Monday, January 13, 2014

A slightly creepy letter from the CEO of Exxon Mobil

The education reform movement and Common Core in particular have never had a lack of corporate friends for a variety of reasons, but even in that crowded field, Exxon Mobil has always stood out. We'll spend more time later on why the company would line up so strongly behind standards which, according to their chief mathematical architect, aren't really designed to prepare kids for STEM (at least one possibility being that the CEO hasn't actually read the standards).

This post is concerned with just how far the company will go to promote this position. Here's a letter the CEO recently sent to the governor of Pennsylvania:
Dear Governor Corbett:

Exxon Mobil applauds and shares your commitment to ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania is prepared with the skills to compete in today’s workforce.  I also appreciate your strong support for the Common Core, including changes to reflect a “Pennsylvania Common Core,” and the potential it has to help your state’s students and teachers.  Your counterparts in New Jersey and Wisconsin, Governors Christie and Walker, and many other leading policymakers have been equally supportive.  However, I was disappointed to learn of the misinformation opponents of this critical effort are advancing, which subsequently led your administration to delay its implementation.  I urge you to make the necessary clarifications quickly and move forward with the Pennsylvania Common Core.

Like you, I believe the Common core will help ensure our students develop the skills and knowledge they need for success in college and careers.  This voluntary state-led effort developed by educators, parents and business leaders [actually, not so much -- MP] has the potential to turn around our underperforming public education system and produce the workforce that businesses need to remain competitive in the global marketplace.  The standards stipulate what all students should know, but leave it up to Pennsylvania to determine how it teaches its students.

Exxon Mobil has significant operations in Pennsylvania, and we are committed to enhancing the quality of life for all your citizens.  Last year, we contributed $3.3 million to Pennsylvania universities, hospitals, environmental research efforts and arts and civic organizations, but I believe there is nothing more important than improving the quality of education.  The Pennsylvania Common Core will go a long way to achieving that goal, and it gives Exxon Mobil the confidence that the educational standards we require for employment will be met by your state’s graduates.  Furthermore, it sets the groundwork for students to be prepared to compete globally for 21st century careers and help Pennsylvania prosper.


Rex Tillerson
Of course, businesses are constantly trying to pressure state governments, but there's something about that line about Exxon Mobil's contribution that sounds a bit like "Nice little charitable institutions you have here. Be a shame if anything happened to them."

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