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When Business Plans Become Lesson Plans

Publication Date: 2004-09-18

This book review is from the VSSE Education Report, Autumn 2004.

Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian 272 pp. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann. $22.00.

Public School educators, listen carefully! In case you're not aware, let Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian describe to you your present predicament which is that you are currently in the midst of the professional fight of your lives. An axis of arrogance possessed with oligarchic cravings is hungry to control every class you teach, every text you use, and every test you give. America's largest corporations together with their well-connected CEO billionaires and some very well-endowed foundations have joined forces to promote and protect their own interests in education. Armed with more money, power and influence than one can possible imagine, they turn loose their panzer divisions of deception upon a segment of society ill-equipped to match their boundless resources. It is indeed bullying at its best.

At the center of this calculating "corporate-politico-media" network lives the Business Round Table (BRT) with branches in every state, the Education Trust and a behind the scenes manipulator-billionaire, Eli Broad and his Broad Foundation.

Founded in 1972, the BRT is "an association of chief executive officers who examine public issues that affect the economy and develop positions which seek to reflect sound economic and social principles." They have been able to convince a vast number of large corporations and foundations to follow their platform of school reform and to push their agenda of standards and high-stakes testing. Emery and Ohanian meticulously uncover the nature and depth of these alliances and reveal the enormous wedge being driven, not only through public education but through our democratic ideals as well. The consequences of allowing this sort of power and influence to proceed unchecked robs every public school and every community from what is their inalienable right in a democratic society--the opportunity to solve their own problems.

The authors tell us that crafting an education system based on how students can jump over high-stake testing hurdles is a terribly dangerous road to travel. Emery and Ohanian write in their book's conclusion that "high-stakes testing is having the effects of eliminating whatever there has been of learning for the joy of it, learning to develop higher-order thinking skills, or learning something because it is what one is interested in." Cast aside such skills and what remains are schools that are nothing more than "data driven depots."

This is a combative book and thank goodness we have one at last! It is a book filled with an investigative passion that steadily reveals how large American corporations want to wrap and permanently seal public education in their own self-serving agenda. The authors present a cogent compilation of evidence and argument that is both overwhelming and impossible to ignore. Supported by charts and lists detailing the design of corporate-politico-media linkage, this intelligently written book is intensely provocative and valuable. This book, that should be read by all who believe that public education and democracy must be preserved, is an exquisite work of analytic criticism.

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