From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal
Vol 1 . . . No 7 . . . September, 1991
When funding for innovative programs dries up, enterprising school people roll up their sleeves and start seeking aid from unexpected quarters. Otherwise they must await economic recovery.
This article will touch upon a few tricks of the grant-seeking trade which might prove useful to technology wizards who suddenly find themselves wearing (by necessity) the hat of some central office planner/grant writer who left this past June with pink slip in hand.
I. The Context
Despite announcements that the recession is over, many people who work in schools must feel as if it has just begun. In many states the worst effects struck in 1991 as tax revenues fell short and austere spending plans were ordered for 1991-92.
The shortage of funds has meant severe cutbacks in staff and innovative programs in many districts. In some towns, even the sports programs have felt the ax. Sadly, the very educational investments which might convert reform rhetoric into progress - items such as staff and curriculum development - are often the first to fall.
Unlike large corporations which spend generously on R&D and training, schools are generally poorly equipped and inadequately funded to meet the demands of a changing society - even during economic good times. Hard times require special efforts to identify funding sources outside of the dwindling stream of tax revenues. Necessity, after all, is the parent of invention.
II. An Educational Foundation for Every District
Foundations are an excellent vehicle to enlist outside support for educational innovation because they provide tax advantages for the donor while protecting the district from taxpayers who might otherwise attack such expenditures as frivolous in times of economic difficulties.
Think of an educational foundation as a Trojan Horse to bring sustenance to a starving city. If your district does not have a foundation, encourage your administration to move forward rapidly. The paperwork and legalities are relatively simple, especially considering the potential rewards. Even communities with modest resources can expect to raise between $ 10,000 and $ 100,000 annually, funds which can make a very big difference during the funding famine.
The world outside most school districts is an orchard with fruit ripening on the trees and falling to the ground unpicked. There are many potential donors who would gladly (or some times reluctantly) support educational improvement. The problem is that nobody ever asks them.
1. Large Corporations
Given the growing concern of American business regarding our global competitiveness and the role of education in preparing a work force with the kinds of skills which will be required to build and sustain a strong economy, it makes sense to enlist the business community in the support of school projects which will raise a generation of what Toffler calls "brain workers."
Do a quick scan of businesses located in your community and region. Are any of them part of large national corporations? If it is a plant, an office, a warehouse or just about any facility, your school district falls into a special category.
Nearly all large national corporations have foundations which give away millions of dollars each year, usually with a preference for projects connected with communities where they have facilities. If you have a facility, you immediately have an advantage over others.
In addition to the national corporate foundations, nearly every local facility of a national corporation has a community relations budget dedicated to buying goodwill. This is the same budget which covers contributions to the United Way and other such projects. A company often expects to spend $ 50,000 or more annually on such contributions.
Why do companies focus their philanthropy on towns where they have facilities? It is a mixture of generosity and self interest. Nearly every company realizes that there will be times when they need approval from one or more local agency for a plant expansion or some other kind of project. They know that they will receive better treatment if they have been good citizens. Contributions to community groups, especially those which receive broad publicity and generate good will, are considered the price of doing business in a town.
Why do they usually ignore schools? Because schools usually ignore them. Schools rarely ask for money. There is some thing about the culture or schools that makes it uncomfortable to request such funding. If we were all naturally inclined to pitch great ideas and push for financial commitment, perhaps we would have gone into sales as a profession. Whatever the reason, these companies are rarely asked to support school projects even though they are prepared to do so, especially now that their headquarters people have joined various national organizations committed to educational improvement.
Where do you start? Make certain you have central office authorization for all such contacts. Potential donors may be lost if bothered by too many separate requests. Some one must keep track of who is contacting whom.
After listing all potential donors, pick the six with the most possibilities and focus upon them first. Consider as part of your strategy inviting each of these six companies to nominate an executive to serve as a trustee on the board of the newly formed foundation. This will cement a long term relationship with ongoing commitment.
How much can you request? Start big and think perpetual. Try to win approval for an annual contribution over the next decade. Study the company and its interests before making a formal proposal. Call up the local community affairs director and ask to have lunch with her or him. Buy the lunch! Do not slip into an unbalanced relationship. Spend the time asking about their business.
Learn as much as you can. What kinds of employees are they seeking? What are their biggest challenges? How are they using new technologies? How are they helping employees to feel comfortable with new technologies? What kinds of training facilities do they have? How can the schools be helpful to them? Would they appreciate a chance to use some of the school facilities? For training? For a wellness program? Are they having a good year? Will they be expanding in the near future?
