Corporate Sponsors in Our Schools, Quotable Quotes and White Buffalo

[Author’s Note: While I dig deeper into the 2010 Census numbers I offer a column that was first published in 1994. Next issue I will (hopefully) have compiled more information on our county to share with you.]

Item #1: Last year, 29,000 high school home-economics teachers across the country received a teaching guide prepared by Scholastic, Inc., a justifiably noted publisher, and Revlon, the cosmetic company giant. The guide was entitled Hot Looks, Cool Style, and it opens with a preface to the teacher, which reads:

“The activities listed below will help your students discover why hair behaves the way it does, and what to do about it. It’s a lively and entertaining program that will involve your entire class, because hair is so important to a teen’s self-image.”

Among a variety of activities suggested in the guide are the following (I swear, I am not making this up):

“Ask students to bring in pictures of themselves from days they consider ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hair days. Mount them on a bulletin board and have students describe what a good and bad hair day means to them.”

Another suggestion has students bringing in pictures from magazines, newspapers, etc., and having the class guess information about the subjects. “Then reveal the true identities of the people…and discuss whether their hairstyles suit their ages, personalities, and professions. Have students offer hairstyle suggestions to improve the subject’s credibility, authority, and effectiveness.”

Now take some time here and picture this: your photo appears in the local paper and ends up in a home-economics class where the students discuss your relative merits based upon the way your hair behaves. Scary? You bet. But this is a learning experience for young minds, right?

One last activity from the study guide:

“Students who have developed a successful hair regimen will swear there are products they can’t live without. Start a discussion by asking the following question: ‘If you were stranded on a desert island with fresh water to wash your hair, which three hair care products would you have to have, and why?”

Hello! If am stranded on a desert island I would be thankful for fresh water just so I could drink, and I wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about my hair.

Understand, I am not making light of home-economics programs or education, but the above claptrap posing as progressive education is an insult to the student’s intelligence. Do Scholastic and Revlon really believe that any student subjected to these “activities” will keep a straight face? And are we really suppose to believe that Revlon has any interest in this endeavor other than capturing the attention of a young audience with their products? Corporate endorsements are everywhere these days, and now, apparently, they are creeping into our classrooms.

Meanwhile, over in Shop class, students, working from the Scholastic/Stanley Tools workbook, are answering the question, “Which three tools they would have to have if they were stranded on an island with plenty of hard woods?”

Teacher: Yes, Johnny. What three tools would you choose?

Johnny: Well, I’d choose a mallet so I could pound in posts for the frame of a hut. And I choose pliers in case I got a splinter that I had to pull. (Laughs from the class.)

Teacher: Very good, Johnny. Go ahead.

Johnny: And I’d choose a chainsaw to cut the wood.

Teacher: Johnny, Stanley doesn’t make a chainsaw. You know very well you can only choose from tools that are made by our corporate sponsor.

Johnny: Rats. Well, I’d want some protection so I guess I’d choose a semi-automatic assault rifle of some sort.

Teacher: You’re losing sight of what class you’re in young man. Save responses like that for the Soldier of Fortune workbook in your Civics Class.

(Okay. I made the Shop class stuff up, but you get my drift.)

Item #2: From the “quotes so good they bear repeating” file comes a gem from the lips of Phillip Reise at American Express. In explaining that the new Optima True Grace card the company unveiled will not make the judgment errors that resulted in $1 billion in bad debts the original Optima card created, Mr. Reise said, “Good judgment comes from bad experience. Let’s say we now have excellent judgment.”

I’m sure there are a lot of American Express stockholders who hope so.

Item #3: On a farm at the edge of Janesville, Wi. a white buffalo was born. This is an event of huge proportion to many Native Americans, and I mean no disrespect to the importance of this event to their culture when I say that on reading the stories about this birth I was struck by a strange irony.

I went to Junior High, High School, and College in Beloit, Wi. just 14 miles south of Janesville. When our basketball team went to play conference games in Janesville, if there was snow on the ground, we had to run from the locker room to the bus dodging snow and ice balls while trying to ignore the defaming insults of the crowd which invariably waited for our departure.

You see, Beloit Memorial High School in the mid-‘70s was 45 percent black. Janesville on the other hand had a total of three black families living within their city limits. So you’ll have to forgive my sense of irony that a white buffalo (a symbol according to Native American lore of the races coming together and living in peace) should be born in Janesville.

They say “the Lord works in mysterious ways” and – most of the time – I tend to agree. However, I am absolutely certain that the Lord has a great sense of irony.