Updated on 04.17.08

Born to Buy: The Commercialization of Public Schools

Trent Hamm

This is the eighth discussion in a “book club” series on Born to Buy by Juliet Schor, which focuses on consumerism issues and young children. You can jump back to the first discussion if you’d like. This discussion covers the whole of chapter five, “The Commercialization of Public Schools.”

born to buyA significant portion of this chapter has to do with Channel One, which is basically a ten-minute “news” program delivered directly to schools – coupled with two minutes of commercials, of course. Schools who participated were given a lot of equipment, along with the promise of delivering compelling content to the students in exchange for merely guaranteeing that a certain number of students watched each day.

For a while in junior high, we were jammed into a classroom and Channel One was turned on for all of us to enjoy. Most of the students slept through the news portions, but I do remember an ad for Pepsi that was very loud – much louder than the rest of the programming – and it triggered some of the slumbering students to wake up and pay attention to what was going on.

At the time, I was basically indifferent to all of this. I told my teacher that I thought it was dumb, and he basically agreed but said that if it encouraged kids to think about current events, then it was worthwhile – and I pretty much bought that idea.

Now I’m not so sure, and Schor makes a very good case against it in this section, along with other in-school marketing techniques.

Does Marketing in Schools Matter?
On page 86, Schor states:

Studies comparing Channel One to non-Channel One schools show that the program affects kids’ attitudes. A study of two Michigan high schools found that Channel One students are more likely to agree that “a nice car is more important than school,” that “designer labels make a difference,” and that “wealthier people are happier than the poor.” Channel One students have also been reported to feel that the products advertised are good for them, because they’re being shown in the classroom.

In other words, students by default trust what’s presented to them in the classroom.

It’s easy to talk about educating children to guard against this kind of stuff. It’s also easy to blame school administrators and teachers for letting this in the classroom. Frankly, though, the blame for things like this falls on society in general. Every time we vote down a proposition to fund schools, we push them a little closer to things like Channel One. Every time we don’t get involved and pressure our politicians to adequately fund schools, we force school administrators to make tough choices about what compromises have to be made. As Schor says on page 90, “the main impetus for commercialization is the chronic underfunding of schools.”

If you really want to make a difference with things like this, get politically involved. Send letters to your senators and your representative in Congress and every person representing you in the state legislature. Look for political action committees to join to help get more funding for schools. Don’t just sit there and complain about it if it bothers you – do something. What’s my “something”? I’m getting involved with my district’s school board.

Is private school the answer for my child? Perhaps. It’s quite expensive, but it does have a lot of benefits. No matter what you choose, though, the answer is to be involved – and not just in your child. Look for ways to change the larger issues as well.

Creative Thinking
I will give the marketers credit for creativity. Most of this chapter lists various ways marketers have found their ways into classrooms. Here are three that I was particularly impressed by.

General Mills paid Minnesota teachers $250 each to paint ads for Reese’s Puffs cereal on their cars and instructed them to place the cars next to where the school buses parked.

[…] word problems in a McGraw-Hill math textbook that included Nike, Gatorade, Topps trading cards, and Disneyland as examples.

In 2001, NetworkNext announced 500 contracts with schools to show ads in return for a mobile computer unit to use for PowerPoint and other presentations. When the teacher shows a slide, banner ads for Rock Star video games, Wal-Mart, Visa Buxx cards, and Coty products appear on the screen.

In other words, marketers use every technique you can imagine to infiltrate the classroom, an area where in theory a student is supposed to trust the teacher and have their mind open to absorbing new ideas. It’s not just limited to stuff like Channel One – it’s in every aspect of schools.

When I was in school, our school was given a mountain of paper book covers that depicted ads for various companies. Not only that, there was a stipend given to pay some student workers to cover all of the textbooks for the school in these covers. Since these covers could reduce actual wear and tear on the books and extend their life a year or two at no cost to the school, our school obviously went for it for at least one year. Thus, every time we sat down to learn and looked down at the cover of our book, we saw ads.

It goes on and on and on – and the root cause of it is schools that don’t have enough money to do the things they want to do. So they find other methods – and marketers are happy to help.

