Teaming Up With Pearson

It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but I want my friends to know that I will be joining the Board of Directors of Pearson Education. This was not an easy decision, and I know that some of my friends, particularly those on the left, will be angry with me. I ask you to withhold your judgment until you have finished reading this.

Pearson has been criticized, unjustly in my view, for putting profits ahead of children, but I have gotten to know some of Pearson’s leadership, and I can attest that they are caring parents who are devoted to their children. Recently I took one of my grandchildren to a polo match at the home of a Pearson executive. When my little girl fell and scraped her knee, our host attended to her every need. He could not have been more caring. Pearson hostile or indifferent to children? I don’t think so. I know better.

Pearson has gotten a lot of bad press, and I may have contributed to that with my reporting about the ‘Opt Out’ movement and its attacks on assessment. For example, when the Pearson Foundation was forced to shut down and fined $7.7 million for some questionable practices, the press coverage made it sound as if the Pearson Foundation had been guilty of child molestation. All it did was entertain some decision-makers in an effort to create a relaxed atmosphere where they could make important decisions about purchasing tests and other education products, perhaps from Pearson Education but also available from McGraw-Hill and other companies.

Why have I accepted Pearson’s invitation? Well, it’s not the money. Yes, it is true that I will receive something north of $100,000 per year plus stock options, but I publicly pledge that I will donate some of that largess to charity.

I am doing this because, frankly, I believe I can do more good from the inside than I can from outside [1]. Pearson is huge, with fingers in every aspect of American education, from testing to teacher evaluation. Carping from outside will not soften the edges of this behemoth nor restrain its harsher hyper-capitalistic instincts, but my strong commitment to holistic, child-centered education will move Pearson in a direction that its critics will one day celebrate.

I am sure some cynical readers are thinking that I will now start pulling my punches in this blog, but I give you my word that I will not hold back. Whenever Randi Weingarten of the AFT or Lily Garcia of the NEA cross the line, they will hear about it from me. If I learn about teachers lying down on the job, I will write about it. If McGraw-Hill behaves unethically, you will read about it right here. And if I praise Pearson, it will be because Pearson is an honorable company.

Why does Pearson want me on its Board? I believe the invitation is based on their respect for my 41 years of ‘telling it like it is’ in American education. I’m sure the cynics, aware that the current Board is entirely Caucasian, believe that Pearson wants me for diversity. Wrong! Pearson assured me that my status as a Native American (I am 1/128th pure Cherokee) did not influence its decision.

As always, friends and countrymen, I am grateful to you for lending me your eyes and ears.

My term on the Pearson Board of Directors begins today, April First.

—-

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. 1. I am not the first ‘outsider’ to seek to restrain (and retrain) Pearson. The current President of Teachers College served on its Board for many years.

33 Responses to “Teaming Up With Pearson”

  1. Steve Nelson 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    Lovely, John, although I knew it was April 1st even before clicking on the link. Happy prank day to you!

  2. Grant Wiggins 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Good one, John. Had me for a minute…

    • Monty Neill 01. Apr, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      me too, until the second para

      • Monty Neill 01. Apr, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

        And I have to say, why (in my disappointment at seeing the headline) did I not immediately think, “It’s April 1″? Seen too many people chase the $? Glad it was a joke, John.

  3. Amy Valens 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    I gather that they told you that some of their best friends are teachers!

  4. Joe Nathan 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    What would we do without April Fool’s Day?

  5. Jacquie McTaggart 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    I can’t believe how gullible I was. And…you don’t want to know what comments I was planning to write in this section – before I realized I was an April Fool. Whew. Now I can resume breathing.

  6. Mark Alter 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    you got me! i was really mad… welcome back!!

  7. Murray Sperber 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Your grand daughter at the Polo Match was the perfect touch.

  8. Joe Beckmann 01. Apr, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    And so we can look forward to you joining the Indiana Curriculum Review Board and, maybe next year, the IS IS Teacher Evaluation Commission??

  9. Susan Ohanian 01. Apr, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    I totally fell for it.

  10. Rick Clarke 01. Apr, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Polo field owner ministering to your granddaughter and your Native-American credEntails fit nicely in your compelling explanation of your decision to join such an august board. I can’t see why anyone would not see it as a natural fit. Maybe you can bring some former Fellow Travelers along with you. We could use the cash, and I also promise to donate 2% of any funds I receive to the Flat Earth Society (and yes, I know I will take some heat because of it’s receipt of funds from Koch- associated groups. A person has to stand for something!)

  11. Steve Peha 01. Apr, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Best April Fool I’ve seen all day, John.

    I think you would have totally had me hook line and sinker were it not for the sweet anecdote about the polo match.

    I just couldn’t quite imagine Sir Lord Somebody Or Other chastising Prince Charles for knocking your little girl on the noggin’ with an errant shot—and then commanding his entire executive staff to run for band-aids and cold compresses.

