Education is not a Business

In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Alter discusses education reform in an article entitled “Obama’s No Brainer on Education.”

While making a few sound points (teachers should focus on student learning over job security, assessment can be effective and beneficial, etc), Alter suggests an oversimplified solution on how to fix education in the U.S. – education should be run like a business.  Furthermore, Alter suggests that Obama adopt this concept in his campaign.

Let’s not kid ourselves – education is not a business.  We cannot comfortably indoctrinate a business model onto our educational system if we believe that all children have a right to learn.  Period.

If we can suggest that education can be run like a business, then why stop there?  Why not run schools like we run the military?  Or like our health care system – oh wait, that’s a bad example.

While outcomes do matter in each scenario (schools, businesses, military, etc), the means in which they are achieved are vastly different.  In the real world, businesses fail and wars are lost.  The engine of competition that drives these entities is in opposition to the fundamental ideals upon which universal education is based.

I still believe that teaching is more than just a job.  It’s a calling.  It’s a belief that there is power in learning.  It’s a hope in our future.  In order to retain these sentiment in thousands of educators, we cannot simply treat a school as warehouse or office space.

When Obama revisits educational reform, it would help him to keep in mind the ideals of public education – and not those of the business world.  Education deserves to be evaluated and reformed in its own light.

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