Saturday, June 21, 2014

UPenn Offers Degree in Soulless Profiteering

The University of Pennsylvania has decided that the only thing the world needs more than educational profiteers looking to make a buck in the ed biz is educational profiteers with a Masters degree.

At EdTech Times, Michelle Harven reports, "Education and entrepreneurship is the modern match, and the evidence of a new thriving industry is pilling up." I think she meant "piling," though when I read about this sort of thing, I absolutely want to take a pill. Either the red one of the blue one will do.

Yes, UPenn will become "the first graduate school of education to offer a master’s degree in Education Entrepreneurship (M.S.Ed)." This looks like a bit of weasel-wording. Rice and Harvard both have programs of a similar nature, but which do not result in exactly this degree. John Hopkins may be working on something similar, and there may be some online programs as well. So UPenn may just be the first to the marketplace with this exact wording and degree that allows them to make an attention-getting marketing claim (and hey-- isn't that what good entrepreneurs do?)

And just in case you're wondering whether this program will be more heavily weighted toward education or entrepreneuring, here comes Barbara Kurshan, the Executive Director of Academic Innovation. And, yes, that title is your first clue.

She says "the education and entrepreneurial combination makes sense since the growth of edtech has ignited a whole new audience that want to create schools and build educational businesses."

Kurshan said many of these people need a foundation in education in order to gain insight into the industry. “We believe entrepreneurs need to understand education and need to understand the academic side of this research to be able to implement, design, create new products, and start a business,” said Kurshan.

Yes,indeedy, knowing a little something about schools and educationy stuff might help you get that little extra edge in making a buck in the ed biz. You can find even more soul-crushing business-speak on UPenn's website for the program:

This interdisciplinary Ivy League program provides students with the unique skills and experience necessary to conceptualize, develop, and manage effective 21st-century innovations in education. Designed at the intersection of education, business, and entrepreneurship, the program combines Penn’s rigorous academic study with practical coursework – giving you the tools necessary to chart entrepreneurial solutions in education, including creating new schools or other education ventures in the for-profit or non-profit sectors.

But don't worry. The program covers three domains: Foundations of Education, Business Essentials, and Entrepreneurial Management of Knowledge. See? Education does come up. Here's what future edu-businesspersons will learn about education:

In this domain, students study current education systems and policies, as well as the history of how these systems and policies evolved. Students also learn about the history, theory and application of various pedagogies and modes of school organization, as well as how they affect and are affected by government policy and public pressures. Students also study the changing landscape of delivery systems in urban public education.

This is actually less exciting that the Entrepreneurial Management of Knowledge domain. In this domain, we'll learn "about how entrepreneurs can influence the creation, advancement and successful exploitation of knowledge." A grasp of all three domains will prep budding corporate tools to create "new social impact ventures."

It's a two-year program aimed at people who are currently working, with non-traditional scheduling, 10 CUs, plus  a capstone project and practicum. But "graduates of the program leave not only with a more robust entrepreneurial mindset, but also with concrete skills that will prepare you to undertake new ventures in your chosen area of interest including creating new schools or other education ventures." So you know it's totally worth the time and effort. I mean, who doesn't want a more robust entrepreneurial mindset?

And this isn't just a chance to make American education a little bit worse, but promises potential for exporting our lousiest educational ideas overseas as well. Back to Harven's reporting here:

Many of the applicants Kurshan sees are international students who are interested in creating schools in their own country. These students want to learn school design and creation in order to run a charter or international school. Kurshan mentions one applicant who would like to use this degree in order to create a program like Teach for America in Indonesia.

One other interesting detail. I looked through the UPenn's site, and nowhere did I find a word about educating students or about how these Social Impact Projects would interface with the actual carbon-based life form units who would potentially be impacted by the project. Apparently when you are learning how to make big bucks by starting a school, the last thing you need to worry about is how, what or why you are actually going to teach those children.


  1. Are any parents ever involved in these efforts? Or are these people like cigarette manufactures and actually want their children to smoke? The main problem with public education was buying new innovative products every year. My son, who just finished his junior HS year, had Everyday Math, Chicago math and one other math through elementary school. In 2nd grade, we had a team from New Zealand come to our school district to help improve literacy in elementary school. In my middle class suburban school district, the only students struggling with reading were either ELLs or working with an LD. We already had a staff that included dedicated reading specialists, so the folks from New Zealand had a nice trip to the states and the only innovation was slicing a manilla folder so that you could have one section exposed and one section to lift to see the answer.

    Sorry, I know that ran on, but seriously, it is enough. The only way that this is continuing is that you have a fresh batch of "customers" coming through the school systems so they do not continually see the insanity.

    1. The essence of the problem(s) you describe have a few root causes.

      1) Despite 70 years of post war education efforts we still don't know which ONE methodology, ONE pedagogy, ONE scope and sequence, ONE textbook series (de-facto curriculum), ONE curriculum, or ONE assessment works best for ALL students. Differentiated instruction had the right idea but required an enormously complex skill set to pull off (not to mention unlimited time and energy). And since the tests were never differentiated, this pedagogy mostly was pushed under the NCLB/CCSS bus. Ability grouping got a bad name but would have helped.

      2) Superintendents, supervisors, curriculum specialists, principals, and other administrators fell in LOVE with educational CONSULTANTS.
      If all the money wasted on consultants was saved instead of wasted we could probably buy Pearson and purchase all the political influence necessary to eliminate ESEA, CC, NCLB, and squash and last vestigial remnant of the punitive, standardized test-based reform movement.

      3) Superintendents, supervisors, curriculum specialists, principals, and other administrators almost completely IGNORED their one best resource: their best veteran TEACHERS.

      What we have left, after 70 years of trial and error is a system that still hasn't figured out the ONE best solution for ALL students. And they never will, because it doesn't exist. So we are left grasping at various straws: consultants, education entrepreneurship, charters, distance learning, computer adaptive instruction and assessment, whole language, Singapore math, Chicago math, Everyday math, Math for All,
      Math for the Mathless, Finland, Estonia, Korea, Coleman, She who shall never be named, NCLB, CCSS, ESEA, ad infinitum. Through all this we tend to lose a lot of credibility with anyone who is paying close attention.
      And because of all this vague, wishy-washy uncertainty, we become especially vulnerable to the 21st century snake oil salesman like Eva Moskowitz, shameless self promoters who want everyone to believe that they have sole possession the ONE solution that fits ALL students. Virtually all veteran teachers know that one size fits few, and that there are NO silver bullets, large-scale miracles, or magic potions in this business. So here's hoping that your children are lucky enough to get some serious, hard working veteran teachers that really "get it". They ignore the smoke and mirrors and they ignore the consultants and PD garbage, and the ignore the latest fads and they ignore the BS and the CC and all the stuff that is worth ignoring and they do what they do best. Teach their asses off, every day, with passion and commitment, so they can make a real difference in lives of real children. Cheers

    2. Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to my rant. There are no silver bullets and there are no simple solutions. The current educational environment is to sell our children out to businesses cranking out shoddy products, and, as you said, snake oil salesmen. It is time for this to stop. Peter, as always, great post.