Consider the following: High pressure. High Stress. Packed schedule. Lack of play. Lack of passion. Textbooks determine curriculums. No real life application. Someone else’s questions. Irrelevant. Timed. Teaching for the test. Cram. Strict due dates. No creative freedom. Endless notes. GPA. Rigorous.
Many of you, if not all of you just heard me list a plethora of words and phrases describing our perception of school. Students and teachers, I’m Cody Werther, and as a junior in high school who applies themselves to every challenge and assignment assigned to me, this is what I’ve gathered over my past 2 years and some years. I am here to explain to you who is at fault for these flaws in our system.
In the 1980s standardized testing became popularized by companies like Pearson, who used them against school systems to prove that they were “failing”, under the basis that their curriculums were not “rigorous” enough (Katz). Since then, such companies have expanded this business model and turned it into a multi-billion dollar monopoly, turning our system and countless others into one dimensional, stressful, rigor based programs that tell students who do poorly in high pressure testing scenarios that they are not good enough to make it.
I beg you to look around rooms all around the school, and tell me how many times you see the name Pearson - on expensive textbooks, endless worksheets, open tabs in google chrome, and on corners of tests and quizzes. Many of our current and previous classes have been dictated by Pearson. Many students will shrug this off, wondering why it should matter that our content is controlled by private companies. But any company that is for profit has one goal - maximizing revenue. Pearson has made it clear that they are no exception to this.
In 2011, the Huffington Post’s Alan Singer looked into the company in response to their announcement that teacher certification in the state of New York would be handed off to them as part of the state’s promised reforms in public schooling. There has already been plenty of resistance against “Pearson, a British multi-national conglomerate, [which] is one of the largest private businesses maneuvering for U.S. education dollars. The company had net earnings of... approximately 1.5 billion dollars in 2011” (Huffpost Singer). This is a company whose sole objective is monetary gain, and does not have a very reassuring record. The Education Development Center (EDC), based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is a “global nonprofit organization that designs, delivers and evaluates innovative programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health, and economic opportunity”. This company, which is funded in part by Pearson, conducted a study on the previously mentioned teacher certification program in five different states: Delaware, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas. Four of these states - Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas - are notorious anti-union states where teachers have no job security or union protection, and Delaware used the imposition of new teacher assessments to make it more difficult for teachers to acquire tenure. Therefore in every state studied, there were ulterior motives of swindling teachers and weakening their job security that this system catered to. Pearson is a company that has shamelessly harmed and been used to harm teachers and students do make a couple extra bucks.
Many school systems like ours in the United States were not built for learning. They were built to house a process that will benefit these companies - students will learn Pearson textbooks taught by teachers certified by Pearson to take standardized tests created by Pearson. If that student is unable to perform well on these one dimensional tests, a message comes across loud and clear early in that child’s life - you are a failure, you will not be able to make it in this world. If these corrupt, private, for profit companies are not removed from our educational processes, those conditions I listed will only get more severe. Rigor is not helping kids learn, it’s helping these companies sell textbooks. It’s giving kids serious stress and anxiety early in their life when all the adults in their lives are telling them to enjoy themselves, because it only gets worse from here. It’s draining any trace of passion for learning that students have by answering questions that the students never asked, and ignoring the ones they did, like “how do I drive a car, get a job, buy a house, or manage my personal finances?” Most detrimentally, it will tell students who have a weakness in something as specific as MLA format essay writing, Mathematics, or even memorizing irrelevant history statistics, that they are a failure and they can not make it in our world. There has to be a redesign of our educational process, one that excludes private for-profit companies like Pearson, who have been estimated to control over 60% of American public schooling, from determining how and what we learn, your students learn, and our future sons and daughters learn.