By Mary Ollie
Today, we are seeing unparalleled and complex relationships between academia, foundations, corporations, and the media. Corporations and their non-profit foundations underwrite academic work. Entire departments or university chairs may be underwritten. In Idaho, the Albertson Foundation supports Idaho Leads at BSU, Centers for Innovation and Learning at NNU and U of I. What are the possible consequences of funding researchers and academic institutions? Could this color opinions?
What about the media? The Albertson Foundation funds Idaho Education News and reporters employed by Idaho Ed News are regularly published in the mainstream media. The EdSessions, also funded by the foundation, are presented by KTVB as a public service. Again, I ask, what might be the consequences of such a strategy?
I first started noticing the interrelationships between corporations and academia when NCLB began. All of a sudden, consultants and consulting groups began to proliferate. Teacher workshops and training sessions were increasingly led by consulting groups instead of by college of education or discipline groups. These consulting groups did not come cheap nor did they entertain any discussion of alternative ideas!
Given the realities of life in the classroom, I was at first confused and distressed as to why any teacher organization would go along with an evaluation system that is based on student test scores. Given the financial relationships that now exist; I think we have our own version of the “Inside Job”. The “Inside Job” referred to Wall Street, but the idea is just as valid for what is happening in education today.
A quote from Anthony Cody’s latest blog may help us understand the behavior of the NEA and the AFT. He writes, “Organizations and leaders that we count on to defend our profession, and to act on genuine expertise and reject phony reforms, repeatedly left us shaking our heads.” http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/12/2013_in_review_part_4_teachers.html In his blog, Cody, outlines how the “Inside Job” came down. Perhaps in understanding that, we can move to re-establish the profession.
To do that will require that we identify the connections between the academics, the organizations, the foundations, and the corporations AND that we insist on disclosure and transparency.