SCHOOL-BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS:READING BETWEEN THE BOTTOM LINES
A Presidential Address to the Ohio Valley Philosophy of Education Society
ByDeron R. BoylesGeorgia State University
An assembly takes place at the local high school. Students file in and take their seats. Some are raucous, some quiet. While teachers stand guard at the ends of rows of seats and point to disruptive students in an effort to reduce chaos, the lights dim in the auditorium. Catcalls and whistling are "shhushh-ed" as the curtain opens. Spotlights appear on the stage and a bandcomes forward playing electric guitars, synthesizers, and drums. They sing, too, but somethingseems a bit out of place. The band, it turns out, is not singing popular rock-and-roll music ortheir own lyrics. The band isn't even from the high school. The band performing is, instead, partof "Chemipalooza," the Dow Chemical Company "spin-off on the Generation X rock musicLollapalooza tours of the 1990s. The assembly is sponsored by Dow Chemical and theperformance is a celebration of plastics and other chemistry-oriented products Dow produces.The "tour," it turns out, is a festival for science, the chemical industry, and careerism. Dow ispromoting itself and its interests by linking chemistry and schools as a way to encourage studentsto become future scientists and, in not-so-concealed ways, Dow consumers. The free marketcomes to school.
Dow isn't alone. Scholastic, Inc., provides schools with instructional packages includingTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secrets of the Ooze and Jetsons: The Movie as courses onthe environment. Nike supplies shoe-making kits; Sprite advertises on the sides of school buses;and Campbell Soup Company does "science experiments" comparing the "thickness" of its sauceto that of its competitor Prego. Writing in Business Week, Pat Wechsler notes, "The NationalSoft Drink Association offers teachers a poster called. . . 'Soft Drinks and Nutrition,' which...compares the heavily sweetened products of its member companies to milk and fruit." Each ofthese initiatives differ, but they share a common purpose-increasing corporate influences on andin schools.
But is there any problem with such free-market entrepreneurship? In a capitalist society,such initiatives are applauded and encouraged by those who see nothing wrong with usingschools as sites for product promotion. There are "educational outcomes," so the consumer-materialist argument goes, and since schools are in need of funding and corporations have plentyof money, why shouldn't corporations get some return on their investment? Schools, after all,are not separate from the societies they inhabit. Since students (and teachers) are constantlysubjected to advertising-as is the rest of America-it would be unrealistic to think schoolscould keep advertising out of their buildings or their curriculum. True.Yet what follows is a different perspective. I suggest that "Chemipalooza" tours andNinja Turtles marketing further reinforce schools as places for corporate training and corporateprofiteering instead of critical discernment and education. To be clear, the problem with schoolsas sites for corporate influences is at least threefold. First, they limit and reduce the capacities ofstudents and teachers to be critical citizens (and critical consumers) by structuring the schoolsphere-organizationally, in terms of the curriculum, for example, so that marketing strategiessuch as quasi rock concerts and Hollywood-hyped cartoons hegemonically influence many youngminds into accepting the product connection between the programs, curriculum, specific texts,and their "future."
The second problem with schools as sites for corporate influence is that it restrictsteachers to those programs that have corporate support (tacit or explicit) by highlightingcorporate needs for certain kinds of workers who possess specific kinds of "skills"-all codifiedby corporations and reflected in state curriculum objectives. Ironically, businesses assert thattheir involvement reduces bureaucracy and increases teacher autonomy. Even if this is initiallytrue and teachers find themselves free from much of the "red tape" of current public institutions,teachers nonetheless face a different master: businesses that take accountability to meanquantified, commodified, reductionistic measures in terms of "outputs" and "products."The third problem with schools as sites for corporate influence is that it reinforces theassumption that schools primarily exist for workforce preparation. "Chemipalooza," forexample, shows students possible occupations in chemistry. On this assumption, corporationsare doing the equivalent of a public service and are to be applauded for their involvement. Iencourage, instead, that we carefully consider who benefits most from corporate involvement andargue that surface acceptance of capitalist realities glosses over serious consequences of class andculture disparities and differences.
