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McDonald's changes focus in UK schools

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Section: International News Geography: Europe UK Topics: education

July 19, 2006

McDonald's changes focus in UK schools

by Karen Templeton

Children in the UK may now grow up not knowing how to spell 'McNugget.' The fast-food chain has provided lesson plans and teaching materials to elementary schools in the past, but these programs are being phased out. McDonald's is now focusing its attention on children over the age of 13, providing curriculum in areas of 'expertise' within the multinational, such as food technology and business management. McDonald's has denied speculation that the shift has been prompted by widespread criticism regarding the company's rationale for its involvement with primary school children.

Critics and educators have long been voicing concern over the encroachment of corporations in the classroom. Initially, it was advertising and the sale of junk food that was at issue, today there are more and more examples of companies providing course content and influencing the curriculum itself.

During a seven week class in a Florida school, students learn "how to design a McDonald's restaurant, how a McDonald's works, and how to apply and interview for a job at McDonald's," according to Business Week.

Other companies engaged in what has been called "strategic philanthropy" in schools include Nike, AT&T and Campbell's Soup.

Despite criticism that the quality of public education is being seriously undermined, school administrators in both the U.S. and the UK claim they can't afford to refuse free materials and curriculum, given their current budgetary constraints.

Canadian schools have tended to lag behind their U.S. and British counterparts in adopting such corporate classroom content, but last year, as part of its "Balanced Lifestyles Initiative," McDonald's teamed up with the Canadian Olympic Committee to launch the Go Active! Olympic Fitness Challenge in elementary schools across Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Schools were paid $1,000 each to participate.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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