Curriculum Editing
Even more interesting is the idea that companies and marketers are actually developing teaching materials for the classrooms, providing teachers with the curriculum and materials needed to teach a topic. A pair of great examples comes from Schor on page 93:

A Kellogg’s breakfast curriculum presents fat content as the only thing to worry about when choosing breakfast food. There is no mention of sugar or salt in Kellogg’s cereals. A first grade reading curriculum has the kids start out by recognizing logos from K-Mart, Pizza Hut, M&M’s, Jell-O, and Target.

These are just two of the examples from the book, but they get the idea across loud and clear: marketers present ready-made materials for teachers to use in the classroom that slip in some corporate marketing, again taking deep advantage of the level of classroom intellectual openness and trust.

Most good teachers would see right through this stuff and not present it, but let’s be frank – there are a lot of teachers out there that would be happy to have a curriculum already made for them and would justify such marketing stuff as “consumer education.”

It again comes down to one thing: be involved. And by that, don’t just be directly involved in your children’s education. Step up to the plate and make an effort to seek societal change, because when students are engaged in brand marketing at such a young age and in a trusted environment like a classroom, the next obvious step is for them to become consumers, continuing the trend of overspending and self-confidence that relies on the stuff you have, not on the person you are.

The next discussion, coming in three days, will cover the first half of the sixth chapter, “Dissecting the Child Consumer,” starting on page 99 and ending on page 108 at the subheading “Inside the Child Brain.”

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  1. chris says:

    oh man, this reminds me of something I saw years ago. The fruit snack Gushers had a campaign of some sort to use gushers in the classroom and somehow equate them to some scientific principle. it was fairly ridiculous.

    I never had channel 1 in high school, but i a do remember my homeroom teacher had cable and once or twice we got to watch it in class, was my first experience of mtv… and liv tyler :).

  2. Andy says:

    This is a really interesting topic. I graduated from high school about four years ago (I feel old now), and I don’t recall too much marketing in our classrooms. I think the mention of brands in textbook problems isn’t too bad, as I think it does add some realism to the question. If you are working on a real balance sheet for Nike instead of a made up one for XYZ Corp., I think it is a little more interesting to do the real one.

    Still, many of the other examples are good. I am really surprised by the powerpoint one, where ads are shown on each slide.

    I think the important question when looking at needed funding/technology for schools is how does it really enhance education? Learning to use computers is vital, but does a powerpoint presentation really help when teaching Shakespeare or American history? I would imagine that many of those technology related expenses are unnecessary.

  3. BigMike says:

    What do you expect, isn’t everything now consumer based education? The job of teachers is really to “entertain” children for 8 hours a day. I remember Florida State University being referred to as Free Shoe University. This was in reference to selling out to Nike. The local University here fortunately has placed large flat panel televisions in every building to scroll important advertising and an occasional class cancellation or a slight elevation in terror level.

  4. mamacita says:

    I disagree with your assertion that schools resort to these marketing relationships because they are underfunded. I think schools feel pressured by parents to offer the latest and greatest of everything, even where it doesn’t make sense — tricked-out science labs in elementary school, fancy architecture, you could make a long list of things like that. Principals are pressured to take every little bit of funding that they are offered, with whatever strings are attached, so they can compete with the “amenities” offered by other schools.

    It’s the same reason they have all those ridiculous fundraisers — parents pressure them, directly or indirectly, to snap up every penny available. We just need to use a little more common sense in what we expect from schools. If this money were used to do something like reduce student:teacher ratios, it might be worth it, but for various reasons, that money always has to come from taxes. The funds raised in these sorts of boondoggles go toward unnecessary “extras” that we can certainly do without.

    This is from my years of experience as a professional fundraiser and, more recently, a PTA board member.

  5. Greg says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with mamacita and agree with you. I’ve taught in four different high schools in two different states. The school that had the most advertising (including the awful Channel One) was clearly the least well-funded of them all.

    Schools do bow to pressure from parents and the communities to offer amenities that some may consider extraneous, but as Trent says, it’s a democracy. If you don’t want to support fundraising, don’t. If you don’t like your school board, vote them out, or run to be on the board yourself. If you don’t like that they have to constantly fundraise, make sure your schools are fully funded and that they spend money wisely.

