while visiting a school district in New Jersey, I struggled
getting my bags into the back of an administrator's car due
to a large box of supplies from an acne cream company. He apologized
for the obstacle and explained he needed to get the box shipped
back to the company as their school district had a policy of
no commercial advertising in school. Coming from my own district
in Utah which is over run with (or perhaps I should say actually
run with) commercial advertising and profit sharing, this New
Jersey district policy was quite refreshing. It reminded me
of the responsibility we all share to monitor the ethics of
the increasing commercial presence in our schools.
debate surfaces periodically around the nation, especially when
large scale endeavors, such as Channel One, begin to request
district contracts. Most communities appear to take an extreme
stand one way or the other. In one corner you have districts
such as the one in New Jersey which have firm policies against
such things. They are adamant - no book covers, no concession
machines in the hall, no Channel One.
the other corner you have the communities who apparently do
not notice, or truly don't care that their children are bombarded
with corporate sponsorship and advertising in all areas of their
school day- from television commercials in the classroom to
billboards in the hall and lunchrooms and ads on their school
in the later group tend to rationalize the situation with the
fact that the kids see so many commercials out of school, on
road billboards and television, that a few more hours during
the day can't hurt - and besides, it is a substantial asset
to the school coffers. Communities who have banned such activity
campaign that it is exploitation and a use of undue influence
on a population so open to suggestion and peer pressure.
the problem is not one with a simple solution. General policies
established by districts may be dismissing legitimately beneficial
educational tools or conflicting with community standards by
allowing the situation to go unchecked. Each issue needs to
be considered on an individual basis which is not always practical.
Let's consider some of the common events.
soda pop machines and other snack vending machines an attractive
nuisance which robs captive children of their money and their
appetite for taxpayer subsidized lunch? Or are they simply providing
a service for children and extra money to help lessen the burden
on school budgets? It may help to consider that the school accounts
are by far the most profitable accounts for soft drink companies
in those markets which allow them.
consider that the majority of products sold in these machines
are laden with sugar which is associated with a large assortment
of physical and mental problems. In addition, there is big concern
in the neuropsych field on regular use of artificial neurotransmitters
(i.e., caffeine) in the developing nervous system.
teachers report that concession machines are the number one
cause of tardy students and students needing to leave during
class time. If students fill up on concessions before lunch,
much of the taxpayer money spent to subsidize a balanced school
lunch program goes wasted.
greater concern may be that due to the low tax-base, students
in low socioeconomic neighborhoods are even more likely to be
asked to pay for such basic supplies as photocopy paper and
textbooks through school wide concession machines Basic supplies
such as these should be a taxpayer responsibility. What about
other sources of advertising? Do parents know of and have a
voice in who advertises on book covers, hall way billboards,
corporate sponsorships, and companies who have exclusive contracts
with schools for such things as graduation rings and announcements?
are vocal about the use of Channel One because of its commercial
messages, but are they aware of those same commercial messages
in the newspapers used in "Newspaper-in-Education" programs
run in many major cities? Apparently we are not as threatened
by the presence of newspapers as we are by television. If one
is a valid source of news, shouldn't the other be?
I believe we may have lost site of the objectives of our public
school. We have become numb to the commercial influence of advertising.
We need to rethink whether or not to allow private companies
to advertise on instruction school time Graduation supply companies
often use large chunks of school time holding seniors in an
auditorium in order to sell their products to this captive audience.
Elementary school fund raisers often include an afternoon assembly
hosted by the fundraising company to basically rally young children
to be their field salespeople.
are the ethics in this? Why would a school board ever approve
such flagrant exploitation of our youth for the profits of corporations,
which often are not even members of their own community? Are
all these programs and products evil? I think not. Some have
a valid contribution to the education process. (Personally,
there are many days when Channel One is the only news I have
time to view). Students can build pride and self-esteem in taking
part in activities which directly affect them and over which
they have control.
A class working to earn money for a special trip or community
project will benefit from the value this type of fundraising
teaches. But when fundraising for the general school fund is
driven by the immediate benefit of the extrinsic rewards offered
by the fundraising corporation, the children are being manipulated
your schools policies and programs. Schools which offer students
several company offers for graduation material are teaching
critical thinking skills. Students who take an active role in
the process, decision making and work for individual class project
learn problem solving skills and team work. News programs which
are incorporated into the instructional curriculum bring the
real world into the classroom and build on previous knowledge
as well as allow students an opportunity to apply theory to
their everyday life.
Educators, parents and communities need to reevaluate their
priorities and the purpose of their schools. Each commercial
offering needs to be carefully examined to make sure it is in
alignment with school and community goals and offers an opportunity
to benefit the children, not simply provide taxpayer relief
at the expense of the children.