From Wed May 31 08:57:41 2000
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 22:57:41 -0500 (CDT)
From: Dave Steele <>
Subject: Education and the bottom line
Organization: ITServices, University of British Columbia
Article: 96429
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Education and the bottom line

By Adam Harden, PIC Press (Kingston, Ontario), May 2000

On Friday March 31, Professor John McMurtry of Guelph University gave the opening address at the Faculty of Education Mathematics Science and Technology Group colloquium, “Life and School: Education, Values and the Global Economy.” In his lecture, entitled “Seeing Through the Corporate Agenda: Education, Life-Value and the Global Economy,” McMurtry spoke to issues which figure prominently in two of his most recent books, Unequal Freedoms: the Global Market as an Ethical System (1998) and The Cancer Stage of Capitalism (1999).

McMurtry spoke about the intrusion of bottom-line thinking into the public domain seen today in efforts to introduce for-profit clinics in Alberta and for-profit private post-secondary education in Ontario. No area, he says, is immune to the corporate mission: the maximization of profits. In order to challenge the corporate agenda, the public must be able to recognize the transparent and one-dimensional politics which these interests promote through their push for tax cuts and funding cuts to health and education, year after year leading the way to privatization.

McMurtry points out—as does Linda McQuaig in her latest work, The Cult of Impotence—that the transnational corporate agenda through trade deals threatens the very ability of nation-states to provide crucial publicly-funded and universally accessible services to their citizens. Health and education are seen as ‘untapped markets’ offering billions of dollars in potential revenue through the privatization of their delivery. Locally we can see examples of this trend and its effects. The recent creation of the Limestone Learning Foundation—a body whose goal it is to solicit private donations for schools—represents a response to government underfunding of social services.

From high-end tax cuts to deregulation of tuition fees and privatization in essential services, to the multinational agenda of corporations through organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the corporate agenda is omnipresent in society today and must be resisted, McMurtry argues. We need to defend provision of adequate, publicly-funded, and universally accessible education and health care systems in order to avoid multi-tiered, class-stratified and non-universally accessible social services and life opportunities, he says.

McMurtry emphasized that true educational goals are separate from goals advanced by supporters of the corporate agenda and, understanding that, we must challenge the goals and language of the corporate agenda in our classrooms and daily lives. “Business-education partnerships” (a rhetoric we hear often at Queen's), “entrepreneurship,” “performance indicators,” “the need to compete in the global marketplace”—these are all catchwords of the corporate agenda—“edu-speak,” as McMurtry calls it. If we manage to penetrate the smoke screen created by these slogans, we will see that there is a fundamental conflict between educational values and the values of the global corporate market economy. This conflict often goes unrecognized because today's educational institutions have lost their bearings. To recover their sense of direction educators must continue to remind themselves that “All genuine education—as its Latin root “educare” suggests—causes its students to grow free of self-serving external demands in deeper and wider comprehension of the world.”

Instructional methods, practices and goals have educational value only to the extent that they enable “a more comprehensive vital range of thought, well-being and action.” From this point of view, the initiatives embodied in the current corporate invasion of education, such as those mentioned previously, “are ruled out as incompetent at the best, and systematically destructive at the worst.”

The public, he said, must ensure that elected representatives be accountable not to corporate and private interests but to the public good.