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Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools: A Review

Publication Date: 2004-11-05

The review adjectives are compelling and shrill.

Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools, by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian. Heinemann. 272 pp. $22.

American School Board Journal, November 2004

Pity the School District of Palm Beach County, FLA, whose earnest mission statement is ripped to shreds in this manifesto indicting the corporate community for hijacking public education.

At first glance, the Palm Beach mission statement is a modern exemplar: The school board, it says, is "committed to excellence in education and preparation of all our students with the knowledge, skills and ethics required for responsible citizenship and productive employment."

What could be wrong with that? Plenty, say authors Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian, who--to be fair--are just as rough on other districts' mission statements.

"Every word of the mission is straight from the Business Roundtable agenda," Emery and Ohanian write. And that agenda, they contend, is driving schools in the wrong direction, assuming a high-skills job awaits every graduate, and schools, by golly, had better prepare kids for that job.

In fact, the authors say, the future looks rather different: "Take a look at the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and you will see that our new economy creates more unskilled than skilled jobs--at the same time that it creates even more horrific income differences between the wealthy and the working classes.

Emery and Ohanian make a compelling argument for wresting control of education back from big business. And, indeed, it's worth asking what the corporate world's proper relationship to public education should be.

But that question is best explored in thoughtful discourse, not the shrill rhetoric of this book.

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