    As for you and your family attending a polo match, well, you are a world-famous journalist so I assume you do get a few travel assignments—just as you deserve.

    Steve

  12. Angela Covert 01. Apr, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    John, as I read this while riding on the #11 bus, I thought, “I know he has been thinking about retirement, but I hadn’t realized that dementia had begun to set in”. And that bit about being part Native-American! Then, I realized that the dementia must be mine as it took a couple of stops on Amsterdam Ave before I realized that this was indeed April 1.

  13. Dan Bernstein 01. Apr, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    John: I knew right away that it was an April fool’s gag. Who would sell out for only $100,000 these days?

    :)

    Hope all is well.

  14. Anne Wheelock 01. Apr, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Here at the public library, many eyebrows went up around me when I first gasped, then laughed out loud. Thanks!

    • Jay Featherstone 01. Apr, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      Good for you!

      • Ogden Hamilton 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

        You had me for a couple of sentences. :-)

  15. Nancy Carlsson-Paige 01. Apr, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    This is a prank, right? I’m not laughing.

    • Reteach 4 America 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

      I’m not laughing either. Last week I turned down a job scoring PARCC tests for Pearson because I thought it was unethical and I just wasn’t willing to sell out children and and my colleagues for cold hard cash, even though I’m on the verge of becoming homeless and am in desperate need of their crummy $12 per hour for my decades of experience and multiple degrees. This is not funny to me on any day of the year.

  16. Austin 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Geeez, John. You almost gave me a friggin’ heart attack when I read the short email blurb. I shoulda known better. Well played, sir. Well played.

  17. Mary Porter 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    Wicked hysterical… and you’ve got a good ear for the cadence of the boilerplate they put up. You broke my heart for a minute there. It got me because by the time I got to the last paragraph I couldn’t even see. My eyes had actually teared up.

    Keep the Faith, colleague. I hope.

  18. Kathleen Lyons 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

    You got me. And I am so glad I sat on the email I had written expressing my disappointment and outrage. If only the New York govenor’s budget were an April Fool’s joke…. After last night, I was ready to believe anything. Such a travesty….

  19. Jim Bruder 01. Apr, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Sheesh! For a moment, nearly Sidd Finch all over again Until the Cherokee thing, I’d been drafting a blistering attack piece: “OH! A scraped knee…”

  20. Milton Chen 01. Apr, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    I, for one, don’t begrudge you this board position for one second, John. You deserve it after your career of service to education. I hope you will use it to advocate for the telling of all of America’s stories, inc. the Indian Exclusion Act and the Trail of Tears. And if you change the name of your company to PoloMatters, well, I’ll still be your friend. ;-)

  21. John Merrow 01. Apr, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    I am resigning from the Pearson Board of Directors effective at 12:01 AM tonight. That’s April 2nd, meaning April Fools Day is officially over. I confess that I enjoyed serving Pearson and hope I had some impact on its corporate culture.

    I was not on the Board long enough for my stock options to vest, and I hadn’t gotten around to filling out the withholding forms for compensation, so I guess my day of toil was voluntary, a charitable donation. I checked with my accountant to see if I could claim it as a deduction, but apparently Pearson is not a non-profit organization. (I was misinformed.)

  22. Denise S. 01. Apr, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    All I can say is this was the best April Fool’s I’ve experienced in decades. I won’t tell you how long it took me to catch on, and like others, how grateful I was that you hadn’t drank the Kool-Aid after all. My first thought was the line in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”: “The horror! The horror!….” Thanks, John, for bringing to levity to the all-too heavy lifting in the work we do.

  23. John Gillespie 03. Apr, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    You had me until I read the full story. Very clever.

  24. Robert Mahaffey 03. Apr, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Pearson, really?! Polo, little girl’s scrapped knee? I was laughing before finishing the 2nd para!! Kudos John! We at the Rural School and Community Trust will always be grateful for the time you gave on our Board, and that’s no 4/1 joke!! Rob

  25. Mlle T 04. Apr, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    This is what I get for not keeping up with my feed reader – I was most of the way through the article (and had paused several times to detail my disgust & dismay to my wife) before I realized when this had been posted. Well played, sir. Well played indeed.

  26. Chip Wood 04. Apr, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Great April Fool John. Pearson Polo a nice touch.
    Turn up the heat!

  27. doggirl 04. Apr, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    The sad thing (as I was believing every word) is that in this world this kind of stuff happens a lot–people sell out so I thought John was just another statistic going down the road to purgatory. So glad that my thinking was wrong and that I can re-establish some faith in the human species. (And 100,000 seems kind of lowball for a huge corporation to offer.)

  28. Cap Leer 11. Apr, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    Polo match , really you got me though

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