Presenting Education! (Brought to you by Big Corporations)

This was an interesting week for debate, as both sides picked different topics! Emily picked agree on “Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain”, and Brian picked disagree on “Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.”. 

The most interesting part of all of this however? Those two topics intersect perfectly! Most applications we use for openness and sharing in schools is offered by a corporation giving it free, but they don’t do it for nothing!

The idea behind Corps offering free applications to schools is so students:

  1. Become familiar with the product, or become dependent on it, causing them to be very likely to purchase the product in the future when they graduate.
  2. To try to outwork their competitors by making their product the standard. If everyone uses Microsoft Word in highschool, it is likely to become standard in the future. We see this with the increased use of Google Docs in recent years by younger people, as the schools have started adopting GSuite.
  3. Potentially to mine data – HOWEVER, this is very rare within the education sector. Due to the extreme opposition in general to data mining, and the increased observance of how Education data is handled, most large companies like Google have announced that they do not serve ads based on this data, and in general have placed stronger privacy statements regarding their education versions of the product. This is because for them, points 1 and 2 outweigh the loss in data profit.

So in a way, yes Education is “selling its soul” to corporations, but is it really a bad thing?  Funding for education is on the constant decline, and these free applications really make up for that. An potential concern is favoritism for a certain service, and the idea of point 1 and 2 being successful at monopolizing the sector. I believe we can find a balance, and from my high school times I know we can use that balance.

We can get access to GSuite/Google Docs, as well as Microsoft Office/Word, and allow the students to decide which they prefer. We can get both Adobe 3D max and Blender, Microsoft Visual Studio and Apple’s XCode. I think if we create options for the students, it can be really beneficial because many of them won’t have the opportunity to use these applications due to cost.

We also have to consider industry standards. As much as some might think using Adobe is supporting their monopoly, the fact is that a student cannot go into photography, filmography, animation, etc… without running into an Adobe product. This is something that only the industry can decide, and once they destandarize it the schools will have more power to give students choice, but until then the jobs dictate which programs you use.

In terms of openness and sharing, I used personal google applications since Grade 8 and it enhanced the school experience for myself and my peers. We would use collaborative editing to make documents from other sides of the city, Google hangouts to chat without holding up the phone line, Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with group messages. When you go into the workforce, openness and sharing is an expectation that you cannot avoid. You have to propose your ideas, share your data with coworkers, share the workload for projects, be open to working on a team. You cannot avoid this, and that is why openness and sharing isn’t unfair in education, it is literally a preparation for life.

So while the topics are suppose to conflict, I actually agree with both debaters! Emily is correct, education has “sold its soul” to big corporations, and this isn’t a bad thing if we are careful. Brian is correct in saying openness and sharing is a GOOD thing in schools, and this goes hand in hand with the applications we receive from “selling education’s soul”. I think it is a bit of a slippery slope, but with care these applications and opportunities to share are incredible for the student experience in education.

I believe we should continue using “free applications” for education,, and just instead should ensure we are trying to offer choices to the students. That way Education benefits from the cost, and the students will make the decision in the end for which application is the best, not the companies/education through an accidental monopolization. If the student gets the choice, all parties win.

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