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A Realm Without Angels: MENCs Partnerships with Disney and Other Major Corporations Julia EkIund Koza University of Wisconsin-Madison My interest in partnerships between the MENC: The National Association for Music Educators and major corporations such as Disney dates back to 1996 when I was invited to attend a free premiere screening of the movie Mr. Holland 's Opus.1 Never one to turn down anything free, in January of that year I joined more than twenty-fivethousandmusiceducators, administrators , and friends ofthe arts, who gathered at fiftyone locations across the nation to watch the movie. Sponsored and promoted by theNational Coalition for Music Education, ofwhich MENC is a member, in cooperation with the National AcademyofRecordingArts and Sciences Foundation , the American Music Conference, and Hollywood Pictures (a Disney subsidiary), the promotional screening was the result of an education/business partnership. I did not like the film much even though I agreed with its message that public schools and public school music should be adequately funded, and I was sorry that MENC had entered into a partnership to promote it. Part ofthe problem may have been timing. I had recentlyreturned froma parental leave during whichIhad sufferedseriouspostpartumcomplications and had struggled fornearly a yearwithpoor health. January 1996 found me trying to figure out how I would manage a full-blown academic career, my still fragile health, and a lively child. Ibristledatthevisionsofprofessionalismfostered by Mr. Holland's Opus, recognizing that I would never again have the luxury he did of indulging myselfuninterruptedly in my career; I knew that I might never again be seen as a "real professional " even though I was more exhausted and working harder than I ever had. From my perspective the film's images of teachers, teaching, andprofessionalismwereprofoundlymasculinist; I also knew that a popular film can play a powerful role in shapingpublic imaginaries. Who tends tobenefit fromtheperpetuationoftheseimagesof teachers, teaching, and professionalism, I wondered ? Who tends to be harmed? So my first step on this journey was to write a critique of Mr. Holland's Opus. I soon discovered that the film itselfwas but one small part of a much larger story about MENCs deepening involvement in education /business partnerships. One of the main themes of Mr. Holland's Opus is that budget cuts can have devastating effects on music programs. The education/business partnership forged to promote Opus and the manner in which the film was promoted suggested that the corporate world is socially responsible and genuinely concerned both aboutthe quality ofAmerican education and the demise of music education. In no way did they intimate that corporate practices may be at least partially responsible for any declines in the quality ofpublic schooling. I was also aware, however, of a corpus of scholarship suggesting that recent trends toward corporate partnerships and philanthropy are window-dressing at a time when corporations are sneaking out the back door carrying everything else in the store. Critics contend that on the one hand, corporationsengageinmuchpublicizedacts of gift-giving or school partnership, which cost the corporations relatively little (or in the case of Opus, result in considerable financial profit for the corporation), while on the other hand, they chisel away at the financial infrastructure of┬ęPhilosophy ofMusic Education Review 10, no. 2 (Fall, 2002): 72-79. Julia Eklund Koza 73 schools with unrelenting demands for special corporate tax cuts, breaks, and incentives. This practice is especially detrimental to the arts because , relegated to the feminized status of "frill," they may be among the first subjects to suffer. Tax breaks are but one example of what critics term "corporate welfare." John Hood, in Policy Review, provides a list ofincentives states use to attract and keep corporations. In addition to tax abatements and tax credits, Hood mentions land giveaways, releases from infrastructure costs, the issuanceoftax-exemptdevelopmentbonds, offers to promote products, and job training packages. These deals are unfair to existing businesses, Hood argues, especially small ones that can never hope to receive such treatment, and he concludes that there is no clear-cut evidence these forms of corporate welfare benefit state economies.2 Accordingto JayTaylor, school-business partnerships have become increasingly popular; they quadrupled between 1982 and 1992 as financially strappeddistricts found themselves "dredgingfor dollars."3 Taylor explains that "school officials...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3412
Print ISSN
1063-5734
Pages
pp. 72-79
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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