The Arizona Desert Lamp

Pop Quiz, Sponsored by Circle K

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 2 December 2008
By Charlie Neuman, San Diego Union-Tribune

By Charlie Neuman, San Diego Union-Tribune

At first I laughed, but then I wondered why we couldn’t start doing something similar here at Arizona. From USA Today:

So when administrators at Rancho Bernardo, his suburban San Diego high school, announced the district was cutting spending on supplies by nearly a third, Farber had a problem. At 3 cents a page, his tests would cost more than $500 a year. His copying budget: $316. But he wanted to give students enough practice for the big tests they’ll face in the spring, such as the Advanced Placement exam.

“Tough times call for tough actions,” he says. So he started selling ads on his test papers: $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final.

San Diego magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune featured his plan just before Thanksgiving, and Farber came home from a few days out of town to 75 e-mail requests for ads. So far, he has collected $350. His semester final is sold out.

. . .

Principal Paul Robinson says reaction has been “mixed,” but he notes, “It’s not like, ‘This test is brought to you by McDonald’s or Nike.’ “

But why not? Before the “No Logo” acolytes come out of the cracks, decrying “Friedman corporatism,” remember that ASU just essentially filed for bankruptcy. Right now, everything is tight. You can make a choice — maintain the University’s current ‘purity’, or take a step towards saving a few dollars here and there.

The financial impact is essential zero on a university-wide level. But for teachers and graduate assistants, many of whom are dealing with ‘paper quotas’ from their respective schools, something little like this can go a long way. Already desensitized to the Blackberry ads on the Daily Wildcat’s page, the corporate sponsorship of the ZonaZoo, and the outsourcing of space in the Student Union, I can’t imagine that this is really that much of a ‘corporate incursion’ into the Ivory Tower to merit opposition.

Now, where did I put Karl Eller’s number?

(Hat Tip: Tyler Cowen)

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4 Responses

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  1. Matt Styer said, on 2 December 2008 at 6:05 pm

    How about this: we start paying taxes so that the government can adequately fund education in this country? Our K-12 is a joke among industrialized countries because of how fucked up and underfunded it is – do we really want our university system becoming the same? Is the rational recourse really to rely on the beneficence of corporations to help us through the day? Please explain to me why exactly it is not one more step towards “Friedman corporatism” (good term, btw), and what the virtues of this system are? While I can believe this is happening in the context of the US, at a step back, it’s rather horrifying that getting corporations to sponsor us because we can’t pay for PAPER is, first, a problem at all, and second, floated as a solution with an air of legitimacy.

    Consider this: While my roommate was studying at Technical University in Munich, there was a proposal by the Bavarian government to start charging 500 Euros a year for tuition. What did the populace do? They freaked out, and said absolutely not. I don’t expect us to become Germany, but I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to charge higher taxes so that the only thing in our country that remains globally competitive remains solvent on its own.

  2. Evan Lisull said, on 2 December 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Easy answer — corporate funding is voluntary, while taxation is not. Circle K can’t hold you up at gunpoint to purchase their product; the government has, can, and will. Certainly, taxation is necessary, but it is a necessary evil, and to ignore to coercion involved is to ignore the peril of the state. The key goal is to coerce citizens as little as possible, while providing a framework upon which society can run its course.

    But this is high-falutin’ philosophical talk. The virtues of this mini-tweak is that it’s possible, and politics remains the art of the possible. I appreciate the revolutionary zeal, but what do you actually propose in wake of this tuition crunch? It’s nice to pretend that the taxpaying base is simply an endless ATM, but that’s simply not working within the realm of reality. You cite the populace of Bavaria “freaking out,” but that’ll be downright calm and measured compared to Arizonan “freak out” when Gov. Napolitano, before heading out to Washington, signs in a 56 percent payroll tax increase to “ensure that higher education remains as free as possible.”

    If private, corporate money is so bad, then why is it that the largely privately funded schools like Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Stanford, etc. etc. etc. perform on a higher level? Why is it that Michigan, which reduced its reliance on public funds from 70 percent in the 1960s to 10 percent today, one of the most elite public universities in the world?

