How did Kaplan beat us to it? Or, Who's getting rich off education?

How did Kaplan beat us to it? Or, Who's getting rich off education?

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Image by Firesign via Flickr

So, I was just watching some TV with my 6 month old son while my wife catches a nap, and I saw this ad for Kaplan:

I have to say, except for the fact that Kaplan is basically saying that they have a monopoly on these ideas, I really like the ad. Unfortunately, I’m not totally sure why a for-profit university beat the public school system to the punch. I’m not totally sure why we can’t run ads like this on television or the radio. Why is it that we cannot raise money to change education and then put these ideas out there without a brand associated with them. Why is it that these proposals are being co-opted faster in ad agencies and places like Kaplan then in school districts.

I can just see people using this video in their PD sessions and saying, “We should do this.” Yet, without a support system, they are going to turn to a one-stop-shop solution like a for-profit entity. I can’t help but feeling like this is already happening.

I remember a really great moment in a Podcast not to long ago (I think it was Kevin Honeycutt’s Driving Questions, but I’m not sure) when an interviewee said that the question he is always asking himself is, “Who is getting rich on education? If it isn’t the students, the teachers, or the public, then it isn’t worth paying for.” If the learners aren’t benefiting from the forward thinking of all institutions, then we need to seriously ante up again. So, if there is anyone who has a few thousand bucks lying around, I think it would totally be worth it to invest in some advertising time. But, instead of having the Kaplan tag line at the end, let’s have a link to a network of teachers that are actively pursuing change.

I do still have to give Kaplan credit, though. This is a great ad, and it is the kind of message that most people aren’t being exposed to. I just wish we would have done it first.

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  1. What the commercial betrays behind a slick-sounding apology is that it’s a marketing attempt to generate revenue. They aren’t competing for the talent and edification of students; they’re competing for the students themselves. They couldn’t make those sorts of commercials without their student cash cows. Unfortunately, neither can we in public education. Our educational systems (especially in Colorado), however well-intentioned, rise and fall on the fickleness of tax revenues and varying budgets. Ultimately that’s where every mission statement of every district has an invisible * -as long as we have the $ to do it. Despite some pretty heated rhetoric of late about the importance of reestablishing the preeminence of education, it’s one off the first on the chopping block when times get tough. We need to look no further than the $222 million in proposed education budget cuts submitted to help the $600 million shortfall. Education in Colorado counts for $3.1 billion of the $19.2 billion state budget –about 16%. However, education gets to shoulder 37% of the deficit? Really?! It’s exactly times like this where clichés often prove themselves. Here, actions speak louder than words. I’m gradually becoming more convinced that the only people who really care about education are the educators themselves and then, not all of them. It certainly feels like we’re fooling ourselves, breathlessly hoping for a new day when collectively we’ll all unite for better education –for our kids, right? Right?!

    This has certainly digressed into a rather pessimistic rant and education hasn’t done itself any favors over the years, but I think we’ve lost our focus –and allowed our public to become lost as well. I’m reminded of a passage from Dr. Bill Cook’s book: “The purpose of education in a free society must be to liberate the full powers of the individual toward the common good…The common good is not served by the loss of any person…No democracy has any business accepting, much less supporting, any endeavor that does not hold the good of the individual and the good of the society to be the same…To put it another way, education must not be the means by which individuals pursue their own goals to the detriment of others…And it is not a contest to be won…it is on this point that democracy and capitalism collide” (p 129-130, Unencorporating Education).

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