My husband and I went to Maggie and Dylan’s curriculum night on Thursday. Before we could meet their teachers, we had to sit through the PTA’s harassment over the school fundraiser. I was angry about it, but a series of tweets by @paulwhankins today made me mad about it all over again because he gave some articulation to what I was feeling. The PTA representatives pointed out the number of students who had sold junk for the fundraiser versus the number of students in the school, presumably to make us parents feel guilty enough to push our kids into selling junk, and they also pointed out they are only 1/3 of the way to their goal. In the weekly newsletter, we learned the sales period is being extended so that the goal can be met.
Having taught for some years and also having been a student, I know how these things work. They ply kids with junk prizes to sell their junk and make them feel like it’s one of their responsibilities to raise money for their school. As Paul astutely pointed on on Twitter, there are a lot of adults in the school who can write grant proposals or even post on DonorsChoose.org. Why we have to make children feel like they have to sell junk or they don’t care about their school, I can’t understand. I would have less a problem with a PayPal donation button on the school’s website than with this sort of fundraiser.
It may seem weird, but I exclude Girl Scout Cookies from this sort of ire. I think because the emphasis is less on crappy prizes (and theirs are crappy, too), but some things I think Girl Scouts get right about these fundraisers that schools get wrong include the following:
- The product has appeal. I think the cookies are overpriced, but for a once-a-year treat for something I can’t really get elsewhere, it doesn’t bother me. I can buy cheese logs, frozen cookie dough, and wrapping paper much cheaper elsewhere, and the only incentive I have to buy from the schools is to support the schools.
- At least in my daughter’s experience, there has been no pressure to be responsible for selling. My daughter’s troop leaders have established cookie accounts. Money the girls raise by selling cookies goes into those accounts and is used, if the girls wish, to pay for activities, such as camping and trips. They are not made to feel as if they are letting the troop down or causing the troop not to be able to do something by not selling cookies. They are encouraged to sell, but they aren’t guilted into it.
- The prize is not the goal. Girls can earn prizes for selling cookies, and they’re as unimpressive as prizes for any other fundraiser, but the goal is to raise money for activities (which is the point of fundraisers), and my daughter’s troop leaders, at any rate, make that clear in the minds of their girls. And their troop sold the most cookies of any troop in our city, so something about the approach is working. My kids never know why they’re selling products for the school—only that that should.
I am certainly not anti-technology, and I support my school raising funds to purchase interactive whiteboards. I love being able to use one at school, myself. But I think there are vastly better ways of going about it than to push fundraisers on our kids.