Why “business capital” methods will destroy public education

IMG_1365In the June 2013 issue of the JSD Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan contrast “business capital” and “professional capital” approaches to public education (“The power of professional capital”) .

“Right now, there are two visions for capital in how it can be used to improve teaching in the U. S. and elsewhere,” they write. “One is a business capital approach. In this view, the purpose of public education is increasingly to yield a short-term profit with her returns for its investors. The purpose of public education is to be a market for technology, for testing products, for charter schools and companies and chains and their look-alliance in Sweden in England and other parts of the world…

“The opposite stance toward teaching is a professional capital approach. In this approach, teaching is hard. It’s technically difficult, for example, knowing the signs of Asperger’s, differentiating instruction, learning all the skills to deal with difficult adults. It requires technical knowledge, high levels of education, strong practice within schools, and continuous improvement overtime that is undertaken collaboratively, and the calls for the development of wireless judgment.

As seems obvious, the approach used will have a profound effect on teaching and learning and on the very existence of public education as we have known it.

Business Capital Approach

• An unrelenting emphasis on short-term gains in the form of standardized, high-stakes tests at the expense of the broader, long-term purposes of public education such as preparation for citizenship and the cultivation of interests and talents not included on these tests.

• The overarching purpose of maximizing profits requires minimizing costs—that means teachers, particularly those with experience. That requires…

• Denigrating the value of teaching as a career-long profession and demonizing teacher unions.

Professional Capital Approach

• A wide variety of assessment methods are used to promote learning and to measure student progress related to a broad range of valued outcomes.

• Teaching is viewed as career-long profession in which expertise is continuously developed. That requires…

• Substantial investments in the preparation and continuous development of teachers’ and administrators’ knowledge, skills, and professional judgment, including their ability to participate effectively on high-functioning teams.

The business capital approach—which is being aggressively pursued on many fronts—is likely to destroy public education as we have known it, except perhaps in the most affluent communities where engaged and influential parents will not tolerate a limited standardized-test-driven education for their children.

In contrast, the professional capital approach is essential to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning for the benefit of all students.

From your experience, what are the implications of these two perspectives for teaching and learning and for the future of public education?

1 Response to “Why “business capital” methods will destroy public education”


  1. 1 tmarchionda July 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Reblogged this on Tracy Marchionda and commented:
    My post today is not my own but that of Dennis Sparks. His post is a quick 2-3 minute read and is very applicable to the world of education today .


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