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Confronting Back to School commercial madness

August 16, 2011

We are two weeks away from when K – 12 classes begin in Michigan and one thing worth thinking about is the amount of commercialism that children will be exposed to.

Last year the local group Stop Targeting Our Kids (STOK) produced a 3 – page informational sheet on commercialism in schools, particularly with the back to school theme. The information sheet points out that schools have become a favorite place for commercial messages.

In the last decade companies have been spending millions of dollars to find ways to target children while they are in school, through ad placement on the walls and book covers, fast food franchises getting cafeteria contracts and corporate created “educational materials” that are often sent to schools for free.

One example in recent years of corporate educational material that is sent to thousands of schools across the country was a coal industry produced curriculum document on the “benefits” of coal. Fortunately through the efforts of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood that coal-industry sponsored material is no longer being distributed in schools.

In fact, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) also recent won another victory by getting one of the largest supplemental teacher material entities, Scholastic, to reducing the amount of corporate educational material they distribute.

According to a Media Release by CCFC:

“For years, Scholastic has produced teaching materials for corporate clients like Shell, Disney, and Nestle.  In May, after a campaign led by CCFC, Rethinking Schools, and environmental groups, Scholastic pulled biased materials paid for by the coal industry.  It was an important decision, but it didn’t go far enough.  That’s why we asked you for help convincing Scholastic to stop distributing all corporate- and industry-sponsored teaching materials in schools.

We would prefer, of course, that Scholastic end all corporate sponsorships.  But this is a huge step.  Starting this fall, children will be exposed to significantly less corporate marketing in their classrooms.  Already, Scholastic has agreed to end its partnership with SunnyD to promote sugar-laden beverages in elementary schools, and materials produced for corporations like DreamWorks, Disney, Shell, and Playmobile have been removed from Scholastic’s website for teachers.  And Scholastic’s capitulation sends an important message to other companies working to subvert learning through the commercialization of teaching materials.”

This is certainly encouraging news and speaks to the importance of organizing for change. If you as a parent, student or educator in the West Michigan area are concerned about the commercialism in the schools you can contact STOK for more information.

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