While companies say they are filling a gap left by school funding deficits, some experts decry the trend.
"It's a very dangerous thing for a corporation to have this kind of presence in school," said advertising critic Jean Kilbourne. Children are more susceptible in school, she said, because they tend to believe that what they learn there is valid. So a commercial message in schools, no matter how subtle, "gives an aura of responsibility and truth," Kilbourne said.
Companies acknowledge they are trying to reach their current and future customers, but say their programs promote goodwill and help cash-strapped schools.
Nestle spokeswoman Tricia Bowles, for example, said the SweeTart art contest was designed to "do something extra for schools." Art programs are often cut when school budgets shrink, she noted. She said the company has not gotten complaints, except from schools saying that "we needed to send candy."
Why do I feel that many of the people who are against this would rather see this money given to the government and then let them distribute it to the schools? The same people who want corporations to be responsible are angry when they try to do something good, like this. I understand the concerns, that these companies are now in position to subtly influence young minds, and that this could just lead to more corporate sponsorship in the future that we will end up regretting. Here's the thing, though, it doesn't have to turn out that way.
Really, we often hear how corporations take advantage of the average Joe, but we can just as easily take advantage of corporations. Take their money, listen to their message, but use it as a way to teach the kids not to believe everything they hear. Use it as a chance to teach them about marketing, how it works, and how not to fall victim to the tactics. Teach them…(hold on to your hats) CRITICAL THINKING. This is what is needed most in the school system. I think John said it well on his blog:
If they were really worried about what goes on in school, they would lobby first to get rid of all that postmodernist, "feel good" self esteem building "new math" and crap. From my own observation of what the local kids are learning in our school district, there is more damage being done by "advertising" of bullshit political perspectives in our schools than whatever a corporation could do. How about an honest debate about the environmentalist agenda in schools before getting rid of an Oscar Mayer science prize.
Teachers have biases and prejudices just like corporations or politicians or parents or anyone else. If we really want to teach kids something, teach them to be skeptical – of everything. Take global warming as an example. Kids in school are taught how we are destorying our environment, and how dangerous global warming is. Few people would disagree that more CO2 in the air traps more heat and thus raises the Earth's temperature. But, there is good reason to question how much of the temperature increases we have seen are due to the greenhouse effect, and how much is due to the fact that we are still warming up from the last Ice Age? Also, what about research that shows more CO2 may be good for the Earth?
Capitalism isn't a one way street. It doesn't work if we keep our heads in the sand and run to the government to pass laws to fix everything we worry about. It is our duty, as believers in the free market, to stay informed and concerned about what goes on in the world, and to challenge everything. I have said many times on this blog, and I will always believe that corporations make money by giving us what we want. We are not at their mercy – they are at ours. Schools need money, and corporations need to be more responsible. It seems like a win/win situation.