This post originally appeared in the May 2009 edition of the Roundtable, the student newspaper of Stuart Hall High School
It is time to pause and reflect on the appropriateness of various kinds of connections between businesses and schools, and the influence those connections might have on the integrity of education in a democracy. ~ Amy Aidman
In an elementary school in Fort Collins, Colorado, advertisements for Lays chips line the hallways, cafeterias serve food from “Taco Bell” and “Pizza Hut,” and “Burger King” coupons are rewarded for acing spelling quizzes. The school was financially weak, so as an alternative to fund-raising, it let corporate dollars fund nearly everything.
In another school, “Pepsi Day” was held. In order to celebrate this special occasion, the students assembled in the playground and donned colored hats to form a gigantic Pepsi logo. One student, however, broke formation and shouted “COKE!” He was promptly suspended.
While the two cases mentioned above are without a doubt the most extreme cases of commercialism in education, the presence of a vending machine here at Stuart Hall greatly contributes to it. At a school where the students are taught to think critically and brutally tear apart advertisements, the presence of a vending machine seems counterintuitive at best. This is not a slippery-slope.
When a customer is young, it is easy to indoctrinate him or her with subliminal messages. From cradle to grave, we are bombarded with such messages and are expected to buy the products they advertise. Getting students to rely on their drinks during high school is critical to the future success of soft-drink companies because it makes students customers for life. Therefore, high schools are but a cog in the machine to maximize profits for multinational corporations.
"It seems absolutely crazy to have schools sponsor a habit that undermines students' health," ~ Micheal Jacobson
However, support for school's vending machines remains to be widespread. Purchasing soft drinks at the vending machine is far more convenient than carrying one's own drink to school. In addition, most students find that they are mature enough to make their own decisions about their diet. Looking at patterns in purchases also provides classes with interesting information about social effects in marketing.
“The vending machine itself lacks soda, instead it is comprised of healthier drinks like Vitamin Water” ~ Devan Patel
“Although Coke's Logo appears on the machine, the drinks that it sells come from numerous different companies.” ~ Diego Otero-Caldwell
By no means do I oppose the pursuit of profit. Businesses exist to make money, and I have no problem with that. The advertising schemes that have evolved over the years can be equated to the stalking of customers. At youth, people are far easier to influence, as they are ignorant to the intentions of others. Businesses capitalize off that ignorance by appealing to kids’ emotions and making them irrationally trust them. Thus, making them far less eager to think critically.
I therefore propose that the vending machine be removed from the Columbus Room. Such corporate impalement is unethical, and Stuart Hall should not be made into a cog in the soda machine.