Schools Are Not Businesses. Stop With The Stupid Analogy!

Anthony Cody received an email from a reader, Elizabeth Knox, who shared some thoughts in response to last week's post, A Declaration of Professional Conscience for Teachers. I have decided to take her piece point by point and show why she should be ignored.
E.K.  What you outlined in your opening comments is what successful businesses have realized they must do to keep and attract the best associates and to keep and attract clients.

I am tired of people saying education is not a business or cannot learn from the business community on how to do things better. Look around at successful businesses in your community...ask them what they do to be successful and to stay successful...you will find they do exactly what you outlined. How many teachers will take this upon yourself and do this?
Education is not a business because businesses exist to make money and schools don't. They are dissimilar. What they have in common is the fact that they are run by humans. The similarities stop there.
E.K.  Successful businesses listen to their associates, their clients and their shareholders. Education has all three of these groups. Can you identify which is which? Do you truly ask for feedback, value suggestions and act upon them?
Schools don't really have these groups. Yes, they have associates (teachers) and shareholders (Americans) but they don't really have clients (students). Students are not clients because there is a law that says kids must go to school and America has chosen to publicly educate its kids. Therefore students are simply citizens taking advantage of one of the greatest things America provides its citizens--a free education.
E.K.  Successful businesses act on what their associates, clients and shareholders say and the results show. Do all things get acted upon? No, but everyone knows their voice has been heard and appreciated. Does this happen in education? Rarely if ever have I truly seen it.
The reason this is nonsense is that schools are not in operation to make money which is what shareholders want from the companies they own shares of. And remember, very few Americans own shares in public companies. It is the rich and powerful that own most of the shares and make most of the business decisions. And you see how they fucked us, right?
E.K.  Successful businesses regularly survey their associates, clients and shareholders to see how they are doing and what they need to do better. Then they act on those results and every associate has a role. This is not done in education.
First you must decide what you want education to be for in America, then you can check to see how things are going. We can't even agree on what education is! Is it a good test score? Acceptance to college? Getting a job? Keeping the job? Being happy and informed? What is it?
E.K.  If you want to be treated as professionals you need to look around you and see what other successful organizations are doing and see what you can incorporate. Educators think they are special, that they are unique, that no one understands their plight. In my opinion that cannot be further from the truth. Educators have an incredible job to do...they are educating the future of the country...but you are not unique in the challenges you face to be treated as professionals or be the best your can be.
Educators think they are special? Really? How do you know this? Have you asked all the educators? No, you haven't. So shut up. Your comment here exposes the fact that you think too many teachers suck and have a life-long job due to tenure--which is plainly untrue.
E.K.  Business clients have real choice. If the product is not up to snuff, the value not in line with the price, they can leave. This is a big problem with government schools...the students and families are stuck and educators know it...it is the biggest weakness to true reform in education. What if you had to work to attract every student? I am so waiting for total choice to come to government schools...are you ready?
Can you quit your police department? Your fire department? Your garbage collection? No, you can't, because they aren't businesses either. Besides, the product (an educated student, I assume you mean) is subject to the vagaries of the market (things like poverty, ill health, hunger...) in ways unlike product-based businesses.
E.K.  Come out from your self imposed isolation and monopoly and you will be astounded. Remember you are given every dime you have to operate your schools and systems...the money is literally taken from the people by law. This is not reality...successful businesses earn every dime of revenue, the value the client...if this attitude could be adopted in education...watch out...the revolution would be mind blowing...
You make it sound as if teachers/schools should be thankful they are "given" the money to do their work. The money is not so much given to us as it is spent by America on something America has decided is important to provide for its citizens. Just like America has decided having a huge military is good.
E.K.  My approach is more for educators to look around to what they consider to be successful organizations and ask what makes them successful and the other ideas I threw out. I have no clue how to break up the monopoly with closing down the DOE and returning the responsibility of education to the states. I think it is too late for that. The Feds only provide 10% of education funding. If states weren't totally dependent on those dollars this would a whole different conversation. Now that ten percent has basically give the Feds majority control. What am I missing?
Your approach seems incredibly vapid. You want educators to look at what they think are successful organizations--regardless of the actual success of those organizations, and without defining that success--and model schools after said organizations? Am I the only one confused about this one?
E.K.  Real change to education needs to come from within but not in a vacuum. Educators have historically told me if you are not a teacher or educator you don't have a voice in change. I may not know how to manage 30 kids in a classroom but I and others have perfectly good, successful solutions for other parts of the school that could help that teacher be more effective and have a much more manageable classroom Why are educators fearful/reluctant to look around and see what others (outside of education) do to be successful and adopt/modify those practices for their classroom, school, etc?
Elizabeth Knox
Your solutions are not solutions, and they do nothing to illuminate problems. They are the same tired nonsense that emanates from those who think they know, but actually don't know.

Please, stop making suggestions. Why don't you fight for more teachers to be involved in education reform? We know a little something about it, yet we are maligned, marginalized, and belittled. Don't you think we deserve a shot before those with no experience get theirs?

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