—the 7th largest in the nation. With 265 schools,
205,000 students, and a $1.7 billion annual budget, the Philadelphia school
district is a potential bonanza for privateers. The events surrounding
the state’s takeover of Philadelphia’s schools and the involvement of
Edison Schools Inc. with the district reveal strong public sentiment against
4.2 The privatization process began in Philadelphia in the summer of 2001
when it was but a gleam in the eye of then Governor Tom Ridge. Ridge awarded
Edison Schools Inc. a $2.7 million, no-bid contract to study the district
over a two month period and make recommendations for improving school
financing and student achievement. It did not go unnoticed that a potential
conflict of interest was inherent in this situation (Woodall, 2001). Right
from the start, Edison did not endear itself to Philadelphians when, just
days before the opening of school in September, the company hired away
one of the district’s primary administrators (Snyder, 2001).
4.3 Picking up where Ridge left off, Governor Schweiker proposed in late October
that Edison Schools Inc. run the district’s management operations. Philadelphia’s
mayor, John Street opposed it as did many others. As the Philadelphia
While Mayor Street continued to
give Gov. Schweiker the silent treatment yesterday, a long line of parents,
union leaders, college professors and community organizers used a hearing
at City Hall to pummel the governor’s plan to privatize Philadelphia
public schools… Most of them agreed Philadelphia schools need to improve,
but they were virtually unanimous in rejecting Edison as the way to
go. (O’Neill, 2001)
4.4 If the Governor and Mayor were still unable to conclude an agreement,
a legal memorandum would have turned the district over to the state. But
in November, the governor and the mayor reached a compromise whereby the
state would establish a School Reform Commission (replacing the school
board) to oversee the district’s employees. Facing an estimated $200 million
budget deficit Mayor Street gave the governor this mandate, believing
this to be the only way the city could compensate for the district’s budget
deficit (Dean, 2001).
4.5 In November, the Philadelphia Student Union rallied hundreds of students
at the capitol in Harrisburg and lobbied legislators against state takeover
and privatization of their schools. The City Council attacked Edison for
its poor track record in improving student achievement ( O’Neill, 2001)
And the Council of the Great City Schools, a non-profit organization criticized
Edison’s report to the governor as being of poor quality and failing to
make its case (Dean, 2001).
4.6 Furthermore, Edison raised suspicion when in response to a query from
state Senator, Vince Fumo, it refused to disclose the amount of money
it was paying to its subcontractors for carrying out the study. (Later
it was uncovered that Edison had paid four politically connected subcontractors
a total of $85,000 to gain political access) (Warner & Daughen, 2002).
Incredulous that the Pennsylvania State Department of Education did not
require such disclosure, a December 2001 editorial in the Philadelphia
Daily News fumed,
Well we’ve got a flash for the state.
You just paid these guys $2.7 million and they anticipate billing the
state another $300 million for work they expect to do here. So you might
try this: Provide the information or forget about the $300 million.
(Open school books, 2001)
4.7 Amid the growing turmoil, the school district’s interim chief executive
officer resigned, saying that he was “disgusted with the takeover process
and the role that for-profit Edison Schools Inc. is to play in the district”
(Dean & Davies, 2001). Meanwhile, U.S. Representative, Chaka Fattah
had been reviewing Edison’s report on the district’s schools. Using the
same criteria Edison used to analyze the Philadelphia schools, he applied
them to schools Edison was currently running. Using data obtained on state
websites, Fattah describes his procedure and results as follows:
We compared the percent of students
in the state achieving below a certain level to the percent of Edison
students in that state achieving below a certain level. The data reveals
that in nearly 90 percent of Edison schools—61 out of 69 schools-for
which results are available, students perform substantially below standard
levels set by the state compared to other students in the state (EducationNews.org).
4.8 In January 2002, the Federal court rejected two lawsuits filed by a coalition
of parent groups and unions, that sought to declare state takeover of
the district unconstitutional. In February, members of the City Council,
parent groups, and local chapters of the NAACP, and NOW filed a similar
lawsuit. Yet despite overwhelming opposition, on March 26, by unanimous
vote of the School Reform Commission, Edison became the lead consultant
responsible for providing an assessment of the district’s management capabilities.
According to an AP wire report date March 27, 2002, “Parents, community
activists and students who wore anti-privatization signs on their clothes,
even their faces, yelled and heckled the commission members as they voted.”
4.9 The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers also opposed the move. A local
high school teacher, Dennis Barnebey commented, “Our schools have been
drastically underfunded for years, and now our lack of success with inadequate
resources is being used as an excuse to turn the public sector over to
profit-making corporations, to use our tax dollars to boost a company’s
stock.” Ever mindful of its own budgetary requirements, Edison had stipulated
that without additional city and state funding, or if it were unable to
borrow the $300 million it needed to cover its deficit, the contract it
had just signed could be voided.
4.10 In April, the School Reform Commission announced that it wished to turn
over management of seventy-five of Philadelphia’s schools to outside institutions
and private management companies. As a compromise solution they decided
that twenty elementary and middle schools would go to Edison rather than
all of them. Twenty-two would go to other companies and non-profits including
Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University;
and twenty-eight would go to parent groups. When this proposal came up
for vote, the commissioners were again met with resistance and protest.
According to Associated Press Online, dated April 18, 2002, “About two
dozen students spent the night before the vote camped outside the city’s
school administration building, then formed a human chain across its wrought-iron
gate and refused to allow anyone inside.”
4.11 The Commission moved its meeting to another building. Some students wore
tape over their mouths symbolizing lack of community input in the decision.
Other students disrupted the meeting by commandeering a microphone. “How
can a private company understand the deep problems in our school? How
does bringing a for-profit company change anything? It’s purely political,
“said Derrick Smith, a 17-year old junior. Angry parents shouted at commission
members as its chairman, left the meeting under police escort.
4.12 In May, after an informal investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission
charged that Edison had omitted crucial information from its filings,
that made revenues from 1999 to 2002 appear almost 50 percent higher than
the revenues it had actually generated. Edison had been counting teachers’
salaries and other expenses as revenue even though they were paid by the
school districts and were not part of Edison’s funds. But since it had
also entered them as expenses Edison did not actually violate accounting
rules (Winters, 2002). Edison was criticized however, for not having adequate
internal accounting system controls in place.
4.13 In June, Edison announced that it had secured a loan for $40 million.
The terms of the loan however revealed the extent of its financial problems—the
interest rate was set at between 10% and 15%, much higher than the national
average rate of just over 5% (Facts on File World News Digest, 2002).
In August, the Education Department announced that it would investigate
the circumstances surrounding the manner in which Edison had secured the
contract to manage the twenty schools in Philadelphia. This in addition
to another investigation into how it had secured the initial $2.7 million
contract to study the Philadelphia school district. Meanwhile, Edison’s
stock price went below $1 per share (down from $21 earlier in the year)
and the Nasdaq threatened to drop Edison stock from its listing.
4.14 In late August, CEO of the district schools, Paul Vallas demanded that
Edison provide a financial report that it should have provided on June
30, and an assurance that if the company went bankrupt that creditors
would not seize school equipment and materials.
4.15 When Edison did not get the money it requested from the district ($1,500
more per pupil than the district average), the result was a pathetic display
of where its real priorities lie. This is what transpired at one of the
district’s middle schools:
A few days before school opened in September, while Edison and school officials
fought over how much money per pupil Edison would get, the company sent
two tractor-trailers to haul away all the new equipment--except some
books and a handful of computers (Newsweek, 2002, October 21).
