COMMENTS: Books & Games

Part of the federal No Child Left Behind program consists of a $5bn five-year literacy plan called Reading First. ABC's Brian Ross filed one of his Investigates reports into allegations that state-by-state contracts are based on "politics and financial ties not merit." When contracts were awarded to the Voyager Passport series run by Randy Best "an old Texas friend of George Bush" a critic called it "cronyism." When Edward Kameenui, the evaluator for Reading First in western states, received $400,000 from a publisher whose program he approved, he told the House Education Committee that he had not been "informed of conflict of interest criteria."

There are two caveats to Ross' report. First, where is the harm? He cited the Department of Education that "reading scores across the country are way up." Second is Ross' complaint about cronyism. His source was Robert Slavin, a Johns Hopkins University educator whose program was rejected, and "whose brother is an ABC News executive."

John Blackstone looked into the games children play for the CBS series Gotta Have It. Marketers of consumer products face limits on advertising to children on television and anyway face a demographic that is "exposed to so much advertising that they learn to ignore it." Their solution is dubbed Advergames, online interactive games larded with product placements. Blackstone explained why a product placement is better on the Internet than in other media: games "demand attention."


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