Lawrensha’s future

Business want schools to produce employable young adults, reports U.S. News. How sinister is that?

The story starts with a very low-achieving Alabama school that’s improving dramatically with business assistance.

Four times a year, Everage Thomas, a supervisor at the nearby Budweiser Busch Distributing Co., squeezes into the school’s miniature plastic chairs for a meeting with Principal (Merrier) Jackson on student performance. Budweiser has invested capital in her school, and it wants to see results. So Jackson, a former businesswoman, brings PowerPoint presentations, graphs, and charts to prove her students are learning. She calls Budweiser a “stakeholder.” That terminology fits a district-ordered reorganization three years ago intended to use a business mind-set (and accountability) to improve Mobile’s worst-performing schools. The overhaul followed a reform campaign bankrolled in part by local business groups and the Chamber of Commerce.

Business are “developing executive-style training programs for superintendents in places ranging from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, financing scholarships for kids who pursue math and science in Maryland, and scheduling power lunches with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who has entertained leaders from Siemens’s George Nolen to the Burnsville, Minn., Chamber of Commerce,” the story says.

Bottom line. To educators who pride themselves on teaching not just times tables but creativity, on producing not just future middle managers but well-rounded, paradigm-challenging citizens, the business vision might not be so easy to swallow. Maybe it is best for Budweiser’s bottom line, they think, but is it best for Lawrenesha?

Lawrenesha, the poor black anecdote, will be very happy if she qualifies to be a middle manager some day. Her grandmother, who’s raising her, is happy to be saved the cost of parochial school tuition now that business help has improved Brazier, the local public school.

In 2003, 7 percent of Brazier fifth graders passed a state writing test; in 2005, 74 percent did. Are the kids less likely to grow up to be creative, well-rounded, paradigm-challenging citizens now that they can write competently?

There’s no shortage of mindless drones for businesses to hire. Employers want to hire people who can solve problems. And handle frustration without shooting anyone.

About Joanne


  1. Employers want to hire people with basic skills like the ability to read and write – it’s certainly not a given anymore. Even mindless drones have to be able to receive, process and transmit data effectively.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And show up. Half the battle is just showing up.