No One Wins the iPad: Are We Selling Out Our Kids in the Name of Fundraising?

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He poured off the school bus and loped toward us with a goofy grin. He already had one hand in his backpack and was pulling out a folded up flyer. Oh no, I thought. Here it comes.

It’s prime fundraising season for schools, which I completely understand and support. A variety of fundraising efforts are rolled out right in September and October, and it can start to feel a bit much for the average family. (Didn’t I just send in a check for $100 for pizza days for the year?) But I get it. Come at us now, before the holidays hit, and then again in the spring. It makes sense. The school uses that money to enrich our children’s learning experience. Of course we will give what we can.

But hard-selling gymnasiums full of children on the dire importance of hocking magazine subscriptions needs to stop.

No One Wins the iPad: Are We Selling Out Our Kids in the Name of Fundraising?

A fundraising organization called QSP runs a magazine subscription program in many schools. The idea is that kids will get their parents and relatives and whoever else to subscribe to magazines and then their school will get a cut of the subscription price. I don’t have a problem with this in principle. I like magazines. I read magazines. I write for magazines and I need people to keep buying them! Again, I also like to support our school however possible.

If QSP sent home an order form for me to fill out and circulate among friends and relatives as I saw fit, I would happily do so. Enclose a letter from the parent council explaining what an important source of revenue this program is for them and many families would gladly oblige. We pay for pizza days, we go to the fun fair, we’d do this too.

Instead, however, QSP sends a representative to many schools and an assembly is held. Children are pulled from their classes and learning is usurped by a sales coaching session in which incentives are dangled in front of their impressionable young eyes. I always picture Alec Baldwin at the head of the gym, but I guess he might be busy. Always. Be. Closing.

It’s these bloody incentives that are the bane of my existence every year. That’s what my son was reaching for in his backpack as he bounded off the school bus, eyes glazed over, face upturned and beaming with hope and anticipation. Sell one subscription and get a monkey eraser, sell 13 and get a spinning ninja top, sell 50 for a $50 iTunes card and so on. Sell 100 subscriptions and you can get a brand new iPad!

He pores over the flyer with the incentives pictured on it, begging and pleading for us to buy enough subscriptions. He fills in the order form, ordering magazines for every member in the family. He even ordered Golf magazine for himself. Dudes. Shiny prizes (and by shiny, I mean crappy shit for the most part, that I don’t want in the house anyway) have been dangled in front of him and he doesn’t see the disparity between the cost of the subscriptions and the value of the prizes. Of course he doesn’t. He’s A CHILD.

He’s a seven-year-old boy and I think it’s disgusting that we allow this kind of manipulation of innocent childhood wishes in our schools. I don’t care that it’s for a good cause. It could be for a guaranteed cure for cancer and I would still tell you that it’s wrong. Because you know what the incentive would be then? A freaking cure for cancer! Hand out the order forms, get teachers to tell the kids that any subscriptions sold will help the school and keep third party-employed Alec Baldwin-types out of the schools.

I mean, really. For Pete’s sake.

I’m going to contact our parent council and ask that they consider skipping the assembly and downplaying the incentives in future years. You might want to do that too and then maybe we won’t have to shatter our children’s hopes and dreams more often than we already do. Because ain’t nobody going to win that iPad. I mean, the tooth fairy already takes up to seven days to drop a twoonie under his pillow. Isn’t that enough?

 

Originally published at Playground Confidential.

Rebecca Cuneo Keenan is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada with a husband and three kids. She  blogs at Playground Confidential. Twitter:  @rebeccakeenan

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