  6. Michael says:

    Advertising in state schools has been around for a long time, only recently for commercial interests. John Dewey, the father of modern education methods, thought schools should turn children against all tradition and make them revolutionary socialists. He thought good education was not important because he did not believe in good and bad. Although most school board members don’t know what Dewey wrote, they still champion his methods. That might be why educators aren’t revolted by Channel One. The worst they cay say is that they’d prefer other sponsors.

  7. Rick says:


    While I can see where you’re coming from in saying that by using Nike rather than XYZ just adds some realism, I don’t really agree. The reason why companies pay so much to get inside the classroom and to get into other channels is that marketing works. Think about it. You see commercials all the time for Coke. Do these commercials and advertisements really try to persuade you to drink Coke? No. What they’re really trying to do is establish brand recognition. When you feel happy, associate that with Coke. Conversely, when you drink Coke, you’re happy. And they more they can subtly shove Coke into your face, the more you think of Coke. Where does that get us? Well, if you decide you want a soft drink, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If I ask you to name a kind of soft drink, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably Coke. And that’s what they want.

    And so, by mentioning Nike (or others) in the word problems in your textbook, it doesn’t by any means try to convince you to buy Nike shoes. But it does establish brand recognition. If I ask you to name a brand of cool shoes, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

    This is what’s so valuable to marketers, and this is why they’re willing to do whatever it takes to find new ways to market to you, even paying publishers to put their company name in word problems in the textbooks.

  8. !wanda says:

    I remember those company textbook covers. For a few years, teachers required us to cover our books somehow and gave us the option of using the free ones. The free ones disintegrated within a month, while the one my mom made out of paper grocery bags and packing tape lasted the whole year, and I could draw on it.

    From my experience learning in the public schools, I didn’t see that we were getting “amenities.” I don’t see how there’s much “competition” going on when it’s a districted public school. In fact, nearly all of the public schools I’ve visited are deary places, particularly on the inside.

  9. typome says:

    I went to private school and we STILL got bombarded by Channel One. Then again, the school was a piece of crap and had a very low tuition at that point. I also think that in addition to getting involved to get better funding for schools, teachers and admin also need to get educated that the marketing does make a huge impact. Because even if a school were well-funded, perhaps a well-meaning but innocent principal will still allow ads in their school for extra money.

  10. oios says:

    Isn’t Schor’s claim (or the studies) a poorly disguised post hoc ergo propter hoc? I mean can you really claim causality by virtue of the fact that they answered survey questions differently?

    How do they control the billion (sorry, hyperbole) other variables that might affect a student’s “commercialization”?

  11. Marketing to kids in school has been around at least as long as the length of time since I was in junior high school–that would be about 50 years.

    One day we had a required all-girls assembly at the junior high I attended in San Francisco, wherein we were supposed to be lectured about “personal hygiene.” A woman got up on the stage to harangue us about taking a shower and shaving our little underarms, and darned if she wasn’t shilling make-up and beauty products! She was peddling her company’s brand of deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and face creams.


    It was relatively uncommon then. I remember being offended by it, at the age of 13 or 14. Don’t know if anyone else was or if the event was remarked upon by parents, who in those days had other things to worry about. But I will say for certain that had my own child been bombarded with televised advertising or any other commercial scam in the guise of edutainment, he would have been out of school and into home-schooling instantly.

  12. Sense says:

    I’ve heard that in New Zealand, McDonald’s sponsors elementary schools, children’s dental clinics, etc. This just sounds like a HORRIBLE idea–but apparently the money isn’t there from the government and the kids are able to have more resources this way. What a horrible catch-22.

  13. mamacita says:

    @ Greg — obviously that’s why I work with the PTA. And for the record, the National PTA was opposed to Channel One when it was first introduced, because they saw it as marketing to a captive audience.

    I have campaigned quite a bit for an end to the sales-based fundraisers, but without luck: the cookie dough fundraiser garnered three times what the Fall Festival fundraiser did. It’s up to everyone else to quit buying the stuff, too.

    Fundraising is a harvest mentality: if people think there is money out there for the taking, they will not turn it down.

  14. mamacita says:

    @ Greg — obviously that’s why I work with the PTA. And for the record, the National PTA was opposed to Channel One when it was first introduced, because they saw it as marketing to a captive audience.

    I have campaigned quite a bit for an end to the sales-based fundraisers, but without luck: the cookie dough fundraiser garnered three times what the Fall Festival fundraiser did. It’s up to everyone else to quit buying the stuff, too.

    Fundraising is a harvest mentality: if school principals and PTAs think there is money out there for the taking, they feel like they have to go out and gather it. The question of what to spend it on is completely beside the point.

  15. BigMike says:

    Push more on the backs of the tax payers is really the answer! Lobby to get a new 13 Million dollar school in a small town that can’t really afford what they already have. Build it and they will come attitude is good as well in a commuter town with gas prices nearing $4.00 a gallon.

    New Buildings do not directly or probably indirectly improve test scores. Look at the Math and Science scores of children in say China or India. To they attend class at the Taj Mahal? I don’t think so. So new buildings, with the exception of safety are not the answer.

    My wife taught for 6 years and had to get out when she was pushed to give up quality of education for quantity. The budgets in the schools really need an overhaul. Less direct funds should be placed on sports and restored to providing a quality education. Sports have a place in schools and trust me they made an impact on my grades for the better. When I excelled at sports, I also excelled in the classroom. This isn’t true for everyone. I think that administrators waste a lot of money. They need to be more efficient with their expenses. Do they really need to be driving all over the state in a school vehicle? Should schools provide Superintendents with a vehicle to use whenever they like? A new law working it’s way through the legislature here will basically render the school boards useless. I think public schools are doomed. I heard someone on the radio say, if you bring a kid into this world today you have two choices. Private school or home school. I think they might be right!

  16. One of the strongest examples of this is credit card companies peddling on college campuses. I’m currently writing a series about my struggles with debt and it all started my freshman year in college when I signed up for a citibank visa card to get a free t-shirt and a CD “the box of rox”.

    Credit is pushed on us from every direction and the seeds had been planted long before I ever got to college. But the companies were not allowed to directly solicit my business until I was “old enough”.

  17. Amy says:

    In my middle school in Michigan, we watched Channel 1 religiously. It didn’t take much in the way of research (even back in 1994) for me, an 8th grader, to discover the large sum of money they were making at the expense of students.

    I was disgusted with being forced to watch it, but unfortunately the teachers and administration at my school didn’t care enough about one student’s protests to do anything about it. The rest of the students didn’t seem to care either.

  18. liz says:

    i went to 13 years of private school where we always had those book covers covered in advertisements. we would flip them inside out (so the blank side faced out and the ads in), maybe write the name of the class, and color and get creative to make our own book covers. i remember one nun in particular would take the books away and flip the covers back out to show the adverts because she said it looked junky if we colored all over them. i never really considered this message…

  19. NP says:

    Bad enough that the students may be exposed to marketing at school–it is part of the world at large and where are we protected from marketing? Even in church you might see a brand name. I am troubled with how willingly all the students will wear the names of stores on their chests acting as human billboards. I have always been a little sensitive to writing on my clothes from my old punk/alternative days. I think it’s kind of disturbing to see well-to-do kids shilling for mall stores like Aeropostale and feeling a sense of pride about it. Funny to see not-so-well-off kids wearing designer names like Tommy Hilfiger on their clothes. It would be nice to go to uniforms.

  20. Anna says:

    I’m curious, how do you feel about the Pizza Hut Book-it program? There’s no kick-back to the school for that, as far as I know.
    How do you feel about internal fund raising like candy bars and wrapping paper?
    Besides, without Channel One, where would Anderson Cooper be today?

  21. Scott says:

    One of the most distinct and disturbing memories I have from public high school was a Pepsi commercial featuring Brittany Spears on Channel One. It was amazing to watch how the whole class would stop talking and pay attention to the TV when that thing came on.. no one payed any attention to the “news,” which was itself of questionable quality (on par with fox perhaps).

    More recently I’ve had the opportunity to serve on an alternative high school’s board. While the school received public funding, it was not nearly enough to cover our (basic) expenses. When external funds dried up the school was forced to close, leaving students in that area with only one private academy and no other public high schools.

    Its disgusting to think where the money that should be going to schools is going instead. People choose fast food and expensive name brands over funded schools, well paved roads, and public services. Do people actually want lower taxes so they can buy more crap? I’m not suggesting we should become a welfare state, but there is definitely a visible need even in otherwise well off communities for improved public funding.

