Scholastic succumbs to the siren song of corporate sponsorship of education

If you’ve been to a public school lately, you can’t help but notice the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut signs in the cafeteria, the Pepsi machines in the hallway, the Harry Potter posters in the library and the Bratz book covers, all “to make school a better place”. Now one of the last bastions of children’s publishing has clearly been unable to resist the urge to shove their own advertising down the throats of our young children…

Today Scholastic, a huge children’s book publisher and marketing giant, sent out an invitation for teachers to sign up for their free “Class Homepage Builder” system. Have a peek:
Scholastic Class Homepage Builder and then read on…

In general, Scholastic is a good company and I applaud them taking on the task of trying to help teachers learn how to utilize the Web to better communications between the teacher and parents, and of course to inspire and engage children. However, why couldn’t they just stop at the small “Brought to you by Scholastic” on the top right of the class homepage produced by their system?

Instead, the layout includes a required element “Just for you from Scholastic” where they’re selling ad space. On the example page there’s an ad from Back to Basics Toys and an advert for the Scholastic monthly parent newsletter. It’s pretty darn hard to miss. Is it just the lure of innocent consumers with vast amounts of discretionary cash? The appeal of jamming ads into the main vehicle that teachers use to communicate with parents?

With some irony, here’s the Scholastic corporate mission statement: “Scholastic, the global children’s publishing and media company, has a corporate mission supported through all of its divisions of instilling the love of reading and learning for lifelong pleasure in all children. Recognizing that literacy is the cornerstone of a child’s intellectual, personal and cultural growth, Scholastic, for more than 80 years, has created quality products and services that educate, entertain and motivate children and are designed to help enlarge their understanding of the world around them.”

The sly inclusion of the Scholastic ad box makes me strongly recommend that teachers and schools stay far away from this tool, or, better, write to Scholastic CEO and President Richard Robinson asking that the company be true to its mission and remove the advertising from the Class Homepage Builder system. Go on: grab a notecard and write to Mr. Robinson at 557 Broadway, New York, New York 10012.

I can remember when I went to school and it was a much appreciated bastion, a fortress of learning where we were sheltered from the winds of commerce. Now it’s in the eye of the billion dollar hurricane, and oh, so much to the detriment of our children and their learning.

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