Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Walmart presents: (insert some president’s name) Middle School

By on March 21, 2008

I once stood on a high horse about merchandizing in the schools for a long time.  I knew in the bottom of my heart that it was wrong.  But there’s a new whiff of possibility in the air.  Could it be?  An actual well-intentioned merging of private industry supporting public school programs?  You’ve got to see this innovative idea from TED (Technology Entertainment and Designers.)  Um, duh.   

Schools already receive funding for following NCLB, an agreement that has demanded our first-borns and our unborn children.  But if there is a fine line between private donations and big company sponsorship, perhaps schools should entertain crossing it.  For years our achievement has been crippled by the unreasonable demands and fractional budgets our schools have received from the federal government. Schools are like victims of abuse: you give them a little of what they need to survive, slap them down, them give them another small amount and they are grateful.  So, compared to the limited resources we have now, maybe getting in bed with Pepsi might not be so bad.  

However, when you look at a program such as TED, you get the impression that it’s more about the community stepping up and taking control of bettering themselves.  Perhaps we can’t be limited to taking money solely from the organizations that are approved by the by-laws of the Dept. of Ed.  Yes, it’s scary to be beholden to a private firm, yes we can predict its abuses.  After all, is not the issue of politicians being indebted to lobbyists the same thing?  But promises have been made to education and broken.  We are bizarrely beholden to follow NCLB when not enough funds have been given by the hand we keep urgently licking.
The issue here, of course, is survival.  And without the funds to provide for our children, the schools will have to find those funds in any way they can, even if that means trusting that those corporations who donate their ideas and money won’t ensnare them in mafia-esque expectations.  It also means predicting that we need to make rules about what the school stands for despite its possible acceptance of privately-funded support.  After all, a public school can’t and shouldn’t be beholden to a corporation seeking to make a it more homogenous or more focused on a specific religion’s theology.  But that’s what I like about TED’s program.

It pairs needs with possible funding sources.  It’s so dunce-head in its simplicity.  Don’t fund if you don’t approve.  

Maybe it will work this time.  Our trust of big government (on both sides of the political fence) has run out. We may have no choice but to trust big companies.  The Department of Education has already asked us to pay the price with our children.  What’s a vending machine or two in the quad comparatively?   

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