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Scholastic Needs To Remember Its Educational Mission

Sun Sentinal Editorial
February 14, 2009

Scholastic Corp., the school-based book behemoth, is selling out. That's what some parents and educators are saying, and they've got plenty of ammunition — tucked inside those order booklets teachers send home with your child every week.

Thumb through one lately? If you do, you're likely to find — squeezed between the Harry Potter book sets, the Magic School Bus series and Junie B. Jones' latest antics — come-ons for an electric organizer, MP3 player, video games, even Nintendo DS covers.

No, those can hardly be called educational products, and that's the legitimate beef from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national group of educators, health-care professionals and parents protesting Scholastic's growing habit of peddling toys, games and other non-educational items.

Sure, these products are cheaper than what you'll get in any retail store. But Scholastic isn't just any retail outfit. The world's largest publisher of children's books, it has unparalleled access to kids and their parents through its school-based book clubs, where students order through classroom teachers.

Exploiting that rare entree by marketing the latest gadget or video game cheapens Scholastic's name and clouds its long-heralded role in getting kids to read. It becomes just another product peddler, rather than an educational advocate.

The toys and games are not new to Scholastic, but the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said the non-book products are now so pervasive, they make up about one-third of the items for sale to elementary and middle school book clubs. That includes books that come packaged with toys like doggy key chains, girly lip gloss or, with the book, Under Cover Secrets, an $8 Spy Master Micro Ear Kit.

Scholastic calls that a way to "stay relevant" in the battle to engage kids' interest. But hawking playthings in the name of education isn't relevance. It's a sell-out, and if Scholastic continues to act like any other retailer, educators would be wise to consider treating it as such by limiting its access to schools.

BOTTOM LINE: A sell-out by any other name.





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