Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Michelle Obama pushes token advertising restrictions while ignoring research that calls for more

The National Education Policy Center has just come out with their latest report about the impact on advertising in schools and how it has a negative effect on education. This is just one of many studies into this problem including some from Susan Linn, Juliet Schor and Roy Fox among others. These researchers have far more peer review than the lobbyists that have much more access to government officials including Barack and Michelle Obama. The following is an excerpt from the article introducing the full report.

While Policymakers Do Little, Marketers Are Busy in Schools

BOULDER, CO (March 11, 2014) -- Schoolhouse commercialism continues virtually unabated, despite the harm it does, and neither federal nor state lawmakers are moving to further control the practice, according to a new report released today.

The pervasiveness of commercialism in education has become so broad, its threat so great, and its reported benefits so minor that the report’s authors call on policymakers to ban any such activity unless an independent, disinterested body can certify that it does not harm children’s education.

The recommendation is contained in Schoolhouse Commercialism Leaves Policymakers Behind – The Sixteenth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism: 2012-2013. The report is published today by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

This year’s report, by Professor Alex Molnar along with Faith Boninger, Joseph Fogarty, and Ken M. Libby, is the latest produced by Professor Molnar, who has been studying schoolhouse commercialism for more than two decades. Molnar, Boninger and Libby are all affiliated with the CU Boulder. Fogarty is principal of Corballa National School in County Sligo, Ireland.

At the root of the threat commercialism poses to education is its very nature, the authors write. Commercialism is “a value system that promotes profit above all other concerns and that seeks to transform all relationships into commodities that can be exchanged for money,” they point out. Consequently it “poses profound threats to the well-being of children and the civic purposes of public education.”

Given the threats of its harm, lawmakers and other policymakers, including school officials themselves, might be expected move forcefully to rein it in, they write – yet they have not done so. The authors suggest a combination of reasons for that: fierce corporate opposition to such legislative or regulatory restrictions, and lack of concern, particularly on the part of the education sector itself. Complete article

A couple of weeks ago Michelle Obama was Pushing Ban on Junk Food Advertising in Schools which is extremely limited in it's scope and it ignores some of the biggest problems which is explored in the enormous amount of research about the negative impact that corporate advertising is having on schools and even that it is impacting the curriculum that is being taught.

Instead of consulting with either The National Education Policy Center or Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, founded by Susan Linn they seem to have consulted with Change Lab Solutions, which I have not previously heard of myself. They seem to cite the following potential roadblock to reform; however they don't seem to do nearly as good a job trying to overcome it as they could or should nor do they seem concerned about the vast majority of additional advertising in school that causes major problems.

“Although the First Amendment restricts what government can do about advertising in public places, a well-crafted law prohibiting all marketing activities or the marketing of certain types of products at schools would likely survive a First Amendment challenge,” it said. “Because of the unique educational mission of schools, the First Amendment leaves a lot of leeway for the government to regulate the types of commercial messages that are allowed on school grounds.” Complete article

In several previous posts including The First Amendment Often Protects Bribes More Than Speech I cited an attempt by Adbusters to by some tome to promote a "buy nothing day" but the networks refused to air it. The courts apparently ruled that although Adbusters has the right to free speech the networks aren't under any obligation to allow them to use the public airwaves to promote their views and Adbusters was limited to the internet and much lower profile methods. I don't know whether or not they tried to promote this suggestion in schools but I doubt if the courts would be more sympathetic to them their.

If the networks can refuse to sell time for views they don't agree with why should schools be able to if they have an enormous amount of research to prove that it is the best interest of children not to put corporate advertising ahead of education, which is what schools are supposed to be for?

If anything it should obviously be the other way around. The government gave the commercial access to the public airwaves free of charge; when they first did this they required some degree of public service, although it wasn't nearly as much as they should have. That limited amount of public service in return for free access to the exclusive access the the airwaves has been eliminated in the movement to "deregulate" or what some people including Robert McChesney call it "reregulate" in favor of corporate interests that happen to donate an enormous amount of money to campaigns.

The bigger problem clearly isn't that they're censoring advertising; it is that by limiting the more credible research to sources that have a much lower profile and providing little or no coverage of them in the traditional media they're censoring them. the cost of adverting is a business expense which is passed on to consumers; so since consumers ultimately pay for those ads, if anything they're the ones that should be partially limited or held to accuracy in advertising standards.

Corporations clearly seem to have much more right to free speech or to censor those they disagree with than people.

This isn't the first time that Michelle Obama has put corporate interests ahead of the best interest of children or the majority of the public, while pretending to look out for their best interests. Over a year ago she went to Wal-Mart to promote her "Lets Move" campaign, which might seem very good to some people, and in some ways it is, but it also has serious problems. Wal-Mart has been using this in what looks like an ad since then on their website, "First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates Walmart’s Progress on Making Food Healthier and More Affordable." It recieved much more media attention at the time which also appears as an ad in most cases since most of it wasn't critical; however one notable exception is, "Why is Michelle Obama praising Wal-Mart in Springfield, Mo.?"

Wal-Mart only gets a small percentage of their produce from relatively local sources and an enormous amount of it isn't nearly as fresh as their advertisements say they are; on top of that they have had numerous problems with recalls of bad food and other issues and (Dangerous Ingredients:) 54% of Food Sold at Walmart is Banned by Whole Foods Market; not that I think Whole Foods Market is probably the best source for food; I suspect that many small local outlets are even better.

The Obama administration and many other politicians have been doing much more than this to restore an oligarchy system run by what we used to call Robber barons, and they are no longer even doing a good job pretending to pass on the advantages of "competition" to consumers. Instead they have decided up the market and forced workers to compete against each other around the world without passing on much if any benefit to consumers except in a few minor examples where people speak out loud enough to get token amounts of reform or merchandise replacements when they fall apart due to incredibly shoddy manufacturing.

In addition to the research done by The National Education Policy Center there is more at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and although I haven't been peer reviewed as well as they I have also covered this more under the author tag "Marketing to Kids," with many more citations along with my own comments. This research indicates that advertising has all the characteristic of indoctrination and instead of educating children they're encouraging them to becoming obsessed with buying as much as they can without scrutinizing the accuracy of the ads. In the most extreme cases they're almost certainly contributing to annual black Friday riots and even incidents where kids are being killed over "$200 Air Jordan's;" many of these children don't realize that the $200 value is based almost entirely on advertising and that the sneakers or any other product aren't worth nearly as much as advertising seems to imply.

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