Should schools function as businesses? This is a question that often arises today. However, at least one educator fears that this arrangement is more erroneous than even proponents of the idea might be aware of. This former high school teacher and current professor shared his thoughts in a Twitter thread today it has attracted attention. Here you can view the version published with permission.
The vision of schools as companies is currently rising. This means that schools should respond to what their customers want.
I have some major concerns about this.
First, businesses respond to individuals because individuals pay the bill.
Public schools are funded from public sources. As a result, it must promote the public interest. While it can be difficult to swallow, sometimes our own desires are not always perfectly in line with the public good.
Second, businesses are organized to respond to customer requirements. Consider how many people in a typical business “produce” vs. how many supporting roles.
Almost everyone in the school is on the “creation” side. That means they are teachers. They are very lean organizations.
Third, schools are not a simple experience. I know immediately what I think about coffee from the store or my new headphones. I can offer very clear feedback.
But we want a million things from schools. And the results often take years to fully understand.
The question of attribution is connected with the previous point.
If I like coffee, I can thank the barista. But if my child is doing well at school … who will get credit? Teacher? Her friends? Me and her mom? Her brain? Last year’s teacher?
I don’t know what number we’re at right now, but there’s also the main agent problem we have to deal with.
He is a “customer” in schools … who? Student, right? But the person requesting and deciding is often the parent / guardian. This is not ideal.
Here is one big one: If we all act as consumers, then we will elevate one purpose of schools above all others – the effort to give our own children an advantage over all others.
But that’s not what schools are for.
If schools are businesses that respond to the demands of parents, then there is also a very real threat to justice.
This means that if you are poorly served, it is because you are a bad consumer.
This is a recipe for even greater injustices than we see today.
Finally, there is the problem of fragmentation.
There are very few places left in our society where we meet our differences. We live in our chosen echo chambers.
If schools are businesses, we should all expect full customization. But at what price?
School often sucks. The worst is bureaucracy. Democracy is difficult. Advocacy is exhausting.
But solving these problems is not as simple as saying, “Do it more like a business!”
It solves old problems by bringing new ones.
Anyone who has a simple answer to a complex problem is a charlatan.
I have no right answer but: I think we’ll get there together if we stay devoted to each other.
That’s cool. But at least it’s not snake oil.