Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Fund Raising

There would be a big picture of cookies right here if I'd ever thought to take one when I bake.

Today the principal at my school insisted that I attend the kick off promotion for our school's cookie dough fundraiser.

I understand budgets are tight.  I understand schools need to fund raise. However, I don't understand why fund raising by schools, institutions that hold responsibility for reflecting the highest moral standards while developing the skills of tomorrow's citizens, should model that it's just fine to throw those values out the window when it comes to raising money.

I'm thinking there are a lot of parents who love their kids who need to attend these kick off promotions. Hours later I'm still appalled at the absolute immorality and overt emotional manipulation of that presentation!  I've tried to avoid the presentation in past years because the salesman comes in and gets the kids so over excited that very little learning can take place for the rest of the day.  Apparently this particular salesman thinks that by offering every teacher a cookie on the way in, their brains will become so clouded by the kind gesture--or the sugar in the cookies--that they'll fail to recognize how manipulative the presentation is.  I arrived late since I didn't go until I received a call from the office telling me the principal wanted me to be there--still was offered a cookie.
The salesman comes in with a fancy multimedia presentation that contains all the elements of the sleaziest strategies devised by our nation's advertisers.  I missed the beginning of the presentation.  What I did see on screen were beautiful teenage girls in clothes that I wouldn't let my daughter wear and whose brains obviously had  been affected by too much sugar--just suggestive enough to excite most 5th or 6th grade males (and any younger ones who've been sexually compromised) and  girls of any age who long to be cool teenagers. I should have counted how many less than honorable marketing strategies were used, but I was so shocked I didn't think to count them.  At one point the salesman informed the students that if they wanted to be leaders, this was their chance and implied that if they didn't sell a lot of cookie dough, they weren't going to be leaders. Of course, sales of cookie dough qualify students for all kinds of purportedly wonderful "prizes"--merchandise that rewards sales of hundreds of dollars of cookie dough with perhaps a total of $10 in inferior quality goods.

The most amazing prize?  An "excuse machine"  with message options such as a ringing telephone, static, an adult's voice, etc. so that when kids can't get off the phone they can push a button, play a message and say, "I gotta go.  I'll call you later." Hmmm...what became of the old strategy--teaching kids to have enough backbone to say, "I'm sorry, but I need to go now" and ending the conversation?

No one is told how much profit the school earns on the cookies (or how much profit the salesman earns) on every bucket of cookie dough.  Personally, I always ask students selling for fundraisers how much profit they earn and what the funds will be used for--and then I usually write the school a donation check for a reasonable amount.  I don't need any inferior or over-priced merchandise, but I do understand the need to raise funds.

As a Christian (and this would be true even if I weren't one), I can't avoid wondering where the moral line is.  I now know that I work with "educational leaders" who think the end justifies the means and who think it's fine to require students to attend presentations that could not meet the criteria taught in  any respectable media literacy program for recognizing and avoiding misleading and untruthful advertising.

I'm urging parents to find out when those fund raising promotion presentations will be made to their sons and daughters, to attend them, and to voice their concerns about them.

Very scary....


Susan said...

Amen! I taught Pre-K at a private Christian school for five years and it seems that every month they were asking us (the kids and teachers) to sell one thing or another. I got tired of it and told them that I would no longer participate in the fundraisers. If they wanted to cut my pay, fine, but if I had to be a salesperson then I would just quit teaching and sell Avon for a living!

Dora, the Quilter said...

Oops! And here I've been thinking that when I finally have in enough years to retire and survive, I'd go teach at a sweet little Christian school that actually upholds high moral standards.
Maybe I'm just dreaming!

lw said...

Your post should be signed by the parents and then mailed to the principal. The manipulation is bad enough, the scantily clad teens are worse. No wonder so many families home-school.

My daughter Carolyn had one fund raiser after another when she was in HS; there just seemed to be no money. It turned out the school accountant was embezzling it all.

Camilla said...

When I was in primary school in the 80's, the fundraisers involved "pledges for balloons" and a balloon release event. I refused to participate (with my parents backing) and made a fuss, and the teacher tried to give me two balloons so I wouldn't feel left out.

I was utterly incensed, and it took the school another ten years to officially catch on to the environmental implications of balloon releases.

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