Try to discover how you might build a mutually advantageous partnership. Avoid the patronizing possibilities of "adopt a school." Remember that business is having trouble adapting to the new economy and new society. Do not let them intimidate you. The best partnerships are those with balance and mutual respect.
Once you have a grasp of the company's agenda, inquire about procedures to request funding. The community affairs director will be the best source of information and guidance. Try out a funding concept informally. "Would your company be likely to support a fund for teachers' professional development - a fund which would encourage the champion teachers by paying for special summer curriculum projects?" This early research will pay off handsomely by helping you to create a formal, written proposal which will match the company's interests and arrive already endorsed by key players.
Before submitting the formal proposal, make sure you have involved the key players. In this case, we are talking about actual and symbolic leaders such as the plant manager, the superintendent and perhaps the board president. It is often helpful for this group to meet over lunch to discuss the possibility of a project so that the company fully recognizes the potential for good publicity. Keeping it all strictly professional is a strategic mistake that ignores the motivations for corporate philanthropy.
Why do you need a foundation to do all this? Most corporations will not give funds to a local agency unless they can prove they have qualified as a non-profit, tax exempt organization under the federal tax law.
By now you should know whether the funds for the project will be coming out of the local facility's budget or will be from the national foundation. Each may require a slightly different approach, depending upon the advice of your community affairs manager. The nice thing about corporate grant-writing is its simplicity compared to federal grant-writing. Instead of filling out dozens of pages, most corporations require condensed summaries. See the section of this article which deals with grant-writing for more clues. Just remember to avoid the educational jargon which is so typical of graduate school of education writers. That kind of writing can quickly kill your chances of winning any support because it confirms their worst fears about educators.
2. Small Businesses
Just as corporations consider annual donations to community projects a cost of doing business, so do small businesses expect to contribute to good causes. Frequently these businesses are already donating to schools through ads in yearbooks and other such activities, but many of them can be encouraged to extend their commitment to support educational improvement. If you can convince 30-40 shop owners, attorneys and insurance sales people to each contribute $100 ore more annually, innovation has won an extra $ 3,000- $ 4,000 of support.
Because there are so many more individuals in this group, it makes sense to pursue a group strategy. Identify key groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce, the Bar Association and service clubs such as the Lions Club. Join some and use the informal luncheons to network. Appoint several well-respected small business people as trustees on the new foundation. Ask them to help with the prospecting. Arrange opportunities to make presentations to each of the groups on the exciting new developments occurring in your schools. Include a segment which identifies ways that these people can support your progress. Distribute your foundation's brochure which describes its mission and the ways that funds may be spent.
Establish joint ventures with local businesses so they see a direct reward for collaboration. You can turn the high school media center into a desktop publishing center, for example, making it available to the public 5-10 hours weekly. Small businesses who cannot afford expensive laser printers, scanners and other such equipment can see that their investment in school improvement allows them access to modern technology that may save them far more than their $100 contribution.
Find out what the training needs of small business are. Remember that they are unlikely to have either the staff or the facilities to do such training, yet they are faced with a crippling training agenda as new technologies sweep through the workplace. Who has the staff and facilities to do the training? Schools! Establish programs outside of school hours which take advantage of the computer labs and classrooms which these small business people could never afford to duplicate. Charge enough to cover expenses, pay staff handsomely, and have money left over for the foundation. Your fees will still fall below the seminar fees charged by computer stores and others.
A word of warning. If you start offering such courses with business support, be aware that other training businesses may complain that you are competing unfairly with them. You must be prepared with counter arguments and you must make certain that your board of education has approved this kind of project in advance with full knowledge that such complaints may arise.
As the number of school district offerings to small businesses multiply, you may consider some kind of annual membership fee/donation to the foundation for a business to participate. Over time you may find that the first 30-40 contributors may grow to well over a hundred ($ 10,000 annually).
III. Parents and Enlightened Community Members
If budget cuts eliminate cherished programs because the majority of taxpayers oppose them, perhaps those most directly concerned about the programs may be able to raise funds to keep them alive. Fortunately, the existence of a foundation means that these contributions can be tax deductible. Some might even find that their companies have programs whereby they match the contributions of employees to private schools and colleges. It only seems fair that they would do the same for an educational foundation.
As with the business community, it pays to appoint several influential parent leaders to the board of trustees of the foundation so that they can add a dynamic voice to the planning.
