Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Corporatocracy In Action: Seeking Money, Texas Schools Turn to Advertisements

I guess it isn't enough that everyone who doesn't make a conscious decision to try to avoid being overexposed to our relentless media culture is now bombarded with advertising nearly every waking minute, nor that children are sucked into the hologram's vortex while still wearing diapers. In a desperate scramble to raise revenues, school districts in Texas have now decided to turn their school buildings and buses into billboards for corporate America. Here is the New York Times with the details:
The rooftop of a suburban high school is not a location that companies usually consider prime advertising real estate. But in Humble Independent School District, it may be. The district’s high school lies directly in a flight path for Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Although the rooftop plan has yet to come to fruition, Humble I.S.D. has already sold the naming rights to nearly every piece of its football stadium, including the entryway, the press box and the turf. Its school buses carry advertisements for the Houston Astros and local hospitals, among others.

The school district is pioneering a practice that an increasing number of districts across the state are adopting: selling advertisements on pieces of school property to help make up for some of the money lost through state budget cuts.

Advertising revenue can benefit school districts that primarily have two sources of income — what they receive from local taxpayers and what they get from the state and federal governments.

But with school leaders under pressure to find creative financing sources and few state-level guidelines about what is appropriate, some researchers who study the impact of ads in schools question whether schools fully grasp the consequences of commercialism creeping into public schools.

The proliferation of companies like Steep Creek Media, which acts as a middleman between districts and would-be advertisers, has made it simpler for schools to get into advertising. Steep Creek offers an attractive proposition for schools — and business is booming, according to its owner and founder, Cynthia Calvert, who represents 35 districts and has had to turn down handfuls of clients.

In exchange for what usually amounts to a cut of 40 percent of the profits, the company lures potential advertisers with a diverse menu of placements: on buses, textbook covers, in-school television monitors, scoreboards and Web sites.

Districts have the ultimate say over what ads they accept, but Steep Creek handles all the work in between, including graphic design.

Easier access to advertisers may not always translate to a more thoughtful process for schools, however.

“There doesn’t seem to be a real handle on the part of the school districts for what they are getting into,” said Faith Boninger, a researcher with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who studies how advertising in schools affects students.

Ms. Boninger said many districts entered into advertising agreements with an attitude of “let’s do it, we need the money” without understanding the psychological and educational costs to students.

Having advertisements in schools is not consistent with the teaching of critical thinking, Ms. Boninger said. And what is being sold — fast food, for instance — can run counter to subjects being taught, like nutrition. She added that the polarized gender stereotypes and materialist perspectives that may come with exposure to advertisements had been shown to harm students’ self-esteem.
Gee, ya think? If anything, advertising is the antithesis of critical thinking. Its whole aim is to get people to respond emotionally and impulsively and then act in a way that is likely NOT in their best interest. (My God, Loser, if you don't go into hock in order to buy our shitty product, then you aren't cool and all your friends are gonna LAUGH at you!) It is in no way, shape or form conducive to learning and would not be allowed anywhere near a classroom in any society that was serious about educating its young people.

It's no accident that during the past couple of generations as television, advertising and now the Internet have become more and more sophisticated, our public discourse has corroded so dramatically. Whacked out charlatans like Lyndon LaRouche used to be ostracized from mainstream political discourse. Nowadays, however, the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry are treated by the media as serious presidential candidates despite routinely making reality challenged pronouncements that would have made even LaRouche blush. That can only happen in a society in which reason and logic are no longer valued by a substantial percentage of the population.

It's a sad state of affairs, and I see no indication that it is going to turn around for the better any time soon.

Bonus: It was bad enough when they started using the media to try and "educate" us dumbasses back in the 1970s...thinking back on it, these silly videos never helped my learning one damn bit even though I'd seen them so many times I could recite the songs by heart


  1. "...a society in which reason and logic are no longer valued by a substantial percentage of the population".

    So true and horrifying. I see this wherever I go and sometimes it makes me feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone or some kind of fever dream. I recently was told by someone, when I politely pointed out objective and easily observable facts, that what I was saying wasn't in her 'truth'. Critical thinking and self-reflection be damned! More and more I observe people that not only do not value critical thinking and logic but actually despise it, even becoming angry about it in ordinary discussion. Our society really has become demented.

  2. If the schools need money they should install cigarette vending machines. Then the kids could have a smoke when on break from cleaning the bathrooms.

  3. I don't really care about the advertizements, the bigger problem is the fleets of thousands of school buses in Texas.

    Texas is huge and has a lot of 'unified' school districts, whereby small towns and outlying communities conglomerate into these unified monstrosities with farflug students living many miles away from the schools in every direction.

    So the districts provide buses to drive these kids all over the county getting them to school and back.

    When my kids were in a ruralish Texas school, one of the districts' biggest expenses was running all those buses. Not books or buildings or teachers, but buses. School districts were transportation companies.

    It's the structure of the whole unified school fiasco forcing students into schools far from their homes that is the problem. Just another facet of the great American meme ~bigger is always better~

    Why build three small schools to serve a community, when you can construct one behemoth institution and bus the kids (and their property tax payments) to a centralized warehouse for students?