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Editorial: No School Bus Ads

 

Myrtle Beach Online
January 28, 2008

Few new ideas are more appalling than the S.C. Department of Education proposal to subject children on school buses to advertisements, with 80 percent of the revenue accruing to the department and participating school districts. Public education never has quite enough money, it's true, but this is the wrong way to capture new revenue.

The S.C. DOE emphasizes that its ad contractor, SAC Inc. of Warrenville, could be barred from advertising products that are bad for children, such as junk food and sugary soft drinks. Local school boards would decide whether to participate in the program - in return for part of the profits. School boards would also decide what kinds of ads to allow on its buses.

The underlying assumption is that some kinds of ad content would not harm kids - especially if school board bagged some revenue as part of the deal. This assumption is spurious.

Youngsters live in a relentlessly commercial environment. They're bombarded with ads while watching cartoons on TV, exploring youth-appropriate (and inappropriate) sites on the Internet, looking at billboards, listening to the radio, waiting for movies to begin at the local theater and yes, reading the newspaper. They wear branded athletic shoes and shirts with designer logos. In all these pursuits and more, they are good little consumer trainees.

Such training may be an OK thing. But kids' current places of respite from ads - at home some of the time, in places of worship most of the time and at school most of the time - are important to their emotional and intellectual development, too. How else are youngsters to learn that a healthy life includes values other than consumption? If local school districts allow school bus ads, the knowledge and learning lose a little of their importance.

True, such ads, which would be above bus windows and run about 11 inches high, might distract some kids from making mischief. But the ads would more likely perpetuate, in youthful minds, the idea that the world is one vast mall where everything is for sale. They're under enough pressure as it is to see the world that way.

So, to answer the question posed last week by Horry County Schools spokeswoman, school bus ads are not "an appropriate thing to place inside of an educational environment." Let school buses in our communities remain one of the few commercial-free refuges for school-age youngsters.


 

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