Forced to apologize to McDonald's
June 19, 2001 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Forced to apologize to McDonald's The company recruited students during a school visit, which involved an assembly that was supposed to help students prepare for job interviews. When a student at the assembly criticized McDonald's, he was forced to apologize to the entire school.
posted by riley370 (53 comments total)
 
can I just say that high school sucks? - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2001


At least he didn't get suspended.
posted by harmful at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2001


Rebecca, your MeFi privileges will have to be suspended until you tender an apology to high schools everywhere. You should know better.
posted by Skot at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2001


phwwwwwwwwwwww. :P

screw the man! stop trying to keep me down! - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 11:47 AM on June 19, 2001


This sure brings back bad memories. I used to think school was stupid, but what did I know, I was just a kid. It's both reaffirming and scary to know that I was right all along. It's home schooling for my child!
posted by jdiaz at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2001


I heard this story on NPR a couple of days ago. It should be stressed that this was a mandatory schoolwide assembly sponsored by McDonald's, for chrissake. The kid in question was quoted in the NPR piece saying "[high school] is not the place to further brand recoginition." Unfortunately, it seems its no place to question authority, either.
posted by keith at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2001


From the article, regarding McD's pulling ads from a radio station whose talk show host spoke out in favor of the student: "McDonald's supports free speech, but I think in this case they felt that it went more beyond the reporting of the news and provided personal commentary."

Isn't personal commentary a form of free speech? And since when is a radio talk show supposed to be only about reporting the news?
posted by jennyb at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2001


Sad but true that branding gets away with all sorts of shit and threats (see No Logo), and the only recourse may be the courts...
posted by Postroad at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2001



McDonald's This is bad PR. They've probably given more ratings & credibility to the radio talk show host than their stupid ads.
posted by brucec at 12:10 PM on June 19, 2001


you can't say that was a whopper of a story ;-)
posted by NJguy at 12:11 PM on June 19, 2001


my high school was a 'pepsi school' until about 2/3 of the way through my senior year. then we become a 'coke school'.
we had reached the end of our 10 yr contract with pepsi, and our Student Council was being courted both by coke and by pepsi to sign a new contract with their brand for our school. i suggested that we don't sign a contract with EITHER, that we could sell both or neither on our premises. that was poohpoohed. obviously we have to commit to one or the other. the vote taken was "coke" or "pepsi", and i abstained [that really blew their little minds: "what do you mean, you won't vote? coke or pepsi, which ever you prefer!"]. apparently independence was not an option. people seemed to think that we'd lose students or something if we chose neither.

ultimately coke was going to give us a better cut of the profit (still measly) and so they won the contract. in my mind it remains unacceptable that one group of ten students one year can make a descion that will be binding for the entire student body for the next 10 years. but on this front no one seemed to care what i thought.

so on the cermonial switchover day, when both company's trucks were outside the school, and when the pepsi machines were unplugged and the coke machines were sitting next to them plugged in, i took some photos and got a friend on the yearbook editorial staff to slip one of them. my little protest and reminder to myself of the slime i grew up in. hehehehe.

oh the days of my rebellious youth... [okay, so it was a year ago, so what??]
posted by raedyn at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2001


hhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm...the First Amendment...isn't it refreshing?
posted by matteo at 12:33 PM on June 19, 2001


in my mind it remains unacceptable that one group of ten students one year can make a descion that will be binding for the entire student body for the next 10 years

...at least you got some sort of student representation. I imagine decisions like that are often made unilaterally by School Committees or Superintendants.
posted by jpoulos at 12:33 PM on June 19, 2001


As far as the radio station is concerned, this case has nothing to do with free speech or the First Amendment. I can't imagine why the McD's rep even brought it up.

The First Amendment prevents the government from putting restraints on speech. McDonald's is free to advertise where and when they want for any reason. The radio station is free to allow their on-air personalities to say whatever they want (modulo some FCC rules).

