School Children Thrown
Overboard into Commercial Sea
Eleventh annual report examines schoolhouse
September 22, 2008
Contact: Alex Molnar -- (480) 965-1886; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Welner -- (303) 492-8370; email@example.com
TEMPE, Ariz and BOULDER, Colo. (Sept. 22, 2008) -- Childhood is
now defined by advertising.
"At Sea in a Marketing-Saturated
World," the eleventh annual report on schoolhouse commercialism
released by the Arizona State University Commercialism in
Education Research Unit (CERU), finds that children live,
breathe, and play with branded products in and outside of
"School-based marketing is coming to share the dominant
characteristics of marketing to children outside of school,"
says the report's co-author, Alex Molnar, ASU professor of
education policy. "Advertising is entwined with content and
often demands the active engagement of its targeted audience."
The CERU report, based on an analysis of a year's worth of
articles in the advertising and popular media, finds that
schools and classrooms are subjected to numerous advertising
campaigns utilizing a variety of marketing tools ranging from
ads on schools buses to teachers working at local fast food
restaurants to raise extra cash for schools.
"School-based marketing is now a global phenomenon," add
co-authors Gary Wilkinson of the University of Hull, in England,
and Joseph Fogarty, an Irish school headmaster. They point to
marketing programs by a PepsiCo subsidiary in Great Britain and
by Allied Irish Bank in Ireland as examples.
Regardless of how marketing campaigns are organized or the
products or services advertised, social psychologist and report
co-author Faith Boninger notes that their influence extends into
the broader realm of cultural values: "Although children may
ignore or dismiss a particular marketing message, in the larger
scheme of things, the total advertising environment creates a
materialistic atmosphere that encourages more buying, more
identification with brands, and more commercialized values."
The stakes are high and dangers are real, according to Molnar.
He points out that research suggests that higher materialistic
values are related to factors such as lower self-esteem, chronic
physical symptoms, and higher rates of anxiety, depression and
psychological distress. In teenagers, materialistic values
correlate with increased smoking, drinking, drug use, weapon
carrying, vandalism and truancy. Other research, he notes,
belies the argument that children benefit when their schools
make money from commercial contracts. One national study of
marketing for food products found that 87.5 percent of
elementary school officials reported that their schools would
not be forced to reduce programs if such marketing were
It is, according to Molnar, past time for schools to be ruled
off limits to marketers. He argues, "In light of the destructive
consequences of marketing to children, policy makers have an
obligation to put the interests of school children ahead of the
interests of marketers."
Alex Molnar, Professor of Education Policy
Arizona State University
Kevin Welner, Professor and Director
Education and the Public Interest Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
The Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU) and
Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) at Arizona State
University partners with the Education and the Public Interest
Center (EPIC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder to
produce policy reports, policy briefs and think tank reviews.
These centers provide a variety of audiences, both academic and
public, with information, analysis, and insight to further
democratic deliberation regarding educational policies.
Visit their website at http://educationanalysis.org.
CERU and EPIC are members of the Education Policy Alliance