IV. Alumni Contributions and Bequests
Just as private schools actively involve alumni in donating to the school long after graduation, public schools can reach out and request support. It takes time and money to stay in touch with all alumni, but you may want to begin by contacting those with the most potential, local dignitaries and successful people who may feel a strong sense of gratitude for the good start the school district gave them.
An often overlooked source of support is the wills of affluent people who find themselves near the end of their lives without much family or any real passion about a cause. They may not know what to do with their substantial estates.
One way to reach this group without being morbid is to stay in touch with the lawyers of your community, especially those who handle bequests. Make certain they have a supply of your foundation's brochure describing the kinds of activities the funds will support. You may even want to develop a special brochure which outlines a number of capital projects - such as a new gym for the high school - which might be named after the donor or someone in the family. Anyone who tours a college campus learns quickly that bequests and families often build buildings.
Take advantage of your district's technological edge. Use all of that desktop publishing to create effective promotional pieces. It is time for schools to do some marketing in order to protect what we cherish.
Each district should determine which projects are most deserving of foundation support and ask the board to approve such a list which may be presented to the new foundation as a guide to fund raising. Most districts have policies which say that all gifts to the district must be approved in advance by the board. A list like the one below reduces the likelihood of a major donor pushing a personal or corporate agenda which might conflict with the district's educational values.
Good School District Education Foundation
Funding Projects (Proposed)
1) Research for the Information Age
Funding Level: $ 25,000
Goal: Develop a K-12 definition of research along with a developmentally appropriate scope and sequence chart to delineate which kinds of research should take place at each grade level. Emphasis will be placed upon the development of learning experiences which ready students for the next century with particular attention paid to telecommunications, on-line research, and hypermedia.
2) Teacher Recognition & Support
Funding Level: $ 50,000 annually
Goal: Reward and encourage teacher excellence. Recognize the achievements of outstanding teachers, coaches and advisors by means of support for travel, advanced study, presentations at state and national conventions, appreciation dinners, etc.
3) Teacher Mini-Grant Program
Funding Level: $ 25,000 annually
Goal: Reward and encourage teacher inventiveness. Support the development of innovative classroom programs for students.
4) Teacher Education
Funding Level: $ 50,000+
Goal: Develop collaborative projects with corporations and local university in the areas of math, science and the social sciences which will strengthen the fit between school practice and practice in the adult world. Projects would include such activities as visits to corporate facilities as well as summer employment and training of teachers.
5) High School Communications Center
Funding Level: $200,000
Goal: Establish programs and facilities that provide students with extraordinarily fine, "cutting edge" backgrounds in "hypermedia," graphics arts, CAD, desktop publishing and presentations, etc., in order to enhance the employability and the skills of both the college bound and the non-college bound. Corporate sponsor would provide funding and expertise to guide the development of the program.
6) Program Enhancement Fund
Funding Level: Unspecified
Goal: Improve programs, activities, or equipment through specific funding for a particular program; and/or improve the general education program through unspecified contributions allocated by the foundation.
Begin by identifying a team of administrators and/or teachers who will help launch the new foundation. Make a list of the key jobs that need to be done and divide them among the group according to talents, time and inclination.
Find other districts in your state that already have educational foundations. Ask them if they will send you copies of all documents required to establish a foundation. Gather at least 5-6 together and compare the strengths and weaknesses. You may be able to avoid substantial legal costs by asking your school attorney to review a draft rather than compose one.
You will need by-laws for the foundation and a certificate of incorporation, and you must file a number of forms with the IRS claiming tax exempt and non-profit status. These you may obtain by contacting the IRS and asking them to send you all necessary forms to establish a non-profit foundation. If you look over how other districts have filled out such forms you will see that it does not take a genius or an accountant, some of whom might like to charge a thousand dollars or more for the work which you can do if you read directions and examine other districts' models.
Some legal advice is necessary prior to board action to make certain that you have complied with all state and federal requirements.
Once you begin to look at copies of by-laws, you may note that some foundations are more autonomous than others. This is an important issue for your board and superintendent to review before forging ahead. How much control does the professional staff and the board wish to retain?
As mentioned earlier, one of the most exciting opportunities associated with the formation of a foundation is the selection of trustees. Each of these people, properly selected, can bring expertise and valuable contacts to the enterprise. You may want to add several professional fund raising and development people to the business and parent leaders mentioned earlier, as well as board members, the superintendent and several teachers. An executive director also makes sense - someone who will oversee the actual grant writing and contacts - preferably a district administrator with at least some time still available to coordinate activities.
