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Teacher Sells Ad Space on Tests

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A high school math teacher solves a problem that adds up to controversy.

ad space test

You do the math: A teacher's printing cost is over $500 a year. His budget is only $316. What should the teacher do?

Tom Farber, a math instructor at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, decided to sell ad space on his student's quizzes and tests to make up the difference.

"Tough times call for tough actions," Farber says. And the plan worked. The ads, selling for $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final, have already sold out for the semester. The ads, that do not include graphics, only consist of one line of text at the bottom of a page. Local dentist Dr. Stephen Henry paid to have "Brace yourself for a great semester!" at the bottom of one test. Other "ads" are inspirational messages paid for by parents, similar to what appears in yearbooks.

Selling ads in schools is nothing new. These days they appear on buses and gymnasiums. Last year a school in Orlando, Florida sold ad space to McDonald's on their report cards.

On the surface, Farber's solution to his budget problem might seem fairly benign. But psychologist Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and author of "The Case For Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World," told momlogic the practice is far from harmless."We need to draw a line at any kind of commercialism in schools. The purpose of school is to teach logical thinking -- one of the purposes of advertising is to subvert logical thinking."

Lynn says she has no problem with the inspirational messages that appeared on tests, but is critical of any kind of brand advertising. "This is the tiny tip of a really huge iceberg," warns Linn. "by allowing small local business to advertise on tests, it sanctions other kinds of advertising."

But she agrees the math teacher Farber is in a terrible situation. "Our lack of support of public education is a disgrace. But there are other creative solutions to the problem."

Do you think kids should be subjected to advertising in school?

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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
birdsfly December 3, 2008, 3:26 PM

They have to find the money somewhere when none of the levies will pass. When teachers have to pay out of pocket for the most basic supplies something has to give. I’d sell name placement in word problems!

Becca December 3, 2008, 3:30 PM

I think it’s a bad idea… but as a teacher, I totally understand. Our schools are so ridiculously under-funded, that teachers definitely feel the pinch when trying to provide adequate materials for students.

For instance, at one school where I taught a few years ago, I broke down my yearly supply budget to realize that I got $0.04 per kid per week — to teach ART!!! (“Okay kids… we’re going to do toilet-paper square origami!” “AGAIN?!?!?”) Teachers at that school actually brought in donations of soap and toilet paper so the bathrooms would be stocked.

So, yeah, I get what this guy is going through. I hate the overabundance of marketing that kids are already dealing with, but at the same time, we’re going to have to do SOMETHING so teachers can have the instructional materials they need without having to resort to putting ads on tests.

Me! December 3, 2008, 11:29 PM

Ingenious idea

Wendi December 4, 2008, 12:07 AM

I think that this is a great idea. I am all for supporting the schools as much as possible. I think as long as the ads are chosen wisely, there is no harm done.

I am one of the parents that will always donate as much supplies as possible to the teachers. I do not think that they should have to pay to teach my child. I only wish that more parents felt this way so that our teachers can focus more on teaching and not worrying where the materials are going to come from.

Liz  December 4, 2008, 11:43 AM

this is a wonderful idea…why didn’t I think of it as a teacher I’m constantly thinking do we really need that? because I spend sooo much money on my classroom that I end up broke after every paycheck!!!

sdsd December 7, 2008, 11:19 AM

Yeah wonderful idea to rape the future of America with further ads. HEY HERE’S A NOTION: you guys are a SCHOOL, sooo BRAINSTORM for better ideas. You know, when I went to school we sold candybars, wrapping paper, etc and while I thought that was also kind of sleazy, at least it’s getting kids involved with their schools.

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