4.16 Investigations into Edison’s business practices continue and its first
$3 million paycheck from Philadelphia was withheld. Yet, despite all its
trials and tribulations, Edison remains optimistic, especially since the
passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation. According to the
Edison Schools Inc. website, “The company believes the Act will have a
significant positive impact on its business prospects.” (http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml)
No Child Left Behind
5.1 The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed into law on January
8, 2002. With the ostensible goal of improving failing schools and improving
student achievement, the Act also offers students the opportunity to opt
out of those same failing schools. Toward the goal of helping students
in failing schools, the NCLB Act offers supplemental services such
as tutoring, and remediation. But the centerpiece of the NCLB Act is the
component that offers students attending failing schools the choice to
attend another school. Referred to as transferability this option
is always worded as “public school choice” but in actuality choice may
not be available to all students (i.e. students with disabilities or behavioral
problems and students in rural areas) and the “public schools” that it
refers to might only be public in the sense that they are publicly funded.
In fact, many of them are privately owned, for-profit, charter schools.
How does the choice program lead to privatization? First schools are deemed
failures. Under Title I, there are three categories of failing schools—school
improvement, corrective action, and restructuring. In unabashed
double-speak that employs these optimistic, proactive sounding categories
they are described as follows: “A school in improvement is a school that
fails, for two consecutive years, to make adequate yearly progress (AYP).”
Likewise, a school in corrective action, “…has failed to
meet its AYP goals for four consecutive years…" and a school in
restructuring, “…has failed to meet its AYP in five consecutive
years.” (No Child Left: Behind Public School Choice, Draft Non-Regulatory
5.3 According to the law, it is the responsibility of the individual states
to measure “adequate yearly progress” and states must enact Department
of Education approved accountability plans. Apparently, the most expedient
way of assessing progress is by using standardized test scores. Tests
that were designed to measure individual aptitude are now used to assess
the entire school. Are standardized test scores an accurate measure of
school quality let alone student knowledge? Using standardized test scores
in this way again reveals the high stakes nature of these tests. Speaking
about the experience in the U.K. Torrance (1997) comments:
It is only much more recently that changes in assessment practices and
procedures have been undertaken in order to monitor school systems as
systems, and, furthermore, that such changes in assessment have
been used to intervene directly in the operation of school systems through
the underpinning of specific curriculum changes, or through the impact
of accountability pressures invoked by the publication of test results,
or both. (Torrance, 1997, p. 320)
5.4 The test scores are not used as an aggregate measure, rather under NCLB,
each racial and demographic subgroup in the school must show improvement.
This stipulation had state education officials worried. According to the
Washington Post (Jan. 2, 2003), “They [state officials] say federal
regulations outlining how to assess the quality of schools are dangerously
arbitrary and inflexible and will result in schools being treated as failures--even
if they are improving by most measures.”
5.5 For example, Gonzales Elementary School in Arizona with a predominantly
Mexican-American student body showed much progress in reading and math
with overall percentages of students making at least a year’s growt--higher
than state averages. However, at the fifth grade level the exam scores
did not reflect adequate yearly progress so the school is now considered
5.6 The fact that 100 transient students may have been at Gonzales Elementary
just a few months when they take the tests is not a mitigating factor.
It’s the school’s fault if they score low. Nor does it matter that hundreds
have serious deficiencies in English. If teachers can’t get new arrivals
fluent by test time, blame the school. (Winerip, 2003)
Because progress is determined by a limited assessment and extenuating
circumstances are not factored in, many schools will be labeled failing
even if they are serving their populations to the best of their ability
and they have community support. But these schools now run the risk
of having students transfer out, thus losing funding and making the task
that much harder. Shouldn’t parents and students have more input than
merely the choice to walk away? In effect the only choice they have is
"take it or leave it." And if students leave and go to another
school and are still not successful then it is likely the student will
bear the full burden for failing to make academic progress.
