JR'S Free Thought Pages
The Corporatization and Marketing of the Planet
The Case of Sports and our Beleaguered Public Schools
by Johnny Reb, June 2014
Marketing is Poisoning Everything
We are experiencing the corporatization, marketing and commercialization of everything, including ourselves. It's like a river of mind destroying toxic sludge polluting our minds and violating our privacy. Rarely a day goes by without an annoying telemarketing call, despite call blocking and my refusal to answer any phone call, unless it's a recognizable name on the call display.
Business, advertising and marketing are becoming the bubonic plagues of the 20th and 21st centuries, as our lives and minds are endlessly invaded and debased by telemarketers and pitch men. Television has been debased for decades now, just hundreds of more channels to violate your psyche and destroy your intellect.
Corporatized Sporting Events
As is the case with several plant and animal species becoming extinct each day, freedom, democracy, time for reflection, tranquility and privacy are quickly diminishing. Corporate logos and slogans appear anywhere there is an open slot of space-time. For example, try watching a professional baseball game on TV as every square centimetre of available ground and fencing is plastered with a corporate logo. At every available opportunity during the game there is a marketing intrusion: this pitching change is brought to you by Ford, the hitting stats are brought to you by Viagra, the seventh inning stretch is brought to you by God ("God Bless America, blah, blah") and even before the game begins one is forced to endure the mind bending banality of national anthems or military drills (sponsored by your government's current imperialistic war).
If you are a member of the elite 1% you might even be able to afford a cheap $300 seat for a live game and watch it from a seat where you need an oxygen supply. For the .01% there are $300,000 a year sky boxes, complete with champagne, caviar and valet service. For those working class peons who grew up passionately playing any of these sports and can still tolerate the multi-millionaire prima donna robots who play them, the cost of attending a live game is prohibitive.
Marketing has become so perverse that some desperate people have resorted to selling the space on parts of their bodies to corporate marketing, having tattooed their foreheads with company logos or promotional mottos.
Even the building in which the sport is played (often built with public funds) is sponsored by some mega-corporation: General Motors Place, Microsoft Coliseum, Met Life Stadium, etc, etc.
Corporatization of Public Schools
Toward the end of my teaching career I can vividly recall when corporations began to invade the domain of public schools. Businesses were salivating at the idea of a gullible captive potential customer base in a public institution that already was, in large part, an instrument for propaganda and indoctrination. In many instances our school boards have become dominated by reactionary book burning Christian fundamentalists and lately it's been a philistine of another stripe, the businessman. Too often it's a controlled combination of the two, as it is in politics at every level. Yes, the Christian businessman, a grotesque phenomenon that H. L. Mencken described as "the most revolting character the United States has ever produced."
Underfunding of the public schools by conservative right wing market ideologues at all levels of governments began in the early 1980s. But there was a cunning and shrewd reason for it. It's called greed, profit and privatization of everything in the universe.
As our teacher pay slips were pilfered and the workloads increased, the school culture and the impressionable students within it started to become the target of big business. A target not unlike some Third World country with rich resources and an impoverished populace. In the school within which I taught, South Delta Senior Secondary, it began somewhat innocuously as soft drink machines and junk food dispensaries, along with their corporate logos, began to litter the hallways.
As this was happening, the "business model" soon became the overriding paradigm for an increasingly over-bloated school management that began to promote and impose it on students and staff. One of the many manifestations of this banality was the "total quality management" (TQM) concept in which staff and management became coerced into deadly boring meetings as they attempted to formulate a "mission statement" and "motto" for our school. These were primarily management recipes littered with mind numbing catchphrases designed for control and coercion. The same process prevailed at the school board offices.
Other than sycophantic moles and those self-serving career oriented teachers looking to escape from the classroom and into management*, the teaching staff overwhelmingly deemed it a colossal bore and waste of time.
* Since the late 1970s there has been a huge inflation of management positions in the school system, both visible and invisible. It boggles the mind what these drones do perched in their lavish offices every day. The student teacher ratio in most school districts is officially cited at something like 18:1 despite the fact that class sizes are invariably 30 or more. How do you explain this discrepancy? It's because close to half the people employed in the school district are in some highly paid administrative, management or quasi-management position. Like most of government and the corporate world, most management functions are redundant, often ineffective intrusions into the worker autonomy and their ability to get things done. Most know little or nothing of the responsibilities of their subordinates and insist on micromanaging an employee to the point of exasperation and frustration.
These ineffectual management drones are not in the trenches teaching kids; instead they are potential or former teachers siphoned off into administrative tasks in the shadow economy of the board office. But this is another complex story about why we have a dysfunctional system. One of the most popular graduate programs for teachers in recent years has been "administration", the paragon of anti-intellectualism and antithesis of what education is all about.
