How many of us have been waiting at a stop light, waiting for the light to change and end up reading a strategically placed billboard sign? How long was the last advertisement on Youtube that you had to sit through? When did you last need to hang up on a telemarketer trying to sell you a duct cleaning service?
These are all normal, everyday examples of the marketing we wade through that constantly contends for our attention. One wonders if all of this effort really sells product. It must, since companies continue to flood the airwaves, and internet with it.
In education, where school boards once made attempts to limit the amount of advertising that the students were exposed to; now marketing abounds. Should we be concerned about how these sales tactics are being used to foster a new generation of consumers that are becoming more conditioned all the time? It seems like corporations are targeting the young and innocent more and more in search of further profits. Thus, I was skeptical when I read this week's article, Advertising and Consumerism: A Space for Pedagogical Practice. How could using advertising in a classroom possibly be of benefit to the learners?
In the article, Funes (2008) presents a case for addressing advertising in the classroom, rather than trying to avoid it. Funes (2008) begins her argument through examining various facets of advertising strategies including; written and unwritten text, use of images and the efforts taken to engage the emotional drives of the viewer. She encourages her audience to recognize those aspects and then, wisely, take positive action through teaching our students how to critically examine them as well. She even goes as far as to say that "education should contribute to unmasking the tricks of seduction and persuasion used in commercials..."(p. 175)
Indeed, if we can teach our students to see through the techniques and strategies used in advertising, then they will be able to make better judgments about the ideas presented in them and how to appropriately respond in a rational fashion.
In this sense, Funes (2008) seems to agree with the perspective that the general public are rational creatures that can make good decisions in regards to the products and services that are paraded in front of them on a daily basis. This goes against the philosophies of psychoanalysts like Freud who had a very negative view about the capabilities of the human mind.
For my part I sincerely hope that this is true. If I, as an educator, do not engage my students in this discourse, I may be inadvertently be contributing to the success of who feel that the general population can and should be controlled by subliminal messages used in the media. I question whether any long term common good could come from such a premise? Could even freedom of thought and creativity be lost?
Indeed, here is an instance where the teaching of critical thinking skills is absolutely vital!