Corporate Goals/National Goals
"Just as the sources blamed for the American economic woes had less to do witheducation than with misguided federal policies and corporate investment strategies thecurrent focus of educational policy has less to do with education than with creating newcorporate profit centers. Children as children just don't enter into the calculations."
An interesting lineage of "2000" plans began with America 2000, which begat Goals2000, which begat county and district attempts at "2000-ness," in the form of Cherokee County2000, Hanover High 2000, and others. A fascinating incarnation of "2000-ness," however, beganin the summer of 1993 with Kroger 2000. Kroger is a major supermarket chain in the Midwest,Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. Under the heading of "Partners in Education,"Fulton County, Georgia, teamed with Kroger to promote a program titled 'The KrogerConnection." The footer for the flyer is "Kroger 2000: For Goodness Sake." The point, recall, isto explore the meaning behind school-business partnerships and raise questions about fundingconflicts and the degree to which business agendas influence schooling. As though aware of myconcerns, Kroger 2000 offers the following reassurance about their program: "This is real life,hands on partnering as Kroger connects education and business in a win-win situation." Whoreally wins, and why, is our focus.
The task, then, is to provide examples and illustrations of actual partnerships and adopt-a-school partnering programs. In so doing, the intention is to show that there are benefits of partnering schools with businesses but that the benefits are essentially for businesses and onlyresidually for schools, teachers, and students. When the benefits for corporations are scrutinized,they reveal an emphasis on training-oriented schooling, marketing, and consumer materialismover possibilities for education-oriented schooling, authenticity, and critical transitivity. Such anemphasis, if it remains unchecked, risks undermining the potential for democratic citizenship andis sure to further reinforce the oligopoly currently enjoying power. The point here is to understand
the subtheme assumptions, such as the purpose of schooling as job preparation, in order to
question who benefits most from such a purpose. By bridging illustrations and examplesof corporate involvement together with schools, corporate assumptions about the purposes ofschooling are further revealed.
Assumptions are pervasive, for example, about what it means to be a teacher, whatqualifies as "student success," and what funding sources schools should have and should use.Corporations view teaching much as one would view traditional methods courses in colleges ofeducation: perfunctory, procedural, generalizable, and non-propositional. Teaching is not left toteacher interpretation, because teaching, on the traditional and corporate view, is fundamentally aseries of steps and strategies to be carried out in linear, sequential fashion. Corporations also usenational goals, particularly those that celebrate the need for international comparisons andincreased competitiveness, to qualify what teaching entails and what success connotes. Goal #3,Goal #4, and Goal #5 from Goals 2000 are highly touted by businesses and corporations. Goal #3states, "By the year 2000, American students will leave grades four, eight and twelve havingdemonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science,history and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use theirminds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productiveemployment in our modem economy." Goal #4 is, "By the year 2000, U.S. students will be firstin the world in mathematics and science achievement." Goal #5 is, "By the year 2000, everyadult in America will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skill necessary to competein a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."
Success is thus made contingent upon quantified measures and conformity to capitalistcompetition expectations. Science and mathematics, as a result, are useful instruments forconsumer-materialist presumptions about what counts as valid curriculum reform. Such reformalso allows corporations to maximize the larger exploitative circle: business interests shapenational goals in the first place, national goals are used as the rationale by businesses to "reform"schooling and teaching, and the consequences for curriculum (also noted in the national goals)include the kind of reductionism upon which consumer materialism and corporate profit rely.
This is perhaps not surprising. It is also not merely an exercise in revelatory narration.Revealing flaws in programs and narrating what those flaws are to people does not requirereflection, thoughtfulness, or action on their part. Reflection, thoughtfulness and action, however,are part of what is necessary to elevate schools from being training-oriented sites for consumermaterialism to being education-oriented sites for critical transitivity-the goal as I see it. Toachieve critical transitivity means interrogating the veracity of national goals assumptions andbusinesses' use of those goals. It means dispensing with reductionism, passive acceptance, andreliance on imagery. Instead, critical transitivity requires authenticity and not contrivance suchthat connections are made between disparities of power and privilege, their causes, and potential solutions.The Kroger ConnectionKroger, recall, is the large and successful supermarket chain in the Midwest, Southeast,and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. In 1993 Kroger distributed copies of their "partnering"program with Fulton County, Georgia schools (See Figure 1).
