Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

Yesterday, flipping channels to see if there was a Virginia Tech game on I could listen to as I baked, I happened on the halftime of the SEC championship game. (You can tell I am a tepid football fan.  There was a Tech game, but I missed it.)

They were just about to begin the huge halftime event: a Dr. Pepper Tuition Scholarship contest.  At stake? $100,000 in tuition money.  Apparently they do this every year.  Who knew?  I didn't.

Here is how the contest works: You enter with a video.  This year's winner expressed her love for Dr. Pepper before launching into an explanation of her goals and her lack of ability to provide tuition money.  Then the finalists come to the championship game and are pitted against each other in a football tossing contest.  The one who can throw the most passes into the hole (isn't this just a mega-cornhole contest?) wins the whole she-bang: $100,000 devoted to tuition payments.

To be fair, in a search of their website, it appears that Dr. Pepper gives away a lot of scholarship money.  But the video, and a love of the product is de-rigeur for winners.

When she won, she completely broke down, barely able to express her appreciation for the opportunity to pursue her education--clearly a relief to an issue where she has struggled.  It was hard to turn away.  As a piece of entertainment, it was riveting.  Who knows what happened to the loser.  We never saw her.

It sickened me.

I know it is America and we believe in pullin' yourself up by your bootstraps, winners and losers, the power of physical prowess, fate, chance, rags-to-riches, but come on.  Since when is throwing 13 footballs through a hole the necessary pre-requisite to gaining an education?

This whole spectacle reminded me of the desperate dancers in the depression-era movie They Shoot Horses Don't They?  The dance marathon in the movie depicted lots of down-on-their-luck participants dancing till they dropped in hopes of winning a prize that stood between them and utter destruction.

So what's wrong with giving away tuition money through an entertaining contest?  Let me count the ways.

  • The girl is clearly bright.  Why isn't school possible for her and anyone else who has worked hard and plans to give back?  It used to be.  I remember.  At one time there were several states that offered free tuition to students who had maintained their grades....and wanted to go to college.
  • The contestants must prove their love of Dr. Pepper.  Dr. Pepper has conscripted free testimonials from desperate kids.
  • My students already suck down too many soft drinks.  Many have diabetes.  And so forth...
  • Why does it take $100,000 to go to school?  (It does.  I have colleagues who still owe $50,000 or more as they start their careers--earning just enough to scrape by month-to-month.)
  • The winner throws a football.  Yay.  Football reigns.
  • We are entertained by someone's need.
  • A mega corporation holds sway over people's fate.  Hmmmm.....
I never liked Queen for a Day either.