A plea to the Elida (OH) Board of Education

November 24, 2016
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Dear Mr. Jason Bowers, Mr. Pat Schymanski, Ms. Brenda Stocker, Ms. Christine Ulrich, Mr. Jeff Christoff,

I write you to ask your board to consider ending the showing of Channel One News in your district.

Channel One is a very controversial “kiddie” marketing company.  How controversial?  New York, Channel One’s home state, has a long-standing policy prohibiting Channel One News from being shown in its public school classrooms.

There is no educational organization that endorses the use of Channel One in your schools.

Since 1996 I have been researching and reporting on the commercial exploitation of schoolchildren. (Obligation.org) I am a one-man, self-funded nonprofit.  I do not take donations.  I am not trying to sell your district another product to replace Channel One.  I simply detest the idea that any schoolchild, anywhere is compelled to spend precious school time watching Channel One, especially without parental permission.

I haven’t written much about Channel One in the past few years, because I thought it was basically dead.  I was surprised to see a district with your standing and with your resources still involved with C1.

Channel One’s primary purpose is and always has been to place advertising in front of a captive audience of schoolchildren.  Every president of Channel One has been either an advertising or marketing executive, never an educator or journalist. The small amount of news on the program gives it its facade of respectability.

Currently Channel One is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Please don’t equate HMH’s educational reputation with Channel One’s. Less than 30 months ago Channel One’s owner was ZelnickMedia best known for their ultra-violent Grand Theft Auto video game franchise.  Before that the company was owned by Alloy Media + Marketing best known for sleaze TV fare like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl.  (Both these shows were advertised on Channel One.)

Probably few parents have complained to you about Channel One. That’s because most are unaware of the program or the controversies that surround it.

If Channel One’s 12-minute TV show is shown every day, that’s one hour a week of school time.  That’s more than an instructional week of school time each year, per student.  The content, both commercial and non-commercial, for this week’s worth of school time has been approved by… nobody in the Elida community.  Each day this supplemental “curriculum” is thought up. created, and packaged by this marketing firm in Manhattan.

Elida community standards are of no concern to Channel One.  Channel One makes one daily program for all secondary school students.  They believe content appropriate for a high school senior is also appropriate for students just out of elementary school.  (They also have a shorter show with different content for elementary schools.)

No matter your personal stance on political or sexual issues in the news, Channel One should worry you.  Channel One routinely put LGBT stories into the face of Elida schoolchildren.  Do Elida parents just have to go along with this?  Do Elida parents even know this is happening?  I remember one Channel One News episode shown to a 6th grade classroom which showed clips of seven gay weddings. I have seen a youthful Channel One anchor explain to students what each letter of “LGBT” means.

I have also seen Channel One advertise movies and TV shows that normalized and glorified teen drug and alcohol use.

I hope you will deal with Channel One before stakeholders in your district become upset.  A quick check of other outstanding schools districts in your area should confirm that showing Channel One is not a “best practice.”  Indeed, Channel One News has always been a pariah in the world of education.

Channel One is probably a holdover from a long ago Elida Board that thought “free” TV sets were an attractive offer they couldn’t refuse.  Back in the 90’s Channel One offered a “free” television network for schools that agreed to show its commercial-saturated TV show at least 80% of school days.  It was a terrible financial deal for schools then; it’s even worse now. Most schools kept watching Channel One because they feared their TV sets and satellite dish would be taken away.  There is no fear of that now because Channel One gave up title to all their equipment four years ago.  The Channel One contract has no stipulated damages.  I believe your attorney should see no legal obstacle to terminating the program.

Another reasonable and prudent approach to reevaluating Channel One would be to stop showing the program while your district reviews the pros and cons of the program.  After your review you are either going to continue showing the program or you will end it.

If you continue showing it, I hope you will change your policy of “opt out” to an “opt in” policy.  It appears from teacher webpages that it is assumed students will watch Channel One’s content and specially-targeted commercials unless a parent or student protests.  I hope you agree this is wrong.  Parents should be given adequate information about Channel One so they can give their written, informed consent for their child to watch Channel One.

The burden of proof is on the Elida school district, not on parents and the public.  Parents don’t have to prove Channel One is “bad” or ineffective or offensive; it is the district that has to, probably for the first time, prove Channel One is so valuable it is worth the school time.

There may be some who say that because Channel One is shown in a non-instructional period then no school time is lost.  I don’t think that’s true because that non-instructional period has obviously been artificially lengthened to accommodate Channel One’s TV show. With Channel One gone, just think of the benefits of an extra hour a week of reading.

You can go through the disappointing history of Channel One News at this link.

Based on my 20 years experience, most of you are surprised to know Channel One is in their schools. Hopefully, after some research, your Board will be 100% in favor of commercial-free classrooms and Channel One will be done. But if your Board needs more information, I urge your Board to consider giving at least thirty minutes to this issue at a future Board meeting.  Five minutes to a Channel One representative, five to me, and twenty+ to the Board and community for hard questions for both of us.

Much Obliged for all you do for other people’s children,

Jim Metrock

Obligation, Inc.
P.O. Box 26270
Birmingham, AL 35260
205.822.0080
jimmetrock@obligation.org

PS  Sometimes a great school district is made better not by what it adds, but by what it removes.

 

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