A Colorado Springs McEducation, thanks to Wal-Mart

News today that Denver International Airport is hoping to place advertisements in the plastic bins used at security checkpoints is sure to stir up complaints about turning security screenings into one big commercial. If you can’t be spared from an advertising bombardment as you take off half your clothes and are subjected to a gauntlet of air-blowing and metal-detecting machines, is nothing safe? What’s next, corporate-sponsored school assemblies?

You betcha.

As the Colorado Springs blog Newspeak noted yesterday, kids at the local Midland Elementary School got a lesson in corporate sponsorship last Friday, when their end-of-the-year awards ceremony was not so subtly sponsored by their friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart. As a livid parent reported:

…after the awards were handed out (everyone got one) Wal-Mart took the stage and something of a pro-Wal-Mart rally ensued. Reports are that the school principal, Barbara Bishop, had the kids raising their hands and cheering-on the juggernaut of consumer culture. The reason for the Wal-Mart endorsed portion of the rally was that they were donating $1,000 to the school. This came complete with corporate representatives and one of those goofy gigantic checks.

It’s hard to know exactly what happened at the assembly without being there. But Midland makes no secret of their corporate allegiances. On their home page, they thank their “business partners” for their “continuous support throughout the school year.” That includes Citizen’s National Bank, Total Training Fitness Center, Applebee’s and, yes, Wal-Mart. There’s even an Applebee’s advertisement of sorts: "Apples to Apples: Midland Elementary and Applebee's."

Colorado Springs schools have long been known for their questionable corporate bedfellows. The school district made headlines in 1997 when it sold Coca-Cola the exclusive rights to advertise in their hallways. In some respects, it’s hard to blame such tactics. With public schools hemorrhaging students and funds, these institutions need all the help they can get. Schools have long partnered with companies ranging from Scholastic books to Texas Instruments — why not add Wal-Mart to the list? The problem is what these companies expect in return. A thank-you note in a school newsletter is one thing. In-school Wal-Mart rallies are quite another. In this case, Midland Elementary gets an A — for asinine. – Joel Warner

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner