For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.
The best unit I teach is the advertising unit in my Pop Culture Studies class.
Every year, I toy around with starting with film or television or maybe music. But so much of what I teach throughout the semester builds on the advertising unit.
My students learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, about gender binary, and how both of those are used to construct our world view through advertising. We talk about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the problematic nature of a company telling women they are beautiful…while also selling them beauty products (and we get into the mind-twisting reality that Unilever is Dove’s parent company…and Axe’s parent company…so looking at both product lines’ ads, it’s clear the right hand knows not what the left hand doeth).
We look at naming rights of stadiums and product placement and athletes’ endorsement deals, pulling back the curtain on the staggering amount of money that goes into getting students and parents and all of society to consume.
It’s a bit of a mashup between visual rhetoric and critical media studies.
We learn about male archetypes in advertising–because as much as women are objectified in advertisements, men are reminded that in the advertising world, masculinity has a narrow definition. Neither gender escapes advertising constructs unscathed.
It’s the unit of study that students tell me affects them the most. They watch ads differently, and eventually it spills into how they watch television and film.
A student asked me earlier this semester what the point of the class was. I told him the purpose was to critically analyze the media they all consume, to help them be smart and informed and see through media manipulations.
The advertising unit I teach is probably one of the most important units I teach, because literacy exists not in just knowing what words on a page are saying, but also in understanding how images and sound and words work together to create compelling messages. That kind of literacy, in the 21st century, is vital.
Every semester, I’m excited to teach the advertising unit. It’s one of the units I teach that I know makes a difference.