Kroger and Fulton County Partners In Education
The Kroger Connection
Teacher Summer Employment Opportunity
Oppportunity to learn the multi-facets of rapidly growing food retailing.
Enrich teaching experience by gaining a better understanding of today's workforce and beyond.
Become liaison between business and the classroom by helping students obtain a winning career match.
Come be a part of the future and take the Kroger challenge!
This is real life, hands on partnering as Kroger connects education and business in a win-wind situation.
Contact Partners In Education at 763-6772 if you are interested.
Deadline: Friday, June 11, 1993
FOR GOODNESS SAKE
Figure 1: The Kroger Connection(Reprinted by permission of The Kroger Company, Atlanta, GA)"The Kroger Connection" is, upon careful scrutiny, a summer employment program for teachers.The flyer characterizes the job opportunity in terms of teacher roles: "Enrich teaching experienceby gaining a better understanding of today's workforce and beyond"; and "Become liaisonbetween business and the classroom by helping students obtain a winning career match."
Little is left to interpretation. Kroger wants teachers to work for them and when theyreturn to their classrooms in the fall, wants teachers (as unpaid "liaisons") to promote Kroger as aplace where students can find a job. Kroger, in this way, furthers the assumption that the primarypurpose of schools is to prepare future workers. Kroger also stands to benefit from those teacherswho do encourage their students to seek employment with the company.
Look again at the flyer. It has at the top a "Partners in Education" logo including theimage of a mortar board. Mortar boards symbolize scholarship insofar as they are traditionallyworn at graduation ceremonies. By connecting a summer employment program with symbols ofscholarship, Kroger furthers the imagery that their interest is educational. The flyer reinforcesthis by using the term "education" four times and "classroom" once. 'This is real life, hands onpartnering as Kroger connects education and business in a win-win situation." Kroger is actuallyattempting to connect employees (those teachers who fill one of the Kroger slots) with potentialemployees (students contacted by teacher/Kroger workers). The "connection" to schools is inrecruiting teachers from them to work behind bakery, seafood, and deli counters.
To be clear, Kroger enjoys a good reputation and is successful enough as a business tocontinue expanding and adding stores. Double-coupon savings, 24-hour operations, and extra 5-percent discounts for seniors add to Kroger's positive image. Jobs at Kroger are worthwhilepositions and those who fill those positions are as hardworking and upstanding as most citizensin the U.S. In terms of business, the company offers extensive benefits to some of its workers,but many positions are part-time and allow Kroger (as with many businesses) not to extend fullhealth benefits or savings and retirement plans. Most of the employees in area stores are also nottypically college-educated. This point is only important when we consider which people theKroger flyer targeted and which people it did not. The flyer was not distributed to engineers oraccountants or any other groups that have college degrees as a common basic requirement.Teachers are different, however. Like nurses, they have a hard time defining themselves asprofessionals, even with certification requirements and college degree standards. The Krogerflyer only reinforces the nonprofessional regard attributed to, in this case, teachers. "Opportunityto learn the multi-facets of rapidly growing food retailing." Teachers, who already faceinordinate procedural duties in their schools, would be successful in such a position, but this isbeside the point: retailing and teaching are not the same, current expectations for teacher practicenotwithstanding.
