Do you think business courses should have a stronger liberal arts flavor? Explain
The Corporate State—Social Issues and Institutions Clearly, the business community’s influence in America’s economic and political life is enormous, but the critics’ concerns do not end there. The corporate message, they say, pervades and shapes American life. Business products and services, business marketing, and business values saturate and dominate all corners of American life, the critics claim.43 Schools Advertising and Promotion Seeking quality education for their own needs and for the nation, corporations now prepare model curricula and lesson plans while donating money and other resources to improve school performance. Sometimes, however, those contributions can be unbalanced and self-serving while commercializing the classroom setting. Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, decided to revise its approach to corporate-sponsored projects after being criticized by the Boston advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Scholastic had distributed learning materials from the coal industry, for example, that saluted the benefits of coal but failed to mention its environmental hazards. Brita, which sells water filters, had sponsored a Scholastic program featuring the environmental hazards of plastic water bottles. Those programs and some others sponsored by corporate interests reportedly have been removed from Scholastic’s materials and a new vetting process is in place to review corporate contributions.44 Faced with public resistance to increased school funding, administrators in many school districts are selling ad space on school buses, websites, buildings, textbook covers, and even report cards. Critics worry that advertising in school settings encourages materialism, celebrates dubious values, and discourages critical thinking. Timothy Wysong, the transportation director at a Texas school district that sells bus advertising says, however, that students do not pay much attention to the ads and when they do notice they approve: “‘They might refer to themselves as the Chick-fil-A bus, for example,’ he said. ‘It’s a little identity for them.’”45 Manage Public Schools Many K–12 school districts across the country (e.g., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Gary, Indiana) have contracted with private companies such as EdisonLearning to consult with or operate some of their struggling public schools. Furthermore, Edison and several other national, for-profit companies are competing from state to state to offer new, online schools. More than 30,000 Ohio students, for example, are enrolled in online schools.48 The hope is that competition and for-profit efficiencies will improve educational quality while lowering costs, but the results to date have not been particularly encouraging,49 and critics see these efforts as a dangerous expansion of corporate values and authority. Higher Education Big business is also accused of turning college campuses into marketing and development opportunities, as The New York Times vividly described: It’s move-in day [Fall 2011] here at the University of North Carolina and Leila Ismail, stuffed animals in tow, is feeling some freshman angst. A few friendly upperclassmen spring into action. But wait: there is something odd, or at least oddly corporate, about this welcome wagon. These U.N.C. students are all wearing identical T-shirts from American Eagle Outfitters. Turns out three of them are working for that youth clothing chain on this late August morning, as what are known in the trade as “brand ambassadors” or “campus Evangelists”—and they have recruited several dozen friends as a volunteer move-in crew.50 An estimated 10,000 students work on campus marketing Red Bull, Hewlett-Packard PCs, and much more, in unprecedented sales campaigns. As The Times observed, “Corporations have been pitching college students for decades on products from cars to credit cards. But what is happening on campuses today is without rival, in terms of commercializing everyday college life.”51 From kindergarten through graduate school, education is increasingly viewed as a product to be marketed and consumed on the road to prosperity in the corporate state. Recently, Gene D. Block, chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles, criticized those who encourage students to measure and evaluate the college experience as a financial equation: Universities, particularly those supported with public funds, exist to serve society. Asking students to choose a future based on a salary scale does not serve society and, often, does not serve the individual. Students need freedom and encouragement to find their passions and strengths. Framing decisions about college as a cost-benefit analysis will not encourage the creativity and risk-taking that has made this nation great.52 questions The Wall Street journal recently talked with critics, including corporate recruiters who are increasingly skeptical about the value of an undergraduate business degree: [N]ow faculty members, school administrators and corporate recruiters are questioning the value of a business degree at the undergraduate level. The biggest complaint: The undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses.53 1. Do you think business courses should have a stronger liberal arts flavor? Explain. 2. If you are a business major, do you think you chose the wrong field of study? Explain.