Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fund Raisers?

Money makes the world go 'round,

The world go 'round,

The world go 'round...

Yes, it's that time of year again in our Public Schools. Don't you just love it. Sad to say, selling and collecting things for money is now, even more so,a vital part of the curriculum. From Kindergarten all the way to High school, students and their parents and relative/friends are "expected" to help raise funds for all those "extra curricular activities" that would be missing if the schools just relied on the taxes. "Now, kids, here's how you sell, sell, sell!" This is not the "hard sell", this is the "guilt sell".

When I first started teaching...back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, selling stuff to help the school's budget was unheard of. Kids might be caught selling other "stuff" to each other, but, back then, it was rarely a "hard sell" if you know what I mean. Candy, gum, cinnamon sticks that burned your mouth, this was the merchandize. There was no "quality control" back then and my folks warned me not to buy or taste..."because you never knew where those sticks had been" (images of toothpicks dipped in dog dirt on the way to school before the sale). One of my sons used to sell "Jolly Ranchers" (sour candies wrapped up) to his friends between classes in Jr. Hi. Part of the thrill of it was "not getting caught". He then branched out to "widgets", as he called them. He found old bicycle chains, took them apart, cleaned and polished them and then linked back together in groups of three or four to make a "handy plaything". They sold, big time. Now, he's a "bench jeweler" and still makes good money. When I ran the student store as a 6th grade math project for the school, we got the "idea" to make money for our field trips by creating and selling (at that store during recess, before and after school) "Philberts". These little hazel nuts looked cute with little eyeballs and feathers, felt feet etc. They came with printed "care instructions". They loved to "sit on the corner of your desk and watch you work". You were cautioned never to put two, together in a "darkened desk"...They sold like hotcakes until the principal and several teachers "banned" them. We went on our field trip though.

Back then we had "Paper Drives" on a school-wide basis. Rooms competed against each other for the "grand prize" of a "movie" or an extra recess. It was at one of those cursed "paper drives" that my wife, in unloading our contribution of papers in the parking lot, lost her engagement diamond. It must've been picked up by the tread of the tires of the next car in line. Magazine sales were big at Jr. Hi. They probably still are. Discounts on magazine you could never ever get through...all for that good "cause" of "band uniforms" or extra orchestra instruments.

Yesterday, while I was subbing in a first grade, I had them coloring illustrations for their "free writing" (stories). During that "free time" I was instructed to "yank out the center of all the sales booklets going home" It was 4 pages on how to sell magazines. I guess the principal didn't want these K-4th selling magazines yet. There were "wonderful" and fairly cheap items of all kinds for sale and "glorious prizes" increasing in "value" for the more you sold...took orders and collected the checks/or cash. The assembly announcing all this was "very motivating" with lots of "audience response" (yelling) called for and gotten. Hover craft, heliocopters, electric cars (remote control and hands-on) were all there on display for motivation...if you just sold 15 or more items. Then the "whole school" would be eligible for an "X-Treme Party" with massive inflatibles on the field (not just bounce-houses) Well, there went the rest of the I didn't let them see the booklets. They were stuffed in their backpacks to go home.

So now, we are not only teaching kids how to take more and more types of tests so we raise our pre-to-post scores and get more funding, we are also leading them into the world of "super sales" and using all the "extrinsic motivations" of that world. I would guess that the upper grades could have lessons on "bookkeeping" and adding up all the sales figures. They could plan and plot how to sell the most expensive items for greater profits and quicker numbers for rewards. Most of these kids don't have parents who work in offices. If they did, they could send the broschures with them and "big sales" would return, especiallly if their parent(s) were "bosses". This is the way it is done now days. Early training as little "capitalists". Don't you just love it? RRR

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