Corporate Kindergarten: Corporations Involved in School Systems
In the article, “Today’s Class Brought to You By…,” by Allen D. Kanner the issue and reality of corporations involving themselves in the school district is thoroughly discussed. According to this article, a free curriculum for educators has been slowly creeping into our school systems for quite some time. The curriculum titled, Structural Educational Materials have been distributed to teachers in a sly way. Either these materials get sent directly to the educator or they receive hands on experience at conferences where many distributors market their product. Corporations dish out mass amounts of money to cater to schools. According to Kanner, “In 1983, American companies spent $100 million advertising to children; in 2005 the figure was $16.8 billion. (279)” Advertising to children directly has its pros and cons, many of which I will discuss in the duration of this paper. The issues boil down to ideas such as, American dependence on name brands, different teaching styles, and economic gain to the school or school district. Through all of these issues, I stay strong in my opinion that school systems should stick to traditional forms of funding.
The issue of corporate sponsorship is an issue that I have seen quite frequently first hand. I attended high school within the Liberty Union High School District in Northern California. During my time in this school district, meals had not been prepared on site. All meals had been brought in from outside restaurants and served to the students. The wonderfully greasy pizza clearly had been labeled with the stamp of, “Pizza Guys,” and the bowls of Chow Mein came in little boxes that had, “Stix” printed on the side. During the rush of our day, we rarely stop to think if this could potentially harm America. On the positive side, for families who do not have the time or money to spend being a “Suzie homemaker” in the morning, having options of food that kids actually enjoy can be quite a relief for the working parent. However, on a more negative note, one might say that such food and corporate labels can discourage a child from eating their essential nutrients and well cooked meals. Our bodies become used to and start functioning on the junk food that we eat. The more junk food that one consumes the great home cooked meals that American tradition has boasted about might as well be forgotten.
Schools spend money on food supplies no matter if they buy the product from McDonalds or the neighborhood market. By buying their products from local franchises they not only help themselves but also help the outside business financially. Be that as it may, I still stated before that; the more junk food that one consumes the less appealing are fresh “home” cooked meals.
To defend the schools in one area I must say that, things change with time and unfortunately this could mean things such as education. In the book, “Education and The Rise of The Corporate State,” by Joel H. Spring, the idea that many schools feel the need to catch up to the fast pace society in which we live is discussed. He states, “The corporate image of society turned American schools into a central social institution for the production of men and women who conformed to the needs and expectations of a corporate and technocratic world (1).” I believe that most of us could agree with that statement as a fact of what IS happening, but not all of us could agree that it SHOULD be happening. This statement would be more acceptable in things such as technology being brought into schools, but the idea of advertisement still seems like an unnecessary movement even in this day and age in which we live.
The article, “Today’s Class Brought to You By…” is jump started by stating that, “Revlon, the cosmetics company, has been brought into public school curriculum these days. The corporation provides teachers with a free curriculum that instructs students on “good and bad hair days” and asks them to list the three hair products they would absolutely need if stranded on a desert island. When I personally read that paragraph I had to stop and well frankly, laugh. This implies not only “product placement,” but the overwhelming obsession with image in America. I remember when I was in Kindergarten at the beginning of the year we were given a Crest toothbrush that we kept in a toothbrush holder in our desk. Periodically throughout the year a woman would come in and give a short program on the proper way to brush your teeth. She would count as we slowly or sometimes quickly made circles around our teeth. I cannot stand here and say that I agree with forcing students to cooperate in this corporate sponsorship, but at least they were trying to teach students about personal hygiene, rather than asking them if they prefer Suave to Garnier Fructis shampoo. I attended Kindergarten in 1995 and I can only imagine now in 2010, fifteen years later the heavy concentration that corporations place on young children.
Nonetheless, many of these children do not find this type of program odd, because they have been taught from birth about brand names. According to Susan Linn author of, “Consuming Kids,””Children often discard playthings or clothing or other items that they associate with their younger selves – ‘But that’s for babies,’ a new kindergartner might announce about a toy he played with the previous summer. Therefore, from the sole perspective of profit, it makes perfect sense to try to reach one step further back and market that product to the babies themselves (42).” What a sad reality. From the day that babies arrive they become bombarded with advertisements. Susan Linn records a very good account of this type of occurrence. “On September 1, 1998, in maternity wards all around the country newborns got a jump-start on their lives as media consumers and marketing targets. PBS Kids, along with Ragdoll Production, itsy bitsy Entertainment, and Warner Home Video, celebrated the release of a series of Teletubbies videos by making ‘Teletubby Gift Packs’ available to babies born on that day (41).” This incident shows that people of this ear do not know anything about an advertisement free world, because literally from the day we arrive to the day we leave we not only find advertisement acceptable, but essential.
One of the positive sides to corporate involvement in the school systems could be the economic gain that the schools could receive. According to a the news article originally printed in 2006 by USA Today named, “Wisconsin Schools Find Corporate Sponsors” the reality of schools need of alternative funding is brought to light. It states in this article that, “In Newburyport, Massachusetts, the high school offers naming rights to the principal's office for $10,000, the auditorium for $100,000 and English classrooms for $5,000 each, according to its foundation's website.” Even though this is a different situation that Structural Educational Materials it still proves that many schools will do whatever it takes to find proper funding. According to Kanner, a scenario such as this has become a good enough reason for school districts to provide more money for their schools. Yet again we loop back to should these schools and districts find alternative ways to fund themselves.
In this paper, I have covered the conforming of school districts to meet current world pace, the age in which the bombardment begins, and the economic gain of corporate involvement in American school districts. I agree that the world moves at a much faster rate in which traditional ways of schools have been modeled around. I do agree that we could strive to keep up, but I also believe we can find alternative ways. This could be as simple as computers with no label on them or pizza brought in from a local business and not a franchise. However, I do strongly oppose marketing to children and especially to babies. The idea of gift packs being presented to newborns is absolutely preposterous! We cannot complain that our children solely rely on brand names if we allow them to be exposed to only brand names! Lastly, I do believe it is a wonderful form of funding and I am not opposed to some advertising in the school system as long as it is done in moderation. Unfortunately, as Americans we have no idea how to do anything in moderation, so I suppose that it would be better to throw it out completely.