  22. mamacita says:

    Personally, I resent Pizza Hut’s Book It program. It’s obvious that Pizza Hut makes a fortune off of it — the kids get a gift certificate for only one personal pizza; anyone else who goes with the kid to Pizza Hut has to pay for his own meal, including mom, dad, and siblings. And, like you said, the schools get nothing out of it. There are plenty of other, better ways to promote reading without doing Pizza Hut’s marketing for them.

  23. Jillian says:

    Sense – as far as I’m aware, there are no schools here sponsored by McDonalds. There is a school sponsored by a freight company, the school is now called “Bairds Mainfreight Primary School” and to be honest, it’s a community success story. The school in question is decile 1 (meaning really low income families) and the company has really gone all out to make a positive difference for those kids. Yes, their logo is everywhere, bu I don’t see it as a bad thing because it’s pretty difficult to get people to buy more freight than they need, or to have kids pester their parents to send parcels for them! Thin end of the wedge though, perhaps?

    I think if it were McDonalds there would be much more of an outcry. Perhaps what you are thinking of is “Ronald McDonald House” which is a charity that supports the families of children who are in hospital. There was quite a disturbance when they opened a branch of McDonalds at the children’s hospital.

  24. Awesome Mom says:

    I remember when Channel One started being shown in schools. My homeroom teacher in High School called my parents in to talk with them because I was discussing actual and important topics with my friends instead of paying attention to the TV. My parents were annoyed that the teacher bothered them for such a silly thing.

  25. The Frugal Immigrant says:

    My son is in first grade. His elementary school teacher(s) have a special day, when they work couple of hours after school at our local McDonalds and all kids are invited to come in and buy a burger and the tip goes to the teacher.
    The kid receives an Extra toy for visiting McDonalds on that day. If they buy the kids menu – this makes 2 cheep Chinese-slave-labor-made toys in a single day!

    What else – just this week my son (1st grade) comes from school and brings up a TIME-for-Kids brochure, explaining how wonderful it would be for his school to receive the “free” materials from TIME magazine, describing current news in language that kids can understand.
    All that my son (and his parents) need to do to support our school in this “GREAT” effort is to write the names and addresses (in this brochure) of TEN of ourfriends, relatives, etc. you name it, and TIME magazine wil send them a SPECIAL offer for 80% off the cover price for a subscription of their wonderful and “generous” magazine.

    On top of that – 3 days after the brochure comes a letter from the PRINCIPAL of the schol, explaining in more detail how wonderful it would be for the school to get these free materials from TIME magazine.

    What a bunch of crooks!!! This whole thing needs to go completely commercialized, so people finally say enough is enough!
    I’ve voted for every hike in taxes for school levies in my area, and they all have passed. I don’t know why they still have to sucumb to advertisers pressure.

  26. Limewater says:

    I think you should clarify that the “equipment” Channel One provides pretty much consists of a satellite dish to receive Channel One and a television set for every classroom.

    Television is an even worse educational tool than Powerpoint.

    I remember Channel One News from when I was in high school. They spent an entire week talking about the return of some captive killer whale to the ocean off the coast of Iceland or something. They spent an entire day discussing what a tornado is. It’s terrible, and it offers no serious benefit to the students. It does, however, manage to steal over a week of class time over the course of a school year. Ten minutes a day adds up.

  27. escapee says:

    This is a great article and something that I care deeply about.

    Let me tell you about something that happened at my son’s school. I had seen on a local blog that kids were being shown fast food corporation logos and even singing a “fast food” song in ALL of our county’s kindergarten classes. At first, I couldn’t believe it- what teacher in their right mind would allow this? I wrote to my school board and school principal and asked them if this was true. IT WAS!! I about slit my own throat!

    I raised holy hell after that, writing to every school board member, superintendant, etc, armed with journal studies citing the obesity epidemic, kids susceptibility to marketing, etc. Another local parent did the same, and to my astonishment, the principal at my son’s school contacted me a few days later and told me that all mentions of fast food had been removed from the kindergarten class’s curriculum!

    The bottom line is that I spoke out, and it worked! So, I’d urge all parents to speak out- you might think that you won’t make a difference, but if two people can get this sort of thing removed from a curriculum, then you can do it too!

