P.T. Barnum allegedly said, "There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take 'em." But after a session with Frank Baker, the fourth-graders at Fort Mill's Orchard Park Elementary School are less likely to be suckered.
Baker is a consultant to the S.C. Department of Education on English/Language Arts curriculum. Part of that curriculum includes instruction on how to become media literate.
Baker visited Orchard Park Elementary recently to see if he could make students a little more savvy about how TV ads try to persuade them to buy products. And part of that lesson was about how not to be conned by ads that, in one way or another, promise more than they deliver.
The media literacy session included a Powerpoint presentation and hints on how to deconstruct an ad. Students learned to look and listen for things in ads that enhance the desirability of the product -- such as music, editing, special lighting and actors paid to smile and appear to be enjoying themselves.
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Adults may be aware of the gimmicks used by ads to get us to pull out our wallets. But we may only have become aware of those come-ons after some hard-learned lessons and buyer's regret.
Baker and his roadshow offered these students an early and painless lesson in the art of advertising and how to look beyond the glitz to get a more realistic idea of what a product has to offer. And learning that lesson now may save them some misery as consumers in the years ahead.
As the public is bombarded by more and more forms of artful advertising from a variety of new media outlets, it is essential to be able to recognize the common ways we are seduced into buying things -- sometimes a bill of goods. And children often are pawns in this game, dazzled by ads into pestering their parents to buy them products they see on TV.
"Most commercials have elements of deception," Baker told the students. "It's up to you to be critical thinkers."
This is a good example of why media literacy should be part of the elementary curriculum and the value it can provide. It teaches children a lesson they can use as consumers for the rest of their lives.
And, no doubt, it also may spark an early interest in a career in advertising.
Class in the methods used by advertisers to lure customers offers valuable lesson.
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