“Fizz Ed” presents a nuanced criticism regarding the confluence of the fiscal reality of public education and private interests. The episode begins by demonstrating the pathetic state of Lawndale High – maps still have the USSR on it and there isn’t paint for art classes. When the principal notices the football team lacks the necessary practice equipment, she decides to find a way to create extra revenue for the team. Ms. Li ends up selling the school’s soul; everything from globes to school buses become advertisements for Ultra Cola. Students must meet consumption quotas in order to maintain the donations. Ironically, the only time the public is given the opportunity to question this decision is during the Super Bowl, so obviously no one but Daria and Jane show up. The school quickly reaches “Peak Cola” when cheerleaders literally wear soda cans, the principal agrees to falsify football players’ grades in exchange for soda consumption, and she even forces elementary students to drink cola.
This episode works on a few levels – it criticizes the way mainstream scholastics valorize football over academics, and the problematic relationship between money and education. The schools’ budgetary woes start because self-interested residents refuse to raise property taxes in order to increase school funding. Learning becomes compromised when globes even advertise for soda and children are forced to drink unhealthy soda before they have the capacity to decide what is healthy for them or not. While the episode takes the plotline to an extreme (the principal takes an axe to the hallways in order to destroy all the Ultra Cola paraphernalia), I think I see a lot of parallels to the way money corrupts education. Textbook companies are able to profit off learning, as well as “name-brand” schools like Wake Forest that charge increasingly exorbitant amounts of tuition without raising wages for professors or stipends for graduate students…seriously, my stipend is the same as the students received in the 80s….
By Elyse Conklin