According to a front-page story in today's Wash Post by Michael Birnbaum (link here), the Montgomery County, Maryland public school system is selling the rights to an elementary school curriculum-in-development to Pearson, a huge, for-profit publisher of textbooks and other educational materials. The superintendent says the school system is broke and needs the money. That may be, but public school systems should not be striking these kinds of deals with for-profit companies, certainly not with enormous conglomerates like Pearson. Such a deal carries the potential for conflicts of interest and, more importantly, it doesn't seem right. In return for a two-and-a-quarter million dollar advance and a smallish percentage of royalties, school officials "will open their classrooms to prospective customers [of Pearson] and speak on behalf of the program at Pearson's request."
And who's going to buy the product? The article's second paragraph says the curriculum will be sold "around the world," but is that likely? Most countries want to control their own curricula, I would think. Why should a school district in country X buy a pre-packaged curriculum designed in the United States? More likely is that the Montgomery County curriculum will be sold to other U.S. school systems. But which ones? Surely states like New York and Massachusetts, for example, which have their own elaborate educational bureaucracies, standards, and system-wide tests, could not possibly have any interest in this, or so I would guess. But Pearson obviously thinks it can sell it, otherwise it wouldn't be shelling out the 2 million bucks. A clue may be that, as the article reports, the curriculum, although geared to give more time to social studies and art by "integrating them" with reading, writing, and math, also "will be aligned with new common core standards for math and reading that are quickly being adopted across the country, including Maryland and the District."
The whole thing, in short, seems to further the tide of commodification and homogenization that appears to be engulfing public education in this country.