The Marketing and Commodification of Education
The cost of education has become a highly contested issue, whether it is for public K-12 or university education. Some, such as Gerald Celente, predict that the antitax movement will effect a responsibility tax; that is, that those who benefit from the public service of education will have the primary responsibility to pay for it. As more people opt to send their kids to private school, an HMO-style of education will develop, and public education will become like public health--it is there for everyone, but it will be used primarily by those who have no other options. In turn, universities will become so costly that they will not be affordable to middle-class students. This is where new technologies become employed. A demand for distance education will rise, not only for university students, but for elementary students, who will increasingly be educated at home. Whatever is in store for the future, the trend towards marketing education, at all levels, is well in place.
Business discourse and management models are beginning to dominate higher education. Here we also examine several critiques of the commodification of universities. See The Commodification of Higher Education, below.
This is an excellent article. It is concise, easy to read, and an excellent argument against corporate involvement in the schools. If you feel uncertain about the harm done by corporations in schools, read this article. First, Michael Apple (a professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison) establishes the trend of businesses exerting pressure on states and local communities to grant them tax breaks, which has the effect of generating less money for the financing of public education. Apple argues "equalization of the opportunities and outcomes of schooling has increasingly been viewed, not as a public right, but as a tax drain." It is the ultimate irony that businesses, who are themselves, in essence, draining taxes, should then be seen as the saviors of public education when they offer up aid. Apple points out that, in the case of Channel One, corporate aid is really a business strategy. They couch their offering as "free" equipment, i.e., a satellite dish, a VCR, and a television monitor for each classroom. However, in return for this "free" assistance, schools must guarantee that 90 percent of the students will be watching 90 percent of the time. They must watch ten minutes of "news" and two minutes of commercials every school day for three to five years as part of the contract. Just how popular is Channel One? It is now seen by more than 40 percent of students in middle schools and high schools in the United States. Why are schools adopting Channel One? As Michael Apple explains, "Economic crisis; a sense that public schooling is in serious trouble; a feeling that students are not being taught the knowledge that they need in order to be competitive--all of this creates conditions in which Channel One becomes acceptable," especially in schools attended by the nation's poorest youth. Why this trend is so dangerous? As Apple writes, "the common set of democratic political commitments (no matter how weak) is replaced by the idea of a competitive marketplace. The citizen as a political being with reciprocal rights and duties is replaced by the self as consumer. Schooling (and students) becomes a 'retail product.' Freedom in a democracy is no longer defined as participating in building the common good, but as living in an unfettered commercial market, in which the educational system must now be integrated into that market's mechanisms." (ST)
For a related news article, read "Schools' Free Internet Access -- Built-In Ads Part of the Deal ," San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 1998.
Read June, 1996, book review by Michael W. Apple: "Being Popular About National Standards: A Review of National Standards in American Education: A Citizen's Guide by Diane Ravitch, [Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1995. pp. 223. $22.95 (hardcover)] from Education Policy Analysis Archives, a peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal.
Look at promotion (including table of contents) of Education/Technology/Power: Educational Computing as a Social Practice, edited by Hank Bromley and Michael W. Apple (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998).
Read promotion of The Curriculum: Problems, Politics, and Possibilities, edited by Landon E. Beyer and Michael W. Apple (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998)
Gerald Celente has been in the business of predicting market trends. In Chapter 18 of this book, "Interactive U.," Celente identifies three "trendposts" in the field of education:
Celente further predicts that new schools of higher education will develop, promoting different objectives. Called AKIO (advanced knowledge interactive organization) these schools, which will operate for all age levels, will aim to "enhance the unique talents that every individual is born with and blessed with." Responding to the deficiences of new technologies, AKIO will do what the information superhighway could not, namely convert information into understanding. Celente predicts that AKIO will "eventually serve as both educational and lifestyle models for the global Renaissance," training the intellectual, emotional, and physical aspects of the individual simultaneously. It will look like a return to the land, with students learning how to grow their own produce, raise their own livestock, cook their own food, and build their own dwellings. Yet it will blend the old with the new, where students also examine breakthroughs in contemporary science. (ST)
The Commodification of Higher Education
Abstract (as quoted from article): The article describes a preliminary study of a western Canadian university's "research awareness campaign" and links it to the parallel appointment of a new president with a strong "public affairs" focus. Both campaign and appointment are viewed as contributing to the commodification of knowledge. The rhetoric is seen as paradigmatic of the penetration of "market" discourse into the academy. The key problems seem to be (1) the administration's uncritical and unreflective pursuit of the economic at the expense of the intellectual, (2) the professoriate's passive acceptance of the new status quo, and (3) selective interpretation of market doctrines by university administrations in general, allowing them to attack the "front line" while preserving "management." A larger study will pursue the issues raised.
Janet Atkinson-Grosjean is a graduate student at the Interdisciplinary Studies PhD Program, Green College, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Dr. Brian Martin is an associate professor in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia.
Abstract (as quoted from article): Nearly two decades have passed since Jean Francois Lyotard first published The postmodern condition. Following the release of an English translation of the text in 1984, The postmodern condition has been widely cited, and now no major work on postmodernism is "complete" without reference to it. This paper returns to Lyotard's concise account of the changing nature of knowledge in late capitalist societies, and reassesses his claims about performativity, commodification and the future of the university. An appraisal of the New Zealand policy scene suggests Lyotard was stunningly accurate in his predictions about many features of the changing higher educational landscape. While some commentators, following Lyotard, have announced the "death of the professor" in computerised societies, others believe academics might play a vitally important role in postmodern universities. The paper provides an overview of this debate, and considers its relevance in the New Zealand context. The paper analyses the views of A.T. Nuyen -- a theorist who takes the latter position -- in the light of the New Zealand context, and assesses prospects for pedagogical resistance against the dominant metanarrative of our time.
Peter Roberts is a graduate student at the School of Education, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Abstract (as quoted from article): This article examines the political economy of scholarly publication. After briefly outlining the contours of the current crises in the scholarly communication system, the article goes on to discuss how individual electronic scholarly publication projects have challenged the traditional publishing houses by offering alternative models of scholarly publication that more closely fit with the needs of the academy. The article then looks at some of the ways in which the traditional interests have responded to the threat posed by the independent publishers. As is demonstrated in the article, their response has been aggressive. The article closes with a warning about a possible shift, made possible by advanced information technologies, in the way the scholarly communication system is funded. After examining the potential for the development of a user pay-per service, the article concludes with a warning about the academic and intellectual fallout of a move away from a collectively funded scholarly communication project.
Mike Sosteric is currently an assistant professor at the Centre for Global and Social Analysis, Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada.
Abstract (as quoted from article): The academy, like many public and private institutions before it, has been colonised by the discourses of consumerism, efficiency, and market discipline. By now it is a familiar trend and, as many countries have experienced the neo-right assault on the public sector, a familiar discourse. In this paper we examine the implications of this colonisation suggesting how effects penetrate the very core of the university. Access by all social classes to higher education, pedagogical effectiveness, and even the possibility of critical inquiry are under systematic attack. The situation appears grim. Yet we now approach a critical historical juncture where resistance is becoming increasingly possible and probable. Towards that end, strategies are suggested for resisting the colonisation and reclaiming the academic public space.