Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Hey Education System, Stop Teaching my kids to WANT!

It has been a while since my last post and I realize that this blog should have some type of theme to it but it is my thoughts coming at you in the chaotic way they come at me. Enjoy.

This rant has been percolating for a number of years now so I apologize if it gets a bit heated.  I am really frustrated by the incentive programs for kids to participate in fundraising for their various activities.  I understand that all programs cost money to run and that the money has to come from somewhere.  I know that I have kids and I will most likely be buying more than my fair share of over priced chocolates and magazine subscriptions.  I know that signing them up for skating lessons gets me a big book of raffle tickets that I should "sell" to family and friends so they have a chance to win some great prize.  Just charge me the extra $40 on my registration fees and lets call it even, ok?  These are things that I accept by enrolling my kids in "outside of school" activities.  Which are, of course, optional.

Where I get my knickers in a knot is when my kids come home from our government funded mandatory education program (aka public school) all excited because they have a "chance to win" or earn something really cool.  They come home with this:

They are so excited because they can win an iPad, all they need to do is sell 100 magazine subscriptions. The company sponsoring this fundraising activity is QSP. I do not want to comment on who they are or what they do, as I assume they probably provide a great deal of funding to a variety of worthy causes.  However, throwing this flyer into the face of kindergarten or low elementary students is about the most ridiculous thing I can think of.  What do you believe that kid is thinking?  Wow I can get all these cool toys for free!  Great Deal! The fun doesn't stop there QSP also has a "Triple Play" opportunity.  
If you sell certain types of magazines then you will get a "chance to win" an iPad or an Xbox. What, REALLY! Explain to a young child what "chance to win" actually means.  Maybe I am an over protective parent, maybe I am naive, maybe I am over sensitive, or maybe this is the WORST WAY to encourage fundraising among young children.  Every day, all day, children observe the world around them, they take notes, they listen, they learn.  We are constantly in the position of teacher in everything that we do. What are we teaching?

It is nice to see that QSP includes some "Fundraising Safety Tips"
Do Not sell to strangers.
PARENTS: please always supervise your child's sales activities.
We suggest only sales to relative, friends, and co-workers, not door-to-door.
So let me get this fundraising marketing strategy right.
Step1: Get kids all hyped up on prizes.
Step2: Send them home
Step3: Parents exploit relatives & co-workers to buy things they would not normally buy
Step4: Give out colourful junk as prizes
Step5: Everybody wins ????
It is a good thing we don't have to pay sales associates, see we got this plan to get kids to do it for us.

Oh I forgot to tell you what the 3rd part of the triple play was - "Go to QSP.ca send 12 email to family & friends and earn a fun colour changing light-up pen" - THIS IS CALLED SPAM !!!  What are you teaching kids?  We work hard educating our children not to give out personal information like names and email address to websites and now you tell them to give out others' information to get a fricken PEN!

What frustrates me is the support of this by the education system.  The students had a big assembly talking about all the cool stuff they can win and how to get it.  Now I get to spend the next few weeks explaining to our kids that we are not buying magazines, we are not selling magazines and they will not be getting any prizes from this nice shiny flyer.  We even tried recycle these papers immediately when they got home. However, the allure and attractiveness of them caused them to be retrieved from the recycling box so they can look at them.

I understand that schools need money, but can we approach this in a more mature way and stop promising young children colourful prizes if they (read their parents) go out and peddle someone else's wares!

Here are examples of what I believe are more responsible fundraising activities that I would expect to see from schools:

  1. Older students can help clean up community or private properties.  In the fall there is tremendous amounts of yard work that can be done.  You know what the incentive are?  Doing a good job, pride in workmanship, working as a team.
  2. Younger students put on specific fundraising concerts for parents / grandparents.  Incentives for students are making people smile.  I can guarantee I would buy a $10 ticket to watch my child perform before I would buy a garbage magazine so they can get a key chain monkey.  
Explain to families that these things are done in place of other activities and I am sure you will find buy in. If others have ideas please put them in comments.  We have to get past these material incentives for children to encourage material spending on magazines that would never have been purchased otherwise.  The education system should be teaching children the skills they need to be successful and happy in the world. If teaching that materialism is the only way to fundraise for school activities then we have gone so far down the wrong path I am not sure the right one is even in sight.

I expect more from my education system!