TOUCHY DEBATE: This lengthy series of posts and counterposts in EdWeek offers plenty of food for thought. Oakland teacher Anthony Cody comes down hard on the role of for-profit companies and the Gates Foundation in public education. Cody contends that the problems in education are phantoms and have falsely created demand for edtech products. He writes:
"Impossible-to-meet ever-rising test targets have been used to 'prove'
that the public schools are failing. This message is reinforced at every
opportunity, and the schools are even wrongly blamed for problems in the US economy. The supposed 'failure' of the public schools then creates the 'market' for alternatives, and legislators shift funds away from public
schools towards all sorts of charter schools, virtual schools and even
Cody goes on to declare that: "The opportunity to make money has attracted lots of entrepreneurs towards education as a profit center."
Full disclosure: EdSurge is structured as a for-profit and has received funds from the Gates Foundation, which should make us a pariah in Cody's book.
We agree that there are nasty companies out there, seeking profits at the expense of their customers. Even a few startup companies are starting to raise big bucks (see Desire2Learn), a metamorphosis that can be as perilous as adolescence.
That said, not every company is a rapacious competitor. Many edtech companies are driven by a mission, propelled by the energy
of people who are as smart and caring as great teachers. Heck, many were even started by entrepreneurs who as students were inspired by great teachers to use their skills to build something with more depth than, say, vampire games for your mobile phone.
Instead of slamming entrepreneurs, how about looking for opportunities to weigh in and help nudge those companies into building something that will work for teachers and students? Communications lines are open and ready to listen.