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I'm just...I've been having a bad few days anyway, and tonight Destiny presents me with a envelope from the Be Excited About Reading people, with a booklet inside.

The booklet wants me to order magazines, along with filling out names and addresses of family members for them to solicit magazine orders from (a one-time deal).

The problem comes here: Des insisted that the forms were homework, "very special homework," on par with her math assignments. In her mind it actually exceeded the importance of math because there are prizes if she got the forms filled out extra-good, while math only resulted in an amusing stamp on the paperwork.

I explained that it wasn't homework, and that I disapproved of the whole process, and told her I wouldn't be filling out the forms. Destiny began to cry, and she insisted that her teacher would be angry that it was not completed.

When I was in school, I participated in fundraisers, too. I couldn't tell you what I was raising money FOR, but I can tell you that one year I got a Wierd Al record, another year I got a free magazine subscription for myself, and other years I remember selling magazines but have no recollection of why or what I got in return.

According to the blue sheet of paper which accompanied the envelope, these magazine sales go to benefit the Valley Reading Council and the Young Authors' Conference. I'd provide website links, but neither seem to be online. There also was something about the school getting money. All of this was slipped in here and there, amongst the instructions for properly completing the forms and returning the packet to school. One entire paragraph was devoted to the breakdown of prize awards (if you fill out over seven, you get your name in a drawing for a stuffed dog!)

I'm certain this is all above-board, and I'm a happy supporter of the arts and education, as much as I can. I know Destiny's teacher probably could care less as to whether this envelope was returned or not, and I satisfied Destiny by telling her I'll buy her a prize to replace the one she'll forfeit by my inaction (and my prize will probably have more value than the slinky she'd get from the fundraiser.) I might discuss this with her tomorrow, because as I read this note, it appears that a small prize is still awarded for simply returning the envelope, regardless of completed forms.

What gets me riled up is how the end is hardly justified by the means. For such young students, there's no possible way they could understand what this envelope is for. I'd love to support reading programs, but I can't bring myself to help out via a program which grossly misrepresents itself to six and seven year olds. You get toys for filling out forms? That's a lesson that hardly belongs in a first grade classroom.

When I was very young, maybe second grade, there was a contest for reading books. I didn't take it too seriously, but I did read quite a few (I was reading novels at that time, so while I read Treasure Island my peers were reading short books with large print). On library day, we sat at the small tables in the open area between the stacks, and our numbers were read off. When your name was called, you could go choose a prize from the area corresponding to the number of books finished. I got to pick out an eraser -- not just any eraser, though. It was around two inches long, and it was in the shape of a hyper-scifi spaceship, with fins and windows all over it. I never used it to erase anything, because it was too damn cool. Now THAT is a contest for young kids to participate in.

Besides this fundraiser, every couple weeks a Scholastic Books order form follows Destiny home. You know how I feel about those. Right after Christmas Break, Destiny brought home an envelope, addressed to me. Inside was a form saying that for $13.50, Destiny could be part of a special book club. I almost didn't sign up for it, because it was yet another thing asking for money for the school. My mom was visiting and she said something, nothing important, but it made me take a second look. I did my research, and found that this, the Junior Great Books program, was a widely reknowned and well-tested program which encourages critical thinking and discussion of literature. My heart sank, because I almost refused to let Destiny be involved. It's crap like this magazine sale that makes me doubt anything that comes from the school with a dollar sign on it.

So, in the end, I wrote a note, containing most of my sentiment above, and sealed it in the magazine order envelope along with everything else. I also plan to discuss it with Destiny's teacher at the upcoming conferences, emphasizing the fact that Destiny thought she'd be angry if the magazine orders were not completed properly. It makes me sad, though -- feeling like the bad guy for opposing something which intends to make money. I want the school to have all the money they need to educate the children, but I can't support this as a means for doing it.

Hi Derek, Sorry to hear that you've been having a bad few days, hope things improve soon. I'm a regular reader of your I am web page, and your brain log. Just had to write and say that your entry about the school sending home fundraising paraphernalia and magazine orders was something that I myself have a bit of a problem with. My kids are grown up now, but when they were in school I would be inundated with this kind of harassment on a regular basis. I too would be infuriated with both the message it was sending to the children and the fact that because I could not afford financially to participate, or rather to allow my children to participate, my children were made an example of in the class. They would be chastised by the teachers for being lazy and letting the class or school down. I too, took the teachers to task over the immoral way that fundraising is performed. The children who sold enough of course received the great prizes plus the accolades of the teachers and the school. Of course these children came from wealthy homes, and had parents who usually purchased in large quantities whatever was being sold, or the children came from large ethnic families that had greater buying power due to numbers. Kids like mine from single parent, limited or no extended family and friends, through no fault of their own paid the penalty while the others, through no effort of their own, received the rewards. The parents of the unfortunate kids are left to patch up the damaged and fragile self esteem of their children. Even if I had, had the financial means to support the fundraising, I wouldn't have on principal for the same reason you have mentioned. It sends the wrong message to children. I went through all the traumas with my kids over this, but I now have adult children with good strong moral and ethical principals. Then there's

--Linda, 1/29/2003 06:38:56

Sorry that it cut you off, Linda -- there's a 2000-word limit that's a remnant of another website I used this code in, but I forgot to move the disclaimer can continue in another message, though. But, thank you for your support. And, it's heartening to know that there's other people out there who fell the same as me (I got positive feedback about my Scholastic order comments, too.) Next month is the PTA fundraiser -- a fair, full of games and prizes and no misrepresentation of educational vs. profitable. And, it's easy to see where the money goes. I'm a PTA member, and I spend good money at the PTA carnival. I think distributing magazine order forms is used because it needs little effort on the charity's part to get money. The PTA puts a lot of work into the carnival, and they get rewarded well for it.

--Derek , 1/29/2003 10:32:10

Derek.....i think you and I have discussed this before. I have the scholastic catalog from 1990-about 1995 in my basement. I once was a sucker for those things. The girls would whine til gramma would give them each 5.00 and they would get books. I just got the paper work for my son to start kindergarten in the fall. I should prepare myself now for silly fundraisers, and books to sell movies, not promote reading. Thanks for the maddening reminder!

--Shelley, 1/30/2003 06:01:34

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