In most communities the selection of members is originally up to the board of education, but after the foundation is established the board of trustees nominates successive new members itself as the original members serve staggered terms. Only the superintendent and board members would normally continue to serve at the wishes of the board of education.
From beginning to end it may take 4-6 months to launch an educational foundation, so if you start the project this week, you may begin banking and spending money by March of 1992. An infusion of new money may be quite welcome at that time this school year.
III. Technology to the Rescue . . . On-Line Databases for Grants
Databases can expedite the treasure hunt in remarkable ways. DIALOG, for example, offers three databases which could prove very useful in identifying educational venture capital. If your district does not already subscribe to one of these database services, the investment may reap a great harvest. You may contact DIALOG at 800-334-2564.
In addition to the groups listed earlier in this article, there will be foundations willing to support your good ideas even though they may not be geographically connected to your community. Some foundations limit themselves to particular communities and states. Others are willing to fund projects across the entire nation. An electronic database allows you to find out which foundations have which restrictions. It will also allow you to search by locations to find out which foundations are headquartered in your town, county or state. You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of small family-sized foundations in your area which donate $50,000-$100,000 annually.
1. The Foundation Directory (cost = $60 per hour of search time)
This database of 27,000+ records compiled by the Foundation Center in New York tells you everything you would ever need to know about a foundation. I quote from the description in the DIALOG catalogue:
FOUNDATION DIRECTORY is a comprehensive directory providing descriptions of more than 25,000 grant makers, including grant-making foundations, operating foundations and corporate grant makers.
Here is a sample record:
50 Beale St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
PARENT COMPANY: Bechtel Group, Inc. (207)
ESTABLISHMENT DATA: Incorporated in 1953 in CA.
DONOR(S): Bechtel Power Corp.
FOUNDATION TYPE: Company Sponsored (CS)
PRESENT STATUS: Active
PURPOSE AND ACTIVITIES: Grants for higher education and community funds,
and to organizations related to some aspect of the engineering business
and construction. Support also for cultural programs, public interest,
health organizations, and social services.
FINANCIAL DATA (FISCAL DATE: 88/12/31)
ASSETS AMOUNT: $19,557,092 AM
QUALIFYING DISTRIBUTION: $1,474,607
TOTAL GIVING: $1,474,607
GRANTS AMOUNT: $1,339,728 NO. OF GRANTS: 256
HIGHEST GRANT: $260,000 LOWEST GRANT: $100
AVERAGE GRANT: 1000-20000
MATCHING GIFTS AMOUNT: $134,879
GRANTMAKING PROGRAMS: 1) Education: colleges and universities, business
education, educational research, National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 2)
United Way 3) Engineering/Science: engineering education, Scientists and
Engineers for Secure Energy, National Academy of Engineering, and other
organizations. 4) Employee Matching Gifts: matches gifts on a one-to-one
basis from all regular or full-time employees, per year, to junior,
community, and four-year colleges and universities. 5) Culture: performing
arts, opera, orchestras, botanical gardens. 6) Public Interest/Civic
Affairs: foreign relations, economics, Middle East Institute,
Media/Advertising Partnership for a Drug-Free America. 7) Social
Services/Youth: YMCA, Salvation Army, Boys Clubs, USO, Metropolitan Police
Boys and Girls Club of Washington, DC. 8) Health/Hospitals: Cancer Care,
hospitals, health associations. 9) Conservation/Other: International
Institute of Environment and Development, Keystone Center, Conservation
LIMITATION: National (N)
PROGRAM LIMITATIONS: No support for religious organizations.
SUPPORT LIMITATION: No grants to individuals, or for endowment funds or
GOVERNING BODY/EXECUTIVE STAFF:
Officers: R.P. Bechtel*, Chair.; C.W. Hull*, Vice-Chair.; John Neerhout,
Jr.*, Vice-Chair.; D.M. Slavich*, Pres. and Treas.; W.L. Friend*, Exec.
V.P.; D.J. Gunther*, Exec. V.P.; L.G. Hinkelman, Exec. V.P.; J.D.
Carter*, Sr. V.P. and Secy.; T.G. Flynn, Sr. V.P.
Directors:* Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr.
APPLICATION INFORMATION: Initial approach: Letter or proposal.
Deadline(s): None. Board meeting date(s): Annually. Final notification:
WRITE: K.M. Bandarrae, Asst. Secy.
