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Schools Urged To Review Business-Issued Materials

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School officials should look more critically at business involvement in schools, and should carefully review business-sponsored teaching materials and incentive programs for their educational value, according to a new policy statement from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Although the association's statement does not mention any company by name, officials said it was prompted in part by the debate this past year over Whittle Communications' "Channel One"--the in-school television news program for students slated to begin nationwide in March that will include paid advertising.

"I think it casts real doubt on whether you ought to compel children on public-school time to watch ads," Gordon Cawelti, executive director of ascd, said of the association's policy statement.

Written by Task Force

The association represents 138,000 supervisors, curriculum specialists, administrators, and other educators nationwide. The statement was written by a task force last summer and approved by ascd's executive council in October. It was published in the December/January issue of the association's magazine, Educational Leadership.

The statement notes that an increasing number of businesses that market products ranging from "hamburgers to mouthwash to candy bars" are offering schools materials such as "learning packets," wall posters, computer programs, games, and stickers. (See Education Week, October 12, 1988.)

These materials usually are provided free of charge and may be attractively packaged and address topics of current interest. But the statement warns that such materials may be biased.

Pretext for Advertising

"Business-supplied materials on topics such as economics, nutrition, energy, and environmental issues have been especially controversial in the past," the group said.

Many of the materials, it added, are little more than "a pretext for product or corporate advertising."

The statement also warns schools to avoid participating in incentive programs that "tacitly endors[e] consumption habits that contradict important parts of [their] own curriculum message."

These incentive programs have also grown in recent years, with firms offering, for example, free pizzas for student achievement.

Such programs tend to support a "simplistic view of teaching and learning in which material reward is tacitly accepted as the principal basis for enhancing student motivation," according to the statement.

It is "always preferable" for schools to develop their own supplementary teaching materials, the statement declares, and to seek the help of the business community where appropriate.--mw

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