Openwashing – the new Greenwashing

A recent NY Times article describes a new company called OpenEd Solutions. The article describes OpenEd Solutions’ involvement in the failed attempt to launch charter schools in New York and Newark.

Having been there, I understand that establishing a charter school is an “interesting” process, so I’ll withhold judgment on that part of the story. What really bothers me about the whole thing is that the company is called Open Education Solutions. Their website states,

Open Education Solutions is a blended learning service provider. We help states, districts and school networks design schools and solutions that are innovative, personalized and deliver better results at the same or lower cost.

So why aren’t they called Blended Education Solutions? This looks to be a rather high-profile case of what we should probably call “openwashing.” Wikipedia describes the history of the term greenwashing as follows:

The term greenwashing was coined by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing placards in each room promoting reuse of towels ostensibly to “save the environment”. Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward reducing energy waste was being made by these institutions — as evidenced by the lack of cost reduction this practice effected. Westerveld opined that the actual objective of this “green campaign” on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, increased profit. Westerveld thus labeled this and other outwardly environmentally conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing.

If you dig far enough into the OpenEd Solutions website, you’ll see that one of the services they offer is “Develop and integrate open resources to power blended K-12 schools.” But it appears to be a tiny aspect of what is obviously a blended learning consultancy. I mean, another one of their services is “Turnkey tablet solutions, blended apps, and professional development tools.” Perhaps they should have called themselves Tablet Education Solutions.

It upsets me greatly to see people misappropriate the term so many of us have worked so long and hard to establish and build up. This is why the Open Source Initiative trademarked the term “open source,” so they could make sure it maintained a specific meaning and wasn’t used to mislead consumers. I’m sorry to say that this is likely only the first of many uses of “Open Education” by a company that appears to have very little or nothing to do with promoting open education. Darn.