The bottom of the flyer includes another logo; this one has Kroger's name in corporatesymbol form and font, but it is connected to "2000" reminding readers of the plethora of "2000"reports that began with America 2000, followed by Goals 2000, etcetera. The corporate slogan,"For Goodness Sake" is underneath "Kroger 2000." The enticements for summer work are inkeeping with the spirit of national education goals, they are not out of sync with them. On firstglance, the flyer may appear anachronistic, that is, not fitting the thrust of the national goalsmovement, but it actually exemplifies subthemes in the goals reports: schools exist to supplyworkers for companies and teachers are the hirelings to advance the cause of internationaleconomic competition. Seeing teachers as deli-clerks is not insulting, so the flier assumes,because teachers are also "liaisons" who will return to their classrooms and recruit "new hires"for their corporation. Like corporate-culture consultants who rename clerks "associates" andhairdressers "cosmetologists," Kroger assigns teachers the moniker "liaison." By so doing,Kroger blurs the distinctions between the roles of teachers and the roles of other workers byreducing the complexities of teaching to the simplified and simplifiable-though no lessimportant-roles of producers.
Stop & Shop, Shop, Shop
Kroger is not the only grocery chain to connect itself with schools. Stop & Shop, Safeway, ShopRite, Von's, Bruno's, and Publix Supermarkets all have programs targeting schools. Theprograms advertise that a portion of all sales will go toward purchasing school equipment,typically computers and printers. This kind of corporate involvement exists because schools lackadequate funding to buy enough equipment. As a result, schools are forced to accept groceryreceipt "charity." Consider the issue of school funding.
Schools are largely funded by property taxes, with nearly 47 percent of financial supportcoming from local communities. The federal government contributes only 6 percent or so toschool coffers. What this means is that school districts with large amounts of taxable wealthwill have more money to spend on the schools in those districts. Areas with fewer amounts oftaxable wealth will have less money to spend. Spring comments that "there is a major differencebetween the $17,435 per student spent in the Long Island community of Shoreham-Wading Riverand the $7,299 spent per student in New York City." Since property taxes are the major sourceof local revenue, they advantage the wealthier communities because of the interplay betweenproperty value and property tax rates. Newman illustrates this by considering two school districtsof about the same size that are located in the same state. One district is an upper-middle-classsuburb where homes have an average market value of $200,000. The other district is much lessaffluent and where homes have an average market value of $50,000. For sake of the illustration,Newman assumes that the properties in question are taxed at full market value.
The residents of the upper-middle-class suburb have set their school tax rate at $1 per$100 of property value. The average home in this suburb, therefore, brings in $2,000 forthe local schools. With the average family paying school taxes of $2,000 each year, thesecitizens can truthfully say they are trying hard to support public education .... Theresidents of the less affluent community have set their tax rate twice as high-at $2 per$100 of assessed value-yet the average home in their community generates only $1,000for the schools. These residents can say they are trying twice as hard, but their effort-atechnical term in school finance that means exactly what it says-yields only half asmuch.
Such funding disparity provides the opening for businesses to "aid" schools. Stop & Shop helpsby contributing a small portion of its sales toward the purchase of computers. The portioncontributed is so small, in fact, that "register tapes documenting $250,000 of grocery purchasesfrom Stop & Shop, for example, nets a school an Apple Macintosh Classic 2/40; and $125,000 intapes an Apple HE color computer."
This is not a donation from Stop & Shop as much as it is Stop & Shop's acting as theconduit for customers who spend money at participating stores. That is. Stop & Shop puts itselfin the position of "aiding" schools when customers shop at their stores. The fewer customers, thelonger it takes to raise the $250,000 to purchase one computer. The more customers, the fasterthe donation will take place. Schools get "needed" equipment and Stop & Shop gets a gold starfor philanthropy. Stop & Shop also gets repeat customers, increased volume, and increased sales.Stop & Shop's motive is profit; the same as in any business. This point is the focus ofcritique. The issue in question is that Stop & Shop, like other food stores, utilizes disparities inschool funding as an opportunity to increase volume and revenue. Underlying this concern,furthermore, is the basic question regarding why schools are faced with shortages in funds for thevery computers grocery chains are supplying in the first place. Kozol explores one response tothis question noting first that corporations oppose paying school taxes. "City and state businessassociations, in Chicago as in many other cities, have lobbied for years against tax increments tofinance education of low-income children. 'You don't dump a lot of money into guys whohaven't done well with the money they've got in the past,' says the chief executive officer ofCiticorps Savings of Illinois. 'You don't rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic." Kozol continues,
In recent years, however, some of the corporate leaders in Chicago who opposedadditional school funding and historically resisted efforts at desegregation havenonetheless attempted to portray themselves as allies to poor children-or, as theysometimes call themselves, "school partners"-and they even offer certain kinds of help.Some of the help they give is certainly of use, although it is effectively the substitution ofa form of charity, which can be withheld at any time, for the more permanent assurancesof justice; but much of what the corporations do is simply superficial and its worthabsurdly overstated by the press.
