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Corporate Kindergarten: Corporations Involved in School Systems

Updated on April 29, 2012
Corporate Sponsorship in Schools
Corporate Sponsorship in Schools | Source

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.


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    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      An open mind is a closed mind. Figure that one out.

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 

      8 years ago

      Keith, this is not a debate forum; it's a comment thread, where opinions are expressed. I could post volumes of examples to substantiate everything I said. And I've done that on other comment threads on political websites.

      If you're truly open-minded, then step out of your conservative echo-chamber and do your own research. I'm not doing it for you.

      But, from the way you spout conservative boilerplate nonsense, I've concluded that you're not open-minded and you haven't read anything that might challenge your assumptions. And since I've learned the hard way, the utter futility of debating with conservative ideologues, you're on your own. I no longer have the stomach for it. We could trade citations all day long, but, would that sway you or me? I think not. Nor is this the forum for it.

      I seldom post on HubPages anymore, but, if I happen to post something along the lines of social or political commentary, you're welcome to add your two cents worth.

      But for now, I have a life and have to get back to work. No time for fruitless debates.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Now we are going to begin with Extrapolation huh?

      First, with every comment you have made you have left vague comments about the abuses of corporations. Not giving one example of what it is you meant by abuses. Even in this last comment you have gone ahead and only listed three matters without examples. So in the end you haven't really said anything, but express what you think is self evident without backing up your claim.

      Next, you then actually extrapolate on your own, that because I decide to focus on the good of corporations instead of the evil, that I some how don't understand or otherwise think that such matters haven't occurred and pretend that it doesn't exist. No, what I do is that we have enough people like you and others out there decrying corporations and their evils and every other abuse, whether real or perceived, that I focus on the good and try to show that instead of focusing on the evil since there are enough people who are willing to sit back and do that.

      Now onto the other issues you actually brought up and once more extrapolate on thinking that I ignore the fact that a Corporation is a collective endeavor. This I actually don't, but instead what most people seemingly forget apparently once a business has reached corporate status and that is the fact that they do get started by either one man or a small group of men. The workers that eventually do get hired into a business once it reaches corporate status weren't in Bill Gates, Michael Dells, or Steve Jobs mother's garage when they were starting the companies that eventually became Microsoft, Dell Computer, and Apple. I could list several more examples as they are seemingly endless, even the one you brought up about Ford.

      All businesses and corporations start off by either one man or a small group of men who have an idea or vision. Seemingly most people seem to ignore this aspect once a business does reach corporation status, when these individuals desire to expand upon the business venture they started providing the countless jobs and wages that you bring up.

      As far as the transcontinental railroad that would have still been built with out the subsidies you say were needed. There was too much profit to be gained for it not to be eventually built. This then brings us to one of the "abuses" you label at corporations and that is the influence they have on politics. Have you ever sat back and ask why that influence is there in the first place? If the Government wasn't sticking its nose into the field of Economics and businesses in the first place through all the myriad ways it does so, such as granting favors in the forms of subsidies, then would such influence through lobbying and other means be necessary?

      As far as society existing long before the rise of corporations, that is very true, yet the current society that we live in with all of its technological advancements and everything else that currently exists wouldn't be possible with out corporations or if only done on the local level. Yet, who knows you may very well get that wish of having a more local economy if we end up having another Dark Ages take place. Just don't expect the technological advancements and the comforts you have now when such a matter does take place and there is only the local economy instead of the National and Global economy.

      You are also correct that it takes time to change an opinion. It takes the time to be willing to explain, provide examples, and form a good argument in what it is you are defending or trying to show at least in your argument. Apparently you don't have the time to do this or are not used to getting challenged enough in your statements expecting everybody to accept your blank statements as self-evident truths that don't require examples to back them up.

      In any case, perhaps you should remember that the next time you come and attack somebodies argument using vague statements, talking about hyperbole, propaganda, and the other matters that you started out with in your own comments. If you don't have the time to be challenged by somebody who is willing to defend such an attack and like was challenge you on the same front, then perhaps it would be best to learn how to keep your opinion to yourself the next time.

      Just like how did so when phdatz asked me to explain further my own comment.

