Sunday, May 27, 2012

Now That's Entertainment...

At a Memorial Day gathering today, I had the occasion to watch a segment of commercials on mute.  Even thought I was in a room full of people, for some reason I was transfixed at the messages that one can conjure when the audio tracks are stripped from the video.

Based on the spots I viewed, someone unfamiliar with the United States could rationally come to the conclusion that Americans' highest purpose and calling is to entertain ourselves.  I have long thought that the seductive illusion that advertisers have on us has caused a decaying of the moral and economic fiber in our country.  Watching the suggestive images roll across the screen without sound was an a-ha confirmation moment for me.

Moving forward, I believe that those who are educated and self-aware will be able to resist the allure of our consumption and entertainment based society.  I fear that those who fall into this class will continue to shrink in numbers as on-demand distractions alter our engagement patterns.

The truth is that success, be it academic, financial, or otherwise, takes hard work.  There are times when gratification must be delayed and the nose put to the grindstone in order to accomplish something of value.

For our students, one of the most difficult questions they have to answer is why they chose to engage in certain behaviors or activities.  For many, "I don't know" really is an honest answer.  Self-assessement, self-reflection, and self-restraint are all traits that have been discarded by our on-demand society.

Electronic mediums of all forms have immense power to sway our worldview and outlook on matters.  Seductive images of happy people with the latest (tech gadget, beer, clothing, etc.) saturate our screens we are glued to.  These ads are designed to make the viewer feel that the only way to measure up and not be inferior is to consume the product being pitched.

Dave Ramsey, the financial advisor behind Financial Peace University, is associated with the phrase "Live like no one else".  If more people would take this advise, and if more would pause to think about why they feel like they do about themselves in relation to products, the number of dissatisfied and discontent Americans could be impacted.

As schools continue the debate about BYOD, it is important to engage in the conversation about why schools are so eager for devices to flood the school house gates.  Is it because we, as educators, truly believe that devices can have a positive impact on student achievement, or is it just another engagement ploy in the factory batch processing system?  Devices are neither good nor bad, it is in the intentional use where meaning is derived.  I love my many devices, but I find that I have to carve out spaces away from those when I want to seriously engage in academic pursuits.

Corporate America wants as many people hooked on screens as possible.  It is a way to continually advertise and influence purchasing decisions.  So the question is how are we as educators leveraging the power of devices and screens while at the same time teaching about their drawbacks?

The fate of a free thinking society rests on this work.

To read more on this topic, I'd suggest the following:


The High Cost of Discount Culture
By Ellen Ruppel Shell
296 pp. The Penguin Press.