High Pressure Sales

So you work for a big company that sells widgets. The boss tells you that you need to sell at least 100 widgets this month. He also says, you don't really have to sell 100 widgets but if you don't, you don't get paid. In the corporate world this might be a good way to motivate your sales force and drive up profits. But what if you're in the third grade?

Apparently, one of our county elementary schools is using a similar tactic to motivate their students to drive up profits from a fund raiser. According to the principal, students were encouraged to raise as much money as they could to help support the school. But only the the children who brought in at least $150 would get to participate in the big celebration. In this instance, a ride in a limousine around the Walmart parking lot. So if a kid doesn't bring in at least the minimum of $150, no limo ride. This is wrong on so many levels.

My personal disdain for school fund raisers goes well beyond my time on the school board. It goes back to when my boys were school age and would come home with sales assignments. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. But when it is turned into a competition for rewards, that's when it's crossed the line. The goal of public education is to educate children. What educational benefit is there in children being goaded into fund raising?

The premise behind fund raising is always the same. "The schools just are so desperately in need of money." This is an idea I reject. The principal pressing the fund raiser above stated in a recent news letter that the school " did not receive any budgeted dollars this year for technology" and that the proceeds from the fund raiser would be "supplementing classroom instructional supplies funds."

This year's Loudon County schools budget is more than $37,000,000.00 for nine schools. That budget includes $740,000.00 for instructional supplies. That's on top of the supplies parents are requested to provide. Also in the big budget, the technology department budget has now swelled to more than $705,000.00. So when I hear any administrator state that no money has been budgeted for this and that, I beg to differ.

It's admirable that administrators and teachers want to have the best in whistles and bells that money can buy to help educate our children. But to use manipulation of an army of cute little children competing for the affections of those in positions of authority whom they so desperately want to please, is in my biased view wrong. Let the grown ups raise the money and let the kids be the kids.

I fear that some are losing perspective on what education is about. I'm sure all the high tech equipment for the class rooms make the school day more fun and maybe even more productive. But to perpetuate a system that in essence will divide children in financial classes within our schools should never happen. After all, the kids in the first thru fourth grade can't really go out and raise money. That task falls on the shoulders of the parents who more times than not are the ones who would have to come up with the $150 minimum so their child can share in the special prize. This certainly has the potential to alienate the children of lesser means. But as the principal said, "that's how we've always done it."