Parents, Teachers to Scholastic: Stop Sneaking Corporate Marketing into Classrooms

Date of Release: 

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011
Contact:
Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh@commercialfreechildhood.org)
Jess Leber (516-658-9606; jess@change.org)
For Immediate Release

Parents, Teachers to Scholastic: Stop Sneaking Corporate Marketing into Classrooms
After Scholastic Pulls Coal Industry-Sponsored Curriculum, 50,000 Sign On to Demand Scholastic Dump Corporate-Funded Educational Materials

BOSTON -- May 23 -- Following a successful campaign that convinced Scholastic to stop distributing a fourth grade curriculum paid for by the coal industry, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is urging the educational publisher to retire its controversial InSchool Marketing division.  The 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, Disney and the corporate-funded Chamber of Commerce.  According to Scholastic, the program is designed “to promote client objectives” and “make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.”  After pulling its coal materials, Scholastic also announced that it will review its policies and editorial procedures on all sponsored classroom materials. 

“This is a critical moment for anyone who cares about quality education,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn.  “We are pleased that Scholastic acknowledged that its partnership with the American Coal Foundation was a mistake.  And now it’s time for the company to stop creating and distributing any teaching materials designed to promote the interests of corporate clients to a captive audience of students.”

As Scholastic conducts its review, CCFC is urging its members and anyone concerned about the commercialization of education to weigh in.  In a petition hosted on Change.org and CCFC’s website, more than 50,000 advocates for children and commercial-free education have already urged Scholastic to stop distributing all corporate and industry-sponsored teaching materials.

“We were taken aback by the flood of outraged comments from teachers, educators, parents and even textbook authors who found out about Scholastic's InSchool Marketing program through this Change.org petition," said Jess Leber, editor for Change.org.  "Many felt their trust in Scholastic had been violated."

“It is absolutely horrifying to me, as a mother, an educator, and a PTA board member, that a trusted, child-friendly company like Scholastic would knowingly sell our children's minds to the highest bidder,” said Christine George of Virginia Beach, Virginia.  

Scholastic’s InSchool Marketing division packages and distributes corporate-sponsored materials as learning opportunities for students, often touting alignment with national standards.  For example, in partnership with Nestle it produced the Creativity Power Push curriculum, designed to promote Nestle Push-Up Ice Cream.  Promoted as meeting national standards for grades 2-4 in language arts and math, Creativity Power Push urged students to visit a branded Nestle website and enter a contest by creating their own design for Push-Up tubes.  Similarly, materials distributed last fall to elementary schools to promote the release of the DreamWorks/Paramount film Megamind were marketed as helping students learn to “read with expression.”  Suggested activities included having children act out scenes from the upcoming movie by reading from worksheets branded with the film’s characters

“It’s bad enough that Scholastic is promoting movies and ice cream to a captive audience of students,” said Dr. Linn.  “But disguising these ads as learning opportunities undermines children’s education.”

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