Idaho Teacher Sells Ads on Tests: “A” for Creativity or “F” for Crossing Boundaries?

In an effort to save the district money, a Pocatello High School teacher decided to advertise a local pizza shop by promoting the business on paper he uses in the classroom. The restaurant provided 10,000 sheets of paper that included a company logo, and the teacher will use that paper in class over the next two years — a value of $315. The Idaho Statesman has the story:

Marianne Donnelly, chairwoman of the school board, said the ad apparently violates a district policy barring schools from directly promoting businesses. But she said the board considers the ad harmless and is not making an issue out of it.

"Give the teacher credit for creativity," Donnelly said. "There’s no question we’re in desperate financial straits."

Elsewhere, nonprofit organizations are helping teachers obtain free or discounted classroom supplies, and Web sites match educators with benefactors willing to buy materials. But Harrison’s approach has at least one critic worried the idea will spread.

"It crosses a line," said Susan Linn, a Harvard psychologist and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. "When teachers start becoming pitchmen for products, children suffer and their education suffers as well."

Granted, the timing does seem interesting as a tax levy for more funding was recently shot down by the public, so critics argue the teacher and the school are just making a statement here. Regardless, it raises an interesting question: Should teachers be able to allow advertisements in the classroom? What if they would otherwise have to purchase classroom materials out of their own pockets?

Tell us what you think:  Is this an inspirational, opportunistic educational tool, or just a matter of worlds colliding that shouldn’t, just to make a point?

0 thoughts on “Idaho Teacher Sells Ads on Tests: “A” for Creativity or “F” for Crossing Boundaries?

  1. School is no place for advertising. For elementary schools, children are less able to tune it out, but older kids are very good at ignoring advertising, so depending on the age of the students, it’s probably not effective anyway. But, the bottom line is that advertising to children in school is just indecent. Do you really want to be known as the company that targets little kids’ allowance? The pizza place would have been better served if it had just donated the money and then written a press release or let the school notify parents of what they had done in the next newsletter. I get why the teacher did it, but it was misguided and shortsighted for all involved. If it was done as a statement, it doesn’t appear to have made the one he was shooting for.

  2. Matt,
    Schools already take thousands (in some districts hundreds of thousands) into there budgets from soft drink companies for the exclusive rights in the schools. So thinking that having a pizza logo on paper is big, is not close. As for the whack at Harvard, you can’t have a commercial free childhood. Note the root word of Commerce in commercial.

  3. I also remember watching Channel One news (featuring the likes of Anderson Cooper) for 10 minutes each day in school. The network provided the school with television equipment (if memory serves) and each program featured a few ads. This doesn’t seem much different to me. I do agree with Sonya though that it might make more sense to find a way to market directly to the parents.

  4. I have to respectfully disagree with Sonya and Matt on the point of effectiveness. Advertising directly to kids is much better from the marketer’s standpoint because, like Sonya noted, the older kids (and adults) tune it out while the younger don’t. An excited child begging his parents for a particular brand of pizza is much harder for the parent to ignore than a newsletter or press release. Remember Saturday morning cartoon ads from when you were a kid?

  5. If a pizza ad on my child’s homework inspired him to beg for that brand of pizza, I’d be angry as a parent and it would be very easy for me to say no. I don’t think ads are the downfall of childhood, but they don’t belong in schools either. As noted, if a company donates and gets publicity for doing a good deed, it’s much more palatable than an overt ad. McLuhan was correct when he stated, “The medium is the message.” How we deliver the message can’t be ignored, and this crosses the line even more because the teacher acted outside of policy and it was an ad on paper students use each day. The pizza parlor’s image is hurt more by this choice. Add this to the barrage of school-sponsored items to buy to support everything under the sun, and it’s exhausting. I love capitalism, but I would never recommend this tactic to a client. There is a novel called “Jennifer Government” that speaks to this in an over-the-top, humorous, and futuristic way that is a great read. BTW, this is a great discussion with enjoyable dissent.