McDonalds and Gym Class

One of the more interesting aspects of Fast Food Nation, was the information on how food corporations infiltrate and influence students at various schools throughout America. This story in the USA Today, about how McDonalds is sponsoring a Physical Education program, is a pretty good example of this activity.

From the article:

The fast-food giant is launching a new national physical-education program Tuesday aimed at third through fifth graders and includes games and activities from countries around the world.

McDonald’s says 31,000 public elementary schools with 7 million students have agreed to try Passport to Play this year. It’s up to individual PE teachers how much they use the new activities such as boomerang golf from Australia; Japan’s Mr. Daruma Fell Down, a game similar to red light, green light; and Holland’s korfball, which combines elements of basketball and football. Each time students complete a game from another country they will get a stamp in a pretend passport — one of the educational materials that will carry the golden arches logo.

It’d be easy to say that McDonalds has no place in Schools. But I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

First and foremost, McDonalds is always going to act like McDonalds. Any opportunity to get their name out and influence children’s diet desires any way possible. This doesn’t excuse their influence peddling. I’m just stating that certain conditions exist that allow this to happen.

That condition is, as almost always, money, or more specifically, the lack thereof.

Think of yourself as a School Board with limited funds. A corporation comes to your door and offers you a bag of money, as long as you implement their pre-made syllabus. You don’t mind so much because you now have a ready-made class, and you can have your Phys-Ed teachers work on different classes, without having them work on gym classes exclusively.

So not only are you bringing in money from the corporation, your saving money elsewhere. This money can be used on items that taxes can no longer cover. If you’re a school board, what would you do?

Do I think that a fast food company has any right to be in schools? Not at all. But the issue is larger than simply “McDonalds shouldn’t be in schools”.

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