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Faux Outrage

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When I was learning how to ski, I was always mesmerized by that split-second-moment-of-realization that I was no longer skiing, but hurtling down a steep mountain completely out of control with two flat sticks on my feet, preparing to hit the snow at an angle least likely to cause serious injury.  That inflection point, the point that separates the activity from “actually skiing” to “competing for a Darwin Award” is what makes the sport so exhilarating (and, incidentally, the only thing I remember from a mogul-related accident that left me with a broken collar bone, separated shoulder, and torn ligaments in my shoulder).

These subtle-but-crucial sea-change moments happen in society, too, and unfortunately, an article today in the Star Tribune (“Schools open lockers to advertising”) should make us question whether we are in the midst of one of those not-so-wonderful changes.  Far be it from me to criticize what is clearly an A+ pun headline from the editors at the Star Tribune, but the content of the article makes me a bit depressed.

And I quote,

“In the spring of next year, we’ll look at the revenue stream generated [by locker advertising] and make sure it wasn’t a distraction to learning,” [Paul Stremick, Centennial school superintendent] said. “If there are problems, we’re obviously not going to continue it, but if they become kind of a normal, everyday deal, it could just be part of the culture.”

This quote is almost too depressing to deconstruct.

Centennial School Superintendent Paul Stremick shows what the lockers would look like with this sample mockup in the hallway just outside the schools district administration office.

Photo by David Brewster, Star Tribune

On a very basic level, I understand the plight of Paul Stremick and Centennial.  The budget shortages for school districts, especially in times of economic crisis, are serious issues that need to be addressed.  On the other hand, excuse me while I channel my inner “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”

I think it’s easy for adults to forget that as kids are growing up, they are doing so without the context and perspective that we take for granted.  “Advertising” might seem like a simple pragmatic solution to a serious financial problem, but it’s at least worth considering whether force-feeding marketing to kids confined in school setting is worth the price not paid.  We should question what it means for advertisements on lockers to be, as the superintendent suggests, “part of the culture” in a school.  It’s clear that the eventual assimilation of advertising would not necessarily mean that the experiment was impact-neutral.

The lengths communities will go to in order to not pay any additional tax is understandable but not very compelling when measured against the unspoiled intellectual well-being of future generations.

We should not be treating school-aged kids as potential consumers.  We should be treating them like potential bakers or entrepreneurs.  The reply to, “What did you learn  in school today?” should not be, “I learned that I want to go to Underwater Adventure Aquarium and that Coke is The Real Thing(R)!”


It should be, “Nothing, mom!  Stop bothering me!  You don’t understand me and you never will!”

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