typically frustrating article from the Guardian about marketing films to schools by providing them with teaching aids. It occasionally skirts around doing some analysis but rather than trying to answer any of its interviewees points it just resorts to editorial handwringing over the selling of education for profit.
Unfortunately for the writers there’s a world of difference between the Narnia or Potter films pushing educational packs and the involvement in, say, science lessons of fast food companies. The latter involves a real conflict of interest between the contents of the curriculum and the products the companies are selling: the former doesn’t, unless you see film and TV as being in direct opposition to reading (in which case you’re fighting a much larger battle. And losing it.)
Being married to an educator I simply can’t see this stuff as being very sinister. One of the kids she tutors is a big Chelsea fan, so we’ve had several evenings thinking of sums involving Arjen Robben and checking the spelling of Makelele. If Chelsea were to put out an official CFC education pack with Key Stage 1 and 2 numeracy and literacy exercises in then my wife, and a lot of parents, would bit their arm off. CFC would make – gasp! – a profit, but the teachers’ lives would be made easier and the kids who were more interested in Chelsea than learning would learn more. As it is she has to buy worthier and more official packs (which someone also makes a profit from, tut tut) and the child gets more bored.
Kids learn better when the lessons have a context they actually care about. When I was at school maths problems were always put in a carefully non-abstract manner – trips to the swimming pool, the sweet shop, car and train journeys. From that to problems based on Harry Potter or Arsenal isn’t much of a stretch. Schools have always given some commercial properties their unofficial blessing – Leon Garfield’s marketing people may not be as highly-paid as JK Rowling’s but his books were inescapable in class and had to be paid for. And if the educational marketing materials are no good? Well, teachers may be overworked but they’re not mugs: bad materials are also harder to teach.