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Teach, Don't Sell

Good for the Seattle school board. Under pressure from parents, and at the request of the superintendent, it recently decided to suspend a new policy of accepting advertising in the public schools while it studies the issue further.

Had the district gone ahead with the policy, it might have raised $1 million a year from sponsorships. And it wouldn't have been alone. Three years ago, as a way to make up for shrinking tax dollars, a Colorado Springs, Colo., school district began selling advertising on campus walls, buses, and scoreboards. Others soon followed.

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Advertising can be useful, to students as to the rest of society. But it should not be the tail that wags the dog.

Commercial advertising most notably entered the classroom via Channel One, a controversial cable news show for schoolchildren. A professor at Johns Hopkins University, who recently published a study on the program, said: "The news is not the point of Channel One. It is no more than filler meant primarily to get us ready for the ads."

Similarly, the argument that by selling ads corporations are supporting schools is not the point. Students are a captive audience, and a lucrative one. Businesses naturally want to capitalize on that. But school is not the place for selling and for teaching consumerism and consumption. As one Seattle parent told the Monitor, there's "an inherent conflict between the goal of the corporation and the goal of the educator."

The Seattle school district should be commended not only for rethinking its decision to seek additional advertising revenue, but also for reviewing the advertising already in the schools. Children are sent to school to learn, not to be bombarded with more of the same old commercialism.

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