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  November/December 2000 Features:
Generation Green
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Branding Baby's Brain
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Sierra Magazine
Branding Baby's Brain

How to STOP child abuse, corporate and legal

The average American child watches more than 20,000 TV ads a year, to the certain delight of pitchmen. Ads enhance what marketers blatantly call "the nag factor," kids' ability to whine relentlessly until parents break down and buy. Molded by advertising into irresistible little advertising vehicles, children between 4 and 12 now directly influence the purchase of almost $200 billion worth of stuff annually, according to American Demographics.

Buy-or-die propaganda has also infiltrated schools, where millions of pieces of advertising and product samples are distributed and corporate icons are emblazoned on everything from athletic uniforms to textbooks. Though it's not called bribery, Coke and Pepsi pay schools $10 to $20 per student for exclusive rights to sell their soft drinks on campus. Even environmental-education materials, often supplied by corporations, are laced with messages that promote energy, chemical, timber, and agribusiness industries while downplaying environmental problems.

It's difficult to predict the environmental impact of indoctrinating an entire generation in unprecedented getting and spending. But meanwhile, some parents and schools are simply unplugging, with the support of organizations that furnish practical advice on how to disable the TV at home and resist the commercialization of schools. "Parents must assume the role of front-line warriors," says environmental-science teacher John Borowski. "They must demand that any curricula provided by corporate sources be reviewed. . . . Corporate predators in education are no different from those who peddle tobacco to our children. They must bear the scorn of our society and be stopped in their tracks."

There is also a push for state and federal restrictions on advertising in schools. Parents in California, for example, can stop public schools from selling vending rights to soft-drink companies because public hearings are now required before the vendor can be accepted. And there is a proposal in the state legislature to place limits on electronic advertising in schools. At the national level, Representative George Miller (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill in Congress (the Student Privacy Protection Act) to prohibit companies from collecting marketing information in schools without written permission from parents. The Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Manitoba have banned the Youth News Network, a Canadian version of Channel One (see "Ways & Means,").

The following groups offer help in curbing the market's psychological invasion of home and school.

The Center for a New American Dream, 601 Carroll Ave., Suite 900, Takoma Park, MD 20912; (301) 891-ENUF; Helps parents cope with kids' demands and unplug them from TV and ads.

Commercial Alert, 1611 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 3A, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 296-2787; http://www.essential. org/alert/. Exposes astonishing examples of corporate presence in schools, from junk-food marketing to Exxon's version of the Valdez oil spill. Especially useful is their publication, Children First: A Parent's Guide to Fighting Corporate Predators.

The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, 1714 Franklin St., Suite 100-306, Oakland, CA 94612; (510) 268-1100; Focuses on strategies to expel advertising from the schools.

Corporate Watch (
) exposes corporate-sponsored "environmental lesson plans" and other classroom greenwashing.

Adbusters, 1243 West 7th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6H 1B7 Canada; (604) 736-9401; Adbusters magazine tracks the ad industry, runs hilarious parodies of ads, and promotes "Buy Nothing Day" and "TV Turnoff Week."

Center for Media and Democracy, 520 University Ave., Suite 310, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 260-9713; www. Publishes PR Watch. See the spring 2000 issue for a report on corporate corruption of environmental education.

by Bob Schildgen

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