    Here is a snippet of the actual curriculum that was sent to me, so you can read for yourself what the kids were singing in the classroom- it’s pretty unbelievable:

    The Fast Food Song

    3.Display the enlarged posters for “Fast Foods Song,” verse 1.

    •Read the fast food icons with the children.
    •Demonstrate the actions that accompany the signs. Have children practice the actions with you.
    •Pizza Hut – squat down, make rooftop with arms over head
    •Kentucky Fried Chicken – thumbs to armpits, flap arms like wings
    •MacDonald’s – arch both arms to form an “M”
    •Put the words and the actions together.
    •Sing the first verse with the actions for the children.
    •Have children join in singing and doing the actions for verse 1.

    4.Repeat the same procedure for teaching verse 2.

    •Taco Bell – make rooftop with arms over head, move head from left to right
    •Dunkin’ Donuts – one hand make a cup, the other hand dunks into it
    •Wendy’s – hold fists to sides of head (for pigtails)

    5.Review: Signs are pictures and words that give us information. Signs help us locate places. Signs are consistent from one place to another.

  28. susan says:

    After reading these posts, it gives me one more reason why I am so glad that we were able to homeschool our three children for many years. My youngest is graduating this year and they are all well-adjusted, very socialized, well-informed adults. It is definately worth looking into if you are dissatified with your school district. You are your child’s greatest teacher.

  29. dialecticaly_yours says:

    My kids have attended public school, charter school and home school. NOWHERE in that list did I abdicate my responsibility as a parent. It is my job to help them understand and deal with the bigger world.

    DARE is not marketing in the usual sense, but it is equally ubiquitous.In Kindergarten, my oldest had to sign a DARE pledge, etc. I found out about it AFTER THE FACT and was LIVID— I told the principal in no uncertain terms that while DARE may be an excellent program, by making my child make those kinds of “promises” without my knowledge, they effectively made the school more important than his parents, and THEN I hit him with: Did you get a chance to see your third grader take the DARE pledge? So why couldn’t I?”

    Specifically about advertising, we talked with our kids very early and often about everything from the “convenient” school uniform flyers that promote a particular brand, and “give money back to schools”. Then we did the math at Wal Mart– the same blue slacks, with minor differences in quality of construction, were *double* the price for (school-specified) brand versus the Wal-Mart store brand. My 5yo figured out IMMEDIATELY that “spending less money on the uniform left more money for books and toys”.

    When hit up to buy cookies, cookie dough, chocolate, etc., I often simply say, “My food allergies make that a poor purchase, and I hate to throw food away. Is there a way to donate money directly for the project/program?” You would NOT believe the number of times I’ve been told by *school officials* that there isn’t a way to donate directly!!!! It’s INFURIATING– they want to SELL THOSE CANDY BARS, because the back of the label has EVEN MORE ADVERTISING on it!

    We’ve had great discussions over the kids’ whole lives about brand identifiers, marketing ploys, icon recognition, and one memorable evening driving around town to prove the hypothesis that Hollywood Video and Blockbuster not only had stores within SIGHT of each other, but usually on the opposite side of the street!

    When confronted with these school-related marketing ploys– specifically, Book-It, I had a great “comeback” for our charter school advisor. “The kid most likely to appreciate the motivator is allergic to milk, and can’t eat at Pizza-Hut anyway because of their cross-contamination issues. Both kids are participating, but when they reach their goals, I’ll give them a reward. I’ll hand their coupons back to you to give to another parent with preschool kids.” The kids got treats for participating, I bought them a $5-10 toy instead of a fast-food meal, adn the school got ‘credit’ for their participation.

    Bookadventure.com is much friendlier than Book-it, anyway. *G*

  30. Anna says:

    By the way, I should disclose that, like Susan, we’re a homeschooling family. We’re also enrolled in Book-It.
    See, I find Pizza Hut’s program to be pretty benign. Because no kick-back to corrupt the program, so the marketing is pretty upfront. The family still has a choice (although, a heavily pressured choice- who can say no to a 7yo wanting to go to Pizza Hut?) to contribute their money to the corporation. There is the benefit, as well, of setting reading goals. Granted, there are better ways to do it.
    My problem with Channel One, etc, is the captive audience. When I was in school, we had no choice but to watch the show or try to tune it out. The money was given first, without regard to how it influences the students. Or, what’s worse, the influence was obvious, and the schools were comfortable exposing their charges to whatever drivel happens to be on display.

