Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Coming soon: the Clark Bar Exam?

Des Moines — A college diploma could soon come with a corporate logo.

The University of Iowa is considering whether to rename its College of Public Health after Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield's foundation in exchange for a $15 million gift from the company's philanthropic arm.

A corporate name on a school could undermine the independence of researchers and create other conflicts, some educators say. Others see little reason to build a wall around academia, which is already dependent on corporate money for research projects, endowed chairs and buildings.

There are dumber ideas than this. Here is a partial list:

--Brushing your teeth with a chainsaw
--Hiring homeless drug addicts as valets at the Four Seasons
--Letting Ted Kaczynski out of prison
--Drinking from a dirty toilet at Chernobyl

Yes, it's that dumb of an idea. Educational institutions should never be sponsored by any corporation, because that inevitably compromises the integrity of what is taught. Do anyone honestly think that a school counting Blue Cross Blue Shield among its marquee sponsors is going to invite honest classroom discussion on the effects of the insurance industry in America?

Back when I was in high school, Surge was the new big drink. It was a forerunner to today's energy drinks, with excessive doses of caffeine mixed into a Mello Yello-ish soda. It tasted good, and I liked it even though I didn't - and still don't - like caffeine. And I know what it tastes like because my high school celebrated its launch in 1997 by giving it away for an entire week. We were even allowed to leave class to grab it in the front lobby. Even then, I had to wonder what compelled my high school - the same one that taught me to stay off drugs and avoid obesity - to hand out highly caffeinated soda like some kind of cultish Red Cross.

And thus I learned my greatest business lesson ever, without having taken a business class.

Corporate sponsorship of schools or book publishers can be good when the partnership yields much-needed educational materials or facilities. But usually, even that is about promoting products, like the math books that employ Oreos and Hershey bars to solve problems. What a thing to do when kids aren't that inclined to exercise in the first place!

And now we're perilously close to Nutter Butter High...

Here's a better idea: let's not make education just another profit venture. Schools are supposed to be about the democratization of knowledge, not the capitalization of a captive audience. One of these days, people are going to remember that not every single aspect of American life is intended to be for sale. Though, to paraphrase that old bumper sticker, that day will probably come only when the government fully funds schools and the military has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

And you don't have to be a math teacher to know that that day is quite a way off.

This blog brought to you by the numbers 3M and 7Up.


Cajun Tiger said...

So your goal is to have the federal government fully fund all education in the country and defund the entire military? Remind me again which is supported by the Constitution and which is not?

Ian McGibboney said...

Sounds terrible when put like that, doesn't it? Now you feel my outrage at how poorly we hold one institution when compared with another.

For the record, I don't think either should have to hold bake sales. Maybe we ought to take some of those dollars used to sucker kids into the military with glossy DVDs and swag, and start bridging the gap with that.

Cajun Tiger said...

As usual you missed my point completely or just chose to ignore it because you can dispute it. There is no provision in the Constitution to federally fund any education whereas one of the main purposes of the federal government according to the Constitution is provide for the national defense.

Ian McGibboney said...

Well, executive orders also aren't in the Constitution, but there they are!

In any event, I'd argue that education is worth funding, don't you? Was the United States founded with the idea that citizens are on their own with education? That goes against everything I've ever heard.

Cajun Tiger said...

If you want to get rid of executive orders under the reasoning they are not in the Constitution, you'd have no beef with me on that one, so can't use that as an excuse to keep something else that isn't Constitutional.

Public education should be funded, but not on the federal level. If we were to follow the Constitution, being that isn't listed as a federal role, it should fall to the states.

And here's an interesting tidbit I know you will love. Do you know that one of the main reasons why the first public school in PA was founded by Benjamin Franklin? In order for kids to learn how to read so they could read their Bibles in order to learn in his words, “the necessity of a public religion . . . and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern.” Try using that in your next support of public schools and see how fast the ACLU is knocking.

Ian McGibboney said...

I don't like executive orders. My point is that there are far worse things that aren't specifically outlined by the Constitution that are, nevertheless, part of our government now. And I doubt that the Founding Fathers would have had some beef with federal funding of education.

Your Ben Franklin quote fails to impress. I see no difference in his "public" school than any private school today. And neither that, nor any of the Founders' private beliefs, makes a case for the Christian religion to dominate public schools and politics.

The problem with having only states funding schools is that some states have much more funding than others, and some states would not make schooling a priority. The NFL has parity, which allows all teams, regardless of market, to be competitive. Why shouldn't public schools be structured the same way?

Cajun Tiger said...

So, just b/c we are ignoring the Constitution, we should continue to ignore it and just continue business as usual.

I absolutely believe the founding fathers would have had an issue with federal funding for public schools b/c they could have done it if they wanted to as there were many public schools before the constitution was written.

If the states wanted to combine together to make a NFL-like commission to make schools more competitive that would work for me.

Ian McGibboney said...

Federally funding education is not holding the Constitution in contempt. I'm also not calling for "competition," a la vouchers. What I'm saying is, every American kid should be able to get a high-quality education. If it takes federal funding to fill in the gaps between the states, I'm all for that.

I consider myself very educated, as do others; but I can almost feel the assumptions made when I tell them where I got that education. We need to erase that stigma. Everywhere.

Cajun Tiger said...

Please show me where in the constitution it allows for the federal funding of public education. It doesn't. If you believe it should then fight for a constitutional amendment that says the federal govt will fund all public education. That's the way to change things if it isn't in the constitution, not ignore the constitution and do what it doesn't allow just b/c it feels right. Currently it says if something isn't defined as a federal issue then it falls to the states. As noble as it sounds that the federal govt should fund all education, it doesn't provide for that in the constitution so short of an amendment then it is the states responsibility to figure out how to make it work.

Are you refering to the school you went to in Lafayette (that is where you went to high school right?) or just all of LA in general? If you are refering to LA in general then I have to disagree. I've never once felt any assumptions were made about me b/c I was educated in the public school system in LA. That you do says more about the people you associate with than it does about our school system b/c despite evidence to the opposite, (I agree you are a very well educated person, very articulate, and can very effectively get your points across in a convincing manner) they judge you purely b/c you went to school in LA is ridiculous on their part. I'm not one bit embarrassed that I went to public school in LA. Could I have gotten an even better education in another state, maybe, but I definitely don't allow anyone to fasely assume that automatically means they are better than me.

Rebecca said...

To add a little levity here...

Yeah, I remember the Surge giveaway. I remember the Soda machine (coke machine, whatever you want to call it) that had nothing *but* Surge in it. And I remember leaving Mrs Wise's class (or just showing up late) to get Surge. What the heck was I thinking??