Primary Education

The horror, the horror: School Fundraisers

I have never taught at the primary/elementary level, but I have a child who went through the public schools, so I know plenty about fundraising. I know that it is terrible:

1. If you stop for two seconds during the fundraising frenzy and think about what you’re doing, you realize how goddamned depressing it is that you have to do it at all. Chances are high that you are not raising money for the entire student body to travel to Tahiti; more likely, you are raising money for stuff that you would hope would be covered by the state. Like books and paper.

2. The entire business constitutes an extortion racket rivaling any pyramid scheme your neighbor ever tried to hook you into. Marx would give up on humanity completely if he got a look at this: Crap goods that no one actively wants or needs produced solely for consumption that enriches the company producing the pointless goods. They get away with it by attaching themselves to public schools, as if there are no better ways to fund them. It’s the perfect storm of cynical capitalism. Pointless goods get produced and distributed for profit, and the real plight of public education–the lack of commitment by the public and state–is obscured by flashy brochures and smiling children enjoying pizza parties and iPods.

Which brings me to 3. The parties and prizes. I didn’t recall this from my school days, but my son’s fundraisers included a pizza party, during school hours, for every student who sold above a certain amount of crap. Students who did not meet the threshold had to stay in class while their peers went out for pizza. I always imagined Alec Baldwin standing in front of a room full of demoralized 2nd graders yelling PIZZA IS FOR CLOSERS. The shaming nature of this really angered me. No one sends small children out to raise money door to door anymore, which means parents carry most of the burden for selling. A child with parents who do not have a network to whom they can sell guilt-goods or who don’t give a damn will suffer, and and suffer publicly.

I really wish this ghastly practice would end, for so many reasons.


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DrShell is an Associate Professor of English at a small liberal arts college. She teaches world literature, composition, popular culture, and speculative fiction and serves as faculty sponsor for the Secular Student Alliance. DrShell lives in tame suburbia with her husband and son and a pack of rescued pets, where she spends a lot of time running, taking Body Pump classes, and thinking about getting another tattoo.

1 Comment

  1. June 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm —

    Ugh it is the worst. I still remember what it was like to do it when I was in school–they gave us these dumb little “collectable” toys that were basically dyed cotton balls with googly eyes and accessories for selling certain numbers of magazine subscriptions. I never quite understood why we had to sell crap people don’t want (seriously…who wasn’t already subscribed to the magazines they wanted?) rather than actually collecting donations for the school. I can’t imagine the school’s share of the sale was much money at all.

    The one fundraiser that I participated in that did work really well was when we sold chocolate bars for my high school band. It worked well for two reasons: first, it was actually really good quality chocolate; second, students kept a share of the profit on each box sold so they were motivated to make a little bit of money. That is, as long as they didn’t end up eating their profits. It was kind of like this episode of The Boondocks, but with less organized crime.

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