I just remembered a remarkable kerfuffle I stumbled into twelve years ago. In December 2008, President-Elect Obama nominated the worst Secretary of Education and I wrote an article for the Huffington Post predicting his DeVosian incompetence. In the article, I made a cheap Hooked-on-Phonics joke. (Who hasn’t?)
While preparing for my Christmas party that year, every “device” in my house started beeping like an alarm system at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. My personal Google alert was going nuts because I had apparently run afoul of the nice people at Smarterville, Inc., the parent company of Hooked-on-Phonics. My article about Arne Duncan and Barack Obama so offended the company that they paid their PR firm to issue global condemnations of my silly little article. The Google alerts didn’t not subside for weeks. I also forgot that the Hooked-on-Phonics CEO took the time to read my personal Blogger site and left a comment on another piece of writing. (Imagine the effort. Nobody reads my blog.)
The CEO of Hooked-on-Phonics(r), obviously a digital native, issued a global press release highly critical of my article in the Huffington Post, Obama Practices Social Promotion. I would have been more grateful if the press release honored traditional netiquette and linked to the article in dispute. I could use the eyeballs.
After all, I was courteous enough to link to their press release endorsing the nomination of Duncan in my article
This is the paragraph that launched a thousand indignant press releases.
Arne Duncan is a darling of the charter school movement, Eli Broad, the right-wing Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, anti-union “Democrats“ and I kid you not — Hooked-on-Phonics. President-elect Obama eagerly awaits recommendations on nuclear proliferation from Billy Mays, Ron Popeil and the ShamWow guy.You must admit this is pretty funny! 😎
The press release included perhaps the greatest paragraph in corporate PR history (or at least in the history of corporate condemnations of me).
“Gary Stager is entitled to his opinions regarding President-elect Obama’s selection of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and education policy generally. However, it is unfortunate he has tried to trivialize my views by likening my company and its product — Hooked on Phonics, a product that has helped millions of children learn to read — to a sponge (with all due respect to the folks at ShamWow).
The CEO of Smarterville, purveyor of Hooked-on-Phonics(R) even took the time to find, read, and comment on my personal blog urging all of you in bloggerville to participate in their philanthropic activities.
I should hire a public relations firm to correct the Hooked-on-Phonics press release. They repeatedly refer to me as Mr. Stager, when I am Dr. Stager or Gary Stager, Ph.D. I did spend nearly 40 years practicing with flash cards in order to earn that doctorate. It would be a shame to waste it.
All I want for Xmas is comments on my Huffington Post article
I think I’ve been good, even if the Hooked-on-Phonics(R) folks think I’ve been naughty!
Happy Holidays to All!
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.