Marketing values

West Islip, NY
A classroom curriculum unit designed to expose 6th grade students to the world of marketing, from market research and advertising to sales and finances, took an unexpected turn when students were faced with the reality of an unscrupulous business vendor. Their supplier skipped town. The classes' teachers, both Fellows in Communities for Learning and committed to student-centered learning, resisted the temptation to intervene, offering support in the form of space and time for consultations and meetings, but allowing students themselves to grapple with how to respond to the crisis.

The student 'corporate leaders' called an emergency meeting of the fifty (student) members of the corporation and presented the issues to the group. The students took turns posing questions and brainstorming solutions. After hearing a financial report from the accounting department, it was determined that most, if not all of the increased cost would be absorbed by sales price, though it would require a much higher sales volume for the corporation to break even and move to making a profit. The decision came down to whether to cut losses and cancel the rest of the sales week or buy directly from the manufacturer and absorb a substantial increase in shipping costs, likely leaving the corporation without profit and perhaps even slightly in debt. Before the determining vote was taken, one student requested the floor to make a final statement.

"We've spent a week advertising our product and prices. We committed to a week of sales. We have a responsibility to the people who are now planning to buy our candles, based on our advertising. How can we cancel? How can we talk about changing our prices? That would make us liars. We have to go through with this sales week, even if it ends up costing us money. We made a commitment. If it means that we all give money at the end to pay our debts, then that's what we should do. When we thought we were going to make money, we were all about how we would share it. It's no different now. We share the responsibility, we share the debt, just like we would have shared the profits."

All fifty students voted, and unanimously supported approving the additional costs and continuing with the sale, citing the responsibility that they had to their consumer as the main reason for moving forward.

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