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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

This is ads. This is your brain on ads.



school_ads.gifWhat some view as the creeping commercialism in schools (read: ads on school buses; read: naming rights for cafeterias) is putting a damper on the development of critical thinking skills, according to the Commercialism in Education Research Unit at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The CERU has been monitoring trends in "schoolhouse commercialism" for many years, which is why we talked to one of its researchers for today's story about the school bus ads. But clearly, it has a lot more to say than the wee bit we were able to squeeze into the story. Here's an excerpt from its most recent report, released last month:

It is relatively easy to understand how corporate commercializing activities harm children educationally by undermining curricular messages (as when candy and soft drink ads contradict nutrition lessons) or by displacing educational activities (as when students spend time focused on a corporate contest rather than the curriculum). A less obvious, though perhaps more serious, educational harm associated with school commercialism is the threat it poses to critical thinking ...

It is not in the interest of corporate sponsors to promote critical thinking. Far from it: their interest is in selling their products or services or ―telling their story. Encouraging children to learn to identify and critically evaluate a sponsor‘s point of view and biases, to consider alternative points of view or products and services, or to generate and consider solutions to problems other than the ones sponsors offer would, from a corporate point of view, be self-defeating. For this reason, sponsored messages will necessarily avoid touching on anything that might lead to thinking inconsistent with the intended message.

On a related note, the report cited in today's story (from OPPAGA, the Legislature's research arm) also pointed out that some education officials oppose the use of advertising on buses for safety and legal reasons:

According to a National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services’ position paper, advertising on the outside of school buses is intended to catch the attention of passing motorists, and as a result, increases the risk that passing motorists will focus their attention on the ads and not notice that the school bus has stopped or that students are exiting the bus. The association also points out that it may be difficult to control the types of advertising on school buses, and the cost for a state or local school district to defend its advertising policies in court might exceed the revenue obtained from the advertising itself. The association cites these safety and legal concerns as the primary reasons it does not endorse advertising on the exterior of buses. The Florida Association for Pupil Transportation cites the same rationale for its opposition to this type of advertising.

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[Last modified: Thursday, December 29, 2011 9:37am]


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