Dont forget to re-un-fail our schools


As a youth columnist, the hardest part of my job is when people selfishly refuse to ask me my opinion. Luckily, pretty much any behavior can be construed as an invitation to edify people if you know what to look for. Here is a list of actions that, when I see them, I usually assume mean, 'Shower me in wisdom, O benevolent Youth Columnist.'

Making eye contact. Poignantly choosing not to make eye contact. Having a conversation in tones loud enough that I can hear. Having a conversation loud enough that it can be picked up by super-powerful listening devices. Eating a sandwich. Existing.

Suffice to say, it's pretty hard to escape those parameters, but, surprisingly enough, it happens. For instance, while on my evening constitutional around the town, I noticed a number of the 'Don't Fail Our Schools' yard signs. Which, as I understand it, are part of the Foundation's campaign to raise money for the Lake Oswego School District. And, it pains me to say this, but no one asked me about what sort of yard signs I would have made.

Ya see, I'm a bit of an 'expert' in advertising, and after my years of study and training (watched half an episode of 'Mad Men'), I've picked up a few tricks I thought I could share with the Foundation, and LO in general.

First off, you need to understand how advertising works. If you're trying to sell mattresses, you want to show a lot of clips of babies in your commercial. Government scientists have proven conclusively that babies are cute, and hey, now we're all in a mood to buy a mattress. If, on the other hand, you're making an ad titled: 'Mattresses: Silent but Deadly,' using footage of babies would just confuse people. Instead, you'd want to use wolves. Wolves are scary. And whatever you do, DON'T put footage of baby wolves in your commercial. (I don't have enough space here to explain why baby wolf images can never be televised, but let's just say that it involves the Large Hadron Collider and the tentacle-demons of Dimension Ixx).

In terms of the LOSD yard signs, it's pretty clear that the makers have gone with a more wolf-esque 'Pay or Die' motif. Personally, I would have chosen a slightly more huggable approach. Something along the lines of: 'Pwease let meh snuggle wiff yo' wallet.' But what's done is done, and the next step might be to hire out any and all seventh graders who are shaving/can beat me at dodgeball to go on a door-to-door 'donations through duress' fundraising campaign. 'Nice place you got here. Sure would be a shame if something bad happened. People can be so careless.'

The next step in making a great advertisement is making sure it goes 'viral.' Internet videos go 'viral' when they get a lot of 'hits,' so I'm pretty sure the best way to make sure the yard signs go viral is by having volunteers hit people over the head with the signs - preferably while demanding money at the top of their lungs. (Warning: I'm going to estimate a 70 percent chance of getting arrested if you try this. In other news, this is probably the worst pun I have ever written for this newspaper.)

But maybe I've missed the point here. So often the media focuses in on the trivial and unimportant - and naturally I do my best to do the same, but in this one particular case, could there be more to the story? (Tip for writers: Too lazy to understand the complexities of the issue at hand? Try writing about the issue's slogan instead!) Why haven't the folks who do want to fail our schools been given air-time? Why does our local government lack a voice representing the pro-littering, anti-puppies, and pro-failure party? Where are the yards signs proudly declaring 'School-failer and proud of it?'

These are questions I can't answer. But what I do know is that every single one of you should donate to the LOSD Foundation RIGHT NOW! In fact, if you head on over to, you can also watch a pretty nifty video about our schools, and find a direct link to donate! Which you should be doing right now! And just to head off any spurious rumors before they start, I definitely HAVEN'T been kidnapped by radical seventh grade activists, who definitely AREN'T forcing me to write such blatant pro-Foundation propaganda. And I certainly haven't been kidnapped, taken to an abandoned warehouse, and threatened with an industrial strength electric pencil sharpener. Yep, no validity to those rumors at all.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some puppies to - TELL MY FAMILY I LOVE THEM.

Zane Sparling, a senior at Lake Oswego High School, writes a twice-a-month column for the Lake Oswego Review.