By any other name
I almost choked on my sweet tea the other day when I saw an email in my inbox. In the message were the instructions on how to be hip and cool with my crocheting. Didn’t I want to be hip and cool? Of course! I couldn’t keep my eyeballs from looking into this! I discovered all the cool kids were making chevron afghans. (Yes, the chevron – the current fave in geometric design.) When I looked at the attached picture, it showed a plain old ripple afghan like my grandmothers have made for years. Apparently, I didn’t know my grannies were pioneers of hip fashion long before their time. When I showed the e-mail l to my sweetie, completely nonplussed he announced, “That looks like Nanny’s afghan to me.” My thoughts exactly!
The more I thought about it, the more bothered I became by that email. How many times does that type of marketing work? More often than I would like to admit I am guessing.
My thoughts wondered back to teaching junior high science. Each year at some point, I welcomed my students to the world of adulthood by letting them know a little secret: advertising is not for educated! I would share with them that sometimes even brand names were meant to evoke a certain image: Downy and Nike were two that always came to mind. I told them that they were too smart to be duped by ads. Always one for the flair of the dramatic, I would quietly tip-toe around the room acting as if other grown-ups would pull out pitchforks and burning stakes if they knew I was letting children in on this little secret. Then I would share about the moment that I caught on to the truth. It was “The Great Cholesterol Scare of ‘85”. I didn’t have a sage guide. I was on my own perusing the snacks at Food World in high school. I needed to pick up peanut butter. But which one to choose? Why not the one with large label – emblazoned with NO CHOLESTEROL. Suddenly angels appeared in Aisle 6 with rays of heavenly light shining forth. This moment was somewhat akin to the beauty school drop-out scene in Grease. At this point in my story, most of my 7th graders were hanging on to every word. Gently, because this was new knowledge in the information age, I explained my epiphany. The uneducated consumer would think that this singular brand among all others on the shelf was there to protect my health, my arteries, (and not mention Truth, Justice, and the American Way). I should buy THIS peanut butter because they cared enough to remove the horrible, evil, bad-guy Cholesterol from its product. The reality: there was never any cholesterol in it. Advertising is not for the educated.
Anyone who has been a teacher for more than twelve years knows that in the education world there are fads -lots of them. I remember a former administrator was practically giddy with excitement at the speaker we were going to for a back-to-school workshop. His words were, “This is going to revolutionize what we do here”. Because I believe that there are many ways to reach a child, I sincerely doubted this revolution was going to last long. Once there, I knew for a fact that my hunch was right. This workshop was twenty years ago, and the buzz-word for teaching was “cooperative grouping”. The idea being that if we did everything in the classroom in groups, children would succeed, our lessons would reach every child, and everyone would learn at equal gains and paces. That isn’t exactly what happened. It is a great tool, but no one can build a house with just a hammer. Why would we think that just one method would build a child?
So what do ripple afghans, peanut butter, and cooperative grouping have to do with anything? Together, not much, unless you are lucky enough to teach in classroom that allows naps and snacks while simultaneously having your students arranged in groups! (Some days, that would be my dream classroom!)
In all honesty, this concept of being easily fooled is one of the things that strikes fear in my heart. How many messages do our kids receive in a day? I want to raise kiddos who love God and who are great thinkers with big hearts. That’s a tall order! Are we (meaning: parents, schools, communities) giving our children as much of an opportunity to learn and to think as we are preparing them for standardized tests? Have we been hindered by the vast availability of knowledge at our fingertips without pushing our brains to go as far as they can? Have we settled for the quick fix rather than creatively engineering the box (not just thinking outside of one)? Have we equipped them with the tools to see through the garbage to get to what message is really being sent to them? Is there an app for that?
Whenever I ruminate too long on this subject, I think about all the ways I have possibly failed as a mom and trust me, the list is LONG. Then God gives me a glimpse that perhaps we haven’t done such a bad job after all. I had an opportunity to watch my children testing a product for a company years ago. I could see what they were doing while simultaneously having access to the questions they were being asked. I watched as one of my sons was asked to describe how the product looked. Every other child in the room looked at the product and wrote down their description. Then I saw movement unlike the others over by my boy’s spot. Behold! He picked up the item and inspected the underside.
That was PROUD moment for this momma! All those things I worried about maybe were for naught because not only did he think outside of the box – he reinvented it. If I wouldn’t have looked like a nut, I wanted to jump up and down, cheering him on!
All over the country today many are sending their kids back to school. In a really grown-up, fast-paced world, there are a lot of distractions. Some are good, but plenty have no reason other than to dupe our kids. With a lot of prayer and nurturing, hopefully, all kids will learn to think on their own two feet and not be fooled by the flash and dazzle (like the chevron afghans) of the world. Because the way I see it, a horse by any other name is a . . . well, you know what I mean.