Testimony presented to Seattle School Board, Sept. 6, 2000
by Alexandra Bradbury, Garfield High School senior
As a youth, I am legally required to attend school. The state has given a big block of my time to the school district. When the schools contract with an organization that advertises, like Channel One or N2H2, they are selling access to me -- essentially, selling my time.
For instance, my middle school had the Channel One commercial news program, which plays for twelve minutes per day. That works out to a total of 108 hours of my time that the school traded away in exchange for some TV equipment.
18 solid hours of that was advertisements. I rarely watch TV at home, but by the time I graduated eighth grade I could sing you various chewing gum jingles -- which means that Channel One's advertisers had in fact bought a little section of my mind.
And here's why this is important: My time was not given unconditionally to the schools. It is not a resource for the schools to exploit, even when they feel it's in my best interests. The schools could make even more money for education by selling my time to an employer, but they can't do that. Students' time, all of it, is given to the schools with the specific purpose of learning. Not learning to be a consumer--not even learning to be an employee--but learning to be a thoughtful and responsible and powerful citizen. That is what education in a democracy must be about.
Testimony by Dr. Brita Butler-Wall
I have two children in Seattle schools, I have spent the past 10 years as a
teacher educator, most recently at Seattle University School of Education,
and I am a sociolinguist who studies the relationship of language, power,
and education. For two years, I served as the state PTA chair of
'Commercial Influences on Children at School'.
We all know that marketers manipulate verbal and visual images to influence
children, and that in-school advertising is particularly bad for children.
Three facts are indisputable:
1. SEATTLE SCHOOLS ARE FULL OF ADVERTISING
Three years ago, the Seattle public schools were full of advertising and
commercial messages and commercial activities, as is well documented in a
report published by the Seattle Council of PTSA in July 1997. Since then,
commercialism has increased dramatically in the Seattle Schools:
- Internet banner ads
- New district-wide Coke deal
- Wall and bookcover advertisements in the elementary schools (e.g. boxes
of promotional items at Bryant's open house yesterday) (showed sample)
- Corporate 'sponsorship' logos everywhere
Currently, there is more advertising both in terms of sheer volume of ads
and in the wide variety of types of advertising in the Seattle Schools than
any time during its history.
2. THE SCHOOL BOARD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS SITUATION
As a policy-setting body, the School Board has the right and responsibility
to set policy on commercial activities in the schools, as noted by former
Seattle Schools attorney Mike Hoge.
3. THE SCHOOL BOARD HAS UNTIL NOW AVOIDED THIS RESPONSIBILITY.
On March 13, 1997, Don Nielsen proposed that the Superintendent research the
issue of commercialism in schools and make recommendations, and Stanford
appointed a committee of businesspeople, principals, district
administrators, teachers, parents, and citizens to such a committee. That
committee met monthly, with additional subcommittee meetings, for a year.
You were presented with that report in Sept. 1998. (see enclosed). No
action has been taken on that report, and in fact, newer school board
members have not received copies of it.
To Sum up: It is time for the Seattle School Board to acknowledge that it is
responsible for turning over Seattle schools to marketers.
4. THIS SCHOOL BOARD HAS A DE FACTO POLICY OF ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN WHILE
THEY ARE A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE AT SCHOOL.
Sometimes you let advertisers have at the children for free, sometimes you
barter with them for stuff, and sometimes you take cash payment. This is
completely wrong, for two reasons:
FIRST, Whether you charge corporations for this service or not, using public
facilities and public employees' time to increase profits for private
companies is a misuse of public funds and a corruption of public trust.
EVEN MORE IMPORTANT, Advertising to children while they are required by law
to attend school is unethical, immoral and exploitative. Advertising is by
definition one-sided and advertising to children at school is the opposite
of teaching them to think critically. Selling access to children's minds is
arguably no better than selling access to their bodies, and some people
would say is in fact worse.
We represent over 200 parents, educators, students, health care
professionals, lawyers, policy analysts, businesspeople and other citizens.
WE DEMAND THAT THE SEATTLE SCHOOL BOARD IMMEDIATELY ADOPT A COMPREHENSIVE
POLICY PROHIBITING COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY AND ADVERTISING IN SEATTLE PUBLIC
THE BURDEN IS NOW ON THE SEVEN OF YOU TO PROVE TO THE PUBLIC THAT YOU ARE
NOT EXPLOITING CHILDREN OR MISUSING PUBLIC FUNDS.
WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT AFTER REVIEWING THESE MATERIALS, AND SEARCHING YOUR
HEARTS, YOU WILL EACH MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION, AND WILL VOTE TO MAKE SEATTLE