Everyday, over 8 million students in our public schools watch Channel One, a fluff news program laced with commercials. The invasion of our schools by a barrage of advertisements should be enough to enflame the parental “grizzly bear” in all adults and the little known “dark secret” of Channel One should throw citizens into a downright panic. Primedia, which owns Channel One, boasts another holding called About.com a company fond of peddling pornography, especially “teen” pornography. Maybe selling out our kids out to overt commercialism doesn’t incite, enough gut reaction in an already commercially saturated and brainwashed generation of parents, but toss in pornography as a catalyst and even these walking numb might just react?
Enter Gary Boyes, parent/citizen activist, with little matched courage and a fastidious and meticulous attention to details. He has declared, “Enough is enough.” Boyes, with children in the Salem/Keizer School District in Oregon, has filed suit on behalf of the district’s 14,000 children: kids are not a captive audience for sale, our children are in school to learn, not watch commercials and be lured into the empty and soul-less world of materialism. Not on the public’s dime, because public school is about civics, not servitude and Mr. Boyes is fighting mad. He wants these scoundrels tossed out of the schools.
Oh yes, Mr. Boyes has statistical data to take one’s breath away. And if parents and citizens are concerned about the wasting of tax dollars in Salem, then Boyes has the ammunition. This 12- minute pseudo news broadcast, consumes over 500,000 hours of individual student hours/per year. That $1.85 million dollar loss of taxpayer’s money subsidizes an external media corporation instead of providing school time. Over $ 309,000 dollars is expended on commercials alone! In this time of disastrous shortfalls of money for education and considering that embarrassingly, public schools in Oregon have cut from 4 to 18 days from their school calendars, this mindless program equates to a five day loss of school days, with one full day lost to advertisements alone!
The little known secret about Primedia (the owner/provider of Channel One) is its incestuous relationship with a purveyor of teenage pornography. One of Primedia’s holdings is a company called About.com. These two entities are linked in more than just financial assets. Simply go to Channelone.com seeking homework help. This “help” on Channelone.com is “powered by About.com” and in seconds a student is delivered to About.com and their information. A few simple clicks beginning on the icons in the upper left corner of the site and the students are delivered to teenage pornography and adult sites. School districts across the country know about this connection and the shame is upon them. Reading, writing, arithmetic and pornography are not the basics of education.
Just three mouse clicks away from “homework help” offered by the school district’s business partner is a voyage to the seedy and grotesque side of corporate America’s foray into public education. Some will wail that Channel One provides free televisions and satellite access and furthermore they say tradeoffs to the perils children must navigate on their computers are needed in times of financial woes. I ask if public schools were meant to act like Judas?
Hedonism and “whatever” seemingly has permeated our society. No salacious or personally embarrassing peccadilloes are off limits for profit into today’s media. Just witness the current “Cancun” movie debacle, where gratuitous sexual conquests and drunken debauchery are to be reveled in and celebrated: for commercial profit. Young adults, just a few years removed from high school now act out society’s fantasies, where the line between fiction and non-fiction are manufactured by corporate America for profit. No lines of decency, a “no-holds barred” attitude where every thing is for sale and common decency and moral family value be damned. Isn’t it enough that the level of blatant sexuality has hit its zenith in our children’s music, television programming and shock-jock radio entertainment? Public schools offer safe haven and a reasoned place for discussion on what it is to be a child and maybe, and just maybe, what it is to be an adult, safeguarding and leading our children through this new minefield of apathy and smugness.
Over 55 million students sit in our public schools today. They represent the best of our society, the promise of a better democracy, the hope of a more decent and caring future. Cynics claim that they live in a commercial and jaded world, so why should advertisement in schools raise eyebrows? Shouldn’t we ignore the pornography connections and mindless pop, facial cream and fast food come-ons that Channel One has to offer, the students see some news and get needed freebies? If a society is judged by how it treats its youth the answer to that question should be easy.
Gary Boyes is fighting our fight. We should join him. He is not looking for any financial rewards, he wants kids protected, public schools to do their jobs and he wants Channel One cast out of his children’s school. Contact him and join him email@example.com. If Gary can force the school district in Salem, Oregon to say goodbye to Channel One, maybe like a mighty set of dominoes, state after state will kiss this corporate carpetbagger goodbye. Gary is working with Commercial Alert firstname.lastname@example.org on his lawsuit and they are to be commended for their fine work to get commercialism out of our schools.
The children of the nation are watching their elders closely. What message will the parents send to their children: will those adults act like mere cowardly quislings and capitulate to the all- powerful corporate monopolies that see schools as the last and untouched domain for profit?
Or is it time to rewrite history once again and act like citizen heroes? You need look no further than Gary Boyes for inspiration.
John F. Borowski works in the Salem School District as a marine and environmental science teacher. His pieces have appeared in Alternatives Magazine, Liberal Slant, NY Times, Oregonian, PR Watch, UTNE Reader, CommonDreams and PR Watch. He can be reached at email@example.com