In the early 1990s I tried to get a paid sabbatical to work on a PhD program that had been offered by UBC. My focus was critical thinking, which would be an extension of the work I did on my MA. Two very young female elementary school teachers were contesting the positions, neither of whom had anywhere near my academic credentials. Both young ladies were granted the only two openings and both were pursuing their MEd in "educational administration". With a 250 page MA dissertation titled "Constructive Scepticism, Critical Thinking and the Ethics of Belief" in hand, for which I received a first class, I delivered what I thought was a flawless case for one of the paid sabbaticals and was a bit shaken when I wasn't offered one of them. Moreover, I had over 20 years experience teaching senior mathematics in the Delta School District whereas the other two applicants had 10 years combined. The two referees were the all-too-typical robotic administrators from the board office which likely explains the decision against yours truly.
Back to the mission statement and motto madness. After hundreds of hours of discussion we came up with the ultimate banality, "South Delta Senior Secondary - a great place to work and learn". I'm not kidding! This empty adage is the sort of bland absurdity that only a management drone or committee would come up with. The school board, after their commitment to an equal number of wasted hours, came up with "Delta School District: Where learning matters". Seriously! Again it's the sort of gobbledygook one finds in New Age gurus, self-help books and preachers of pap like Steven Covey who tout bland positive thinking pabulum and common sensual epigrams most of us ought to have understood by the time we graduated from kindergarten.
The resulting warmed over business management nostrums and positive thinking drivel was posted all over our school. The mindless slogan that was posted in my classroom by a careerist staff ass kisser or administrator, I promptly ripped down and replaced with a critical thinking quote from Bertrand Russell and a peace poster featuring Jimi Hendrix.
The other idea that became popular was "leadership" and "leadership skills". One of our dim witted vice-principals endlessly touted this mind numbing concept of conservative authoritarianism. One day in the hallway I asked her why some of the great leaders of history are not mentioned in her motivational blurbs on the PA system. You know, I said, "uplifting, inspiring and motivational leaders of the masses such as Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Benito Mussolini, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun".
So what is the future of our cash strapped public schools? If you're an unfortunate student, don't be surprised to hear the following:
"This math lesson on quadratic equations is brought to you by Suncor, our environmentally friendly Tar Sands benefactor."
"These school announcements are sponsored by the bank who cares, the Royal Bank of Canada and its investment arm RBC Direct."
[RBC wouldn't dare to mention the class action suits launched against their online brokerage arm RBC Direct for bilking their customers. This never became public information but I was I was personally involved in two of them so I know it's true. None of this shocking criminality by our wonderful ethical banks was revealed in our lap dog corporate media, including another I was involved in with TD Waterhouse.]
"This school play is coming to you courtesy of funding from your patron of the arts, Bain Capital Hedge Fund."
And don't be surprised to hear in a prosperity gospel church service, "This sermon is brought to you by Goldman Sachs the company doing God's work".*
*This is no attempt at dark humour. Former CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman in 2008 in the midst of the financial meltdown, was pleading with the US government for bailout money, claiming Goldman was doing "God's work".
And so on and so forth.
As mentioned, in recent years people have been known to use their foreheads as billboards, tattooing it with a corporate insignia or slogan. Yes this actually is happening. Every available space and time slot is being devoured by marketing. Surely you've noticed while watching the boredom that passes for professional sports these days: This field goal is sponsored by Chevron and the half-time show is brought to you by God ("God Bless America, land of the free...") and an appeal to "support the troops", glorifying working class boys needlessly being traumatized, maimed and slaughtered in some rich man's imperialistic venture.
High School Course Modifications:
"Marketing 12" and "Business Ethics 12", two new courses accepted for academic graduation credit, financed and designed by Warren Buffett, George Soros and Donald Trump" These courses will replace "Literature 12" and "Creative Writing 12."
The administration is also are proud to announce "History of Business 12" which will replace "World History 12" and "Cooking the Books 12" and Offshore Tax Havens 12" which will replace "Physics 12 and "Biology12"."
The movement to corporatize and force everything in the universe to the altar of privatization and the discipline of the market by our neo-conservative corporate masters has been underway since the early 1980s, thanks to the Reagan-Thatcher-Mulroney reactionary revolution. The privatization of public schools is well underway in the United States, a phenomenon that should have been obvious to us many years ago. Now that governments are bankrupt at all levels, thanks to corporate free rides on taxes, immoral offshore tax havens and the massive corporate bailouts, nothing will soon remain within the public domain. The process of underfunding and bankrupting governments had an underlying malevolent agenda most of us should have recognized long ago. But no one can deny it now.
This dystopian program reached its nadir with the multi-trillion dollar global government bailouts of corporate criminals during the financial meltdowns in 2007-09. "Too big to fail" and "Too big to jail" were told by our bought-and-paid-for corporatist politicians. Conservative governments such as Ronald Reagan (who tripled the US debt in 8 years) and Brian Mulroney who also ran huge federal deficits in the 1980s, primarily the result of tax concessions to big business and militarization were merely the beginning of the process. The corporate pimp and neo-conservative ideologue Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the good buddy of George W Bush, is another manifestation of this disturbing trend. Herr Harper salivates and has wet dreams just thinking about privatizing our government health care and public education systems.
The plunder of the commons and bankruptcy of governments at all levels is almost complete.
Welcome to corporate feudalism suckers!