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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The Back-to-School Pitch

By Rick Hess — September 03, 2015 3 min read
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I’m privileged to blog for Education Week and to be an editor for the journal Education Next. I especially appreciate having a slew of interesting stuff find its way to me. I get insights and information from people who work in districts, schools of ed, and state and federal agencies. I get books, the heads-up on new research and papers, and advisories on new programs and ventures. But the price of these perks is that I also suffer through a steady flow of fairly painful PR missives. Sometimes, people who don’t have to suffer through all these are curious about what they say and what they’re pitching. Since the start of school brings these out in special force, it seemed a propitious time to share a few.

I quite enjoyed “Pitch: Princess Cupcake Jones Boosts Your Child’s Learning Potential.” It asked: “What’s the most important trait you’d like to develop in your child? If you’re like most parents, intelligence is probably at the top of your list. [RH: Seriously? If you’re getting a job as a PR associate, seems like you should be able to do better than that!] As a parent, you have the power to boost your children’s learning potential simply by making the Princess Cupcake Jones books an essential part of their lives. . . In the first book of the series, The Missing Tutu, Cupcake helps to teach enhanced concentration and discipline mixed with the importance of cleaning up after yourself. . . The Princess Cupcake Jones books are not only fantastic reading experiences, but all three books also consist of subtle positive messages within each colorfully illustrated page. The word ‘LOVE’ is hidden in each page to remind each child what really matters most.”

Concise, but a bit opaque, was the pitch for “The subconscious: a teacher’s port in the storm.” It read, in its entirety, “Back to school is a crazy busy time for teachers. Luckily, the brain has a hidden tool that can help. [RH: I’ll admit that I had never, ever thought of my subconscious as a “hidden tool.” Consider me hooked.] Four ways the subconscious is wiser than the conscious mind: Objectivity, Unwavering moral values, Great pool of knowledge, Perfect performance. May I connect you with Felicia Drury Kliment, author of The Subconscious: Your Port in the Storm for an interview on how to help teachers harness the subconscious?”

The pitch for “Lowe’s Education Toolbox Program” was more intriguing than I’d expected. It reads, “Lowe’s has teamed up with the teacher known for the ‘I Wish My Teacher Knew’ innovative [sic] to start a letter-writing campaign to improve schools across America. Letters to Lowe’s encourages teachers to share their students’ ideas on how to improve their schools. Lowe’s will select 10 finalist schools and then invite the public to vote for which 4 schools should receive a $25,000 grant. We’re glad to get you interviews with those involved and hope that you can help us spread awareness of this program in an upcoming post!” [RH: I’m racing to line up an interview even as I type. Oh, yeah!]

Admirably crass was, “Media Opportunity: Many Consumers Turn to the Web for Back to School Shopping.” The pitch explained, “In some states, children have already gone back to school, and many others will follow in the weeks to follow. [RH: Is it just me or is this a pretty desperate lead? It feels like someone’s fifth-grader penned this for them.] For many kids, the new school year comes with purchasing new school supplies and updating their wardrobe. . . ‘The rise of mobile friendly websites and apps have made it easier for people to shop online for back to school,’ said Hugh Sinclair of Shopping Blitz, an online marketplace offering over 400 of the world’s top brands of clothing, shoes, accessories and lifestyle products. [RH: Wow! This makes them sound like just the folks I want to trust for an honest, disinterested take on online shopping.] ‘By shopping online you can easily find everything you are looking for and compare items and prices without having to leave the comfort of your home.’” Thankfully, the pitch assured me that “Hugh Sinclair of Shopping Blitz is currently available to discuss the benefits of online shopping for back to school, as well as the leading brands of clothing and accessories for the new school year.”

Anyway, as I read these, I feel like there’s something to be learned here. Though, for the life of me, I can’t put my finger on what it might be.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.