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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Ads help fund education, but at a steep cost”

    There’s no money in teaching. We’ve all come to accept that discouraging truth. Teachers have long purchased their own school supplies as the school’s budget evaporates too quickly. But now, in these desperate economic times, it seems that dipping into their pocketbooks won’t cut it any longer. Now teachers are having to think outside the box in order to cover their most essential classroom expenses.

    Last week the Associated Press reported that an Idaho teacher had struck a sponsorship deal with a local pizza shop in an effort to save money. The pizza parlor agreed to supply paper for the teacher’s five classes just as long as its ad appeared on each page. Ten thousand sheets of paper, enough for the rest of this year and all of next, cost the pizzeria $315.

    Jeb Harrison, who teaches history and economics at Pocatello High School, now hands out photocopies and exams with the ad printed along the bottom of every page. The ad reads MOLTO’S PIZZA 14″” 1 TOPPING JUST $5 in big, red, conspicuous letters.

    The school district in which Harrison teaches is facing a budget shortfall of nearly $10 million next year, and the district is tightening its belt by freezing spending on school supplies, teacher training and field trips. Because of this, one can hardly fault Harrison for donning the hat of an salesman, but really, is this what we’ve come to as a society? Are we willing to shortchange our children’s education for a few bucks?

    I concede that many of us are ourselves corporate spokeswhores, splattered with labels from head to toes. For the most part, it’s genuinely unavoidable in our society. Just look at the Nike swoosh and our athletics department, for instance. Or that new McClelland Park building. We’re all just walking billboards, and that’s fine. But I draw the line at educators having sell their classrooms in order to make ends meet.

    Susan Linn, a Harvard psychologist and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said, “”When teachers start becoming pitchmen for products, children suffer and their education suffers as well.”” I don’t know about you, but a big red ad for pizza at the bottom of the page would surely distract me while I was trying to concentrate on an exam.

    Moreover, it appears that the ad violates a district policy barring schools from directly promoting businesses, according to a chairwoman of the school board. But the district is too desperate for money to care, instead opting to ignore the violation.

    Beyond these concerns, though, lies a fundamental objection to the selling of ad space in the classroom. We should value education enough to fund it, period. If we can afford to bailout the automakers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, AIG and countless banks, we should be able to fund our schools. If we can fund trillion-dollar wars, why can’t we fund Jeb Harrison’s classroom without the help of ad revenue?

    Of course, like you, I know the answer to these questions. Our priorities are askew. We value F-22s more than books and paper. When the budget’s unbalanced, we place education on the chopping block first. It’s sad and unfortunate, but it’s true nonetheless. To us, education is optional and disposable.

    But as long as we consider education expendable, we’re hindering our collective future. We must realize that our future isn’t a bank with slipshod lending habits or a car manufacturer who makes inefficient and undesirable vehicles or a company that rewards incompetent executives with million-dollar bonuses. Our future is sitting in a classroom somewhere. Our future is learning from a teacher, not an ad salesman.

    Quite simply, the only thing teachers should promote is education. Enough is enough, it’s time for our schools for get their bailout once and for all.

    Let’s just hope the government isn’t counting on the nation’s pizzerias to bail out our struggling schools. Otherwise, we’re doomed.

    ÿJustin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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