Advertising and Consumerism: A Space for Pedagogical Practice
“Advertising is, overwhelmingly, an enemy of the classroom” (Funes, 2008, p. 159).
This quote sums up the focus of the reading for this week. Funes (2008) is determined to pit advertising and education against one another, claiming that they are viewed as being enemies. She failed to convince me of the validity of her stance, but the teaching strategies derived from the project described are usable and valid in the classroom.
Funes (2008) explains how television advertising convinces people of the normalcy of images, representations, social situations and the need for people to have whatever is being advertised. This is not a new idea, by any means, as seen in the documentary, “Century of the Self”: Happiness Machines. This documentary introduces us to Edward Bernays, the father of the theory that psychology dictates consumerism and therefore, the consumer can be manipulated to desire something before it’s needed and to have one’s desires overshadow one’s needs (18:23). I found this documentary extremely interesting and I’m actually in awe of Bernays. His ability to manipulate and sell and get into the heads of the consumer is rather scary!
In both the reading and the documentary, the message is quite clear that people need to employ critical thinking and make informed decisions in all aspects of life if they don’t want to be puppets of corporate giants. I think what struck me most about “Happiness Machines” was the careful plotting of Bernays to use psychology to get consumers to buy, through subliminal message techniques.
I wonder, with the influx of commercial-free programming, on radio, television and the Internet, how will advertisers get their messages to the consumer?
Funes (2008) says that students face a dichotomy because school education is focused on the written and spoken word while in society, that same student is exposed to audiovisual messages. I don’t see why this is a dichotomy? Why isn’t it a kaleidoscope that changes and morphs depending on the light and position of the elements? I question her statement: “This collision of ethics leads to situations that are a symptom of teachers’ uneasiness when approaching advertising, and of the particular scandal advertising discourse arouses in teachers …” (Funes, 2008, p. 169). What teachers? Why uneasy?
On page 172, the chart that outlines a framework for analysis of commercials looks very useful and usable. I would like to try and incorporate this with the grade 10 Applied English class in my TLLP project. I also think the grade 12 University Prep English class would be fascinated with “The Happiness Machines” documentary.