Exploring the Relationship of Money and Education
no. 06_december 2019
In capitalism, the significance of both money and education for individuals as well as societies as a whole is—mostly—uncontested. Both are desirable “assets” that seem to be important in order to live/provide a “good” life. However, when it comes to the relationship between the two, matters can get complicated. What role do (and should) economic developments/arguments play in public education? To what extent must or mustn’t education align with economic requirements? The sixth issue of on_education aims at exploring the relationship between money and education from diverse perspectives.
Education was traditionally of little interest to the European Union (EU), with policy and governance solely the responsibility of individual member states. Since the Lisbon Strategy of 2000, however, EU policy and interest in education have grown considerably. Rooted in human capital theory, which sees education as an investment which later pays economic dividends for both the individual and the state, EU education policy has put its young people at the heart of its economic ambitions.
The idea that public expenditures for early childhood education and care (ECEC) are rather investments than costs as they yield noticeable returns has been pushed prominently by the American economist James Heckman and his colleague Flavio Cunha. As illustrated in the so-called Heckman curve, programs targeted towards the earliest years are supposed to be most promising regarding economic outcomes.
Much has been written about the detrimental impact of corporate philanthropy, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and others, on public education in the United States (US). There has also been considerable discussion of the damaging influence of Northern philanthropy on public education in the Global South. In particular, the for-profit, low-fee school chain Bridge International Academies, supported by the Gates Foundation and others, has come under scrutiny for its work in India and Africa.
Most everyone understands that the worldwide expansion of higher education (HE) is driven by the “college wage premium”: the boost in income that a person can expect on graduation. “Getting a better job” continues to be among the most important reasons United States (US) students seek a higher education. But economic motives often jar with the sensibilities of teachers and scholars. They are trained to value knowledge for its own sake. They believe in education as a force for positive transformation. Their worldly success is tied to the pursuit of unworldly ideas. Many of them are unlikely to see employability as the central aim of their teaching.
We wrote The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy to open a conversation about the deleterious effects of corporatization on the intellectual life of the university and the well-being of faculty, staff, and students. We argue that the corporate university is concerned above all with efficiency, resulting in a time crunch with far-reaching implications. Power is transferred from faculty to managers, economic justifications dominate, and the familiar “bottom line” eclipses pedagogical and intellectual concerns.
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