Corporations would rather "donate" computers than pay taxes because "donations" can becurtailed. Corporations benefit doubly. They enjoy tax breaks for locating in their respectivemunicipalities and, with only some of the money they would pay in taxes, cast themselves asbeneficent charities and responsible members of the community. In so doing, corporate interestsare able to leverage the curriculum as well as the general purposes of schooling by reinforcing thecommunity belief that schools exist to prepare future workers.
Pizza Hut: BOOKIN' IT!PepsiCo Inc.'s Pizza Hut has a national BOOK IT! campaign. If students meet the readinggoals set by their teachers each month, they receive a free individual pan pizza. In this example,the corporation is not influencing the curriculum because the goals are set by teachers. Viewedpositively, what Pizza Hut influences is student reading. Viewed negatively, Pizza Hut is bribingstudents and taking the intrinsic worth out of reading. Viewed more broadly, however, we shouldconsider what benefits the company reaps from such a program. When first graders win a freeindividual pan pizza, they do not make their way to the local Pizza Hut and eat by themselves.Their families take them. Their families also eat with them. For the "free" individual pan pizza,Pizza Hut makes money on the meals the family eats.
That was apparent one recent evening when five-year-old William Griggs went to a PizzaHut in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., to claim the free pan pizza he earned forreading aloud with his parents. Of course, the kindergartner didn't make the trip to therestaurant by himself. While William got a $1.99 tomato-and-cheese pan pizza for free ...his mother, sister, and another adult spent $15.81 for a sausage-and-green-pepper pizza,two light beers, an orange soda and a Pepsi. Multiply that by the 16 million childrengoing to Pizza Hut to claim their Book It pizza each month.
This represents a variation on the "bait and switch" ruse: lure customers with free gifts, then steerthem to purchase other, more expensive goods. In the case of Pizza Hut, they lure students with afree personal pizza, then capitalize on the meals those who must join the students consume.There really is nothing new here. Stores offer similar promotions on regular bases, but there isone major difference: the school-business campaign exploits student achievement for profit.Unwitting children are pitted against their parents in a sort of consumer-materialist love test.Students work hard to achieve the goals outlined for them and are awarded a free pizza. Parentswho refuse to take their children to redeem the free pizza coupon risk undermining the work thechild has done and are saddled with the "you don't love me" test that children (unfairly, ifunderstandably) raise in such situations. While similar exchanges are not rare to families,programs that knowingly foster agendas that precipitate such a test force families intoconsumerist battlegrounds already charted by corporate marketing researchers to the advantage ofbusiness interests. Molnar puts it this way:
. . . BOOK IT! unethically uses schools to get Pizza Hut inside students' homes. Sincethe BOOK IT! program can create a classroom atmosphere in which a child who doesn'tjoin in feels odd, it is very hard for a parent to demand that a son or daughter notparticipate. Parents who may want nothing to do with Pizza Hut are forced to either goalong with the program or face struggles with their children. Moreover, children who doparticipate and meet their reading goals feel cheated if they are not then taken to PizzaHut for the promised reward.
Pizza Hut nonetheless benefits from promoting itself as interested in learning, interestedin children, and interested in supporting schools and the community. While PepsiCo and PizzaHut do not put their corporate logo on the BOOK IT! buttons students wear or on the postersused to promote BOOK IT! in classrooms, they do put their logo on General Mills cereal boxeswhen they promote their BOOK IT! program. On a recent Golden Grahams cereal box, PizzaHut provides a free coupon to any student in grades K-6, ostensibly to get the word out thatPizza Hut has the BOOK IT! program. Note that PepsiCo and Pizza Hut are the primarybenefactors of such promotion and sponsorship. Perhaps a double-edged sword or a catch-22, onewonders whether subversive, non-logo advertising is worse than advertising with the logo, butthe overarching point is that students who get rewarded with a small, personal pizza for readingachievement are pawns in a game of corporate profiteering.
