School used to be a place where children were protected from advertising and consumer messages – but not anymore. Budget shortfalls are forcing school boards to allow corporations access to students in exchange for badly needed cash, computers and educational materials. Corporations know the school is a powerful environment for promoting their names and products. A school setting delivers a captive youth audience and implies the endorsement of teachers and the education system.
Use the following tips for raising awareness and taking action on the commercialization of education in your school community:
- Develop a policy for your school or school board. Work with your parent and student councils and school administrators to develop guidelines and policies for commercialization and corporate partnerships in your school. If your school board or district doesn’t have a policy regarding corporate involvement, work with your trustees to encourage your board to create one.
For examples of guidelines and policies on corporate advertising and partnerships in schools, see Guidelines for Education/Business Partnerships from the B.C. Teachers' Federation: http://bctf.ca/parents.aspx?id=3560
- Hold an awareness raising event at your school. To educate students and teachers about the issue of commercialization of education hold a "logo-free day" event at your school. Do a "commercialism walk-through" in which students make lists of the corporate logos on display, including soda machines, sponsored educational materials, etc. If your administration agrees, have students cover up all the corporate logos in the school for one day.
- Involve your local media. Write an Opinion Editorial (Op Ed) explaining the issues surrounding the commercialization of education and send it to your local daily newspaper and community newspapers. Invite a reporter to attend an awareness raising event at your school.
- Promote media education in your school community. Students need to learn to think critically about marketing directed at them. Teachers and parents should teach kids from an early age to understand when and how they are being marketed to.