  31. NP says:

    Our local Papa John’s Pizza gives each school a promotion night where the schools receive part of the sales receipts on that night. Our local Chic-fil-a does the same. Both of these promotions are much favored by the kids. I buy the pizza occasionally, because occasionally it IS pizza night when one is busy with sports practices and such. We occasionally visit the Chic-fil-a on the school night. We get a meal after a long day of school, work, and after-school activities and a chance to socialize with our community. Frugality is an important value, but not the ONLY value.

    I simply tossed out that promo from Time For Kids. I decline the coke sales too. In fact I participate in very few fund raisers at the school. Sorry they can’t afford the new playground equipment or whatever.

  32. Pete says:

    A couple points…kids in India, China, Japan, Germany (the list goes on) get better test scores because they are being trained for life. They are EXPECTED to go to school, pay attention, respect their teachers and study…because all of those teachers and parents realize that they need to train their children to survive! While Billy American is being coddled because his learning style may not be the same as Jimmy’s and Sally’s and Kim’s, the kids in other countries are learning History, Chemistry, Geometry…all from the same teacher…all with the same expectations…all with higher test scores in American History than our own kids are getting…enough of that rant…believe me I could go on about how we’re cheating our children and setting them up for failure…

    Parents and schools need to wake up and challenge the companies “offering” all these great educational materials. They want the positive press of having contributed to the cause of education, but we don’t demand that they earn it. Instead they make US earn it by subjecting our kids to captured, focused marketing. What kind of response would we get if all parents stood up and MADE IT PUBLIC that the only way company XYZ will contribute to the cause of education is if we take valuable time away from learning to watch commercials? I bet the PR departments would have fun trying to spin that away.

    Fuming inside now!


  33. michael says:

    Trent says: “Frankly, though, the blame for things like this falls on society in general.”

    I disagree strongly, loudly, and as often as possible. Society is NEVER to blame, for ANYTHING. Society didn’t force school administrators to show commercials to these kids; the admins just chose to do so.

    This is a pet peeve — every time something bad happens, there’s always a call to blame society. Why? Because society can’t be held accountable in any way. Every specific problem has a source, or group of sources. In this case we have: the local politicians, who chose not to fund adequately (perhaps); the parents and teachers, who allowed their children to be subjected to this; the admins, whose job is education, not marketing.

    As long as society is blamed, nothing will ever change. When no one is ever held accountable, no one will ever step up and perform.

  34. Mary says:

    I don’t believe that marketers are allowed to corrupt schools due to the lack of funding. This could be true in some cases but I think it has to do with greed in other cases. The more the better. The student’s certainly aren’t getting much benefit from it except that they are being groomed in such a way that they become trained to be good little consumers. I think this probably has the most impact on the younger, more impressionable students. The fact that there are TV’s in most every classroom is really a shame. But it’s become the only way to get their attention. There have been some interesting studies, suggesting a link between TV and ADHD. At the very least, we are raising children who need to have TV to focus on. I guess I was lucky to attend private school and was exposed to very little comercialism. I do think the pizza hut program was one of the most important factors in getting me to read, one that has followed me since. It motivated me to read. But my mother was smart. Everytime I earned a pizza, she would take me to order the pizza and I would bring it home. Pizza hut didn’t make anything off my mom…But we had a dress code and had to dress presentably. No logo’s or writing of any kind of our shirts (another way of marketing) as well as no ripped jeans, short skirts, etc. I just think this is another reason to stay away from public schools. If nothing else, I think it’s good to send a child to private school or do homeschool early on, while s/he’s still impressionable. And McD’s et al DO target schools. The local pub school spent tons of $$ on a new school, deserted an perfectly good building, and now they have a pretty impressive food court, similar to ones at the mall. It’s not only sad but it’s sickening to think that children are being preyed upon by ppl who could care less. All they care about is training the future spenders of the US and use the kids as a vehicle to get into the parent’s pocketbook/wallet. If someone really cares about their children and what they are being exposed to at school, the only way to go is either private or homeschool.