    This is just as bad as having corporate sponsorship for ZonaZoo. Consider — you can either provide students with a “No Logo” t-shirt for $25, or a Mountain Dew-Circle K-Subway shirt for $10. I dare you tell the kid working a job to get through school that the $25 is superior.

    Also, stay far, far, far away from Naomi Klein. Politics be damned; she’s just a bad academic:

    http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=69067f1c-d089-474b-a8a0-945d1deb420b

  3. Matt Styer said, on 2 December 2008 at 8:06 pm

    That’s a very primitive and superficial view of coercion/power. It doesn’t pay much attention to how we think of ourselves, how that causes us to relate to others, and a whole bunch of other institutional-cultural factors. I don’t believe coercion comes just from the state, or even primarily from it anymore (or corporations). I’d have to get really high faultin’ to explain all that. But in any case, you’ll have to come up with an argument beyond the Boston Tea Party to convince me of the evils of taxation. “State coercion” just doesn’t do it anymore. You don’t think that the corporations doing this would have any say…that just might be coercive? In any case, coercive or not, it wouldn’t be good for us. I don’t think TNR’s review is very good at all, but I don’t care for Naomi Klein too much either. I do put a lot of credence in where she gets it from (the article mentions it), the Frankfurt School. I think business is infiltrating everything with its own logic, and I think we need to be very careful of it. I’d recommend starting with the Wikipedia entry on Jurgen Habermas, especially the public sphere section. Politics be damned, he’s a far better philosopher than Klein (or Friedman, etc).

    Anyway, I think the success of prestigious institutions has a lot more to do with the fact that they have their shit together, and are well run, and have their own historically established prestige to be in a better position to direct private funding to positive ends that UA does not. I think their quality has very little to do with the proportion of private/public funding, separated from any other context.

    If you say “politics is the art of the possible,” I’ll retory with “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” The US needs to get beyond 18-19th century economics and politics, and realize that our system is fucking broken in some pretty huge ways, and that higher taxes are needed to pay for services and public goods.

    Yeah, advertising on paper isn’t the end of the world (nor is corporate sponsorship of athletics, but that’s also a different realm), but it’s another step in a bad direction.

  4. Evan Lisull said, on 2 December 2008 at 8:30 pm

    “It doesn’t pay much attention to how we think of ourselves, how that causes us to relate to others, and a whole bunch of other institutional-cultural factors.”

    The state cannot legislate self-esteem, cannot mandate good taste in local music, and cannot give us meaning in life. That is something we must discover ourselves, which requires as much liberty as possible in doing so.

    “Anyway, I think the success of prestigious institutions has a lot more to do with the fact that they have their shit together, and are well run, and have their own historically established prestige to be in a better position to direct private funding to positive ends that UA does not. I think their quality has very little to do with the proportion of private/public funding, separated from any other context.”

    This is a cop-out, and incidentally wrong. Stanford and Arizona were founded in exactly the same year; CalTech wasn’t founded until six years later. The reason privately funded schools succeed at a higher rate is because they are largerly divorced from the fickleness of state funding that we’re currently dealing with. This allows for these schools to have their affairs together, to be effectively run, etc.

    Incidentally, if you think that the tax-and-control model of the Europeans is so successful, take a gander over to the rankings of the top 100 world universities, and notice how disproportionately the USA is represented. For having a “broken” system, we seem to be doing pretty well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_Ranking_of_World_Universities

    “If you say “politics is the art of the possible,” I’ll retort with “if there’s a will, there’s a way.””

    Yikes. Send Bee to the guillotine? Shelton to the gallows? Jan Brewer to the gulags? I’ll take my copy of “Reflections on the French Revolution” and head to Nogales, thanks.

    Incidentally, I do find the Frankfurt School interesting, even if I don’t agree — after all, Marx was a great read too. But it’s hard to deny that no matter where Naomi Klein tried to draw her thoughts from, she bowlderized it completely. It’s akin to the cringe I get whenever someone like Rudy Giuliani quotes Hayek.


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