In general, I consider myself a rather reasonable person. I don’t call the homeowner’s association when people leave their Christmas lights up until after St. Patrick’s Day, do not yell at neighborhood kids to get off my lawn, do not suffer apoplectic fits when people cut me off in traffic.
But you want to see my head spin around and fire shoot out of my eyes? Hide in the bushes and watch when the kids bring home their schools’ fundraiser packets.
Listen, I know the schools are underfunded, education is devalued, extra-curricular activities cost money blah, blah, blah. I KNOW. I am back in college at 41 to become a teacher, for crying out loud, even though my previous career paid better and was cooler to discuss at parties.
But I hate the great American educational tradition of pimping out our kids to raise money selling overpriced useless crap.
This year, I was thrilled when my daughter’s middle school PTA sent home information saying “no fundraiser, we’re going to have ‘greenback night,’ just send cash or checks in whatever amount you like.”
The angels sang.
No stupid coupon books, no stale popcorn in tins, no wrapping-paper catalogs, no shortening-rich nasty frozen cookie dough, no candles to shill. No awkward hitting up of grandma and grandpa and co-workers. No racing the other kids in the neighborhood to get door-to-door and see who could hit up the neighbors first. No apologetic, “hey, I know this stuff is lame, but my kid can’t go to the popsicle party if she doesn’t sell 5 things.”
Just, “hey, we need money for extracurricular stuff. Send in what you can.” I wrote a check, praising Jesus and the PTA all the while.
Then yesterday, my daughter came home, with that all-too-familiar brainwashed Children-of-the-Corn look in her eyes. And a freaking packet in her hand.
“Mom,” she said. “I need to start selling magazine subscriptions.”
WHAT THE HELL????
I called the school “Oh, the greenbacks is the PTA fundraiser. The magazines are the school fundraiser. And yes, choir will have its own fundraiser, too. They’re optional, of course.”
Oh sure. They’re totally optional. Except that they herd all the kids in a stupid sales pitch pep rally, where they serve fundraiser Kool-aid and get the kids all pumped up like a Tony Robbins seminar.
If you bring something back tomorrow, you get a cool plastic space alien slingshot! If you sell 2 things, you can watch the BMX stunt show pep rally! Sell 10 useless things and get out of class to play in the video game bus and roll around in giant hamster wheels! Guilt-trip grandma into buying 15 magazine subscriptions and bring a slacker friend to the party! Harass 30 neighbors or your parents’ co-workers, and you can spend 20 seconds in the cash cube, grabbing all the money your little hands can hold!
Someone’s making big money off these things, and guess what? It’s not just your kid’s school.
From a Minnesota Public Radio report: “The average fundraiser nets the school about 47 cents for every dollar of merchandise sold. The association says school fundraisers grossed well over $3 billion in 2000, the last year the industry group attempted to estimate the figure.”
Running school fundraisers is big business. “Just like any other business,” one fundraiser organizer said in that radio report.
Except no, not really. There aren’t kindergarteners stocking the shelves at HEB. No 10-year-olds on the register at Target. No middle schoolers at Papa John’s selling pizza.
My kid’s job is to go to school. Not sell overpriced things people don’t need so some knick-knack seller can turn a profit. Not to encourage the ridiculous consumer mentality of “we must buy stuff we don’t need to make people happy.”
You need money for extras? Just explain that to me. We’re not rich, but I’d rather come up with the cash than pimp out my child to a tchotchke-maker.
Now, does anyone need any magazines?