The only case where free speech might enter into it is whether the school is acting as an agent of the government and restraining students from exercising their rights. (Probably not in this case.)
posted by idiolect at 12:48 PM on June 19, 2001


Winston Smith, you have committed crimes against the Corporation.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 PM on June 19, 2001


The only case where free speech might enter into it is whether the school is acting as an agent of the government and restraining students from exercising their rights. (Probably not in this case.)

Um, wasn't the student essentially made to withdraw a comment made within a public school, because it upset the corporate sponsors of "Become a Minimum Wage Lackey And Get A Free Big Mac Afternoon"?

Or are public schools not regarded as agents of the state, even though the state puts in place the legal framework by which they function?
posted by holgate at 1:20 PM on June 19, 2001


idiolect
The First Amendment, I think, sort of protects you from being punished just because you're wearing the wrong kind of T-shirt. Like, Freedom of T-Shirt should be a basic right for all Americans
posted by matteo at 1:23 PM on June 19, 2001


The students should have just done what I did whenever faced with an impending forced gathering over something stupid and meaningless: Don't show up. I always made sure such assemblies conflicted with my very necessary work selling school newspaper or yearbook ads. (Translation: Grab couple of friends. Get in car, drive around for two to three hours with stereo blasting, pig out on sundae's at, um, McDonald's...

Where were we?
posted by aaron at 1:31 PM on June 19, 2001


(sundae's = sundaes, sigh)
posted by aaron at 1:33 PM on June 19, 2001


If the kid was cool enough to speak out against McDonalds, what did they threaten him with to get him to apologize?
posted by sudama at 1:35 PM on June 19, 2001


Chicken McNuggets. (boom boom)
posted by holgate at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2001


Actually, that reminds me of the "police awareness week" at my primary school (so, age 10): the local coppers came in and talked about various aspects of their work, we got to see the police dogs and the police horse in the playground, and at the end of the week, we all had our fingerprints done on a bit of paper to take home with us.

Except that one of my friends flat-out refused. He sat it out in the school library. And given the somewhat rogueish reputation of his family, I sort of appreciate why.
posted by holgate at 1:41 PM on June 19, 2001


Ah, the power and tyranny of "education." I suppose he is better educated now than he was a few weeks ago. He's learned that a lot of what he will be told about America is full on propaganda bullshit, that the messages of the founding fathers about liberty and freedom don't apply to him, and that McDonalds has money. Since we are unwilling to fund our schools to the extent they require, McDonalds is free to come in and force those schools to dance about to its whims.

I feel so good about the future right now, I could eat a whole Super-Sized order of fries and then shove my head in a jet intake.
posted by Ezrael at 1:52 PM on June 19, 2001


Except that one of my friends flat-out refused. He sat it out in the school library. And given the somewhat rogueish reputation of his family, I sort of appreciate why.

Was his name Tommy Lee?
posted by starvingartist at 1:53 PM on June 19, 2001


The First Amendment, I think, sort of protects you from being punished just because you're wearing the wrong kind of T-shirt. Like, Freedom of T-Shirt should be a basic right for all Americans

Unless of course that tee-shirt is deemed obscene (don't know what that is but we'll know it when we see it). Also, for the record, the First Amendment arguably doesn't apply to minors, more's the pity. I apologize in advance if that takes this discussion in the wrong direction, but it seems odd to me that McD's is vilified and not the principal who (the article states) forced the apology.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2001


From the McDonald's website:

To the 1.5 million people who work at McDonald's in 119 countries around the world, and to all future employees, we want you to know that:

We Value You, Your Growth
and Your Contributions.

This is our People Promise

...provided, of course, that you submit to the requisite brainwashing... er, um, employee training...
posted by starvingartist at 1:58 PM on June 19, 2001


As far as the radio station is concerned, this case has nothing to do with free speech or the First Amendment

idiolect: Your post seems to exhibit the same confusion it tries to correct. You're right that, in the case of the radio station, this isn't a First Amendment issue, but the First Amendment is just one particular law designed to help ensure freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is a more general principle, and it can be abridged by McDonald's just as easily as by the government. What people are saying is not "McDonald's violated the First Amendment", but "McDonald's used its power to silence speech it disapproved of, and that's unacceptable".
posted by moss at 2:13 PM on June 19, 2001


Goodly lord that I side with Holgate and Ezrael on something, but they're right here. McDonald's, as a corporation, can be expected to act like this. Hell, I'm a marketing guy, I can even understand why. And as Aaron pointed out, they are perfectly within their rights to quit their advertising on that station. But it was the superintendent's duty to protect that kid's First Amendment rights, a duty which he failed. He should apologize to the kid on the PA.

