Soft Corruption

Business-Lunch-Etiquette

When it comes to schools and morality, no one wants to call out decisions made by school administrators as corrupt.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the balance of power in our schools. Administrators feel no compulsion to respond to the actual needs of individual teachers in their classrooms. It starts with the principal whose main function is to coordinate the implementation of a predetermined policy which they have come to believe they have the liberty of implementing in their own way, giving them the false hope that their actions are their own and that the results will be due largely to their interpretation of policy. How naïve of them.

 

Of course principals are merely the first layer in the hierarchy that comes into contact with actual classroom teachers. There are many layers up to the Superintendent and many side spurs as well. But one thing is clear. The hierarchy is self-sustaining and not really dependent on the schools it is meant to manage. Each layer of the hierarchy protects the next layer up from the layer just beneath, so that classroom teachers never see the principal’s boss, the executive director. But all of the administrators see each other, even the principals, because they are all in a club with its own social conventions that are quite different from the social conventions in the schools. Yes, there is a class difference. This is where the corruption begins to be evident.

 

Just to be clear, the schools are only one hierarchical system within a network of hierarchical systems that relate to each other hierarchically. Superintendents live on the border of the next hierarchy up, government and the political system. Above that, of course, are the banks, big business and the military industrial complex.

 

When it comes to schools and morality, no one wants to call out decisions made by school administrators as corruption. “Corruption” conjures images of brown paper bags stuffed with cash. But the corruption I see has to do with the culture within the central administration offices. The people who place the orders with ed companies like Pearson are solicited by sales people who pump up their buyers’ self esteem. It is not that difficult to stroke the ego of someone with an important job, an advanced degree and a budget. They earned their place after all and have the credentials. They deserve the free lunch that comes with the territory, since they are so important and meritorious. The problem is they tend to listen to the sales people and the expert colleagues in their offices more than the stakeholders they are supposed to be responsible to. They have a self sustaining culture of “we know better”.

 

The actions they take, buying worthless text books or expensive solutions to non existent problems, are taken to reinforce their positions. That is what they are paid to do, (along with protecting the next, even more comfortable layer up). Their actions can be seen as job protection. It is self serving . That is corrupt. They actively justify racist policies because the comfort to which they have become accustomed is an easier choice to make than the choice to fight for what their teachers and student families want. Standardized testing has been locked into the system by legal contract. What a waste.

 

Ultimately, it is the profit motive that messes everything up, not just for the schools but for our society as a whole. Competition inevitably leads to cheating. When competition is monetized it goes into a completely different dimension and that dimension is corrupt. Once the idea “What’s in it for me?” has taken over, displacing it with the more humanistic notion of “How does it affect the next person?” becomes next to impossible. But that is where we are with our school system and its soft corruption. And one last thing; when an administrator claims the tough decision has to be made and it is “for the kids”, there is more than just a bit of insincerity in it.

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anarchoeducator

I'm a school librarian in Seattle who thinks nothing would be better than bringing real progressive education to public school.

4 thoughts on “Soft Corruption”

  1. I agree with much of what you’ve said here, but want to clarify the line about buying worthless textbooks or purchasing programs to solve non-existent problems. It is not so much that as feeding into the transformation of education from a face-to-face human process to a digital surveillance process that will fuel global social impact investment. In order to make sense of things that on the surface don’t seem to make any sense, people need to grasp that it makes perfect sense if the goal is to harness human agency and extract data in ways that makes people helpless and generates profit for elite tech and finance interests. If you are not familiar with social impact investing there is a lot of background here: https://wrenchinthegears.com/2017/11/26/gambling-with-our-futures-big-data-global-finance-and-digital-life/

    Also the librarians are on the front lines as books are replaced by 3-D printers. I don’t see many standing up against this onslaught. It is discouraging.

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    1. Sorry I’m just getting around to this response, I’m still learning the ropes of blogging as a mature citizen. Thanks for the note about social impact investing, I am aware of the topic. It is very discouraging but is part of long history of monetizing fear and suffering going back to the insurance schemes built on slavery and other atrocities.

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