  35. Jason L says:

    @Scott comment #21

    You said: “Do people actually want lower taxes so they can buy more crap? ”

    I’m glad that you and the government are enlightened enough to know how I would waste MY money, if I was allowed to keep it. Let’s stick to improving our schools, and not shoot for outright socialism, eh?

  36. Stephanie says:

    While I absolutely agree that advertising in the classroom is inappropriate, I have to disagree that they solution is to throw more money at the schools. A recent Washington Post article estimated a per pupil cost of almost $25,000 per kid per year in the DC area.

    And this isn’t a school system known for its academic excellence. I am homeschooling two kids for about $800 per year with much better results.


  37. Sandy says:

    In the school system my children attend, there are 3 big fundraisers in the course of a school year…some with a payoff (free party at the end of the year for participants, etc..).Well, I suggested to the principal one year (after taking my checkbook to the office and cutting a check for what I deemed “my fair share” of what someone who was actively doing the fundraiser was bringing in)to accept cash instead of selling stuff. Last year, I noticed on the first fundraiser letter from the PTA, that I could donate a certain amount of money and my children could then benefit from the incentives. So put some pressure on your princpal…he/she should be able to make changes like that for families who don’t agree with the corporatism of our public schools.
    Trent, didn’t you say you were once a Pepsi drinker? The marketing apparently worked for them with you!
    OTOH, we do live in a capatalistic country, and that is how most people make their living…selling something. I know for a fact that schools in other countries (my children attended a few of them in Belgium and France) and it is such a relief to NOT have to have children selling stuff at every turn to make money for the school….there are no hour long events during school to let them know about the products thay are meant to sell (hello…they should be learning about something other than crap from China…that’s 3-4 hours out of a school year…poof!). There is no guilt on the part of a parent who really cannot afford to participate. Or that sense of sadness from the kid who gets all worked up at these school events to win the big prize and the parents choose not to participate for whatever reason. School is school and commerce has no place there. I wish we were big enough as a people to learn from those countries and make school a much more serious matter.

  38. I remember Channel One. And the book covers. I think the “cool” thing became to put on your cover insider out so that you didn’t see the ads.

  39. onineko says:

    I’m a teacher at a junior high school, and our school used to have a McDonald’s night, where the staff worked at the restaurant for a couple hours and the school received the profits for the time worked. At the time I was a new teacher, so I didn’t actively campaign against it, but chose not to participate. When asked why, I said I don’t want to endorse McDonald’s in the eyes of our students and their families as an acceptable, healthy lifestyle choice by my participation. (This was before McDonalds added salads and other “healthy” items to their menus. Even so, I would still argue that most people who go to McDonalds don’t order their salads.)

    In the United States, I don’t think we can completely get rid of brand name presence in the classroom. Corporations market so aggressively to children these days that branding has become a part of adolescent identity. Even the most conscientious parents would have a difficult time raising their children to resist brand name orientation. I do think schools have a responsibility to keep brand-name promotion to a minimum. This is not easy, because corporations make accepting their advertising a cheaper alternative.

    With regard to michael (#33), I don’t think any principal would allow advertising into their schools simply because he or she thought the advertising itself was good to the school. It’s usually a concession for something else he or she thinks is valuable for the school, or saves the school money. Admins shouldn’t be put in the position to have to make these tough choices in the first place. People blame “society” because we don’t have a public culture that discusses the in’s and out’s of public policy. It’s all about entertainment and consumption.

    To BigMike and others who think public schools are simply inefficient and not underfunded, attend a few school board meetings and learn about the budget. Education is extremely important to everyone, yet most people are in the dark about how their tax dollars are spent.

    I applaud parents like escapee and dialectialy_yours for getting involved and taking a stand. One parent standing up for their kid can make a difference for everyone.

  40. BigMike says:


    Right, I am clueless about schools. My Wife was a teacher for 6 yrs, so don’t even get me started!!!!

    I attended the informational meetings, looked at the facilities and the budgets. They did not come up with any alternatives. Just the most expensive one. It was voted down! Go figure. They didn’t do there homework. Busing is breaking the backs of the schools and the taxpayers. I basically pay $500 a month in property taxes in a town that has virtually no services. I want out!

  41. Jesus Jefferson says:

    For those interested please read about the public school system. This book is incredible and only costs a dollar or two on amazon

    “None Dare Call it Education”

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