"Forty five states have joined together to assure consistent academic standards across America. These internationally recognized benchmarks are unlocking a better way to prepare our children for college and their careers. Because when our kids do better, America does better. Let's reach higher. Let's invest in our teachers and inspire our students. Let's solve this."My husband looked over at me an innocently asked, "Hey, isn't that something you're following?" (He generally leaves all kid related issues to me and knows that I write for an education blog, so it was a safe guess when the ad mentioned education that I might have some knowledge about it.) It turned into a moment where my head popped up from the middle of the forest of education reform. I got a glimpse of the view from someone standing outside the forest. Here was someone who only paid passing attention to education being hit with this message from a well known company while watching his favorite passtime. To him the message sounded positive. It had all those manly buzz words, "internationally recognized" (not true), "children prepared for careers" (and out of the house), "invest", "reach higher", "solve." What's not to like for the average American male? Almost every state is in on it. They are going to fix the problem. Even if the average male doesn't know exactly what the problem is, the fact that there is a single one time fix available appears to be what the ad claims, so let's get behind these standards and get back to the 8th hole.
The ad is an intrusion into the mainstream and more importantly into the male world where, admit it guys, most of you don't spend much time thinking about public education. Unlike the public service announcements about the fictitious government dependent Julia, or the seniors who secretly use food stamps to get healthy food (put out by USDA), this ad had a credible sponsor and a message that was hard for those not in the know to argue with.
But for those in the know it is disturbing.
Exxon is not in the education business. If the ad were done by Pearson Publishing or any one of dozens of education technology companies it would be more understandable. Get the men behind this and we'll make more money. But an international fuel supplier promoting this is highly suspicious. Does this count as a charitable contribution for them? Does this count as a political contribution for them? Is this something they had to promise to do to get some drilling permits pushed through? Why would Exxon Mobile be promoting national education standards?
A look at their Let's Solve This website may give some indication why they're doing this. They have teamed with the National Math and Science Initiative to help promote those two subjects, both of which, coincidentally, one would need to work at Exxon Mobile. It just seems that promoting Common Core Standards which Exxon will, theoretically, have no input to, is a rather round about way to garner better future employees.
It does, however, fall right in line with the DOEd's goal of providing graduates ready for work. This could be the beginning of the official partnership between government and business, which is not a new discussion in the field of education, but is new outside of education, say, on the golf course.
Expect to see these ads running in more places, probably starting with sports where they will appear more inoccuous as opposed to running on the Sunday morning talk shows where they will smell of politics. I suspect more companies will join the chorus as they too vie for competent workers. I just hope they all have a permanent budget line set up for these promotions, because I don't think the problem with education is going to go away any time soon.