School should be an ad-free zone for our children. Letting fast food companies advertise in schools is unethical and will destroy the integrity of the educational system by giving companies the ability to corrupt the learning process and promote their corporate agenda. We should not under any circumstances allow fast food advertising into our schools. Advertising would turn schools from a neutral place of learning into a 6 hour, ad filled, biased cage which kids are unable to escape from. Students and teachers would become trapped in the corporate web if allowed into our schools. Once let in there would be no way to avoid their influence.
School is supposed to be an educational environment. A place where a child goes to focus on learning. We teach them that it is a safe place where you are taught to learn from and trust what you are told. We tell them to listen to the teachers, principals, guidance counselors and coaches. We let them know these people have your best interest at heart. They are put on somewhat the same level as parents in many ways. School is the first place your parents ever leave you at. They drop you off in nursery school and tell you to listen to what your teachers tell you. That implies a level of trust. Your parents trust the school with your welfare. School plays such a major role in children’s development. Your experiences and what you learn there shape your future. You are taught that school is where you learn the truth about all subjects in life. You learn everything from biology to basketball; Spanish to sexual education; so if you saw a McDonald's or Burger King ad school, you would believe whatever that ad is selling or saying must be right. Ads found in school make it seem like the school is promoting the product. It can be so powerful because it is being shopped to a captive audience that has been asked to trust what the teacher says and does. Steven Kaplan, president of Sampling Corporation of America says, “There is an implied endorsement from a trusted institution” You’re taught whatever you read in your textbook is fact. So then whatever you read on the school wall must be fact too. When you see “MADD” and “Just Say No to Drugs “posters you know that getting high and drunk driving are bad for you. You see the posters for different colleges and know that you should go to one order to have a good future. That would lead you to believe what you see on school walls. So when you see the ad for the Whopper and Big Mac then surely they are good for you. Your school wouldn't steer you wrong. That's what you've been told your whole life. If we advertise these products in school then we are sending the message that they are good for you. That would be blurring the line between fact and propaganda. To allow fast food advertising would contradict the lessons being taught to kids. They're taught fast food like hamburgers; fries and soda are unhealthy and should only be consumed in moderation, if at all. By marketing such products in school, it's highly possible that students will get the wrong idea that they're okay after all. We can't be sending mixed signals to developing kids, otherwise we lose our credibility. It’s hard enough to get the children to learn what we’ve been teaching them for decades, now we throw a curve-ball at them. Materials in school should have a legitimate educational purpose, not a commercial motive. “It's a misuse of the environment of the school,” says, Jeffrey Arnett, an associate professor at the University of Maryland. “Schools should not be endorsing products, they are powerful institutions.” Letting fast food advertising into school walls would be a perversion of education.
Fast food companies have been trying to get access to advertising in schools for decades. School is the perfect stage to promote their products because it guarantees them a captive audience for six to seven hours a day. For the companies, kids are a lucrative market. There are over 45 million children in school. Although we might not think of children as consumers, they do have great economic clout. Today's elementary-age children have tremendous spending power; around 15 billion per year, 11 billion of which they spend on a wide variety of products from food, beverages, and clothes to toys and games. Teenagers spend 57 billion of their own money yearly. In addition they influence purchases of over 200 billion, according to James McNeal, a Texas A&M University professor. An entire industry has sprung up that's devoted solely to helping companies get their products in schools and to the kids. Fast food companies want to be able to get their views and product into children’s minds while they are vulnerable in order to build the cherished brand loyalty that lasts for a lifetime. They donate money and supplies to the schools but they are not doing it for nothing. These sponsored educational materials serve their purpose; getting their message to school kids. Alex Molnar writes, “Private profit is their motive behind funding for public education.” If they really wanted to be charitable they could just donate anonymously and unconditionally. Usually these educational materials come with a contract that allows their corporate name, logo and message to be displayed; sometimes even having their corporate mascot appear at certain sponsored events. A contract with the school districts is just that, a business arrangement. It really only benefits the two parties making the contract; the school district and the company, not the kids. The kids get caught in crossfire between the district balancing their budget and the company pushing their burger. With any advertisement or sponsorship comes the sponsors influence and point of view. The fast food companies will be influencing the way our children view food and any other view the fast food companies want to portray in their ads. Dee Gill, from The Houston Chronicle writes, “Corporate sponsors have offered up millions of dollars in equipment from classroom materials to computers—that help keep schools’ cost down. School boards don’t have to cut budgets, parents don’t have to pay more taxes and teachers don’t have to beg to get these much-needed items as often when corporations help. But the escalating involvement of corporations in schools has some educational experts worried. Everyone wins except the child who is subjected to the barrage of propaganda, argues Arnold Fege, director of government relations for the Washington based National Parent-Teacher association. Schools are supposed to be free marketplaces of ideas, Fege says. Corporations have vested interests in promoting their own products or their own point of view. Allowing a corporation to direct the learning process—through filmstrips, curriculum guides or whatever they provide—allows it to further its own agenda through vulnerable children, he says. Even the educational films that so many companies provide for schools can be dangerous propaganda he says. He asks the questions: Do parents want their kids to learn about the environment from oil companies? Do they want children to learn nutrition from fast food vendors? In such cases, he says, those sponsors have reasons to portray the facts with a slant favorable to their industries. ‘If they (corporations) really wanted to further education, they’d pay for it.’ He says. ‘How could you justify distracting kids with this garbage if you were really concerned about educating them better? ‘ The advertising companies that have spawned from the entrance of advertising into the school market are not shy in stating their intended purpose. One such company, Lifetime Learning Systems, which has worked with McDonald's, bills itself as, “the nation's recognized leader in the creation and dissemination of corporate-sponsored educational materials.” The promotional intent of the company's service is quite evident in its own literature: “School is the ideal time to influence attitudes, build long-term loyalties, introduce new products, test market, promote sampling and trial usage and above all, to generate immediate sales.” Does this sound like a company that has our kid’s interest at heart? Sounds more like someone who is taking advantage of most school districts need for supplies and contributions to get their foot in the door and their hooks in our kids. The companies they represent prey on our children’s naivety and immaturity in order to make money.
In conclusion, having fast food advertising in our schools does a disservice to our children. They are going to school to be educated, not sold things. Senator Patrick Leahy says, “It's our responsibility to make it clear that schools are here to serve children, not commercial interest.” We have to maintain the integrity of our schools and credibility of our teachers if we want our children to continue to learn. Teachers should not be influenced by corporate agenda when teaching. The single goal should be what’s best for the children. Children should be able to focus on learning without being inundated by advertisements. Teachers and administrators should set the agenda not outside commercial interests. We trust school officials and teachers to be surrogates for our children while in school, not pimps, prostituting their minds to the fast food nation for rulers and computers.
"Captive Kids: A Report on Commercial Pressures on Kids at School." Consumers Union 1995. Consumers Union. Web.
Gearan, Anne. "Channel One Ads Just a Portion of Commercialism in Schools." The Associated Press. 10 Dec. 1998. Web.
Gill, Dee. "The Business of Education;Subtle Seduction in Classrooms;Critics Say Earning-not Learning-is Corporate Motive." The Houston Chronicle 15 Mar. 1993, 2 STAR ed., sec. A: 1. Print.
Kanner, Bernice. "Advertising Infiltrates Schools." Journal of Commerce 28 Mar. 2000: 4. Print.
Lavelle, Louis. "Commerce in The Classroom;Do In-School Ads Exploit Children?" The Record [Bergen County, NJ] 7 Feb. 1999, News sec.: A01. Print.
Molnar, Alex. Giving Kids the Business: the Commercialization of America's Schools. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996. Print.