Relearning Learning

Ken Robinson on reforming public education

Born To Buy

"Marketing is fundamentally altering the experience of childhood. Corporations have infiltrated the core activities and institutions of youth, with virtually no resistance from government or parents. Advertising is widespread in schools. Electronic media are replacing conventional play. We have become a nation that places a lower priority on teaching its children how to thrive socially, intellectually, and morally than it does on training them to consume.
Kids can recognize logos by eighteen months and before reaching their second birthday, they're asking for products by brand name. By three and a half years old, experts say children start to believe that brands communicate their personal qualities. Upon arrival at the schoolhouse steps, the typical first grader can evoke hundreds of brands, and he or she has already accumulated an unprecedented amount of possessions.
As kids age, they turn to teen culture, which is is saturated by the media with gratutious sexuality, based on unrealistic body images, constraining gender stereotypes, and, all too frequently, the degradation of women.
The dominant teen culture is also rife with materialism and preaches that if you're not rich, you're a loser. Adolescents are subjected to unremitting pressure to conform to the market's definition of cool. And now these values have migrated down to younger children. Eight and nine year olds watch reality shows and other prime-time fare ostensibly aimed at teens and adults. Marketers are deliberately investing children's culture with themes and sensibilities that have worked with teens - a widespread practice known as "tweening".
These developments have not been beneficial. Research has shown that involvement in consumer culture causes dysfunction in the forms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and psychosomatic complaints.
American youth has emerged as the most brand-oriented, consumer-involved, and materialistic generation in history."

- excerpted from Born To Buy by Juliet Schor

"The only reason a great many American families don't own an elephant... *

*... is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments."

-Mad Magazine

Shop Till You Drop

"An important new issue is emerging in the arena of sustainable development that rivals environmental concerns in importance. It is consumption — or rather, mis- and over-consumption. This is a less tractable problem than environmental degradation in that politicians see efforts to contain consumption as a superb way to lose votes. It is at the heart of the sustainability debate, as it covers the depletion of natural capital, such as key non-renewable resources, and the capacity to absorb pollution."

-Norman Myers (from Confronting Consumerism, MIT Press)