My wife is a teacher, has taught several grades in several districts, and although the sample is nowhere near respectable survey level, I've yet to meet a school or district superintendent that was worth a Cheeto fart in a high wind. They were bureaucrats and feather-bedders at best, camp commandants at worst. They also tend to be gutless turds when it comes to standing on principle.

One thing not as many know is that school superintendents typically are appointed by the school board, rather than hired in a typical job-search process. That means they are generally not education professionals, but rather guys with MBAs or management degrees... not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but managing a school full of kids is not the same (nor should it be) as managing the wingnut sales division of CrapCo.

I have a feeling that's why stuff like this so often happens at schools.
posted by UncleFes at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2001


...provided, of course, that you submit to the requisite brainwashing... er, um, employee training...

McDonald's has employee training? (I'm working there this summer.)

I made a point of missing a lot of shit, come to think of it. By sixth grade I realized I could not participate in gym class just by being stubborn enough (saying "I prefer not" and staring, Bartleby-like, at the wall). I had to write a letter of apology for not bowling once. It was supposed to be a reward, damned if you'll make me do anything. We weren't hurting anyone.

But I generally don't care about corporations in our schools. Schools have worse problems, really. It is a sad comment that a corporation has more of a voice in our schools than the students, though. It's not just the money, it's the assumption that "kids" really have nothing to offer of any value whatsoever.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2001


moss, from the article, it sounds like McDonald's pulled its ads from a radio station that broadcast material it didn't like. I don't see where McDonald's silenced anyone.

The article implies that it was the principal of the school who made the student apologize. I don't see any indication that McD's requested the apology.

(The apology apparently triggered the DJ's denunciation of McD's which resulted in McD's pulling the ads. I don't see a silencing here.)

I was just pointing out from matteo's post that the First Amendment doesn't say or mean what many people think it says or means.

Since I'm already sounding like a running dog lackey for the capitalist imperialists and getting a bad taste in my mouth from licking their spittle, I'll stop here.
posted by idiolect at 2:26 PM on June 19, 2001


UncleFes, look at it this way. If you go far enough away on a spectrum, eventually you bump into each other again. I have a lot of liberal attitudes, yeah, but I also think. So we're bound to agree sometimes. Law of averages.

Now shake it off and get back to work. :)

John has a great quote near the top of his most recent post about how the modern world looks a lot like the bad SF of the past: Rollerball, Bladerunner, Robocop, Soylent Green etc. presented a vision of America as a fascist, eco-damaged, corporate-run dystopia

It's scary when your life is being compared to Rollerball, is all I can say. (And yes, I know they are making a sequel.) What's next, the Soylent Green 20 Piece Nugget Meal? At what point have we successfully transformed our entire nation (and after us, the world, I suppose) into an empty vacuum of end-users and consumers who don't even choose what to consume, for there will be no choice?

I don't know who at that school to blame...principal, school board, whatever...but what stuns me, coming from a family with a lot of teachers in it, is that nobody on the faculty seems to have gone to bat for that kid. That's a scared body of educators, in my opinion. And in a world where we pay them nothing and let the schools fall apart around them, maybe they should be scared.
posted by Ezrael at 2:37 PM on June 19, 2001


Oh, and I didn't mean to imply that Blade Runner or Soylent Green were bad SF, inasmuch as I liked them. Then again, I have been told I have crap taste in films...
posted by Ezrael at 2:38 PM on June 19, 2001


Looks like a remake of Rollerball.
posted by modofo at 2:42 PM on June 19, 2001


Blade Runner. Second best film ever. (My opinion, of course).
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2001


Liberal/conservatives/centrists/anarchists/Republicans/Democrats/Independents... all united against the unholy union of McDonald's and stupid school officials. sigh... It's a beautiful thing.
posted by owillis at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2001


What Ezrael and owillis said. (Actually, MeFi history has proven that questions of personal liberty and educational fuckwittedness. make allies out of us all.)

