New York public schools are giving students cell phones and rewarding them for attendance and good behavior with free phone credits. The program, called the Million, was designed by the advertising agency Droga5, and has already been implemented in various Brooklyn public schools. Creative Review reports that the Million has won awards and praises in the advertising world, and may soon expand to the entire New York public school system. Some teachers have said that the cell phones provide unexpected benefits, including, at least one case, the first contact number they’ve ever had for some students.
Praise for the program hasn’t been universal, however. Critics have accused the Million of “replacing learning for its own sake with a market-driven system” according to Creative Review. Others have pointed out that the incentives could unfairly punish children with serious behavioral problems. Camila Batmanghelidjh, of the charity Kids Company, told the magazine, “it’s suggesting that all negative behaviour from these children is self-chosen, and actually the ones with the serious problems do not choose. And it’s unfair then, because they’ll never get there. It actually exaggerates the divide, rather than facilitates the solution.”
The Million could also provide an avenue for direct marketing to children, though Droga5 animatedly denies that accusation. The president and CEO of the agency, David Droga said, “It was always the agreement that eventually it would be able to subsidise itself by brands being able to support initiatives, so you might have brand x that is associated with fitness, not selling shoes, but sponsoring a programme or something. There always has to be an education link, it wasn’t going to be suddenly selling burgers. That would kill it straight away because it would undermine everything.”
Source: Creative Review