The Lorax, Mazda Spokesperson

A Washington Post piece from awhile back explains how Mazda is using Dr. Seuss’s “Lorax” to market SUVs inside public schools. It’s pretty sickening:

At Polk Elementary on Tuesday, more than 100 kindergartners and fourth- and fifth-graders crowded into the multipurpose room for a rendition of Seuss’s classic environmentalist tale.

The kids listened as the little furry Lorax tried, furiously and fruitlessly, to defend his beloved Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots from being destroyed by the Once-ler, that greedy Thneed magnate.

Afterward, a Mazda representative — Dan Ryan of the government relations office — stood up.

He unveiled an oversized $1,000 check meant to help beef up the school’s library collection. “We think reading is very important,” Ryan said. The audience cheered.

Ryan then told the kids they could help raise up to a million dollars for other schools’ libraries — and qualify for a sweepstakes entry (trip for four to Universal Studios).

All they had to do was persuade their parents to go to the nearest Mazda dealership for a test-drive.

For every person who test-drives a car — and brings in a special certificate, which students received at school Tuesday — Mazda will donate $25 to the NEA’s foundation for public schools.

Ryan told his rapt audience that Mazda’s latest models get great gas mileage — at 35 miles to the gallon, the CX-5 is the most efficient SUV on American highways, he said.

“That’s the kind of car we think the Lorax would like to drive,” he said.

I’ve always thought that schools have a certain sanctity that should never been violated by people who are there to sell a product. This Lorax scenario illustrates why. Apart from the absurdity of a Mazda rep detailing MPG specs to kindergartners, the pitch he’s offering is deeply misleading. Would the Lorax, famed fictional advocate for responsible consumption, really endorse an SUV because it gets 35 miles to the gallon?

I don’t think so—environmentalist Bill McKibben says that even if we all drove hybrid cars, that still wouldn’t be enough to stop global warming. But Mazda’s representatives, put into a position of implied authority by school officials, are “teaching” elementary-schoolers otherwise.

What a shame. For more on this, see the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.