THE NEW NOBLESSE OBLIGE IN EDUCATION: Opportunities and risks

Two D.C. school reform events, competing visions – D.C. Schools Insider – The Washington Post

The two Washington DC meetings described in this article  Two D.C. school reform events, competing visions – D.C. Schools Insider – The Washington Post. say it all.  In the one meeting we have the wealthy, the powerful sitting down to a silver service dinner with high profile speakers celebrating their successes in changing the educational landscape in the territory through their privatisation,choice and charters agenda.  They are doing this of course for the poor and dispossessed because they know best and they have millions of dollars behind them.

Note: For those readers not yet familiar with the agenda of a group of phanthropists that include The Walton Family, Eli Broad and Billl and Melinda Gates a useful starting point is Joanna Barkan’s article in Dissent, Winter 2011, called, Got Dough, How Billionaires rule our schools http://dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781

Down the road we have the teachers, parents and activists in a spare meeting room.  They have come together out of a concern that the choice/charter trajectory will without intervention lead to a completely privatised autonomous school system and the death of the neighbourhood government school.

Just as I was reading this the mail arrived and it included a timely article by Adam Smith (Philanthropy and Schools – A Changing Paradigm, Education Review, May 2012) about philanthropy and schools in the Australian context.  Smith reminds us that the Gonski report (you remember that ?) recommended a larger role for philanthropy.

Now diehards like me are very gun-shy of anything that dilutes the clear responsibility of government to provide, for every citizen, no matter how rich or poor, a high quality education with opportunities for progress for all.  I have a fear that the more philanthropy puts in, the more Governments can retreat – this sort of funding is highly fungible and hard to keep track of.  I also have concerns about the possible undue interest and influence of large corporations who we did not vote for and can not vote out.

But Smith is more optimistic that there is an important role for philanthropy in schools and he has form in this space – good form – through a number of ventures including a role in the development of the NAB-FYA Schools First Program.  His article lays out the ground rules for philanthropic engagement which if heeded could help to avoid the kind of problems that are taking place in the US.

Perhaps we need a set of protocols for the philanthropy sector wishing to work with Australian schools, protocols that could help to mitigate the risk of the kind of ideological agendas being  prosecuted so aggressively and so successfully in the US

Views anyone?

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