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SCHOLASTIC INC. AGREES TO LIMIT CORPORATE-FUNDED TEACHING MATERIALS, BOWING TO PRESSURE FROM PARENTS AND TEACHERS
Leading educational publisher enacts wide-ranging reforms to its InSchool Marketing program in response to CCFC campaign demanding an end to corporate PR in classrooms
BOSTON -- August 1 -- In response to pressure from tens of thousands of parents, educators and grassroots advocates, Scholastic Inc. has agreed to drastically limit its practice of partnering with corporations to produce sponsored teaching materials. Scholastic’s announcement is the culmination of a three-month campaign led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
The publisher had been under fire since May, when it was forced to stop distributing a biased curriculum called “The United States of Energy” that was paid for by the coal industry and distributed to fourth-grade classrooms across the country. CCFC and Rethinking Schools called on Scholastic to drop the curriculum. After Scholastic capitulated, CCFC expanded the campaign—in concert with online social action platform Change.org—to lobby for sweeping reforms to Scholastic’s controversial InSchool Marketing division, which produced teaching materials sponsored by corporations, nonprofits and government agencies.
Last Thursday, Scholastic notified CCFC and Change.org of major changes to its InSchool Marketing Program, including:
- A 40% reduction in the materials produced by InSchool Marketing, with the overwhelming majority of those cuts coming from its corporate-sponsored programs.
- The creation of a Partner Review Board consisting of a curriculum editor, a teacher, a school administrator, a child psychologist, and a parenting expert to evaluate potential partners and review the content of sponsored programs.
- Required approval for all sponsored curriculum by the Partner Review Board.
The changes are highlighted in today’s New York Times. In addition, Scholastic confirmed to CCFC that it has ended a two-year partnership with SunnyD, in which the sugar-laden beverage was promoted in elementary school classrooms.
“We appreciate the significant steps Scholastic is taking to restore the trust of parents and educators,” said Dr. Susan Linn, Director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. “Distributing corporate PR disguised as teaching materials undermines learning and is one of the most insidious forms of in-school commercialism. As a result of this decision, students will be exposed to less corporate PR in classrooms this fall. It’s an important victory for children and anyone who believes that education should be commercial-free.”
Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing program has been used to market everything from ice cream to Hollywood movies in children’s classrooms. Clients have included McDonald’s, Cartoon Network, Shell, SunnyD, Nestle, and Disney. According to Scholastic, the program was designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.”
Supporters sent more than 57,000 emails to Scholastic via CCFC’s online Change.org petition to Scholastic. CCFC members participated in a “rally” on Scholastic’s Facebook page and overloaded Scholastic’s voicemail in a call-in day to the company headquarters. CCFC had also created a draft partnership policy for Scholastic, signed by noted academics and children's advocates.
CCFC thanked Change.org for its help in the campaign. “This victory would not have occurred without Change.org’s platform and its passionate and dedicated members,” Dr. Linn said.
“We’re happy to see that the tens of thousands of Change.org members who took action on this campaign had a real-world impact,” said Carol Scott, Senior Organizer for Education for Change.org. “The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is meeting a vital need in our society, and we were happy that Change.org could amplify their reach.”