      @Sarah Perkins,

      Sorry for doing this on your comments section, yet, I can't sit back and allow people anymore to attack in such backhanded ways anymore with out challenging them.

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 

      8 years ago

      Wow...extrapolate much? I never said that corporations haven't contributed anything positive to society; that was all you. But, what you seem to ignore is that a corporation is a collective endeavor, not the sole operation of one person. How many cars could Henry Ford have produced without his workers? And without government subsidies and land grants, we'd still be waiting for our transcontinental railroad to be built.

      It's always a mistake---and sometimes dangerous---to ignore the potential evils of something just because some good has come from it. I could just as easily make the case that government is good, because of all the good that it has done, but, it would be foolish to ignore the evil done in its name.

      Abuse is abuse; whether government abuse or corporate abuse. I just don't understand how people can look at the one and turn away from the other and pretend it doesn't exist.

      Society existed long before the rise of corporations and produced those things you mentioned on the local level. And I for one, would like to see a more locally oriented economy instead of the concomitant abuse and undue influence of multinational corporations on our politics and public opinion and our environment...i.e. "abuse."

      But, that's all I'm going to say on the matter, I'm not here to change anyone's opinion. Opinions are like megaliths; it take time and erosion to alter them. And I for one, don't have the time.

      Good day, sir.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      @Charlest Hilton

      So the abuses of corporations huh?

      So let me ask you? With out the corporations, you are then telling me that you know how to make all your own clothes or even how to get the cloth made so you can make your own clothes? Oh wait, you do know how to raise and tend to flock of sheep for wool or know how to grow your own cotton, get the seeds out, then get into cloth form?

      Oh, so you know how to hunt and fish so you can provide your own food? Then from this act you know how to tan your own hides for clothing and housing purposes? You know how to make your own furniture then as well? Wait, you do know how to cut down trees and then split your own lumber into planks? Or perhaps you know the proper processes to actually make and fire your own bricks and then the process to make the mortar as well?

      So you then also figured out how to manufacture and produce your own computer chips, write all the software for your computer, build the mother boards, the graphic processor, hard drive, ram and everything else about your computer, cell phone, tablet pc or whatever it is you are then typing and responding to my comments on.

      Simply put with out corporations, large or small, you would have to solve all these little life problems yourself. Corporations have done far more for human progress and advancement and have done more good than whatever "abuses" that you haven't even been willing to say exactly what they are or what it is you mean. You see I don't sit here and accept blank statements as if they are some self evident truth.

      Yet, lets see here you sit here sanctimoniously crying out against "the abuses" of corporations against humanity. You know, I honestly sometimes wish the one matter I dread would come about, the entire collapse of civilization as we know it like the fall of Rome plunging the world into another Dark Ages. Then your sanctimonious "crying" will be one of "This isn't what we meant!" as you are faced with reality and having to solve all the problems I outlined on your own without the corporations being there since they are so evil against mankind and would be lost. Seriously, people just don't realize how good we have it. I guess it will take such drastic measures to wake people up to reality of this fact since we are being so "abused" by the corporations.

      Yet, the Government should be the one to shelter us obviously from such abuse is that right? Since the dawn of civilization Governments have done far more abuse, killing, and every other human travesty known to man than any "abuse" even the most crooked corporation has done.

      Self-Imposed Ignorance of reality and irrationality unfortunately can't be cured if one isn't willing to hear and listen to the truth. Unfortunately though, reality will always catch up to us in the end especially when you try to have your cake and eat it too. Just ask the people of Greece about this, they have found out the hard way about that and yet they continue to try to wish to ignore reality and wish that they can still continue to have their cake and eat it too.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


      I have 3 hubs one education currently, with perhaps two more on the way. They can be found in my profile since it is frowned upon linking ones own hubs in comments.

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 

      8 years ago


      Corporations don't need propaganda to shed light on their abuses, their behavior does that better than any propaganda could.

      But, if you prefer to look the other way and pretend that corporations are holy and sacrosanct, that's your choice. Self-imposed delusion can't be helped.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Sarah - I apologize for sending your hub in a direction you may not have intendedby asking questions in addition to making comments.

      I still think you wrote a very good hub.


