America, as ever, leads in commercial innovation with advertising wheezes infiltrating public education in all sorts of ways. Schools flog ad space on gym walls and sports teams warm-up jackets, in buses and even in school lavatories. Pop music, interspersed with commercials, is piped into foyers and canteens. At Fairview Park High School in Colorado, a McDonald's franchise bought the canteen. State nutritional guidelines were not met, which disqualified Fairview from subsidy of poor pupils' meals.
The school got round it by asking those once entitled to free lunches to work as burger chefs. It then paid them in burgers. Warner Bros distributes educational kits to tie in with movie launches like JFK and there is a plethora of give-away videos and posters, quizzes, contests and coupon schemes.
Channel One is the leader among classroom hucksters. It provides schools with a satellite link and a TV in every classroom at the price of a guarantee that pupils watch a daily news show broken up with two minutes of ads. Daily advertising, costing Pounds 600,000, reaches a captive audience of eight million children.
Where British schools get a drizzle of sponsored teaching kits, American schools have a blizzard. Captive Kids, a report sponsored by the Consumers' Union, found much of this material inaccurate and cited claims that eating meat makes people taller, felling trees is environmentally beneficial and that there's no such thing as an endangered species.