Goodbye Schmu, hello SPK


TBYB! is focusing all of our attention where it belongs, attending the passing of our family’s wise, strong, hilarious, adorable, playful, affectionate, lion-hearted (wolf-hearted?) little canine friend, who is the light of our lives. We’ll miss him terribly. So no column this week, while we’re helping him find his way to the off-leash area.

Instead all of you smart TBYB! readers could do me an enormous favor by helping to welcome SPK to our thought community. SPK is a 17-year old student who wrote the following comment on Is advertising evil? a few days ago, along with a link to this video clip, which is well worth watching.

On the first day of school my Sophomore year, as an introduction to our first Unit, my English teacher asked us to write down our ideas on a topic: she asked us what we thought should be mandatory subjects in school.

Most of the students didn’t think very far into it, they just listed classes that are already required. But I proposed that we should have a class for analyzing media – (Understanding advertising, learning how to distinguish quality products from crap, being aware of our power of choice, etc etc.) My idea was promptly discarded, laughed off. Not only by my peers, but by my teacher as well, who claimed I was being off-task. I attempted to elaborate on my reasoning, but she made me be quiet.

Perhaps it is because my peer group is made up of teen-agers that I believe our nation is in such a sorry state. I don’t know how you adults are faring, but I’ll tell you what, kids these days are fucking brain-washed to the max, and it frightens me. School is a miserable place, now, where it seems always we are being trained to be mindless consumers.

I agree that advertising its-self is not an evil concept. But when the motives behind the advertisement are meant to mislead, cheat, and create unwarranted profit, it becomes a matter of morals. True, we should not allow ourselves to become victims (it is in essence our own fault if we are taken advantage of, yes?) But what of it if we are not being equipped at an early age with the proper tools for thought? What about defenseless children who have no concept of value? To me, this is all fishy business and I am thoroughly angry.
What’s worse is the vast amount of information these advertisers are “innocently” gathering about us without our knowledge. Its sickening, to say the least. I’m 17, by the way, and not a single person in my school cares to discuss this matter with me; I think that says a lot about our problem here. We’re becoming a population of dip-shits.

I find it outrageous that his teachers won’t engage with him about this topic, and share his worry about his peers. SPK, I’m so glad you found Take Back Your Brain!

What do you think? How are we adults faring? Are young people getting slammed harder by commercial advertising than the rest of us? What do you think it would mean for kids to steal the tactics being deployed against them, to mold them into “a population of dip-shits,” and use them instead to power their own dreams? Please use the comment form (RSS readers can use the comments link) below to let SPK know there are intelligent people out here who think about these issues.

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  1. Emile
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    Hmm, I clearly remember a class about media awareness in high school in France, though it wasn’t specially focused on advertising – the part I remember the most is when we looked at a news report, and then watched it again with the sound off and discovered it was just a bunch of random disconnected images.

    (It wasn’t a dedicated course, but was part of a compulsory civics course)

    I find it hard to imagine what kind of arguments the teacher and students would have come up with to ridicule that proposition 😛

  2. Laura
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I think a greater number of adults than of teens have their heads above water in the sea of advertising, but, well… that’s not saying much. This may be in part due to the lack of training in thinking and analyzing media, but it’s also because advertisers exploit human psychology — even if we know and hate what’s happening, we are still being advertised to. We can catch these thoughts as they happen, but we can’t keep them from starting.

  3. Posted February 2, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I used to teach an 10 part financial literacy course aimed at adults. We spent one whole evening just on media awareness. It is an essential part of taking back your power (in my case, money) and applying it to your own goals, wants, and needs.

    I think that most adults are as clueless as teens, but teens are marketed to more intensely, and are more susceptible to advertisements. NOT that teens are stupid or weak, but because they are in a stage of life where developmentally, they are looking away from family, to the wider world for their sense of who they are and what they want.

    Marketers know that a teenager’s brand preferences haven’t been solidified yet, so they pay more for a teenager’s head space than, say, a 32 year old. Just look at ad rates on various television programs.

    I’m glad SPK is using the internet to find intellectual peers, since his (her?) peers at school are so out of touch. Finding like-minded people to relate to is an important part of personal marketing for me.

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