Six Flags over LiteracySix Flags Theme Parks, Inc. also has a reading program. Their program is called "Read toSucceed" and rewards those in the "600-Minute Reading Club." Students who complete theform receive a complimentary ticket into the theme park. Like the Pizza Hut program, thecurriculum is not controlled by the business. A close look at the "winner's card," however,reveals the same machination used by Pizza Hut: provide one free good in order to capitalize onthose who must accompany the winner/awardee. The "winner's card" asks the student (orwhomever is filling out the card) to "list the number of people in your party, not including thewinner(s)." For both Pizza Hut and Six Flags, families are beguiled into buying meals andtickets they might not otherwise buy. Once the students are in the theme park, the "extras" thatadmission tickets do not cover are objects for further spending. Food, trinkets, and souvenirs arebusiness profits-in-waiting and, given that the students who "win" admission are in grades K-6,their appeals for buying "everything in sight" are only matched by their appeals for going in alldirections of the park at once.
The scenario is not predicated by critical reflection on capitalist marketing techniques.The targeted consumers here are K-6 graders. Their eyes are caught, like adults, by shiny objectsand flashy baubles. Want overtakes need and this is another point at which the "responsible-consumer thesis" fails. It fails because the structure of consumer materialism puts K-6 gradersand their adult guides in the contrived position of reactive agents to concocted external objects.The double contrivance is significant because if businesses are successful at defining thesphere in which reactions are to their contrivances, the businesses win the game. That is, there isno way the "responsible-consumer thesis" can hold once consumers are reacting to the secondtier of contrivance. Once students are in the park, in other words, the business will profit. Thereis no choice. The necessary condition (choice) of the "responsible-consumer thesis" simply doesnot follow. Not only must those accompanying the "winners" pay entrance fees to the themepark, all must now react to the contrived surroundings. Toys are eye-high to children. Food isperfectly represented in large and alluring pictures near rides. Walking clowns and movable cartseven bring balloons and sweets to potential customers, so that going into side attractions is notnecessary.
This, again, is nothing new to a society like the one in the United States. Decisions likethose faced by K-6 graders and their adult guides are ones Americans face daily. The problem,however, is that the enticement is directly related to reading success. Marketed as a reward formeeting reading goals, the point is not whether similar consumer-choice scenarios face studentsdaily, but whether corporations take advantage of student learning by offering token awards thatresult in sales increases commensurate with the number of family members of reading club"winners."
Colgate ToothpasteThe Colgate-Palmolive Company operates what it calls a "Dental Health ClassroomProject" in which the company apparently attempts to promote good dental hygiene. As with anysuccessful school-business marketing campaign, the company "helps schools out" by distributingtubes of its toothpaste, high-gloss promotional pamphlets outlining for parents "five easy steps"for teaching their child proper dental care, and a plastic ring that has "Colgate Superstar MagicClub" emblazoned on it. Unlike Pizza Hut, Colgate prominently displays its corporate logo onthe materials it provides-including the promotional pamphlet bulleting the five easy steps. Inaddition to the five easy steps the pamphlet outlines, it also comes with suggestions likebrushing with fluoride toothpaste. Not any fluoride toothpaste will do, however-the pamphletencourages the use of "Colgate Junior" toothpaste. The pamphlet also suggests using a particularkind of bristle; a soft toothbrush. It recommends, not surprisingly, the "Colgate Junior"toothbrush to match the paste.
