I’m not buying it, and I’m not selling it

you could win a prize
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

An enormous sheaf of sales catalogues and flyers came home with Moomin the second week of school. Before he had any homework, he had fundraising materials. These catalogues are pressure on the child and on the parents.

I notice the school does not give prizes for academic achievement.

They give prizes for selling some overpriced candles or wrapping paper or cookie dough.

This infuriates me on many, many levels.

I enjoyed selling crap from those comic-book ad schemes, on the level of looking at the prizes and dreaming of a tent or a transistor radio, and an afternoon spent knocking on all the doors on my block to sell christmas cards. I also enjoyed momentary schemes to sell lemonade, rocks, and craft projects. However, that was a youthful lark. Not a SUBSTITUTE FOR TAXES.

The companies that participate in this sort of scheme are not helping schools. They are exploiting the labor of children and women and throwing us some crumbs. They get free marketing. They use the idea of charity and pity: small cute children selling stuff door to door, and you’ll buy the wrapping paper because the kids are cute.

It is not cute. It is not right.

They might as well have forced labor in the school itself, and turn the kids to doing at work-at-home schemes, or prison-level craft projects, or factory assembly work. All in the name of funding the school of course.

I repeat there are no prizes for academics. There’s no art contest, no sports contests. That might destroy a child’s self esteem. That might be unfair to children who aren’t good at anything. Nevermind that not having academic acheivement, not having competition, might destroy the smart kid’s opportunity for self esteem.

These fundraising sales schemes give the message that it’s okay to lean on people’s class privilege — because being able to sell a buttload of wrapping paper depends on class privilege — and that it’s okay to give prizes for that, and guilt the children into guilting their parents. You’ll get a prize if your mom takes you around your neighborhood to sell stuff, or if she takes your sales catalogue to work and gets her co-workers to buy the stuff out of their regard for her and desire to be nice to her.

This kind of fundraising also further supports the class differences in our school district. How much money do you think the school in the hills will raise, vs. the school across the train tracks?

Taxes, people. We pay them for a reason and one of those reasons is to guarantee equal opportunity in education to every child in this country.

Our system is very, very broken when we have to resort to these schemes in order to pay a P.E. teacher part time or buy some art supplies.

I boycott all such fundraising schemes now and forever. I won’t work for them and I won’t let my kid do them while I still have that option. I bought a pencil sharpener and a stapler for my kids’ classroom, but any money I’m donating will go to the whole district.

Screw these “reach for the stars” glossy flyers, screw the candles, the wrapping paper, the crap and the cookie dough. I’m not buying it.

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