Ad Creep in the Classroom: Kids as a Marketing Demographic

"…Let g represent the number of grams of fat in a Whopper with cheese. Write an equation to find how many grams of fat are in a Whopper with cheese." It reads like a bad parody, but is an actual – and fairly representative — word problem from the McGraw-Hill textbook "Mathematics: Applications and Connections."

2002.02.06

"Celina and Marcus went to Burger King for lunch. Celina ordered a Whopper with cheese, one order of onion rings, and water. There are 19 grams of fat in one order of onion rings. There are 65 grams of fat in the entire meal. Let g represent the number of grams of fat in a Whopper with cheese. Write an equation to find how many grams of fat are in a Whopper with cheese."

It reads like a bad parody, but the above is an actual – and fairly representative — word problem from the McGraw-Hill textbook "Mathematics: Applications and Connections."

Many types of advertising are universal among schools: free doodads like posters and book covers, often with socially redeeming messages to disguise the ad ("McDonalds says…stay in school! ").

Teachers receive all kinds of "teaching aids," texts, and curricula from self-interested corporations, all the way through corporate- sponsored continuing education classes. (Hershey’s nutrition curriculum description of where chocolate fits on the food pyramid is particularly amusing.)

There literally is no longer sport or uniform wear available without corporate logos on it.

Nationally, one of the ad issues receiving the most attention is Channel One, a vacuous 12-minute daily feed of McNews and ads that is commonly shown in home rooms and study halls.

Ten years ago, Channel One was the cutting edge in school advertising because it was offering something every educator wanted: televisions in classrooms. Now, the Trojan horse is computers, and the new wave is a network called ZapMe!.

ZapMe! offers schools 15 "free" networked computers whose screens not only show advertising at all times, but allow students to click on the ads to get more product information.

Similar to Channel One’s one channel televisions, ZapMe! computers can only be used for web surfing with ads — but, hey, they’re computers, and they’re free, and districts across the country are taking the plunge.

What’s wrong with advertising in public schools?

Having school districts raise money by literally selling their kids as an attractive demographic to advertisers puts the state in a position of hawking private businesses, and seemingly endorsing them in an authoritative setting, to impressionable youth.

It’s similar, and every bit as inappropriate, as cops handing out coupons along with traffic tickets.

The McGraw-Hill math text — featuring product placement for Nike, Gatorade, Barbie, Cocoa Frosted Flakes, Mattel, Disney, Warner Brother, Sony play stations, Spalding basketballs, Oreos, McDonalds, Topps baseball cards, and many others, and used, according to McGraw- Hill, in thousands of schools — is all the more terrifying because it’s not advertising. The authors weren’t paid to use the corporate examples.

The idea is to use relevant examples from students’ lives, and the assumption is that only brand names can hold their attention.

Advertising in schools can work one of two ways, neither of them good. On the one hand, corporations can be using the legal mandate for public education to reach a captive, impressionable audience with messages designed to mold purchasing habits for a lifetime: teaching our kids to be good consumers.

Or, our cynical, media-savvy youth will learn to regard school as just one more place where someone’s trying to sell them something.

Schools are, at least in theory, where our future generations learn the skills of critical thinking. The goals of an advertiser are antithetical to the goals of a teacher. Increasingly, our schools are taking the money — at our children’s expense.

[ also see related items:


Chemicals 101: Selling Anti-Environmentalism to Kids
http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1451


Today’s Higher Education Class Moment Brought to You By Corporate Funding
http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1395


Reading, writing and candy ads
http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=677


Race and Classroom: The Corporate Connection; An Interview with Libero Della Piana, Senior Research Associate, the Applied Research Center, Oakland, CA – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=573
]

Author: Geov Parrish

News Service: WorkingForChange

URL: http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=12769