DESCRIPTORS: Employee matching gifts; Community funds; Cultural programs;
Health; Higher education; Social services; Engineering; Public policy;
Education; Science and technology; Performing arts; Music; Arts; Public
affairs; Civic affairs; Economics; International affairs; Youth; Hospitals;
Health associations; Conservation; Environment
You can search this database by many of the elements in such a record, identifying all foundations located in your state who contribute more than $ 75,000 annually, for example. Below is a list of the types of searches possible:
2. The Foundation Grants Index (cost = $60 per hour of search time)
This database, also provided by the Foundation Center in New York offers more than 440,000 records since 1973 outlining the kinds of "grants awarded by more than 400 major American philanthropic foundations. Information on grants given by the foundations is useful in determining types and amounts of grants awarded, since foundations seldom announce the availability of funds for specific purposes."
Here is a sample of several of many entries returned when searching for foundations giving for science projects:
Carnegie Corporation of New York, NY
$18,000 to University of California, San Diego, CA. Toward U.S.-Soviet
project on application of computers in early elementary school grades.
KEY WORDS: Education (elementary) computers/Computer-aided teaching,
research/Soviet Union, education/Computer science, children/Children,
Carnegie Corporation of New York, NY
$18,000 to Hunter College of the City University of New York, NYC, NY.
For participation in U.S.-Soviet project on application of computers in
early elementary school grades. 2/12/87
KEY WORDS: Education (elementary) computers/Computer-aided teaching,
research/Soviet Union, education/Computer science, children/Children,
Carnegie Corporation of New York, NY
$18,000 to Bank Street College of Education, Center for Children and
Technology, NYC, NY. For participation in U.S.-Soviet project on
application of computers in early elementary school grades. 2/12/87
KEY WORDS: Education (elementary) computers/Computer-aided teaching,
research/Soviet Union, education/Computer science, children/Children,
3. Grants (cost = $60 per hour of search time)
This database, provided by Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ, contains more than 8,200 records and is updated monthly. "Grants is the source for listings of thousands of grants offered by federal, state, and local governments, commercial organizations, associations and private foundations. All grants listed in this database carry application deadlines up to six months ahead. Each entry includes full description, qualifications, money available, and renewability."
Here is a sample entry from over a year ago:
Apple Equal Time Education Grants
Grants of Apple computer systems including personal computers are made to
qualified applicants. The application process for an equal time grant
is designed to help recipients focus their plans for integrating
computers into daily classroom subjects for their use by targeted
populations. The project must serve one or more of the following
student populations: economically disadvantaged, ethnic minorities,
linguistic minorities, disabled, females in math and science,
adolescent or teenage parents, incarcerated or adjudicated youth, or
Chapter 1 students. Collaborations between schools and universities,
colleges, or nonprofit organizations are eligible for consideration
provided the equipment will be used in the schools. However, a portion
of the equipment may be allocated to the university, college, or
nonprofit organization for development, training, and/or
telecommunications purposes. Evidence of teacher input into the
planning and implementation of the project is required. Application
forms and concept paper guidelines are available upon request.
LIMITATION: All public and private elementary and secondary schools are
eligible--public schools must be within a school district with a
district-wide plan for technology implementation; private schools must
present evidence of having a long-range technology plan. Pre-K programs
may also apply provided they are operated under the auspices of an
accredited school, school district, or nonprofit organization. Schools
must be located in the U.S.
DATE DUE: Jan 4 (RECEIPT OF PROPOSAL SATISFIES)
REFERENCE: Andrea Gozales, Program Officer, Education Grants Program,
Apple Community Affairs, (408) 974-2974
SOURCE: Apple Computer Inc , 20525 Mariani Ave, MS: 38J , Cupertino, CA ,
KEY WORDS: Elementary Education; Secondary Education; Computer Assisted
Instruction; Educational Technology; Computer Grants; Disadvantaged;
Minority Group Education; Disabled, Programs and Services for; Women's
Education; Mathematics Education; Science Education; Parent Programs
and Services; Youth Programs and Services; Correctional Institutions
Disarming the Cyclops:
--------------------------Using Channel One to Teach Visual Literacy------------------------
If a school district accepts the offer of "free" TV monitors which Whittle Communications uses to pry classroom doors open to Channel One's daily news programs and advertising, teachers and administrators can at least convert these commercials into powerful educational lessons which might increase children's resistance to advertising and propaganda.
If we must face the Cyclops in our classrooms each day, we can seize the opportunity to raise a generation of savvy consumers with visual literacy skills - the ability to think critically and powerfully about visual information and media.