I don't actually have any problem with what the school was trying to do: after all, while we may have high aspirations for the educational process, it's basically training for work. At least when my school did "work experience" for the 16-year-olds, it was done in a more diversified manner, usually with the assistance of parents, who gave little q/a sessions on their different jobs, and ran week-long placements so that you could get a feel for the work environment.

Having a single corporation underwriting the programme -- it doesn't really matter whether it's McD's or Merrill Lynch -- sets a frankly depressing example for the students: welcome to the machine, leave your individuality at reception. That it is McD's, which (like it or not) is the poster child for low-pay, low-skill, low-prospects labour makes it an utter dereliction of the school's duty. It's implicitly saying: we're turning out students that are good enough to work at a grill, and not much more.
posted by holgate at 2:49 PM on June 19, 2001


Uncle Fes : I've yet to meet a school or district superintendent that was worth a Cheeto fart in a high wind.
I have a feeling that's why stuff like this so often happens at schools.


Exactimundo.
You get what you pay for.
posted by dong_resin at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2001


Please remember that the encroaching awfulness of fear of loss of advertiser revenue doesn't just affect AM radio
stations in Connecticut. On public radio they're called "underwriters" but they hold as much, if not more, sway than
conventional advertisers in determining acceptable radio content.
posted by jessamyn at 3:10 PM on June 19, 2001


...provided, of course, that you submit to the requisite brainwashing... er, um, employee training...

Yes, McDonald's is SO much more pleasing to visit when the cashiers are snarling at you, while the guys in the back are urinating in the coffee and spitting on your burgers. Your idea of "Freedom of Expression," eh?
posted by aaron at 3:30 PM on June 19, 2001



As far as I'm concerned, in order to be a superintendent or a high school principal, you have to essentially leave your soul, your individuality and any amount of decency at the door. Because managing a school, particularly if it's a state run university, involves embracing an odious, Babbitt-like approach to politics. It involves paying teachers beans for their back-breaking efforts, even when the teachers union is threatening to strike, enforcing a discipline system that is wholly out of touch with the reality that high school kids experience and, in this case, breaking any one who defiles this perfect form of conditioning, designed to create tomorrow's tax-paying, consumer-conformists.

Sure, McDonald's had the right to pull the ads. But the ethical thing for the high school principal to do was to overlook business interests and defend the student's right to "hate corporations like McDonald's." It seems to me extraordinarily hypocritical to force kids to sing the national anthem before a high school rally in the name of jingoism, only to deface the First Amendment by a mandatory assembly reducing that right to a myopic, corporate-happy field of opinion.
posted by ed at 3:30 PM on June 19, 2001


I feel so good about the future right now, I could eat a whole Super-Sized order of fries and then shove my head in a jet intake.

That might be a little painful, but probably not fatal. Ask this guy. Warning that's a 2.7 meg AVI. It shows a guy getting sucked into a jet intake. At the end of the clip he is shown a few minutes after the accident. The worst of the injuries was a broken arm.

I think he should change his name to Lucky Bastard.
posted by john at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2001


Stonington Public Schools has a web site with the email addresses of the principal and superintendent should anyone wish to voice their concerns directly.

I find it disturbing that this kind of thing goes on, but not surprising following the 1985 Supreme Court verdict that allows schools to search students based on "reasonable suspicion" instead of probable cause, and their 1988 decision giving schools the right to censor school newspapers and plays that contain unprofessional, ungrammatical or obscene speech, or speech that goes against the fundamental purpose of a school (how's that for vague wording?).

Homeschooling is really starting to look attractive now.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:24 PM on June 19, 2001


Here's that Web site for the school district. And here's the radio station, if you want to voice your support for the DJ -- who, based on this page is a fan of... aaaugh! Plastic.com!
posted by jjg at 4:49 PM on June 19, 2001


Three links, all from May 2. Now that's a weblog!
posted by rodii at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2001


Liberal/conservatives/centrists/anarchists/Republicans/Democrats/Independents... all united against the unholy union of McDonald's and stupid school officials. sigh... It's a beautiful thing.

Get over here and hug me, you beautiful bastard!

Anyway, I am refreshed to see that there's room for all of us to hate this whole situation, regardless of political affiliation. Of course, I'm sure we all have different ideas about what to do to solve this sort of thing. But at least we're on the same page.
posted by Ezrael at 5:19 PM on June 19, 2001


I am an old guy. And that means I went to school when there were no commercial interests involved in any way--yes. There was a food service of some kind. But we did not have Coke or Pepsi undere contract etc and we did not set aside days for some coroporation to give a job speech. But that was back when Nike did not outfit teams for free and pay coaches and insist that team members wear logos etc.
In all of this, Raolph Nader is right when he notes that corporations are now given rights that formerely only human beings had. Nowk by extension, see what it does to globalization.
When you were a kid, how many hardware stores in your area? How many books stores? And now? Barnes and Noble and Home Depot...As my ex girlfriend said, sneering, looking at me, Big sure is Better, loser.
posted by Postroad at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2001


If you have kids in school, it is in an instant that you can relive the horror of your experience there and your old behaviours..disrespect and insolence..rush up inside you. This happens to me everytime I have to deal with teachers and especially guidance counsellors.
posted by riley370 at 6:21 PM on June 19, 2001


McDonald's is SO much more pleasing to visit when the cashiers are snarling at you, while the guys in the back are urinating in the coffee and spitting on your burgers.

Isn't that what they're being trained to do?
posted by harmful at 6:48 PM on June 19, 2001


If you have kids in school, it is in an instant that you can relive the horror of your experience there and your old behaviours..disrespect and insolence..rush up inside you.

This happens to teachers too . . . at least the good ones.
posted by feckless at 7:17 PM on June 19, 2001


Get over here and hug me, you beautiful bastard!

All right, this one time, but no tongue you sexy commie beast! :)

Everyone! "There is a time to be born, and a time to die... and time to sow, and a time to reap...to everything, turn, turn, turn..."

You get what you pay for.

Compared to teachers, those guys get big bucks, around double your standard tenured teach with a MS and ten years in a classroom.
posted by UncleFes at 7:56 PM on June 19, 2001


I was referring to the public school system as a whole, their relatively paltry federal funding, and their need for sponsors like McDonald's.
Still, I didn't know that about the administration. It only makes the situation more annoying.
posted by dong_resin at 10:28 PM on June 19, 2001


When you were a kid, how many hardware stores in your area?

Hmm ... *flipping through phone book* About the same as we have now. Most of the ones listed have been in business 75 years or more. Some have picked up affiliations with Ace or whomever, but they're still owned and operated by the same families.

How many books stores?

One good one, a Borders. Which is one more bookstore than we had when I was a kid. (Well, after age 10 two small chain bookstores opened in the mall, but both were owned by prior incarnations of Borders, and they closed when the mega-Borders opened. And before age 10, there was NOTHING.)

All in all, globalization seems pretty damn good, if those are the chosen measurements.
posted by aaron at 11:18 PM on June 19, 2001



but what stuns me, coming from a family with a lot of teachers in it, is that nobody on the faculty seems to have gone to bat for that kid. That's a scared body of educators, in my opinion.

or lazy. Seems to me that no one going into teaching really gives a shit anymore.

When you were a kid, how many hardware stores in your area?

You know what's funny, they built about a million of those huge home improvement stores about five years ago or so. Then they all went out of business. Then someone looked at their statistics and thought "Hey! There are no big home improvement stores in West Michigan!" and so they're building them again. I find that amusing somehow. Waste your money and go down, worthless Californians who see Michigan as a demographic.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2001


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