Caffeine and the First Amendment


Apparently, defending children from the perils of caffeine “upsets the applecart.” My principal informed me that “down town” a reference to the superintendent’s office was vexed by my overt and public criticism of our school district’s unholy alliance with PepsiCo. I was instructed not to state that I was an employee of the Salem/Keizer school district when I wrote editorials critical of our soda “contract” with PepsiCo. Emails about the pitfalls of the soda contract were not to be shared with fellow teachers during school hours.

With the opening of a 6th high school in Salem this fall, an innovative young cheerleader named Andrea Boyes, got permission from a booster’s club to sell bottled water under the new school’s logo, the “Titans.” PepsiCo with exclusive pouring rights in the Salem schools, including their own bottle water, ‘Aquafina’, quickly squashed the deal. Besides peddling colored sugar water to bring school district’s begging for hard cash, PepsiCo would not let young Ms. Boyes threaten their $27 Billion dollar empire built mostly on caffeine, coloring and sugar.

Ironically, Ms. Boyes was made to be the scapegoat, circumventing protocol and interfering with the sacred powers that invade public schools seeking brand loyalty and windfall profits: health be damned. Instead of scorn, Ms. Boyes should have been heaped with praise. Her courage persuaded me to act like the public servant I am and not a bought out corporate quisling.

Pandora’s box has swung open: spewing the ugly and twisted alliance between schools and a corporate seducer. Reading page 33 of the new West Salem High Parent/Student handbook reveals a colossal blunder on part of the school district. Under “Use of Tobacco Products, Alcohol and Other Drugs, the policy clearly outlines rules against caffeine products. “No Doze or caffeine tablets” are clearly grounds for administrative action against students! With “No Doze” specifically mentioned, the 100 mg of caffeine per tablet is considered a health threat. With a 12- ounce pop containing 55.5 mg, students need only drink two pops and they are in violation of the “no tolerance policy.” I routinely see students walking with open 2 liter bottles in my school, obviously they are using too much caffeine as laid out by the districts’ own policy.

The district claims that a 10 year, five million dollar contract is too good to renege. What is not explained is that this dollar value is based on increasing pop sales 5% each year, every year of the ten- year contract! What parents don’t know is that PepsiCo has all the focus on cash, not children. They suggest the school investigate a “credit card” type purchasing for students. I imagine the parents could be billed later. The soda king suggests redoing the electrical capabilities in grade schools, where antiquated buildings could handle the new pop machines. “Pepsi would request the District name a funding program, the Pepsi Scholarship”. The only wrinkle you ask? “This program is to act as a volume incentive for Students in the District.” The more they drink, the more scholarship money is earned. How despicable can this multinational be? How low will we grovel for needed money? Will we not employee the lessons of civic responsibility we claim to teach to our young adults?

Having two daughters, will I blindly accept that public schools are now actively encouraging students to pursue a life of osteoporosis and diabetes? As a teacher of over 24 years, will I not heed my own words of encouragement to the thousands of students I have taught, “one person makes a world of difference.”

I know we live in a time of incredible fear. Stay quiet, stay numb and be a hapless consumer. Every thing apparently is up for sale, even the health of children and the integrity of schools. The First Amendment challenges us to be citizens who question the tyranny of silence. Parenthood urges us to protect our youth no matter the might of those backed by the sacred dollar. Teachers need to reconsider their role as educators nowhere does their job description call for being obsequious lapdogs to corporate carpetbaggers looking to make schools their market for lifelong consumers.

I refuse to sheepishly follow the new order of corporate domination. Will others join together to get soda pop contracts and fast food out of public schools? Will the adults of this nation step up as elders to defend the health of children? PepsiCo is selling and I am not buying. Nor are young Ms. Boyes and her family.

The children of this nation are waiting to see what we do. Maybe “upsetting the apple cart” will be viewed as a good thing.

John F. Borowski is an Environmental and Marine Science Teacher at North Salem High, Salem, Oregon. He can be reached at jenjill@proaxis.com

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs
Jon Hochschartner
Does Word Policing Actually Help the Left?