Should there be advertising in schools?

10 Nov

Joanna Lin of California Watch has written an interesting article which was posted at Huffington Post. In the article, Corporate Sponsorship In Schools Can Harm Students, Experts Say, Lin describes how cash strapped districts are using ad dollars to make up budget shortfalls.

For schools facing shrinking budgets, a branded scoreboard on the football field or advertisement on a school bus can bring some much-needed cash. But such corporate sponsorships also could undermine students’ critical thinking skills, education policy experts warn.

While commercialism in schools can directly harm students — marketing sodas and candy undermines nutrition curriculums, for instance — it also might discourage students from thinking critically about the brands, messages or topics sponsored in their schools, according to a report released by the National Education Policy Center.

The issue is whether children in a “captive” environment have the maturity and critical thinking skills to evaluate the information contained in the ads. Advertising is about creating a desire for the product, pushing a lifestyle which might make an individual more prone to purchase products to create that lifestyle, and promoting an image which might make an individual more prone to purchase products in pursuit of that image. Many girls and women have unrealistic body image expectations which can lead to eating disorders in the pursuit of a “super model” image. What the glossy magazines don’t tell young women is the dysfunctional lives of many “super models” which may involve both eating disorders and substance abuse. The magazines don’t point out that many “glamor girls” are air-brushed or photo-shopped and that they spend hours on professional make-up and professional hairstyling in addition to having a personal trainer and stylist. In other words, when presented with any advertising, people must make a determination what to believe.

Amy Aidman lists the types of advertising in schools in the article, Advertising in the Schools.


“Captive Kids,” a new report by the CUES (1995) summarizes the routes of commercial messages into schools, examines some of those messages, and discusses the meaning of the enormous influx of corporate-produced materials into the schools. The report, which is a follow-up to the earlier report, “Selling America’s Kids” (CUES, 1990), divides the examples of in-school commercialism into four categories:

IN-SCHOOL ADS. In-school ads are conspicuous forms of advertising that can be seen on billboards, on school buses, on scoreboards, and in school hallways. In-school ads include ads on book covers and in piped-in radio programming. Advertising is also found in product coupons and in give-aways that are distributed in schools.

ADS IN CLASSROOM MATERIALS AND PROGRAMS. Ads in classroom materials include any commercial messages in magazines or video programming used in school. The ads in “Channel One” fall into this category.

CORPORATE-SPONSORED EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS AND PROGRAMS. Promotional messages appearing in sponsored educational materials may be more subtle than those in the previous categories. Sponsored educational materials include free or low-cost items which can be used for instruction. These teaching aids may take the form of multimedia teaching kits, videotapes, software, books, posters, reproducible activity sheets, and workbooks. While some of these materials may be ad-free, others may contain advertising for the producer of the item, or they may contain biased information aimed at swaying students toward a company’s products or services.

CORPORATE-SPONSORED CONTESTS AND INCENTIVE PROGRAMS. Contests and incentive programs bring brand names into the schools along with the promise of such rewards as free pizzas, cash, points toward buying educational equipment, or trips and other prizes.

Here is the complete citation:

ERIC Identifier: ED389473
Publication Date: 1995-12-00
Author: Aidman, Amy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.

Advertising, if it is allowed in schools, must be handled with great care. It is not just the ads, it is the values that the individual ad and the totality of all ads represent. It is imperative that schools look at their values before approving ads. For example, are the ads promoting healthy nutrition and eating habits? Are the ads promoting an unrealistic body image for adolescents? Are the ads promoting a purely materialistic lifestyle which encourages purchases of high priced clothing, electronics, or vehicles which are not in line with the income of most children? Are the ads in line with the school or district’s mission statement?

Schools are looking at the fast buck situation and they are like many states who are looking at gambling and other “sin” activities to fill empty coffers. Problem is that with many fast buck remedies: “easy come, easy go.”

It is easy for children to get derailed because of peer pressure in an all too permissive society. The real answer is to fully fund education.


NEA Today: Cash-Strapped Schools Open Their Doors to Advertising

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

2 Responses to “Should there be advertising in schools?”

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