Commercial Advertising in Schools: Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Philadelphia is considering a bill proposal which would allows advertising on school property. Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen submitted testimony to The Philadelphia City council today condemning advertising in schools for two big reasons: It's detrimental to education and a paltry source of extra revenue.

“Commercial advertising undermines the fundamental mission of schools to empower children to think independently and develop problem solving skills,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Children are already surrounded by near-constant advertising that promotes materialism. But the ubiquity of commercialism is not a reason for allowing school advertising – it is a reason why children need a sanctuary where they can focus on learning,” he added.

Schools that are hurting for money thought revenue from advertising would become a cash cow. Hardly. In a report from last year, entitled "School Commercialism: high Costs, Low Revenues," Public Citizen surveyed the 25 largest school districts. No advertising program reported raiding more than .03% in revenue.

What's worse, some private agencies who act as middlemen between school district and advertiser, are skimming 20-50% off the top, according to the findings.

We applaud Public Citizen because we take the same stance. Advertising has no business in schools. All the things we want to protect our kids from (sex, violence, junk food, unreasonable standards for beauty) are found in ads on a daily basis.

There's a school down the street from me that was built by an oil company. The entire school feels like it's one big ad for that oil company. You can argue that the oil company did a good thing in building the school (and it's a pretty good one) but I still take issue with it, just as I took issue with the fact Coke donated a score board to my high school-- complete with the big red coke logo, of course.

Is that really worth .03% in revenue?

What's worse is the fact the school districts hide behind "the children," when in fact we know the revenue they keep desperately searching for is only going to go to "the pensions."

In Los Angeles where I live, the majority of schools in the L.A. Unified District are so horrible that one has to pay the equivalent of an Ivy League college tuition just to send a child to a proper high school where they might actually learn something. Either that or live in or or two neighborhoods were the schools aren't completely awful.

But it's not because enough money isn't being thrown at the school district. No, the problem is the money is being thrown into the already bloated pensions of underperforming teachers and the kids never see it.

I wish a public policy group like Public Citizen would get on that issue, too, as it's a much bigger deal in my opinion.

AnonymousCoward's picture
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Tom Megginson's picture

You had me until the very end. I wouldn't blame teacher pensions. They're negotiated for by unions, and are part of their overall compensation package (which means they compromised other benefits to get them.) If anything, I think teachers should be paid much more so that it becomes a highly competitive profession. My wife is a teacher in Ontario, Canada, and she had to work her ass off in her 20s to get an opportunity to be a well-paid public school teacher.

My biggest problem with education is that governments like to talk about it, but are not prioritizing it enough. There is nothing more important, except for healthcare. If public schools where you live are so bad that private is the only option, then government is failing to provide one of the basic services for a successful and happy society. It's simply unacceptable, especially in a first world nation.

kidsleepy's picture

We live in two different countries, Tom. I'm not about to compare what goes on in Ontario with what goes on here in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, etc. I can't speak to Canada; I'm sure the education is much better up there. (Except for in Quebec which underfunds the English language schools in favor of the French ones, and passed a law dictating what kind of school you can send your kids to.)

But let's put aside Canada for a minute and stick with The States For instance, Los Angeles and California in general have one of the worst standards for education in the country. The drop out rate is atrocious. The level of science and reading comprehension is worse so the 'typical' states such as Alabama and Mississippi. And yet we have the largest budget going towards "education." Keeping in mind, California's budget is larger than a lot of countries. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why do you think with all the money California throws at education, the education is still bad? Is it really that we're not spending enough?

Where does the money go? I can tell you it sure as hell doesn't go to anything regarding real education here. They already raised our taxies again last year, so they are throwing more money at the issue. And yet it doesn't change? I'm not naive enough to believe we're not spending enough. Instead I'm following the money.

Here's something else: We have had multiple, and I mean multiple teachers in Los Angeles who have recently been imprisoned for child molestation after getting away with it for years. And guess what? Thanks to the teacher's union, they keep their pension. Their reward is the same as a law abiding teacher who actually does their job well. By the way, these arrests only came after years of being sheltered by the school baord and the union. They were still allowed to teach while under investigation in some cases. For molestation! Excuse me if I don't think the teacher union is God's gift to education.

If you are anything like your wife, and I'm willing to bet that you are, then I am absolutely sure that she is a fantastic teacher. And she should be. Actually, all teachers should be. But that's the problem. There are plenty of bad teachers out there, too. Not just on the "I molest your kids," scale like the ones her but in "i don't give a rat's ass about your kids' education," too. We don't like to talk about them for fear it undermines the good teachers. But we need to. We need to shout about them, as much as we put the good ones on pedestals because they are an issue. We absolutely need to kick the ones who aren't up to the standard out of the school. Until this happens nothing will change. And if I were a good teacher, I'd be screaming about it, too.

If you haven't seen it, you should watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman," to see what I mean. Whatever the education is like in Canada, it's nothing like the cesspool that is American education. Period.

Tom Megginson's picture

Thanks for responding, KS. It is, indeed, two different countries. My ideal (because I believe to much of what I read online) is Finland, where teaching is considered a great calling and people work really hard to attain that status.

We have bad teachers in Canada as well. I'd love to see them moved aside to make room for great new ones. Unions have their good, bad, and ugly. But one thing I cannot stand is that we have also cast our lot with standardized testing as a measure of teacher performance. This only creates an incentive for teachers to want only the best students in their classes, and for principals to not want students with learning differences.

I don't think we're that much apart in opinion — I think our mileage (kilometrage?) is what differs.



Dabitch's picture

Tom, for a movie night a recommend Waiting for Superman and a box of Kleenex. The documentary film because it's quite good with ace animations to carry the story told, and the kleenex because watching kids not win the lottery at the end of the docu will break your heart.

* probably infringing Vimeo copy of the entire Superman documentary can be found here

kidsleepy's picture

Kilometers? Never heard of it. :)

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