Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! moment in the classroom in Education World's Voice of Experience column. This week, Brenda Dyck expresses her amazement at being asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement -- and shares what she learned as a result. Could you be next? Included: What you should know about nondisclosure agreements.
"The business of America is business." -- Calvin Coolidge
After reading Calvin Coolidge's pithy assessment of American culture, I suspect that he must have caught a prophetic glimpse of the 21st century classroom. Coolidge's impression was the same one I had when I returned to teaching after an 18-year child-raising hiatus.
The school I entered in 1997 resembled, in some ways, a corporate culture more than an education community. Administrators spoke of corporate sponsors and partnerships with Microsoft and Hewlett Packard. Unfamiliar lingo like fishbone diagram, continuous improvement, and paradigm shift peppered my colleagues' conversations. The ideas of Edward Demming, of the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement, had replaced those of John Dewey.
It became evident to me that Warren Bennis, an authority on present-day leadership, wasn't far from the truth when he stated: "Business with a large B is the concentrated epitome of our culture and is inseparable from it."
Recently, I've observed a darker side to the infiltration of a corporate mindset into the learning community. As in business, the emphasis on the bottom line has begun to plague teachers and students alike. Meeting and exceeding "bottom line learning standards" has become the dominant focus of classroom learning.
The widespread corporate involvement in education has even spawned protection-based organizations, such as the Commercialism in Education Research Unit, which comes out of the Educational Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University.
Now, the concept of intellectual capital has begun to creep into the education business as well, as schools take measures to protect the intellectual capital that separates their place of learning from others. Those schools have begun to require educators to sign nondisclosure agreements, agreements that limit educators' use of what they know and require them to leave behind what they've created at a particular place of employment.
The implementation of nondisclosure agreements ties teachers' hands by short-circuiting those opportunities for sharing and the professional growth that results. And nondisclosure agreements are not limited to higher education. Some grade school teachers, including this one, have even been asked to sign one. You could be next!
When a nondisclosure agreement was first placed before me, I did some research. As a result of that research, I can offer a few facts about nondisclosure agreements that every educator should know: