Curiously worded test questions smell awfully like product placement

I take pride in writing a column for The Augusta Chronicle. But it’s nothing compared to the pride the good people at Kraft Foods take in delivering quality consumer products to families around the world.

See what I did there?

It’s my awkward first attempt at product placement. I figure, if everyone else is doing it, I might as well give it a shot. The idea is to get a free lifetime supply of macaroni and cheese. My kids love the stuff.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT is when a business pays to have its name, or one of its products, mentioned or shown in a movie or on a TV show. It happens in books, too. It’s been said that renowned 19th-century author Jules Verne very intentionally mentioned the names of particular shipping companies in his novels, but it’s not known whether he got paid for it.

But boy, people sure get paid now. By one estimate, two-thirds of advertisers engage in what’s also called “branded entertainment,” most often on TV shows. For example, ever notice how a lot of characters on shows use Apple laptop computers? That’s just the way Apple wants it.

You can’t watch a movie these days without seeing rampant product placement. A powerful example is the movie E.T. The producers approached the makers of M&Ms and asked if they’d like a cute alien eating their product in the film. For whatever reason, the M&M folks said no. But the makers of a new candy called Reese’s Pieces said yes – and sales of that candy skyrocketed within two weeks of the movie’s 1982 premiere.

I’m mentioning all of this to tell you about some really suspicious questions on New York’s Common Core standardized English tests.

AS IF YOU NEEDED another reason to look askance at Common Core, a new issue has cropped up. Apparently a lot of popular brand names have been making appearances in the test questions. In one question, a busboy failed to clean up some spilled root beer – but not just any root beer. It’s Mug brand root beer, a registered trademark of PepsiCo.

Deborah Poppe said the question confused her eighth-grade son. “‘Why are they trying to sell me something during the test?’” she quoted her son as saying. “He’s bright enough to realize that it was almost like a commercial.”

Barbie, iPods, Life Savers and Nike also have been making appearances.

Why?

Why mention brand names on kids’ tests? Why does the brand of the spilled root beer matter? How is that supposed to improve pupils’ minds?

You can write around any mention of a specific product. I could write a whole column about my iPod without calling it an iPod. Just call it an MP3 player or a portable media player. I can talk about my cell phone all day long without mentioning the brand (which, by the way, is Samsung, in case the company wants to upgrade my phone to the splendid Galaxy S5.)

See what I did there?

EDUCATION OFFICIALS say the brand mentions aren’t intentional. But come on. Isn’t this really product placement of some kind?

And if it is, is it paid? And if it is paid, who’s cashing the checks?

Not all product placement is bad for students. Sometimes, as The Wall Street Journal reported recently, it’s a boon.

In Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, drama students putting on a production of the musical Grease threw in a couple of casual mentions of the local Guys Pizza place in exchange for a $500 donation toward the production.

Melbourne High School in Florida changed the setting of a production of Romeo and Juliet to modern-day Seattle, in part to successfully win the sponsorship of a local Starbucks.

That makes good sense, and more power to them. Arts funding at the grade-school level is drying up as it is. Schools should be commended for seeking creative ways to help the arts enrich students’ lives.

Besides, that stuff is relatively small potatoes. Compare Guys Pizza with Heineken. The beer company shelled out $45 million for movie superspy James Bond to abandon his trademark martini and instead pop open a bottle of Heineken in the 2012 film Skyfall.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT isn’t going to go away. It’s much too lucrative. But if the Common Core folks in New York want to quell the murmurs about test questions potentially being a cynical manipulation of innocent schoolkids, just rewrite the questions. And when they’re done, maybe one of those school officials will go home to relax, and watch a movie in the stunning high resolution offered by a 65-inch Sony television.

See what I did there?

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Bodhisattva
6223
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Bodhisattva 04/27/14 - 07:53 am
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Gee Joe, I don't know. Why do

Gee Joe, I don't know. Why do we have private prisons and private probation compnaies? Why did out of state, private companies that operate charter schools and sell software and curriculum packages dump $1,825,000 (73% of the "pro" contributions were from out of state) for suckers to vote for the Amendment and outspent those against it 10:1? We've already underfunded public schools $7.6 billion since 2002 (Athens Banner Herald. A Morris paper?) and that vote just cost taxpayers an additional $430 million. Thanks to the GOP, and the ultra wealthy, we've become a corporatocracy/plutocracy blend. They want to privatize Social Security and Medicare to make sure there's no safety net, but the private companies get to play with trillions of out money to make more for themselves. Don't worry, any losses will be ours. Why do private company products show up everywhere? They own the country.

Riverman1
84141
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Riverman1 04/27/14 - 10:54 am
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Pay Me

All my comments are written while listening to energizing music or educating programs on Sirius Satellite Radio, stock symbol SIRI. If I have to find information I use Google, symbol GOOG. The profits from my stocks are kept in United States Bank, symbol USB. I just happen to own stock in these three companies. Maybe they'll send me some money for the mention. Maybe I've found a way to make this comment writing pay off.

Darby
25733
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Darby 04/27/14 - 01:10 pm
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"Gee Joe, I don't know. Why do we have

private prisons and private probation compnaies? (sic)"

.
Gee Bod, maybe it's because they can do the job more efficiently.

"We've already underfunded public schools $7.6 billion since 2002 (Athens Banner Herald. A Morris paper?) and that vote just cost taxpayers an additional $430 million. Thanks to the GOP, and the ultra wealthy, we've become a corporatocracy/plutocracy blend. They want to privatize Social Security and Medicare to make sure there's no safety net, but the private companies get to play with trillions of out money to make more for themselves.

.
Underfunded public schools??? That a matter of opinion and in my opinion, we spend FAR TOO MUCH on public schools considering the really lousy product we get for our money.

Every single plan ever put forth to privatize Social Security HAS INDEED included a "safety net" but liberals conveniently ignore it, safe in the knowledge that their buddies in the media will be complicit in their "lie by omission".

I'd far rather private companies waste the money (Which by the way originates in the private sector to begin with.) than have OzBama throw billions and even potentially trillions away on his pet projects such as Solyndra, Abound Solar, Fisker Automotive, Smith Electric Vehicles, and so many more!

That way, at least, money that is generated in the private sector, remains in the private sector. It's not handed over to bureaucrats operating out of "select" committees (with no knowledge of business or investment) to plow into the failed enterprises of their political supporters.

I don't know of any private business efforts that has wasted 17 trillion dollars, do you? As a matter-of-fact, were it not for the successful efforts of private enterprise, the government wouldn't have "squat" to waste.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/27/14 - 07:03 pm
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Jargon

Bodhisattva posted:

We've already underfunded public schools $7.6 billion since 2002.

This word "underfunded" is meaningless in this context. What Bod is talking about is what Georgia state government sends to to local school systems. It is the difference between what the school systems want and what the citizens (expressing their wishes through their elected officials) can afford at the time, given circumstances at the time. School systems need to replace this underfunding malapprop with normal English, "We wanted the moon, but all we got was the cheese."

And I guess Bod read Tina Dupuy's column before he posted, as he used one of the words she criticizes — plutocracy. I'm sorry, but if you can't come up with an original idea, then just parrot the current liberal jargon, and you can say along with little Jack Horner, "What a good boy am I!"

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