5.8 This is not to say that every alternative to public schooling will be
negative. Charter schools run by parent organizations, non-profit organizations,
or universities may have helpful, innovative approaches that meet the
needs of their communities. But why couldn’t these groups have a vehicle
allowing them to join forces with public schools, fostering greater participation
in the educational endeavor? Why must we abandon the ideals of providing
a public education to the vagaries of the marketplace? I think it’s fair
to say that most people involved in public education are committed to
providing students with a good education while most people involved in
corporations are committed to building the corporation and carrying out
its main purpose--making profit.
6.1 More and more of the activities that were considered public services or
a responsibility of the state are being privativized or under consideration
for privatization— health care, social security, postal services, parks,
prisons, even auxiliary services of the army (Lee, 2002). Not even natural
resources necessary to sustain life are immune from privatization. For
example, access to water is no longer considered a human right. It is
becoming commodified through the hegemonic influence of what has become
known as the Washington consensus. According to Barlow and Clarke (2002)
the Washington consensus is:
*a model of economics rooted in the belief that liberal market economics
constitute the one and only economic choice for the whole world. Key
to this “consensus” is the commodification of “the commons.” Everything
is for sale, even those areas of life, such as social services and natural
resources, that were once considered the common heritage of humanity.
Governments around the world are abdicating their responsibility to
protect the natural resources within their borders, giving authority
away to private companies that make a business of resource exploitation.
6.2 Because the effects of this hegemony are so widespread and far-reaching
it is essential that we understand it fully. Part of understanding
hegemony lies in unmasking the reality behind the rhetoric. This area
in particular is one that educators can have a powerful influence on.
We must adopt a critical approach and not accept the hegemonic discourse
on face value. For example, we must be aware of how language can be used
to obfuscate the problems but also how it can be used to clarify them:
6.3 Who can be opposed to economic “stabilization”, or “structural adjustment”?
These benign terms and others like “reform,” “liberalization,” “efficiency,”
and “rationalization” are nearly universally employed to describe the
economic transformations envisioned by neoliberals. “Cutting public investments
in housing, health, and education,” “upward redistribution of income,”
“increasing inequality,” “diminishing the influence of trade unions,”
“increasing the power of private capital,” and “upward redistribution
of access to agricultural land” are more difficult to defend. Yet these
are the common effects of the neoliberal program, at least in the short
and medium run. (Beinin, 2002)
6.4 Currently the political discourse of homeland security and war
on terrorism is being employed to undermine the collective bargaining
rights of federal employees (Dewar, 2002) as it also overlooks popular
sentiment against engaging in another war. If left unchecked, this hegemony
can have far-reaching, enduring, and devastating consequences. As more
aspects of public life become privatized public interest groups have an
opportunity to become aware of each other’s struggles and unite to overcome
them. With increasing awareness it becomes more apparent that these struggles
are not isolated occurrences, rather they are part of a larger strategy
to increase private control and market power. Understanding how the hegemony
affects us on multiple levels is the beginning of building a movement
that can expand to address many issues.
6.5 Counter-hegemonic movements are not new. Many struggles analogous to those
we face today have already been encountered. Therefore, educational researchers
and historians play an important role by offering critical perspectives
on how struggles of the past relate to current circumstances. This knowledge
can be re-appropriated to influence present-day educational discourse.
School curricula must be amended to redress a crucial imbalance. Counter-balancing
the corporatist, nationalist, racist, chauvinist curriculum would
compel us to include the issues and struggles of workers, developing nations,
people of color, women and other marginalized groups. At the same time
careful attention must be paid to the practices of schooling.
6.6 As flawed as public education may be, the way to improve it is not by
abandoning it to the private sector. As anyone in the corporate sector
would readily agree, the primary concern of a corporation is to increase
its profits. Educators must continue to work to improve schooling but
must also fight against the forces that would destroy public education.
Educators, community activists, parent groups, consumer advocates, and
media watchdog organizations, as well as independent researchers and critical
scholars need to be vigilant in exposing the interests behind proponents
of voucher programs that pave the way for the privatization of public
schools and other aspects of public life.
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