I always loved book fairs as a child. My mother served as school librarian for a few years so I had the privilege of helping her set up these magical affairs. And there was something magical about seeing all of those Scholastic boxes filled to the brim with new books. The smell of the paper, the bright colors of all the bookmarks and erasers, the excitement of my peers as we’d scour the racks looking for the next book in a series. (I was a Goosebumps fan myself.) So imagine how disheartened I was to receive a petition from Change.org telling me that Scholastic (the king of the bookfairs) had sold out and was letting corporations write curriculum and lesson plans.
It’s true though. The company I know and loved as a child is now using its position in schools as a middle man for big business. A well paid middle man. Scholastic has a program called InSchool Marketing. It’s exactly as it sounds. A company gives Scholastic money and that company gets face time in lesson plans, educational maps, and worksheets all given freely to teachers. Only it’s not called marketing when it’s given to the teachers. They throw out phrases like “increases reading comprehension” and “improves general awareness”. It’s appalling.
I don’t know how much Wet Ones paid, but Scholastic did a fantastic job writing up a unit plan for them. As you can see here it includes a free classroom poster, various classroom activities including sing-along songs that mention Wet Ones, a school supply list, and other worksheets brazenly displaying the Wet Ones logo. Their targeted audience? Kindergarten classes learning about germs.
That’s just one of many companies paying top dollar to have access to your kids. The reason why the petition I received got so much attention was a program called the United States of Energy. It included a map that showed what type of energy was used and where. It was quite helpful in listing all the benefits of using coal. Curiously it listed none of the problems of coal, like pollution and the risks to public health. If you haven’t already guessed it was paid for by the American Coal Foundation. The ACF was terribly proud of the curriculum. It’s been in circulation for 3 years and has reached 62,000 teachers in the classroom and 82,000 teachers online. This time the materials were for 4th graders.
Those are just two examples. Scholastic has partnered with various corporations including Sunny D, McDonalds, Nintendo, Mint.com, Shell, Bing, even doctor directories. The reasons why this is wrong are numerous. Kids see enough advertisements outside of school, they don’t need to be bombarded with them in class. We trusted Scholastic. They provide books to students; books that are meant to inspire creativity not inspire shopping trips. If you haven’t seen it already, I advise you to check out the petition. Scholastic has agreed to drop the coal sponsored lesson plans but the InSchool program remains. As long as education is for sale in America, free thought isn’t safe.