“This Day in History…”: Great Ideas in Education

Written by Dr. Corey Nagle

April 2021

Over 20 years ago, Dr. Deron Boyles’ American Education and Corporations: The Free Market Goes to School was first published. Beginning with this book and continued in some of his other work, Dr. Boyles, the keynote speaker at the 2018 AATC Annual Conference, critically examines the role and influence of corporations and corporate culture in the American education system.

Dr. Boyles advocates a view of schooling as a public good that is negatively impacted by both the direct involvement of corporations and corporate culture. While often presented as a “win-win” for business and students, corporate influences that have infiltrated education threaten the democratic purposes of schooling. American Education and Corporations outlined the devaluing of students and teachers. In a corporate culture, student learning becomes a process of acquiring skills for the workplace, not critical thinking and broader intellectual endeavors. Similarly, teacher professionalism is reduced to following directions as managers of scripted curricula and commoditized activities. Dr. Boyles expresses a need for the educational system to move away from narrow, simplified goals defined by corporate interests and manifested in standardized testing. He champions ongoing work against corporate influences in favor of democratic educational approaches that allow students to develop into independent thinkers that can critique culture, societal systems, and injustices.

As we consider the work of Dr. Boyles and the educational landscape that is developing due to the disruptions of the past year, we can reflect on the partnerships, systems, and cultures that pervade our schools and influence our practices. The following questions may help us to further our work. In the spirit of encouraging dialogue, a foundational component of AATC’s identity, we encourage you to share your thoughts and engage in discourse in the comments section:

  • What current partnerships and systems are influenced by specific corporations or by corporate-like culture? How have your practices been influenced by these partnerships and systems? How have students been affected by these cultures and practices?
  • After reflecting on corporate influence in curriculum and instruction, are the partnerships and programs beneficial in the education of students?
  • How can partnerships and systems be changed to limit the negative influences of corporations and corporate culture on students? What is your role in advocating for or making these changes?

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