      Keith - You have obviously thought about this a great deal and have strong feelings about it all. Have you thought about taking your two comments and turning them into a Hub? (That way you and I and others could discuss the issues we think are important without using Satrah's hub to do it.) I have done that myself on a number of occasions. When my comments go long, I ususally look to see if there is actually a hub waiting to be written. Thank you.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Oh, really, so I was paid by a corporation to think for myself, to choose what books I should read and then take forth the effort to actually read them, gain and understand the knowledge pertained with in said books, integrate that knowledge into the rest of my knowledge base to come to comprehensive understanding.

      Man if the that was the case I would be a millionaire right now. What you think is "corporate" propaganda of the conservatives is simply put what it is you exactly expose, people thinking for themselves and gaining knowledge and understanding. Now of course you can sit here all day debating what is propaganda and what isn't. Of course the reason this can be done lies in basically the concept of relativism. That truth and knowledge is relative, hence there is no truth to be found. Thus, anything and everything can then be said to propaganda, especially if it is something you don't agree with. Unfortunately, there is truth and there are contradictions to the truth.

      You are correct though in that the purpose of the school system has been to churn out obedient workers, thanks to the fact that the entire school system is built around John Dewey's Socialist theory on education that pretty much states that is the purpose of the school system in the first place and why such a system should be found in the public realm and publicly funded.

      Yet, I must say good job also in actually refuting any of the above just by saying that it is corporately funded propaganda, while backing up your own claim that the problem isn't with the public funding of schools or by showing who then is going to continually fund such school system? You keep taxing people this eventually equates into a bad economy as businesses, and people, decide that they have had enough of said oppression under such tax burdens and either find better shores to conduct business, stop doing business entirely, go bankrupt under such matters or people just decide it is no longer worth trying to go into business in the first place. The same goes for individuals. You continue to try to do this, then you have states and cities, and eventually the nation, that begin to go bankrupt as budgets continually increase in trying to keep such matters going, teachers continually demanding higher wages and higher benefits to be funded for by the tax payer. This is the sad thinking that some how money must be grown on trees.

      Also, this is actually one of the funnier matters as well figuring a great to excellent teacher would be highly sought after and well compensated if there wasn't a public school system. Thus, this brings us to the point that the public school system and the largesse of it is able to hide the inequities and incompetence of others through the protection scheme of the Unions and the system itself.

      Yet since you ended this matter about propaganda, I'll also end mine with the same. The propaganda that has attacked corporations and businesses in books, movies, cartoons, and television series is so great that many just accept it as fact that corporations and businesses, and the owners of said corporations and businessmen, are evil and the people behind them are evil people. That the most evil thing to exist is the profit margin.

    • profile image

      Charles Hilton 

      8 years ago

      Excellent and well-written hub, Sarah.

      And contrary to conservative hyperbole, the problem with schools isn't that they're publicly funded; it's that ever since the early twentieth century they've served the singular purpose of turning-out obedient workers and mindless consumers. Hence the decline in critical thinking skills.

      Neither the government nor the corporate sector wants a citizenry that can arrive at its own conclusions---that would threaten them both.

      Conservatives always make the mistake of associating propaganda with the government, while failing to realize that most propaganda--especially right-wing propaganda---is corporate funded.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      8 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Let's start out with one matter, in your comments you conclude that Corporate advances ability to control the curriculum should be of grave concern. Yet, in your defense of the public school system you don't have the same grave concern that somehow because the Public School "system" isn't out for a profit that it is then best able to provide the "best curriculum". What you really want to say is though is concern about indoctrination and honestly, I am always more concerned when the State has the ability to control the Text books and curriculum than any business or corporation.

      As Adolf Hitler Put it:

      "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already…What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community." Adolph Hitler

      "Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state." Adolph Hitler

      Unfortunately, what has taking place in this country is that to much trust, indoctrination in its own right, in the State and the state being able to solve the problems of all.

      First the matter when it comes to curriculum, who should decide the best curriculum for a child, A Board of Educators sitting someplace in a Government Building or the Parent? Who has the best interest of the Child at hand, the Parent or a bunch of people who have never met the child sitting around make decisions about what a child should learn?