Another example of contrived philanthropy, Colgate is unwilling to promote good dentalhygiene for the sake of good dental hygiene. It must promote good dental hygiene for the sake of"Colgate Junior" sales. Underfunded teachers find themselves in positions of near-gratitude:forced to be thankful to a corporate giant and coerced into being a second-hand peddler ofColgate goods. Meanwhile, Colgate gets credit for "helping" teachers and schools. Whither creditto schools as commercial sites for toothpaste advertising? Recall Kozol:
But that is the bitter part of it. The same political figures who extol the role of businesshave made certain that these poor black children would have no real choice. Cutting backthe role of government and then suggesting that the poor can turn to businessmen wholobbied for such cuts is cynical indeed. But many black principals in urban schools knowvery well that they have no alternative; so they learn to swallow their pride, subdue theirrecognitions and their dignity, and frame their language carefully to win the backing ofpotential "business partners." At length they are even willing to adjust their schools andtheir curricula to serve the corporate will: as the woman in Chicago said, to train theghetto children to be good employees.
Kozol is specifically referring to a context in which poor black children in urban schools are thefocus of contrived philanthropy. The point is not limited to this context, though. Like theadministrator in Kozol's study, teachers everywhere are also caught. As with computerdonations, when a school does not have materials or equipment, it matters less from where theycome as long as schools have them. Beggars are not choosers, so the platitude goes. Teachersfind themselves being grateful to companies that, again, benefit doubly. Not only does Colgatehave its product advertised on school materials, the company gets a tax deduction for supplyingschools with the sample products.
Evidently, there has never been an issue as to whether or not efforts like Colgate's merit atax deduction. The only issue has been what type of deduction such programs allow. Do they, forpurposes of taxation, count as charitable contributions or as ordinary and necessary expenses ofmanufacture, promotion, and delivery of a product? The former sort of deduction is greaterbecause tax codes allow corporations to exempt charitable gifts, up to a certain amount, fromtaxation. The latter type of deduction is taken as part of and against gross taxable income. Thisissue, however, was settled some twenty-five years ago in The Singer Company v. The UnitedStates.
In that case, U.S. Court of Claims Judge Laramore held, fora unanimous court insubstantial accordance with pre-trial findings of fact by Trial Commissioner George Willi, thatSinger's sales of sewing machines to schools at a 45 percent discount of retail price in 1954 didnot constitute a charitable contribution. They did not because Singer had a reasonableexpectation of a quid pro quo from these discounted sales. Students trained on Singer sewingmachines were likely to purchase Singer machines later for personal use. In light of thepredictable profitableness of the donations. Singer was required to forgo its attempt to recoverback taxes in terms of codes covering charitable donations. Nonetheless, the company wasallowed to pursue recovery in terms of business expense. So, too, do Colgate and other majorcorporations who supply schools with "learning aids."
Concluding CommentsI want to argue that school-business partnerships are anathema. I want to take such astance, because corporations have been too successful in mollifying the public with their versionof why they are involved in schooling. Given the success of consumer materialism, it isn'tsurprising that the general public uncritically views schools as training sites for future workforcepreparation (like corporations desire). But just because we're not surprised, doesn't mean thereisn't something egregious about the situation. I want to emblematically resuscitate HaroldRugg's textbook, wherein advertisements were object lessons and student questioning wasdirected toward thoroughly understanding the symbolism of pictures, the meaning of words, andthe agenda behind the pictures and words that businesses exploited. For philosophers ofeducation, in general, it means continuing to ask the question "What is the purpose ofschooling?" and challenging students (otherwise typically oblivious to the business schemes) toconsider the specific context of school-business partnerships. I trust that Alex Molnar's excellentlecture and these few words of mine are able to work in tandem to make the case for action onthe part of philosophers of education in this realm. Thank you.
