Saturday, January 2, 2010

News: Ronald McDonald--English Teacher?

Dear All,

Using well-known fastfood mascots or characters in ELT or in education has always been controversial. More so if the worksheets or teaching promotes a particular brand of product which parents disapprove. Here's a news report from Sweden about this controversy.

Rodney Tan

Ronald McDonald, Teacher? Worksheets Upset Swedish Parents
by David Koeppel, Posted Dec 31st 2009 @ 4:30PM

To many, Ronald McDonald is seen as international
symbol of fun and good cheer.
But lately he’s not so popular among a
group of Swedish parents who don’t want
him or the McDonald’s corporation in their
children’s classrooms.
Reports in Swedish newspapers this
week are saying that several schools have
been using McDonald’s (for possibly as
long as four years) branded worksheets to
teach fifth grade students English. Apparently,
the worksheets contain passages that
read like thinly veiled “advertising copy”
according to one parent,. The passage includes
a brief history of the first
McDonald’s established in London.
The text also reportedly advises students
to substitute carrots for French fries to eat
with their burgers, and encourages them to
snack on Big Macs while watching football.
McDonald’s American corporate office
referred us to its Swedish counterpart, but
a request for comment wasn’t immediately
returned. In previous reports, a spokesman
for McDonald’s in Sweden denied that the
company was responsible for the worksheets.
The worksheets publisher also says
that the fast food giant had nothing to do
with the material and attributed its creation
to an unnamed teacher “who perhaps
likes going to McDonald’s.”
Some of the company’s critics find that
explanation not entirely credible. “I find it
hard to believe that McDonald’s Sweden
didn’t know,” says Judy Grant, the “value
the meal” campaign director for Corporate
Accountability International, a Bostonbased
advocacy group that has targeted the
fast-food industry. “Copyright infringement
seems an odd mistake for a publisher
to make,”
Responses online also met with skepticism
and anger.
“Teaching children about healthy eating
is one thing, putting an international food
brand into the curriculum that inflames so
much controversy regarding health issues
is another,” writes one reader of “The Local,”
an English language publication covering
Swedish news.
The worksheet publisher told a Swedish
newspaper that “it was thoughtless and a
mistake” to include the McDonald’s related
text, and that it would be removed.


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