      Simply put, this is what is wrong with the Public Education system today. It is the attempt to rubber stamp a one size fit all curricula onto individuals who may or may not actually benefit from said curricula. It has boiled down to to much over emphasis on a formal education as the only means of being able to obtain an "education" in the first place.

      Fact: Thomas Edison only had 3 months of formal education, yet he went on to invent many different matters at the start of the 20th century.

      The comment I made resides in the fact that instead of trying to have a one size fit all curricula ran by the State dictating through its power of force, that you actually allow real school choice and competition among curricula types form. You allow parents to shop around for the school and curricula type that best fits the need of their child. This can even include non traditional schooling in perhaps even a trade or something.

      This then gets to your other points in your question as far as if the state does not compel attendance who would as well as funding Well, lets get to the funding aspect first. The cost of the public school system is continually to rise, it is beginning to cause States to go Bankrupt as well as the many other various programs that states are beginning to no longer afford . The cost of some per pupil in some areas can be as high as 20 thousand dollars, colleges are sometimes cheaper. The school system is upheld at the expense of the taxpayer as well as these other programs. A breaking point is eventually reached and decisions have to be made, were does one begin to make cuts to continue to afford the cost of education. The only other option is to raise taxes to continually to try to keep all the various programs running at the expense of the tax payer. This though can cause one big matter, raise taxes and people who are able to move will just move to a state that has less punitive taxes. Let's also not be so naive as to think that somehow that just because the state controls and provides through the public school system, that those involved in this system aren't actually seeking profit. They are at the taxpayer expense, this includes the teachers and their union, the various school boards and every body else involved in the Public Education sector.

      The Public School System is a Government Run Monopoly, everybody fears a Monopoly in the Free market for fear of the lack of competition and the ability to price gouge. I ask you were does competition lie in the school system? Were is the the ability to stop the price gouging by those involved in the public school system at the expense of the tax payer?

      So there you have your answer to your two questions. If you return the education to the free market it would actually allow competition to take place among various business who are involved that would actually lower over all the cost of education. If parents actually have more skin in the game, then there is no need for the state to compel attendance, the parent would ensure to see to that their child attends since the expense of the education is coming from their own pocket.

      Of course, some will

      decry, well some people won't get an education? This brings us back to the point I stated earlier, what is an education and does it reside solely in formal education? Who actually really provides an education? You see an education is only received when somebody actually wishes to learn and receive knowledge. The greatest teacher in the world will never be able to teach somebody if the person on the other end doesn't wish to be educated.

      Furthermore, if anybody truly wishes to receive an education, there is only one skill that is truly needed the ability to read. One then wishing to seek an education has the countless volumes of human knowledge at their disposal. Elites generally frown upon the self educated man, yet it is the self educated man who receives a better education because he is seeking the knowledge out himself, not having education forced upon him through dictate.

      As it is put in Good Will Hunting:

      "You dropped 150 grand on an education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library! "

      "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read." Mark Twain

      I leave you with one other matter to ponder. Why is it that with in the state controlled curricula that in many cases one of the most important matters to teach people, a basic understand of Economic Principles and Law isn't taught? Yet, Sex Education is part of almost all school curricula? It is far easier to manipulate and control an ignorant population lacking knowledge on economic principle than it is to control and manipulate a knowledgeable one.

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      This is becoming even more of an issue as schools essentially sort of privatize and bring in business people and corporate sponsorships. (A you pointed put.) We spent about three hours discussing this phenomenon in one my education classes.

      Great hub, thanks for sharing your research. Voted intersting.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Sarah - Excell3ent article on an important subject that deserves much more attention. Corporate advances in to the classroom, especially in terms of controlling the curriculum should be of grave concern to all of us (Now business and corporate voices speaking out about the fact that schools are producing graduates with insufficient skills would be a good role for them to play.) Well researched and well written. Sharing


      Keith - It would help if you would explain your comment more fully. If the state does not compel attendance and provide funds, who do you think would step into the gap? How would our society insure that our children get at least a basic education? Who would step into the gap? I really would like to hear your ideas...maybe there is a more effective approach that could be considered. Thank you.

    • Keith Engel profile image

      Keith Engel 

      9 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      Part of the problem you start out with is the wrong premise. The question shouldn't be whether corporations have any place within the education system, but does the state have any right to be involved in the education system.


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