Privatization and Corporatization: Conflicts with Associated Living and Public Goods

The move to for-profit management operations turns over work traditionally done by public employees to the private sector in hopes of achieving less regulation, more innovation, and greater efficiency. The most overt call for privatization was Friedman’s 1962 call for vouchers, which was based on the belief that privatization was necessary to spur innovation in schools. Privatizing the services and delivery of education is often tied to a shift toward corporatization, where corporations provide those products and services and where school management operates on a corporate model.

Chubb calls for the exploration of corporate models within education reform: “Many of the organizational tools that the private sector uses to great effect are rejected by the public sector, often because they are simply too controversial for public education to embrace broadly. All of these ideas deserve a chance. Private management provides one"34 Alongside his colleague Moe, he explains what he sees as one of the objective advantages of corporate models: “Unlike the established players, the business community has strong incentives to take a coldly analytical approach to the problem, and thus to acquire the best possible knowledge about why the problem exists and what can be done about it—and to evaluate, in the process, the full range of policy and institutional options, however unsettling they may be to defenders of the status quo.”35

Those working outside of traditional school models are thought to be able to offer better leadership and organizational practices. Brennan sees his background as an industrial entrepreneur this way: “Public education, like all bureaucracies, particularly in monopolies, does not want to change from inside, and will not. So we are the force of change”36 He explains,

Education is first, last, and always, a business. If it’s run like a business, it can be done profitably. I hire engineers and technicians and specialists to do things in my company that I can’t do. Education is the same way. We hire people who are very good at what they do. But to expect them to be businesspersons at the same time is ludicrous. No other enterprise in our society requires that. Education does it the other way around. They put the educators in charge of the business functions and the organization, and look what has happened.37

This shifts the historical emphasis from schools as sites of public development and deliberation to schools as a service, best run like a business, which provides customers (parents and students) means to fulfill their private desires, such as getting into college or acquiring a lucrative career. It shifts the emphasis of schools from the intrinsically (or even the mundane extrinsically) valuable aspects of education to those products that provide wealth or status. These new businesslike goals of economic and cultural capital are upheld by school leaders like Brennan as if obvious and, because of this, he speaks as if business leaders would be better at managing schools. Thereby, he employs a micro-level rhetorical device that both creates and reinforces a “common sense”—a view that of course corporate approaches are better. This common sense exhibits neoliberalism as a worldview at work.

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