Child Labor: What’s the Real Cost Behind Your School’s Fund-Raising?

By Joan Flora and Pattie Sloan: two teachers challenging classroom status quo

As Valentine’s Day approaches, school clubs and teams will raise funds for school tumblr_inline_mi18t2ibeU1qz4rgpprograms through candy grams, commonly with Hershey’s Kisses or some other chocolate attached.  GreatSchools writes, “School groups raise more than $1.5 billion every year selling various products…. But it can be tricky deciding what to sell or figuring out what will bring the greatest return.”  We believe it’s trickier than what GreatSchools claims, but we think it’s for entirely different reasons than effective profit margins.

Perhaps you’re not aware of the problem, but issues swirling about child slavery and chocolate are well-documented:

In addition:

  • In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on West African cocoa farms (“Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”).
  • … The industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public (“Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”).
  • The farms of West Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestlé (“Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”).

If you can spare 30 minutes, watch the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate:

Our point?  We believe that we can do better than raising funds through products traced to illegal child labor* and trafficking to benefit our children and projects.  Yes, we understand that your golf team or French club needs funding beyond your school’s budget.  And, yes, we understand that you’re already going above and beyond by helping your students fund raise.  We applaud your generous intentions, but we ask that you educate your students, who likely don’t Literature_1_Large_by_james119know of the issues surrounding some of our favorite products.  We contend that middle and high students are smart, caring, generous people who can handle the truth and work toward a solution.  We ask that you trust them and yourself as you guide them into fund-raising that abstains from human suffering.  After all, if you don’t facilitate this work, who will?

*child labor is common in many countries where children work beside their parents; however the International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that “is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children.”

The Plan:

  • Visit Food Empowerment Project’s  chocolate list to discover Fair Trade certified* chocolate and other products (list updated as of 1/23/14).  *Fair Trade certified means the chocolate is slave free, and workers are paid a fair wage.
  • Download Food Empowerment Project’s app for an updated list of chocolate and other food that they recommend, depending on human rights criteria.
  • Be aware that other products, aside from chocolate, are produced via illegal child labor and human trafficking.  Visit Free2Work for updates.
  • Say yes to fund-raising projects that don’t add to human suffering.

273ROU1JCS2GO_17SV6MM_PH_P_LSJust in case you suspect we’re a couple of fun suckers, we offer this CCSS certified* lesson in close reading, evaluating claims, and reviewing relevant support.  This offer comes all wrapped up in a critical thinking bow in time for Valentine’s celebrations:

  • With a straight face, assign:  “World chocolate supply nearly exhausted”
  • Give students this form to complete, identifying claim, evidence, and their interpretations.
  • Help students debrief: can we believe everything we read?  What’s a credible source of information?

*Ok, there’ s no such thing as a CCSS certified lesson, as far as we know, but this is further proof that we aren’t fun suckers.

On a side note, if you happen to be at the Oregon Reading Association Conference next weekend, please look for our session on Saturday morning.  We’d love to chat with you about what’s working in your classroom, how you’re linking social issues to the literature you teach, and if there’s anything we can do via our blog to ease the way for you.

Have an inspired week!

Joan and Pattie

About Teaching it Forward

We are high school language arts teachers in Oregon.
This entry was posted in Education, human trafficking, Social Action and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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