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School as Billboard

A FEW US school districts are eyeing some tempting commercial waters. Colorado Springs, Colo., has already plunged in, with Burger King ads on buses and soft-drink pitches in the halls. Schools in that town have earned almost $69,000 over the past two years with these ad spaces, and hope to market them more aggressively in the future.

So education gets some extra cash, and advertisers get a shot at the youth market in its most concentrated form. What's the harm, so long as standards are set for type and content of ads?

About these ads

First, there's something called academic atmosphere. Schools shouldn't be stodgy places, but they should convey a commitment to their central purpose: learning. Snack-food ads do just the opposite. Second, today's youths are enveloped by shallow commercialism. School should be a place to ponder something a little deeper, not be assaulted by more of the same. Finally, as the dollars come in, it may be tough to draw the line. The space above the classroom blackboard might be irresistible.

Schools that try to supplement budgets through ad sales could lose much more than they'll gain.

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