Over at Edsurge, there is a post up now titled "Incentivizing Innovation In Education; or A Role For For Profits in Education." The original title of the post was "Incentivizing Innovation in Education; or, How I Kicked Anthony Cody’s Ass Six Ways to Sunday" but the current version has an updated title and an updated editor's note. I captured a screenshot of the original via google's cache; here is a screenshot with the updated title for people to compare the difference. The edited version up now makes no mention of the earlier version, or why any edits were necessary, although it is discussed in comments.
The post on Edsurge is instructive, as it provides insight into one view of how people are trying to profit from the educational market. There are many things to disagree with; for reasons of time, I limited myself to the second paragraph, as it contains some common misconceptions, and common techniques used to spread those misconceptions. This paragraph is quoted below, with commentary inline.
Some bloggers are quick to point to the evils of the “profit motive” and the dangers of politics pushing technology for technology’s sake; but those same bloggers are often quick to praise new apps that they find particularly creative and helpful.
No. Making a profit isn't evil. Politics pushing technology for technology's sake is just stupid, and while the edtech space is rife with stupidity, stupidity is banal. The problem here is that you have companies that lobby for policy that feeds their profit. You have educators in positions with decision making authority feeding from the same trough. And, these companies have great marketing that perpetuates the narrative that these companies are acting in the benefits of children, instead of in the interest of their profit motive. It's disingenuous in a fairly sophisticated way, and that's a problem.
As to bloggers who fetishize apps without reflecting on their actual value, see the line above about the edtech world being rife with stupidity. It's an occupational hazard.
I say, you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have high-quality digital tools without the profit motive
And please don't misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with the profit motive. But the profit motive isn't the only thing that inspires greatness, just as profit isn't the only thing that defines success. If we limit ourselves at the outset to such an artifically narrow definition, we will miss and overlook opportunities.
(heck, you certainly can’t have that computer without the profit motive, and I imagine even the most ardent haters of private sector in the classroom would agree that a computer is a useful educational tool).
See Raspberry Pi.
This excerpt also combines a straw man with a false equivalency. Just about everyone supports the intelligent use of computers in the classroom. Attempting to equate liking computers in the classroom with tethering ourselves to a love of the profit motive is a stretch.
Additionally, calling people who disagree with you "ardent haters" is dishonest. Smart people can - and should - disagree. When a writer resorts to shrill hyperbole, it's designed to paint people who disagree with you into a corner. Techniques like this might allow you to score rhetorical points with those who aren't paying attention, but over time, keeping score is less important than an open approach to solving problems - and, an open approach doesn't discard valuable insight because of disagreements with the source.
Instead, what you need is the profit motive coupled with a truly transparent market filled with a multitude of options. Does this market exist yet in today’s educational landscape? Nope. But the way to get there is to promote the symbiotic relationship of schools and entrepreneurs, not to detract from it.
I agree that the market doesn't exist yet - in large part, because the "transparency" the author described gets buried under marketing copy and, in some cases, patents. But this piece also commits a common rhetorical crime: attempting to use a real scientific relationship (in this case, symbiosis) as a stand in for a lesser business relationship. These types of comparisons attempt to create a level of legitimacy that doesn't exist: schools and the market don't have a symbiotic relationship. The reality is, businesses need schools more than schools need businesses. If we put a good teacher and some good questions in the right environment, effective learning can happen, with minimal expense.
The piece is worth a full read, and although I disagree with much of it, I also believe that the author does sincerely care about making things that help more people learn better. But, success looks different for different people in different places, and the lens of competition - through which many VC funded companies view education - can often lead to decisions that sacrifice long term gains for short term profits.