Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Monday, November 18, 2013

An easy slide from Gates to Pearson

Kate James
A week ago I gave the example of Bruce Reed, the assistant to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, being named president of the Broad Foundation, to illustrate the easy movement between government, corporate reform and power philanthropy. Another earlier example would be Joel Klein's transition from N.Y.C. schools chancellor to a power position within Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire.

This is a hallmark of current corporate-style school reform. It's similar in many ways, to the movement between government and the war industry, usually referred to as the military/industrial complex.

The latest example of the ed/corporate complex is PR exec Kate James, who is leaving the Gates Foundation to be chief corporate affairs officer at Pearson. Gates, funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and U.K.-based Pearson, are under fire in educational quarters and the media in a number of areas.

According to PR industry analyst Jack O'Dwyer:
Pearson is portrayed by PR Watch and others as a for-profit octopus that has its tentacles around practically aspect of U.S. education, reaping billions of dollars in revenues. PRW cites instances of Pearson working with elements of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which PRW says is an organization of 2,000 mostly Republican state legislators and 300 corporate representatives that has an undue influence on state lawmaking.
Pearson, with revenues of $8.29 billion, is called “the largest education company in the world” and the “largest book publisher in the world” while the Gates Foundation is easily the world's largest foundation.

Pearson's properties include the Financial Times Group; 47% of Penguin Random House; 50% of the Economics Group which includes The Economist magazine; Prentice-Hall; University of Phoenix (largest for-profit online university system); Connections Academy, which operates online classes in many states, and numerous education-related entities. O'Dwyer's excellent blog also plugs Diane Ravitch's latest book, Rein of Error and cites WaPo's fine ed columnist Valerie Strauss. 
Valerie Strauss, writing in the July 15, 2013 Washington Post, says “Gates has exercised extraordinary influence in shaping modern K-12 school reform to his liking, leveraging cash from his vast Microsoft fortune to drive the public agenda—and taxpayer funds—toward standardized test-based accountability.” His vision includes “ways to measure everything, largely through testing,” writes Strauss.

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