About the Center

The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education
is a national non-profit organization that addresses the issue of commercialism in our public schools. The Center provides support to students, parents, teachers and other concerned citizens organizing across the U.S. to keep their schools commercial-free and community-controlled. By providing our constituents with the information and the skills that they need to have a voice in the running of their schools, we facilitate leadership development and democratic participation at the local level.

The Center was founded in 1993 amid an outpouring of resistance to Channel One, a twelve-minute TV program comprised of ten minutes of info-news and two minutes of commercials. Across the country, students were speaking out at schools to protest the imposition of Channel One.

Unfortunately Channel One is not the only form of commercialism to invade the classroom. Other forms include "Sponsored Educational Materials" corporations send to teachers to supplement or take the place of approved curriculum; direct advertising in the form of book covers, posters hung in the classroom, ads on school buses, or logos on sports scoreboards; logo-laden athletic shoes and clothing; lunch menus that serve a fast food company’s product; and exclusive contracts to sell a company’s products in vending machines on campus, such as Coke or Pepsi.

The following are some of the more insidious examples of classroom advertising that we have found in the last year:

  • Nutrition curriculum by McDonald’s and potato chip companies
  • Teaching kids to count using Tootsie Rolls or Domino’s Pizza pepperoni wheels
  • An Exxon video teaches young kids about how the Valdez spill was a great example of environmental protection
  • Nike asks kids to spend a week of classroom time learning the life cycle of a Nike shoe.
  • Students leaving school given free sample bags of Clairol shampoo with surveys asking "was this a good or bad hair day?"
  • National Depression Screening Day, with representatives from Prozac talking about depression to high school assemblies
  • Reading curriculum that teaches first graders to start out by recognizing logos from K-Mart, Pizza Hut, M&Ms, Jell-O, and Target
  • McDonald’s guides first graders through designing a McDonald’s restaurant, how a McDonald’s works, and how to apply for a job at McDonald’s.
  • Principals spending administrative time handing out Subway sandwich coupons to kids from their offices

The Center helps the public fight back against commercialism through our many programs, including:

  • Unplug, a youth focused program to help students opposing commercialism in their classrooms
  • CAP (Community Assistance Program),which provides assistance on a variety of levels including materials, local coalition building and intensive on-site direct assistance
  • The Classroom Integrity Pledge, a national pledge effort which asks individuals and organizations to work towards commercial-free schools
  • The School Watch Team, that asks the public to record and speak out against all inappropriate classroom materials they find in their schools.

For more information about our programs and resources call (510) 268-1100, email us, or join us by using our membership form.

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