This education brought to you by Pepsi
It seems a lot like something out of a science fiction novel. In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, student projects and schools are sponsored by corporations that snap up the brightest pupils as employees and keep many of the others as life-long customers. It’s not a pretty picture, and one that if implemented could definitely lead down a slippery slope.
The proposed plan, which would allow corporate naming of spaces inside schools, would help individual schools to rely less on the board for funding.
The CBE says that they will have regulations in place, such as thoroughly vetting an organization or corporation that wishes to sponsor a classroom. The trustees will have the ultimate say in each case of sponsorship, and they can veto their decision at any time.
The extra funds would go towards career and technology style programs at school – for example, the latest labs with shiny new equipment could be named after a pharmaceutical company.
Advertising to children can be pretty unethical. Kids are easily influenced, and the idea of them being bombarded with ads daily in a place that should be free from outside influences is upsetting. There are a number of guidelines towards advertising to children in Canada (in Quebec, it’s even illegal to advertise to kids under the age of 12). Bypassing those guidelines by finding a sponsorship loop hole is shady behaviour.
Adults are more informed to make decisions about products – they have a higher degree of media literacy, and are equipped with the tools to see if they should buy in or not. Kids, on the other hand, are much more easily swayed. Also, there’s a reason cigarette companies and alcohol companies often get in trouble for attempting to advertise to children – if you hook them early, they can become a lifetime customer.
There’s also the concern about whether or not the proposed sponsorship would influence the education taking place. I feel like a class on the environmental concerns about Alberta’s oil sands would be a lot less effective with a huge Shell banner hanging overhead.
If there’s one place that should be objective, and not swayed by the interests of deep pockets, it’s a school. The CBE should think this over and get their funding elsewhere.