Category Archives: textbook companies

Should you sell your educating soul for the right reason (students)?

I have such a hard time trusting corporations or people in power.

Maybe it’s from watching V for Vendetta, Fight Club, or Mr. Robot too many times, but my default assumption on individuals who are extremely wealthy or powerful is mistrust and doubt.

What did you do to get there?

Why are you so wealthy?

Do you believe you need that much more money than others?

What motivates your decision making?

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Big Business via socawlege

And sorry to those of you who are well-off (which is a loaded comment in and of itself) that this may offend…

But can you blame me?

We obviously can’t paint every company with the same brush but when it comes down to students and learning, but what resources and deals that we as teachers, administrators school boards and divisions make are actually valuable to students and what is simply fuelled by greed or is filling the pockets of those that we are obligated to appease?

Soft drink and food companies push to get their brands into the school with some “noble” marketing. Textbook companies even cash in on the curriculum and testing system in some states south of our borders. While there are examples of positive and noble gestures by certain groups, there is a large monopoly on learning and its associated resources. When I consider the impact these corporations have on the learning I attempt to facilitate in my classroom I’m not sure I know where to begin. Textbooks, laptops, projectors and SMARTboards are the obvious ones, but can we not extend this to the desks, air conditioning (if so fortunate), the phones they use and the gymnasiums and facilities the student train and compete in? The line is pretty ambiguous. Is it okay to use desks but not textbooks?

This presents the idea of the Faustian bargain in education. Do we allow for companies to exhibit some forms of dominance and investment in the learning process for the sake of better resources? Does saying yes mean you’ve sold your soul? You can see in comics and media examples of “selling your soul” for the right reasons, and I would argue this applies here, much like Dean Shareski argued in our debate, highlighting that we kind of have to and it happens whether we like it or not. Our goal is student learning and as long as we do not become obligated or bound to do something unethical in the process of receiving what these companies provide to our students, we should be able to accept a pizza hut lunch day at school. Or free Google Chromebooks to all students. It is “free marketing” for those companies, but they are still providing a service to students with the potential to enhance learning and we need to utilize it that way. As Audrey Watters reminded us, this isn’t a new problem, capitalizing on education has been happening for over a hundred years but our ideologies on education have changed. Regardless, this has been happening for a long time. It doesn’t mean we completely trust these corporations, but we can at least see the value in what private companies can provide. We can’t be afraid to use the resources if it is for our students to learn (it is important to note I don’t mean “do anything for the sake of learning”).

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Once again in ECI 830 we ask, where is the line? What is the balance? Education needs funding… and in times of lower provincial revenue, what do our leaders turn to? Maybe we do need outside funding, as Andres reminds us, but I would posit the idea that we aren’t selling our souls to do so when it is done for a morally just reason.

Connecting to my opinion statement referencing movies and comics as well as my post from last week on doing what is morally right, I will close on a Ghost Rider reference when discussing selling our souls for education. In this comic, the antihero sells his soul to the devil to save his father… who ends up dying anyway.

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Ghost Rider by Clayton Crain via Tumblr

We want to avoid dying (getting manipulated by businesses) at all costs, and by being aware of these potential effects on our children, we can. But as educators, we, like Ghost Rider, can take comfort knowing that embracing the positives can lead to achieving what is right and just for ourselves, and more importantly for others (our students).

Thoughts, comments? Share below.

Logan Petlak