Schools begin selling ad space to possible detriment of education

It comes as no surprise that in this economic crisis, our nation’s schools are suffering. With supply costs rising, schools are looking to find ways to cut corners and can only provide the bare minimum. Some methods to hemorrhage money loss are rather unusual. An elementary school in the Detroit Public Schools district began asking for donations of light bulbs and toilet paper to ensure they do not run out. For a teacher in the Idaho town of Pocatello, saving money means putting a new spin on school patrons.’ At Pocatello High School, a history and economics teacher decided to offset the cost of classroom paper by accepting advertisements from local businesses and placing them in the margins of test papers. Thanks to this plan, students can prove their knowledge on subjects such as the Great Depression when businesses and schools were desperate and see a modern-day parallel to the 1930s at the same time. Molto Caldo Pizzeria in Pocatello spent $315 to advertise a $5 pizza special. This helped provide the office paper for the remainder of the school year, as well as next year’s supply used by the teacher. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in a district such as Pocatello’s, where residents voted down a tax hike to help the school, this is certainly a desperate and seemingly ingenious way to cut costs.’ The advertisements will not likely harm the students’ academic performance, and may help the local businesses reach those customers who do not pay attention to any other mediums utilized for advertisement. Even though advertising in schools may not seem to be a major influence on students or schools, the practice should be avoided so the public education system isn’t sold out. The idea of marketing products to students within school is a gray and disputed area. Many primary and secondary schools feature sponsorship from businesses during sporting events. Additionally, one can simply look at the vending machines placed throughout school cafeterias as prime examples of corporations using the buying power of students to their advantage. Some newspapers and yearbooks published by the school also feature sponsors ranging from parents to businesses. However, those marketing tactics usually involve activities for which student participation is optional and extracurricular. With advertisements on classroom paper, students cannot avoid the advertisements unless they wish to refuse to take a test given by the teacher.’ One concern which may arise with sponsorship such as this is the potential for favoritism. A school in San Diego began allowing parents and family members to begin sponsoring paper given out in class. This cuts costs for the teachers, but creates another problem. What happens if parents feel that they can buy their students’ grades since they help fund the class in which their student is performing poorly? If parents can pay for their child’s grade, it will create an unfair and unethical environment in the classroom. The examples here are not very extreme forms of marketing, and do not seem too detrimental to the classroom environment. However, it raises the issue of how far it can go and where the line should be drawn. At what point do schools stop simply advertising and begin more aggressive marketing campaigns?’ This example reminded me of an episode of the former MTV show ‘Daria.’ The school the titular character attends is facing the same types of budget constraints Pocatello is facing. To overcome the crisis, the school principal signs a contract with ‘Ultra Cola,’ which places ‘unobtrusive’ advertisements in the school (examples of which include changing the cheerleader uniforms into the shape of soda cans, making it difficult to build pyramids) to increase students’ consumption.’ Problems arise for Lawndale High, however, when the school is unable to reach the minimum cola consumption quota required to keep money flowing. As a result, the principal decides to reward the student athletes with higher grades, as long as they drink copious amounts of soda. Of course, this plan eventually backfires for the school, and the marketing campaign is toned down. This is a fictional and exaggerated example of the flaws of marketing within America’s education system. However, it may not be so ridiculous a premise. How long until schools begin rewarding consumption of an advertised good with good grades on papers to keep the paper printing? It’s not the content of the advertisements that’s questionable; it’s the principle behind selling out a student education. Students attend school to learn, not as the guinea pigs in a marketing campaign. It’s a sad state in American education when schools are so deprived of funds they are forced to essentially sell out their students to stay afloat. Hopefully, the economy improves so taxes, not businesses, can promote education.