Sunday, June 17, 2012

The American marketing scams

I've been toying with writing an article and submitting it to a parenting magazine about the scam of "emergent schools" after seeing what a joke it is at the super expensive private school the boy I nanny for went to.  His mom and I were talking about it the other day and I mentioned wanting to write that article then said I didn't want to come out to them that I was her nanny and she said she didn't care.   It might be that all "emergent" schools are not like this one though.  There is a "homeschool school" by us that has students who graduate and go to excellent colleges and end up well functioning and happy.  But they seem to have a different format because they actually give homework and set goals for their students to meet from what I can tell (from talking to the kids on occasion when they pass by our house and reading their website). 

The school the boy I nanny for went to on the other hand does not believe in schedules, curriculum or setting goals for the kids.   They believe kids needs the freedom to create their own goals and learn what interests them.  So, from what I can tell, the goals that "my charge" decided on were to get to the highest level in a video game called Poplandia and to make the ultimate paper airplane.  The classrooms don't have desks but they do have a table for the kids to use if need be, but most of the kids lie on the floor to play or sit at the computers and play video games.  Except at recess when they do whatever they want unattended, including setting things on fire.  You too can have all this for your child for almost $20k a year.  Plus the extra cost of hiring tutors because the school hasn't taught them anything (which from what I can tell is the biggest complaint from parents who had kids attend there including my boss).  So, it's off to public school for "my charge".  My daughter loves her school and has been very encouraging saying this summer she's going to tell him all the wonderful things about public school and how much he'll love it.  I'll be interested to see how well he does.  He is extremely bright so I imagine once he adjusts he will just take off and really start to love all the opportunities to learn so much. 

Of course, we're lucky both our families live in really good school districts.  It's a lot harder down in the Highline SD where I grew up and some of my friends still live.  Most of them send their kids to private school - but once again, I'd homeschool before I sent my kid to an "emergent school" and wasted my money on what is basically super-expensive babysitting where the babysitters do less than most daycares do.  I think homeschooling would be incredibly fun except for a few things in our case:  1) After gradeschool I don't feel qualified to teach all the subjects that they have experts for at schools 2) I have to work part-time and 3) My daughter doesn't want to learn anything from me and most of all 4) she is so social that without daily interaction with her peers she would go nuts (and drive me nuts).  I think that's why people who go to the school near us go there - it's 3 days a week and they can still homeschool, but their kids get time with experts and lots of peer interaction on top of it.

The other marketing scam in our country that's been on my mind is "organic" and "free range".  Many months ago my dad told me about an investigative article he read that found that companies can sell their chicken as "free range" as long as they have a certain amount of outside square footage to leave the coop into.  I don't remember the exact measurements but it was something tiny - like a foot per chicken.  And it didn't have to be a pleasant area, it could be a tiny patch of concrete, gravel, or broken up chunks of cement and construction waste.  But as long as the chickens could leave the coop they are "free range".

The other worrisome thing is the lable "organic". My sister-in-law horrified me last Thanksgiving when she said, "I don't need to wash these grapes because they're organic".   Well, if they're in your yard and they're organic that's one thing.  But "organic" is a label that companies can buy and they have to only use certain pesticides and herbicides and only certain amounts allowed by the FDA.  Products such as Entrust spinosad, Javelin Bacillus thuringiensis and Cueva Fungicide copper octanoate are sprayed from helicopters onto for instance and organic spinach field. (source: "The American Way of Eating" by Tracie McMillan).  Before you think these are harmless natural products - workers are required to stay out of the fields for a minimum of four hours after spraying because of the danger of the fumes.

We don't have a huge hard but I'm filling it up with as much garden as I can.  Obviously, we don't have enough room to grow all our own produce, but it'll be nice to have more of it since I know it is organic in a real sense - not in a "marketing term bought for my company" sense.  And it's good practice for someday when we might live on more land where we can grow a lot more of our own produce.  But for now I have pots, and raised beds all over the place. 

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