Why Turning Our Schools into a Workforce Development Pipeline is Bad for Democracy

corporate capitolism

Being a worker means taking orders, citizenship means being an independent thinker. The two aren’t compatible. One demands obedience, the other autonomy.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth we must face as a society: the workplace isn’t a democracy. Never has been, never will be.

The workplace has always been run as a dictatorship. The boss decides what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Obedience is the most valued skill an employee can have.

If we allow our public schools to be turned into a workforce development pipeline, we’re also giving permission to corporate America to further erode what’s left of our democracy.

Being a worker means taking orders, citizenship means being an independent thinker. The two aren’t compatible. One demands obedience, the other autonomy.

The workplace is about selfishness. How to rise above your co-workers in status and income. For business, this translates into putting profit before employees.

Democracy is about prioritizing the greater good ahead of self-interest. It requires a citizenry who have the ability and personal courage to ferret out lies, distortions, half-truths and a state willing to protect these individuals against retaliation and violence.

One of the biggest cons perpetuated on labor was the idea that management and workers were on the same team. They aren’t.

Wonder why union leadership continues to sellout their rank and file comrades? Corporate unionism: where union leadership prioritizes their comfortable relationship with management over the needs of membership. No messy or uncomfortable conflict required.

Dintersmith NEA friend of Education

Corporate government is the same thing. It assumes the goals of business are the same as citizens, but clearly they aren’t. Citizens want a healthy environment, corporations want deregulation. Citizens want their kids to have a great education, corporations are looking for a new market with guaranteed profits. See a pattern?

Oh, and one state mandated course on civics isn’t going to reverse the damage caused by corporate governance. In a political system dominated by two corporate parties, teaching kids to vote has a zero chance of changing the system. If anything, it teaches kids that politics is a semi-passive activity that you only think about during an election cycle.

How does that challenge the current power structure?

It doesn’t.

-Carolyn Leith


  1. Completely agree! “Cradle to Career” disgusts me. One tiny point of disagreement: Claiming that workplaces never have been and never will be democratic. There are worker-owned businesses and it’s a concept that could grow in the future. Just thought it was important to point out that there is a solution, that we aren’t destined to a world where corporate management controls everything in the workplace for eternity. That’s too depressing! 😆

  2. Thank you so much for this article. The measuring, sorting and reproducing of corporate America by our schools needs to be brought to light more. This would also include the deculturalization that has been a staple of American institutions of learning since their founding. I just worry that corporate America is so entrenched in our schools,-Gates Foundation, Carnegie Foundatiion, etc.-that the only way out is to change the economy as a whole.

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