I occasionally get pretty worked up when watching commercial TV. Probably a reason why more people are watching their favourite TV series in a format that they bought, rented, or downloaded. Watching what you want when you want means you aren’t subjected to the mindless garbage on commercial TV, and you certainly don’t have to put up with the commercials. I’m grateful that I can watch YouTube clips and cut the add after 5 seconds. This evening I witnessed the latest in a series of commercials that uses school education as a setting, sentiment, or a sell. It was for Woolworths ‘Earn and Learn’ initiative; designed to turn what you buy into points for a school of your choice to buy more stuff.
There’s been a lot wrong with commercials which have used school education, and one of the biggest things they get wrong is that school has to be familiar to the viewer. Being familiar means being traditional: teacher at the front, with a blackboard, the kids in rows, with their hands-up. A little part of me dies every time I see one of these commercials. I wonder for how much longer will we have to put up with this stereotypical view of school education. How many people out in TV-land see that these kinds of commercials reinforce education in a traditional mindset? What good will money raised, funded, or otherwise do to a school which still puts students into formats that have existed for well over 100 years?
So I went looking for the clip to post as an example. Instead I found a different clip, showing what happened behind the scenes as Jessica Mauboy visited her old school –
The hot air blew out of my sails. The first thing I thought was: why didn’t Woolworths just run this ad instead? It had heart, it had context, it showed connection with the teacher and the kids. Sure it was still quite staged, as you’d expect it to be, but this told a different story.
I wish someone out there working for the marketing departments of powerful (read: influential) organisations would take more notice of the real story in schools. Stop projecting a fake ideal of what you think school must be in order for it to be palatable to the consumer. Be brave – show a teacher not at the front (maybe they’re giving a student a hug), a classroom with walls the kids write on (or a screen they’re running a Skype chat), the chairs in open circles (resolving a dispute), and kids not raising hands but taking a stand. Maybe one day I’ll watch a commercial featuring an education I wished I’d had. Maybe I’ll have stopped watching TV by then.