Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Proposed Addition to Our List of School-Day Wasting Assemblies

Remember, dear Babble reader, our discussion of a couple weeks back regarding wasted school days? I'd like to nominate another candidate: the Magazine Salesman Fundraiser Assembly (MSFA).

My first brush with this one happened yesterday, and it will take many, many mental showers before I feel anywhere close to ethically clean again.

Here's how it went down: in a shortened academic day, students spend 40 minutes at a assembly listening to a super-fast talking guy from the Hearst Corporation who flies through a crash-course in selling magazine subscriptions. Central to the spiel are two things
  • If every student can sell just three magazine subscriptions the school will be able to buy an electronic marquee instead of the old plastic-letter model we currently have;
  • Students who sell a certain number of magazine subscriptions will be eligible for fabulous prizes, such as a dinky little radio besparkled with shiny multi-colored lights, and a mp3 player (again, besparkled with shiny, multi-colored lights). Brightly-colored objects are evidently a central marketing focus of the Hearst Corporation, magazine-shilling division. Yellow-journalist de luxe William Randolph Hearst would be oh so proud.
And what of the electronic marquee itself? Well, it's quite obvious that without this $17,000 informational gadget, my school will:
  1. Doubtlessly miss AYP forever
  2. suffer the irreversible loss of a student body increasingly unable to handle a school that doesn't have announcements such as "Band Concert Friday; No School 9/2" in blazing LCD letters visible from three miles away.
So, while we're shortening academic classes for the day, our nascent teenage students are being pummeled Ronco Informercial style into shilling overpriced magazines via the appeal of cheap electronics and a pointless, Keeping Up With the School Joneses, electronic gadget that costs $17,000.

In a 14-year plus career of watching time-wasting, ethically-challenged assemblies, I can't think of one that quite matched the depressive power of the Magazine Salesman Fundraising Assembly. True, any assembly termed a "pep rally" comes close, but for sheer misguided capitalism and pointlessness, the magazine salesman fundraising assembly is without peer.

I have to go take another one of those mental showers now.


Anonymous said...

I have something that rivals this, although I think you still win.

At some point in the fall, seniors spend an entire morning at a 'class meeting' of sorts. It begins with the lot of us being crammed into the auditorium to listen to a sales pitch from a particularly sleazy salesman, who utilized stereotypes and dissed on teens in an effort to sell us graduations announcements, mugs, t-shirts, novelty tassels, and anything else that can have '08 printed on it. This was mandatory only because everybody does have to order and cap and gown, but of course once you get the kids into the room and listening, you can sell a crapload of... well... crap.

After about an hour and a half of bombardment, we were given the little catalog of items, encouraged to buy as much as possible (not even for the sake of the school, just for our own memories), and ushered into the cafeteria for our second half of the 'class meeting.'

For two hours we sat listening to teachers and counselors talk about how excellent college is, and how we should all strive to go (mind you, this is late fall, so serious college apps were sent months ago). Some of our activities included filling out the common application (which I had already done), readying a resume for colleges (which I had already done), and beginning a personal statement/college entrance essay sort of deal (which I had already done).

By the time the morning was over, I was in an extremely bad mood, being forced to sit for hours squished next to people who wouldn't take college seriously if they were paid to do it. I think the only thing the entire meeting succeeded in doing was filling the pockets of the previously mentioned salesman.

As if to make the day worse, we then had to squeeze all 6 periods into the afternoon, making each class 20 minutes long. You can imagine how productive those were.

Anonymous said...

Worse yet, whose head will be on the chopping block when one of the kids do what they were told not to do, (I mean really, how many times do they "get away with doing what they are told not to do") and go door to door, alone, and something BAD happens. Was the friggen marquee worth that?

Gerald said...

anonymous one: I completely agree with you. My experience was almost exactly the same as yours, but we had two different sales people to deal with. One was for the paper company that sells announcements and such, and the other was for the company that sold the cap and gown set and a large number of expensive plastic baubles stamped with '08. Worse, there were package deals that would "save parents and students money" by combining one or two hundred dollars of stuff into the throats of seniors and families. One of the packages was priced about 4% less than the individual items separately. The rest cost MORE than individual items grouped together. The bauble salesman used uninformed slurs against stereotypes that were largely ignored or laughed at by students, but I could see that some of my class mate were uncomfortable with the "fun" he was using to try to get us to by his junk.
In hindsight, I am ashamed to admit that I did buy some of my graduation material from this company. I now wish that I only bought the bare minimum required by school policy to receive the cap and gown. I warn all seniors and parents to avoid these companies as much as possible. There are a number of stationary shops that are near my school that would have sold me what I wanted, with better service, at a lower price than the mega-school-salespeople. These local places also have higher quality products and products that can be customized.

Anonymous said...

Are they still preaching about the Ditch Witch?