Future Shop computer lab, McDonald's cafeteria, KFC gym and Telus notebooks. Welcome to Corporate Elementary!

Post by Eric Mang in ,

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Pepsi logo v.2
A new Pepsi logo courtesy Treehugger.com

Welcome to McDonald’s High. We’re a proud McInstitution staffed by great teachers such as Ms Maharaj who holds the Hamburgler Chair of Business Studies, our Early Birdie and Fry Guy gender and minority studies teacher Ms. Kroc, the Chair of Mayor McCheese studies in government and politics Mr. Sanders, and our Ronald McDonald-sponsored principal, Mr. Ronald McDonald (we require that all principals, whether male or female, change their names to “Ronald McDonald” as per Section 69, subsection 4 of the McDonald School contract: Universal Requirements For Unlimited Corporatization of Kids’ Educational Demands)

As we pass under these golden arches, we see our festively plump (the words “obese” and “fat” are prohibited under URFUCKED; s. 3.11) student population reciting the Mickey D’s oath: “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” As our lunchers, er, learners settle into their “You Deserve a Break Today” desks, they flip open their McLaptops, preview the latest McDonald’s advertisements and then start on the day’s McLessons.

At the end of each class, our McChildren stand up, shout a joyful “ba-da-ba-ba-ba... i'm lovin' it”, and move on to their next learning challenge.

Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Worse than when that kid in Georgia was suspended from school because he wore a Pepsi t-shirt on “Coke Day” (as in Cola). While there is no McDonald’s High School (well, there are probably schools named after dead white men named McDonald), that there are such things as Coke Days at schools should bother us.

The Toronto District School Board signed its first agreement with a corporate donor. Future Shop is giving $100,000 for computer labs in schools in poorer parts of Toronto. But these just aren’t any underprivileged schools – they must be within 7 kilometres of a Future Shop. So far, there isn’t any blatant advertising, but the labs must be painted in Future Shop colours.

How long before Toronto School kids are celebrating a Future Shop Day (“hooray for stuff no one really needs and is designed according to planned obsolescence!”) and some poor student is sent home for defiantly wearing a “Bay Bloor Radio” shirt?

It’s loathsome enough that almost every square inch of our lives is marred with ads, white noise screaming for our attention. Buy me! Buy this! He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me! But to infect our schools with rampant, barefaced consumerism. These should be places where children can learn without being sold something, where the only things competing for attention are the lessons being taught and that cute girl or boy in grade 10 Chemistry.

Don’t we have enough evidence – sprawling cities, rampant pollution, mountains of garbage (and most e-waste is shipped to poor countries where kids burn themselves and are exposed to toxins as they try to harvest gold from motherboards) – without encouraging our kids to buy, buy, buy?

Deepening the fear and loathing I feel toward the corporatization of public education is where those McDonald’s lunchrooms are sprouting. It’s not the public schools in wealthy neighbourhoods. It’s the schools in lower income communities. Isn’t it sickening and infuriating enough to see some kids in these communities go without breakfasts or lunches without inculcating a sense of crass materialism in them? Without dangling in front of them the promise of trinkets their families cannot afford?

The Globe and Mail, in one of its more insidious editorials of late (whoever says that the media is liberal needs to do two things: produce a study proving that specious idea; and, read a newspaper, watch TV or listen to the radio) makes the following comment, extending a patriarchal, rich man’s burden offer of assistance to the poor:

“If a private sponsor could give poor children what affluent children already have, why not? The notion of the school as a commerce-free zone is both untrue as things stand (don't the computers have brand names?) and not useful in any event.”

Where’s the outrage over the lack of funding for our public schools? Where’s the concern that education is what fortifies a nation, enlightens it, steers it away from superstition, encourages critical thinking and that these things are in peril if education is chronically underfunded? No, much easier to pander to quick remedies that don’t annoy the “taxpayer”, no matter if they are a pox on pedagogy.

Easier because these schemes affect the poor, those who seldom have a voice to express outrage. I can imagine the parents of kids at the posh Jackman Public School would be incensed to have a Future Shop computer lab within that institution’s hallowed halls. But they have the bucks to raise and the political capital to challenge councillors and school trustees.

And for the Globe to say that no school is a commerce-free zone diminishes the magnitude of what’s happening and does nothing intelligent to further this discussion.

Moreover, does the Globe have any evidence that there’s no harm in branding our public schools? If so, let’s produce it. Indeed, if someone can show me a peer-reviewed study countering my claim (and I’ll agree to avoid citing the suspension of Pepsi kid at Coke Day as an example of how wretchedly stupid this can become) I can put my fury and ire aside until we can understand what corporate sponsorships in our kids’ schools mean.

Until then, “this computer brought to you by Future Shop; the one less than 7 kilometres away” portends a grim future for public education.

1 Comment

Great article. Well written and poignant. Thanks!

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