When students at Adams Memorial Middle School log on to the
school's website, they can check their homework assignment, e-mail
their teacher,... and find the man of their dreams.
That last is thanks to an ad for Matchmaker.com that pops up
along with the Massachusetts school's Vietnam War page.
Another ad touts: "Name yourself president. Start your own club
or join one." A click to the site reveals a variety of message
boards, with topics that include bestiality, incest, and spouse
"Most parents would justifiably find that completely outrageous,"
says Eric Brown, a spokesman for the Center for a New American
Dream in Washington.
Adams students are not the only ones being pitched to from their
schools' official websites. Footing the bill for sites that schools
say they can't afford is the latest attempt by advertisers to enter
the classroom. And it's not just the racier ads that have outraged
critics. Some parents and anticonsumer groups consider the sites an
extension of the school and question the appropriateness of
Amazon.com or Gap hawking goods while children are supposed to be
While no marketing group can say how many ad-adorned school
websites exist, a perusal of the major providers shows the numbers
to be in the thousands - and growing daily. Some contend that
children quickly learn to ignore the ads, but others are pushing
for more defined regulation.
The ads are an unwanted, but usually unavoidable, add-on to free
websites offered by providers like Tripod.com or Lycos, its parent
company. Teachers and webmasters who take advantage of the sites
don't like the ads, but say it's the only way they can reach their
"I would prefer not to have ads on my teacher page at all, but
hosting costs money, and this was the only way I could get a web
page for free," says Neil Sandham, a Calgary, Alberta, teacher who
uses a Tripod.com site. "I have no budget to pay for this site."
Only way to afford a site
His complaint is common.
"Schools are under tremendous pressure to integrate technology
into programs, whether it is worthwhile or not," says Alex Molnar,
director of the Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in
Education (CACE) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "But
they lack the resources to do the technological things they are
asked to do."
That, along with a culture that encourages friendly relationships
with business, has eroded barriers between public institutions and
private interests, he says.
The same ads on the Adams school site top other Tripod.com-
provided school and classroom sites around the globe. The Learning
Network, the largest supplier of educational websites, and