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Here’s something from a faculty member that thinks Middlebury should sever all ties with K12, Inc.
by Laurie Essig
Faculty are discussing Middlebury’s MIL’s affiliation with a company called K12, Inc. Some faculty, myself included, think Middlebury College should cut all ties with K12, Inc. for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, K12, Inc. is a corporation that makes profit by taking taxpayer dollars for education and converting bricks and mortar learning with face to face teaching into online courses. This model of education is part of a larger conservative agenda to defund public education and let the “market” step in. K12, Inc.s’ affiliation with conservative lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) should give us pause. ALEC is funded by the Koch brothers and according to Sourcewatch:
“K12 Inc. on its own and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has pushed a national agenda to replace bricks and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with “virtual” teachers. K12 Inc. operated 58 full-time virtual schools and enrolled close to 77,000 students in the 2010-2011 school year, according to a May 2013 report by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC, a research organization at the University of Colorado at Boulder). Many have questioned the company’s extraordinary revenue and profit levels, largely generated at taxpayers’ expense.” (From http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/K12_Inc.)
In addition to the highly politicized agenda of K12, Inc. there is the issue of adhering to Texas Board of Education standards for textbook production. Manu faculty are upset that these standards prohibit any portrayal of homosexuality, But these standards do not just prohibit any portrayal of homosexuality, but also of single mothers, alcohol consumption or even evolutionary theory without also presenting “intelligent design.” As teachers, we must be clear that evolution is not “just a theory.” As community members, we should not be affiliated with a corporation that agrees to erase the existence of lesbian and gay (not to mention trans) persons nor can we agree with any attempt to make single mothers invisible. Those are not part of higher education, but rather a highly conservative and politicized agenda.
Next week this issue will come up once again at a faculty meeting. But students too can and should discuss what it means for Middlebury to profit from its affiliation with K12, Inc. On the one hand it is a revenue source and that could allow Middlebury to continue with needs blinds admissions or bring in more and more diverse faculty. On the other hand, as Middlebury and other colleges seek out revenue sources because of neoliberal economic and political agendas that have effectively defunded higher education, we must consider setting community standards for those revenue sources. Is any revenue source acceptable? Or as I believe should we avoid allying ourselves with a conservative political agenda whose purpose is to make public schools increasingly act like corporations and go to a for profit model?
Here are a few articles for further information: