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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 12, 2004

UI Visitor To Speak On Kids And Consumerism

Shampoo bottles with floatable cartoon character lids. Band-aids that look like tattoos. Skimpy clothes in little girls' sizes. Violent games geared for elementary-school boys.

All this and more fits under the umbrella of "junk culture," says Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, and is just as dangerous to children's health as junk food. Schor will speak about kids and consumerism and participate in a community forum on the issues surrounding marketing to children when she visits the University of Iowa as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor Oct. 26 to 28.

The first public event during her visit will an open community forum, "How Marketers are Targeting Our Kids" on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A. Hosted by Ben Kieffer of WSUI/KSUI public radio, the panel will include Schor; Richard MacNeil, UI professor of leisure studies; Bob Sessions, professor of philosophy and humanities at Kirkwood Community College; Dave Franker, Democratic candidate for Congress and former member of the Iowa City School Board; and Mel Schlachter of Trinity Episcopal Church and the Iowa City Faith-Community.

On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Schor will deliver a free, public lecture, "The Commercialization of Childhood: How Marketers Are Remaking Kids' Lives," at 7 p.m. in room 1505 Seamans Center.

Schor's latest book, "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture," just published this month by Scribner, has received a great deal of attention, with articles in Time and People magazines and in the Washington Post. In the course of researching the book, Schor interviewed marketers, corporate executives, parents and a group of 300 10- to 13-year-olds She found that "junk culture" is not only making children materialistic, it is making them sick. They are becoming depressed and anxious, suffering from headaches, and stomachaches.

Rather than feel powerless, parents must fight back, Schor says. She encourages parents to take on the battle locally, by pushing for school district bans on soft-drink contracts in schools, or nationally by advocating with legislators on behalf of new protections from advertising, such as the Parents' Bill of Rights, a set of nine measures to reform marketing practices being sought by Commercial Alert, an organization based in Portland, Ore.

Schor's research over the past 10 years has focused on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. She is author of "The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure" and "The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer." She has co-edited "The Golden Age of Capitalism: Reinterpreting the Postwar Experience," "The Consumer Society Reader," and "Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century." She is a board member and co-founded of the Center for a New American Dream, an organization devoted to transforming North American lifestyles to make them more ecologically and socially sustainable.

Schor's visit to the UI is sponsored by the leisure studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Division of Interdisciplinary Programs.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the leisure studies program in advance at 319-335-0320.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: David Gould, UI adjunct instructor of leisure studies, 319-335-3575,