1. George Kaplan, "Profits R Us: Notes on the Commercialization of America's Schools," PhiDelta Kappan (November 1996): K6.2. Pat Wechsler, 'This Lesson Brought To You By...," Business Week (30 June 1997): 68-69.3. Ibid.4. Ronald E. Berembeim, "Preparing Students for Health Services Occupations," CorporateSupport of Dropout Prevention and Workforce Readiness (New York: The Conference Board,1993), 34-36. See, also, John A. Nidds and James McGerald, "Corporate America Looks atPublic Education," Principal (March 1995): 22-23; and Andrew Ashwell and Frank Caropreso,eds., Business Leadership: The Third Wave of Education Reform (New York: The ConferenceBoard, 1989).5. Jeffrey Kane, "Educational Policy, National Intellectual Capital, and the Profits ofChildhood," Holistic Education Review 9, no. 2 (Summer 1996), 3.6.Adopt-a-School programs and school-business partnerships are used interchangeably in thischapter. Any differences between the two might be of degree of participation where adopt-a-school programs are only marginally involved compared to school-business partnerships.Marginal involvement is characterized, for example, by Frito Lay hosting lunch for a local schoolor by local banks passing out awards at end-of-year ceremonies. See Sharry Shepard, "Thanks,Frito Lay," Brookhaven Buzz, August 1997, 14; Ginnie Netherton, "Nimitz School ThanksSponsors: Execs Attend Reception," Tulsa World, 2 May 1997, D3; and Valerie Parker, "OliveBranch Elementary Thanks Teachers," The Commercial Appeal, 12 June 1997, DS2. Forspecific information on Adopt-a-School programs, see such works as Alton C. Manning, Adopt ASchool-Adopt A Business (Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1987);and Lowrie A. Fraser, Adopt-a-School Handbook (Atlanta: Atlanta Partnership of Business &Education, 1984).7. See any of the Goals 2000 listings in, for example. The National Education Goals Report:Building a Nation of Learners (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1995), 10-13. The original goals list has been expanded to include a goal for teacher education ("By theyear 2000, the Nation's leading teaching force will have access to programs for continuedimprovement of the professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skillsneeded to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century.") and parentalinvolvement ("By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increaseparental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growthof children.").8. Very careful scrutiny reveals that the tassel on the mortar board is on the right side (on theview of the person who wears it). Successful learning, fulfilling necessary requirements, and theachievement of scholarship are indicated when the tassel is moved from the right side of themortar board to the left. To the possible chagrin of the advertisers who put the flier together,"Partners in Education," apparently, is symbolically unfulfilled.9. Joseph W. Newman, America's Teachers: An Introduction (New York: Longman, 1994).Newman offers an informative and concise interpretation of this dilemma when he distinguishesthree conditions necessary for a profession to exist: "(1)A profession performs a unique,essential social service. (2) A profession has a defined, respected knowledge base. (3) Aprofession has autonomy." (102) Teachers clearly satisfy the first requirement. Given pedagogyand, for example, mathematics, English, history, etc., persuasive arguments exist that teacher cansatisfy the second requirement, if they already do not. To achieve autonomy, however, thestructure of their (local/county/state) government positions, the generally negative perception ofteacher unionism, and/or the lack of collective intellectual agency on the part of teachers must berevised.10. See Rankings of the States, 1996 (Washington, DC: NEA, 1996).11. Joel Spring, American Education (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 90. Both of the figuresSpring notes are above the national average, but the point is the disparity between areas that aregeographically close but distinct.12. Newman, America's Teachers, 275. Newman notes that in many states, property taxes arefigured in terms of assessed value of real estate. In these states the percentage of market valuecan be 10-20 percent but such states have higher rates of taxation. See also, Michael W. Kirst,Who Controls Our Schools? American Values in Conflict (New York: Freeman, 1984).13. Newman, 275. (Italics in original.)14. Hilary Stout, "Marketing: Firms Learn That Subtle Aid to Schools Can Polish Their Images,Sell Products," The Wall Street Journal, 25 March 1991, Bl.15. Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (New York: CrownPublishers, 1991), 80.16. Ibid.17. Stout, op. cit.18. Alex Molnar, Giving Kids the Business: The Commercialization of America's Schools(Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 45. See also, David T. Sehr, Education for PublicDemocracy (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1997).19. Kozol, 80.20.The Singer Company v. The United States, 449 F.2d 413 (1971).21. See also, Pat Wechsler, 'This Lesson is Brought to You By...: Corporations Are FloodingSchools with Teaching Aids and Propaganda Galore," Business Week, 30 June 1997, 68-69.