Why not turn Channel One around and use it to teach critical analysis of advertising techniques? Daily, thoughtful critiques of commercial messages by all teachers and students in a carefully orchestrated program of media education could pay great dividends as students learn to probe beyond the surface meanings of news programs and advertising to see how truth can be distorted or persuasion might cross the line into propaganda.
In a society which markets presidential candidates with sound bites and careful packaging, citizenship education must necessarily take young people past the surface symbols and teach them how to evaluate the candidates on the basis of their track records and positions on the issues. We must help them to understand that whether a candidate is seen driving a tank or waving a flag has little to do with questions of competence.
One can argue that schools which fail to provide some such intimate, ongoing experience with critical analysis of TV advertising and news are failing to do their job, that they are inadequately preparing young people for citizenship in a society where information is communicated through predominantly visual media.
Exposing school children to even more television advertising by allowing Channel One into the nation's classrooms is hard to defend, but Alvin Toffler's latest book, Powershift, suggests that one of our primary goals is to prepare this generation to resist the "Info-Tactics" of powerful interest groups and individuals who will twist information to serve their own ends, subverting democratic society by manipulating its citizens.
Some teachers claim that students pay little attention to Channel One or to its accompanying advertising, that they tune it all out, but these reports of passive TV viewing are of little comfort. Such claims that advertising goes unnoticed conflict with evidence that ad campaigns create enough sales to justify the millions of dollars they cost. Advertisers want entrance to schools because they know that their ads will communicate effectively and powerfully. If you have any doubt, look at student footwear or ask about acne creams.
Commercial messages are usually emotional rather than rational. Often the messages are imbedded in subliminal content - non-verbal messages which creep inside the child and seek out core feelings like a computer virus worming its way into the operating system of a computer. If we convert the pictures into words they would tell us:
"Buy our deodorant so you won't be embarrassed."
"Buy our mouth spray so you won't lose your friends."
"Buy our hair spray so you won't be alone Saturday night."
"Buy Brand X because that's what cool people buy."
Barring parental or school intervention, these commercial messages threaten to undermine the basis for student decision-making systems before they are ever established. They attempt to program children to equate well-being with the possession of certain products. Self worth is defined by what kind of car one drives, what kind of house one occupies and what kind of beer one drinks. According to Engelhardt (1991), even the best selling children's literature seems to have joined in the chorus promoting this high consumption life-style.
Years of advertising teach the child:
"Say Yes to our deodorant."
"Say Yes to our mouth spray."
"Say Yes to our beer."
"Say Yes to our sleeping pills."
"Say Yes to our candidate."
And then well meaning folks try to turn it all around with a much weaker, poorly financed campaign to teach the adolescent to "Say NO to drugs."
Unfortunately, with the advent of the Information Age and multimedia's powerful tools, the bombardment is likely to grow more intense, more subtle, more persuasive and more pervasive during the next decade as computers and marketing experts have combined forces to develop potent campaigns designed to persuade us to choose products and candidates without regard to quality, value or track record. These campaigns rely increasingly upon appeals to fears, base emotions and anxieties rather than reason.
There certainly are better ways to teach visual literacy than allowing Channel One into our schools. Using videotapes and videodiscs, schools can provide students with a limited and carefully selected diet of visual messages for critical analysis. The point is that visual literacy is too important to leave to chance.
Working as a consultant on multimedia with teachers across the country this year, I have found that videodiscs like ABC News Interactive's Vote `88 teach powerful lessons about advertising and politics as students can slow down sound bites from 30 frames per second to one frame every three seconds. At this slower speed one can note the racial composition of both Bush and Dukakis ads on prison furlough programs and ask what impact was intended.
Using videodiscs one can freeze frames to examine background content and staging. One can turn off the narrator's voice to focus upon visual content. Such careful analysis blended into a social studies program can go a long way toward developing the kinds of critical viewers our democracy deserves without subjecting students to daily commercials touting the advantages of various acne creams and counter-measures. Such experiences should be blended throughout a district's K-12 curriculum scope and sequence in social studies, language arts and the sciences. This approach to media saves valuable instructional time while addressing critically important citizenship skills and keeping the Cyclops from our door.
As a superintendent I strongly opposed the invasion of schools by commercial messages, whether they be billboards or the Cyclops. I would still argue against allowing Channel One time with a captive student audience. But for those who must "look the Cyclops in the eye" each day, there is a powerful way to convert the intruder into a useful guest. Teachers and administrators in such districts should arm themselves with critical viewing packages which convert the daily commercials and news programs into a wholesome experience with citizenship and consumer education.