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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Corporate Bribery

The little ones have been in a public classroom for two whole weeks now, and already I'm remembering why we eschewed school in the first place. *sigh* I suppose it's making me more determined for us to be in a position three years from now to pull them back out and continue home education--hopefully with both Michael and I contributing to the "teaching."

Dmitri has discovered that he has to raise his hand before he can interrupt the teacher to ask a question. I knew this was going to be a problem. Dmitri is full of questions, all day long. I've never known a kid who asks so many questions. Although, as the dishwasher repair guy who put up with Dmitri's neverending stream of questions for over an hour noted, "He only asks the same question one time. I'd keep an eye on that one if I were you!" Yeah, tell me about it.

Dmitri asked me a question last week, ("Mom, why are apples red?") and we talked about it for a while. Those sorts of questions always lead interesting places in our house, from discussions of how humans perceive color (while dogs, on the other hand, don't. "You mean Romeo and Sophie see the world like Jack and the Beanstalk?" I suppose Abbott and Costello isn't a horrible point of reference. :)) to questions of theology ("Did God want apples to be red?") The kids are going to Blake's Apple Orchard this week (one of two field trips the kindergarteners will take this year. Apparently, bussing is cost prohibitive, so they have to limit their field trips. *sigh*) and I guess they were counting apples for math when Dmitri dutifully raised his hand in class to ask his teacher this question.

"What happened when you asked her?" I inquired, curious to know what his teacher's response to the rather daunting and tangential question had been.

"I gave up, Mom." Dmitri sighed. "My arm got tired."

Wow, I had so forgotten about that part of school.

The other thing I was reminded of this week (aside from the fact that my kindergarteners have homework--something I thought I'd be spared at least until next year!) are the annoying fundraisers and corporate bribery.

I hate school fundraisers.

Public schools are funded by the public. Hence the name. Why am I being asked to extort money from my friends and relatives to fund my child's education? Now I'm responsible for pimping Frankenmuth fudge and Market Day meals to my husband's coworkers? I don't think so!

Not only that, but both kids came bouncing off the bus, waving their fundraising packets and howling, "Mommy! We can win PRIZES!"

Ah, the bribery begins. Sell ten rolls of wrapping paper, and you, too, can have a Tweety and Sylvester keychain most likely made in China for less than a penny each by people paid less than a dollar a day... oh and, nevermind that it's probably painted with poisonous lead.

How do you explain that to a five year old?

Now, there's the "Book It" reading incentive program. Read ten books in a month, and you, too, can have a certificate entitling you to a slice of pizza. Of course, this is big business for the not-quite-altruistic Pizza Hut, who is counting on families visiting their restaurant and doing more than just cashing in the freebie.

I don't need an incentive to read to my kids. We probably read ten books in a week. To me, a program like this is not only insulting, it's bribery. And, of course, it works. Because what kindergartener doesn't like or want pizza? Makes me a "bad mommy" if I say no. Which makes me furious with the schools and the corporate machine that initiated the whole thing in the first place.

But corporate bribery doesn't end in childhood, apparently--it just begins there. I opened my mailbox last week to find a letter from our health insurance company. We have an HMO, mostly because it costs us less to do so, although it annoys me to have to choose "their doctors" and get referrals, etc. I was surprised to find that HAP is offering us a $25 gift certificate from Target if Michael and I schedule a cholesterol and diabetes screening before October 22, 2007.



Amy said...

I read your post with great interest this morning while I'm supposed to be getting ready my kids for school, LOL.

The fundraisers used to irritate me too, until we moved here. When we moved here, in a flash of either stupidity or desperation for friends, I joined the PTO. And I discovered that, at least where I live, the public schools are definitely not adequately funded by our populace.

In our town, the budget is passed by the public every year, and every year they try to cut it wherever they can to get it passed (last year it took SIX tries to get it approved). To get it passed, they cut. They always cut from the schools because you can always put off books another year, but not snowplowing or heat. The PTO here uses fundraisers to fill in the gap between the public funding and what the teachers/school actually needs.

The book programs, they do that here too (here, though, the kids get a book donated to the classroom if they all do their reading, which makes so much more sense to me). It's of course not intended for parents like you, you don't need incentive to be a good parent. But unfortunately, a lot of people do. I remember those pizza coupons from Michigan, well...when I taught in Detroit, though, they probably made ten kids read when they might not have.

It must be hard when you're used to not having to deal with all of the extra baggage that comes with being in a school to deal with it. I guess I've taught and had kids in a school for so long that it just doesn't faze me anymore. I just do what I feel makes the most sense for my kids and our family and ignore the rest.


Dark Daughta said...

I, too read your post with interest...from the perspective of another wan former homeschooler, hoping to pull my five year old daughter out of the public system again in the coming years. She learns quite well on her own as she's very curious, articulate and analytical. She also asks lots of questions, though I have more patience with in on some days and not so much on others. :) I try to remind myself that she's collecting data and I am still her primary information relay. That helps me to keep giving. In terms of the corporate pushing, I started working on her, out of shear fear of her brain being rotted by signs of corporate sponsorship all around us. As pop culture junkies who are politicized we walk a strange line with her. She recognizes logos, knows about the market place and about people exchanging money for things rather than services or things for services or things...barter. We shop mostly at second hand stores. I pick based on quality and aesthetic. Funny, how I still end up with a lot of formerly pricey designer things. She understands that we have no love for the corps. and that we think they're nasty, hoarding, don't care about us and don't care about their workers. When we get stuff from school that I'm not particularly impressed with...I think they tried the selling cookies or almonds thing last week...these things just sort of get lost...meaning I don't direct them towards the place in the house where we store important bits of school related information. Having said that, I also don't hesitate to have conversations with her about stuff I absolutely will not support. She argues fiercely...which is wonderful to behold...cries with equal fierceness and then we sort of back away from each other. :) The corporation thing is intertwined with race, class, gender and all the rest for me, too, though. Kid's backpacks...there are big name, hiking packs that have no pictures on them, but are easily recognizable as corporate brands...there are Dora packs, barbie packs, Thomas the Tank engine packs. When we went looking at the store two summers ago for the pack she has now, I was worried about her choosing what we call a "gender challenged" backpack...something pink with some girly character emblazoned on it. To my surprise, without even a reminder, she picked a cars backpack. Still corporate, but definitely not stereotypically girlish. A partial victory in a field of choices where mostly only partial victories are usually possible. :)