One of the most controversial intersections between marketing and society occurs when companies provide “educational materials” to schools. Many firms, including Nike, Hershey, Crayola, Nintendo, and Foot Locker, provide free book covers swathed in ads. Standard art supplies, blocks, trucks, and dolls are supplemented with Milton Bradley and Care Bears worksheets, Purell hand-cleaning activities, and Pizza Hut reading programs. Clearasil provides sample packets of its acne medication along with brochures to educate high school students about proper skin care; the handouts also direct students to the Clearasil website where they can also register for music downloads and iPods. Other companies contract with schools to run focus groups with their students during the school day in order to get reactions to new product ideas. Some schools encourage kids to practice their math as they count Tootsie Rolls, and the kids use reading software that bears the logos of Kmart, Coke, Pepsi, and Cap’n Crunch cereal. Many educators argue that these materials are a godsend for resource-poor schools that otherwise could not provide computers and other goodies to their students. However, a California law bans the use of textbooks with brand names and company logos. This legislation was prompted by complaints from parents about a middle-school math book that uses names such as Barbie, Oreos, Nike, and Sony PlayStation in word problems. What is your position on these practices? Should corporations be allowed to promote their products in schools in exchange for donations of educational materials, computers, and so on?
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