“Political Agendas in the Classroom”

Teachers cast critical eye on curriculum materials with a motive
By Margaret Combs
The Boston Sunday Globe – March 21, 1993 

For three decades now, outside groups have brought their personal agendas into America’s classrooms. Since the shock of Sputnik, scientists, economists and business people have developed and financed teaching aids for use in public schools. Their motives range from accelerating America in the space race to improving corporate image and, more recently, to creating a thinking labor force.

Now appears yet another purpose behind corporate-developed teaching aids. A growing number of corporations and other groups are knocking on teachers’ doors not only with economic agendas but with potent social and political messages.

Unlike simple nutrition charts and teacher handouts of the past, these recent curriculums are sophisticated, multimedia learning packages designed to counterbalance media hype on volatile social issues such as smoking, animal rights and solid waste.

According to Dick Aieta, social studies department head at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School in Hamilton, the sponsors of these materials rarely state what their agenda is, but, according to him, the messages are clear.

As an example, Aieta pulls out a box from his office files containing a curriculum produced by Philip Morris Companies, Inc., one of the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturers. Titled “The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Liberty” (released in 1991) the program has, among its teaching materials, a game called “Your Rights May be in Jeopardy.”

“Our thinking was that what they are doing was to get people to associate First Amendment freedoms with the freedom to smoke,” says Aieta.

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