On June 28, 2004, Fortune magazine reported on a school in the USA where fourth graders were being trained in media awareness – basically being “ad proofed”. (Read the story here – you need a subscription to Fortune).
These children were given class assignments to investigate the advertising and nutritional value of their favourite foods. It was about learning how to filter advertising messages and learning a great real-life skill — something many of their parents haven’t learnt yet. Most of the children were shocked to discover that the companies in their surveys did not have their best interests at heart. After realising that many of their favourite foods were particularly unhealthy, and connecting this was the child directed advertising of these companies, the teacher encouraged the children to write to the companies and express their concern.
From an educational perspective, this was pure genius. Not only had the teacher engaged the children’s full attention, she had also been able to teach them concept from a range of subjects including media studies, life skills, biology and English. Altogether, the kids sent 35 letters to a dozen companies. The letters included questions, complaints and suggestions. The responses they got included to personalised letters, two identical form responses from McDonald’s and two similar form responses from Pizza Hut, one which contained a $ 10 voucher and the other, mysteriously, only a $5 voucher (the class believes it’s because the recipient was a girl).
What an amazing real-life lesson these kids learntas they analysed the responses. On the whole, it is not done much to repair the image of the advertisers in th kids’ eyes. These kids have been taught to snuff out hypocrisy, to take action and to be savvy consumers. They are learning how to be better decision makers and look with a critical eye on the world they inhabit. All of these are absolutely essential life skills in the 21st century. Three cheers for the teacher!

TomorrowToday Global