I have been reading The Corporate Takeover Of Ireland

Saturday, 14 June 2008 09:45

I have been reading Kieran Allen''s excellent analysis of Ireland''s neo-liberal ascendancy, The Corporate Takeover of Ireland. One of the interesting chapters is on Education, where I find Allen falls short in one important area – curriculum. He details how public private partnerships have led to the commodification of childhood education, and have now become the government''s preferred method of building schools, even though they are more expensive and less well-run than state building and management. He looks at the intrusion of corporations into schools through dodges like the Tesco ''Computers in Schools'' scheme. He details the commodification of childcare in creches.

One thing that he fails to notice is the number of ''business'' subjects that are taught in schools - Business Studies, Accounting and Economics. Almost all children in Irish schools are taught Business Studies for the first three years of their secondary education. Needless to say, they are not introduced to the Marxist analysis. Instead they are indoctrinated in notions of ''the free market'', market corrections, corporate governance, accounting practice – Friedmanism dominates because it dominated the education of their teachers. They learn to trust the ''values'' of business. The prevalence of conservative people in education means that a ''this is all there is'' ethos develops around Business Studies. Students come to believe that corporate values are some kind of reality. They learn to be good consumers rather than good citizens. They learn to criticise coporations for ''bad business practice'' but they never learn to question whether corporations are good, or whether unionisation might benefit them. They absorb the government''s doctrine of ''social partnership'' as if unions and businesses had identical interests or areas of common interest. They learn nothing of the history of corporations. Business teachers are blind to labour history, class struggle, corporate degradation of human and natural habitats, the depredations of neo-liberalism in developing countries, the responsibility of corporations for the destruction of the third world, or the possibility of another way. They do not teach their students that they can be, are and will be abused and manipulated by corporations. Business teachers, for the most part, are in the vanguard of the government''s drive to steal our citizenship and make us consumers of our own rights. I would like to say there are honourable exceptions. Perhaps there are.