Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Corporate Hegemony Alert

Yes, I have a problem with this:
Nashville schools offer naming rights to academic programs

Credit union pays $150,000 to put name on Antioch program

Naming rights to academic programs in Metro Nashville's high schools are for sale, and one school has a buyer.

The Tennessee Credit Union now owns the signage to Antioch High School's academy of business and finance for a price of $150,000. The school board approved the two-year contract Tuesday night.

Administrators hope this is the first of many naming deals. It's the brainchild of Metro's new high school czar, Jay Steele, who had success with the idea as an administrator in Florida.

"It's not marketing to kids," Steele told The Tennessean in December. "It's tight guidelines that would align a targeted industry with a theme."

Oh bullshit. Don’t kid yourselves. Marketing to kids is exactly what this is.

Look, kids are marketed to from the day they leave the womb. They are assaulted on every side by consumer messaging everywhere they go, from the shopping mall to television programming to family destinations like Disney World and that horrid museum of corporate logos disguised as an aquarium in Atlanta. New media has made advertising all-pervasive: sales pitches are embedded in “product placement” ads in books targeted to our youth. At school corporate logos dominate the lunchroom, sports and other after school activities.

And now Metro Schools has opened up academics to corporate sponsorship, with only a promise that it would be “tasteful.”

There is nothing tasteful about advertising to kids, no matter how you do it. One has to ask the obvious question: What are we teaching our kids? To be good citizens? Or to be good consumers?

Look, I don’t think it is ultimately in the nation’s best interests to raise a generation of consumer drones, indeed, I think it’s terribly short-sighted (for more on this, read my The Business Of Dehumanization post from last October).

Advocacy group the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood has looked at marketing in our schools and has raised some alarm bells:

• 67.2% of students are exposed to corporate advertising for foods of minimal nutritional value or foods high in fat and sugar in their schools.


• A review of seventy-seven corporate-sponsored classroom kits found nearly 80% to be biased or incomplete, “promoting a viewpoint that favors consumption of the sponsor’s product or service or a position that favors the company or its economic agenda.”


• Nearly 3/4 of schools that participated in income-generating activities with corporations that sell foods of minimal nutritional value and foods high in fat and sugar did not receive any income in 2003-2004.11

For more I urge people to read this report from EPIC (Education & the Public Interest Center). EPIC has tracked commercialism in our nation’s schools for around 15 years and as the latest report shows, the advent of new media and viral marketing makes advertising to youth more pervasive and insidious than ever.

Corporate-sponsored academics was a horrible idea from day one. Jay Steele may think it’s not “advertising” to sell naming rights to an academic program but he’s delusional (and as the Tennessean story makes clear, this program goes waaay beyond naming rights, anyway.)

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when our school budgets are so thin that we’re happy to sell businesses access to our kids in exchange for a few bucks. It shows a deterioration of our values for one thing: suddenly we’re okay pimping out our kids to corporations? Have we lost our minds?