Nov 08, 2011 at 11:16 PM
written by

New Study Claims School Sponsorship Threatens Critical Thinking

As more and more schools turn to corporate partnerships to fill in budget gaps, a new report released yesterday says schools should think twice before accepting sponsorships. The study, which was published by the National Education Policy Center, which resides within the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder, says that even with a strict set of standards when it comes to choosing appropriate partners, sponsorship may be hurting students abilities to think critically. Here's the report's Executive Summary... link to the full report below that.

Over the past several decades, schools have faced increasing pressure to partner with businesses, both to be seen as responsive to the business community and out of the hope that partnerships would help make up budget shortfalls as states reduced public funding for education.

Often, school-business partnerships are little more than marketing arrangements with little if any educational benefit and the potential to harm to children in a variety of ways. The 2010-2011 Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercializing Trends considers how commercializing activities in schools harm children educationally.

It is relatively easy to understand how corporate commercializing activities harm children educationally by undermining curricular messages (as when candy and soft drink ads contradict nutrition lessons) or by displacing educational activities (as when students spend time focused on a corporate contest rather than the curriculum). A less obvious, though perhaps more serious, educational harm associated with school commercialism is the threat it poses to critical thinking.

Researchers generally agree that thinking critically requires abilities, such as problemsolving, decision-making, inductive and deductive inference-making, divergent thinking, evaluative thinking, and reasoning. According to the research literature, critical thinking is best cultivated in a school environment that encourages students to ask questions, to think about their thought processes, and thus to develop habits of mind that enable them to transfer the critical thinking skills they learn in class to other, unrelated, situations.

It is not in the interest of corporate sponsors to promote critical thinking. Far from it: their interest is in selling their products or services or telling their story. Encouraging children to learn to identify and critically evaluate a sponsor‘s point of view and biases, to consider alternative points of view or products and services, or to generate and consider solutions to problems other than the ones sponsors offer would, from a corporate point of view, be self-defeating. For this reason, sponsored messages will necessarily avoid touching on anything that might lead to thinking inconsistent with the intended message.

Although commercializing activities channel student thinking into a corporate-friendly track, the impact on critical thinking of doing so is rarely considered. In part this is because some commercializing activities, such as sponsored educational materials, may, on the surface, appear to have educational benefit. They may, for example, claim to address national standards for basic skills, or to encourage analytic thinking about contemporary issues such as energy policy. Moreover, since marketing is often framed as a ?partnership with schools, even when teachers might want to engage students in thinking critically about the message being marketed, doing so would mean ?biting the hand that feeds the school. Thus, to understand the educational harms of school marketing, it is necessary to understand both how commercial activities cause some things to happen in schools and classrooms and how they prevent or discourage other things from happening.

Read NEPC's Full Study Here >> #newstag