Michael Collins Smarter than a Fifth Grader*

A recent headline in one of the many free rags that litter the subway claimed that the Toronto school board was quizzing parents on whether it'd be okay to advertise in classrooms or their surrounding environs - you know, to make a few bucks and be able to better support the public education behemoth. Doubtless, this will be met with a cry from concerned parent's groups and anti-"consumerists," all decrying the effort to "brainwash" our children. This is a chorus of cries and whimpers to which I pronounce: so what?

Our kids are not fucking stupid.

Well, mine might be -- I've eaten a lot of things I shouldn't have. But some of the kids I've run into are pretty damn clever. They can forge a bus pass like nobody's business.

If the majority of them can follow exactly what the hell is going on in your average episode of Naruto, then they can sure as hell recognize an advertisement when they see it. Advertisements already exist in schools: every product they carry with them either has a logo or movie character slapped onto it. Enter a kindergarten classroom and try to look for ye olde woodene rockinge horsese, absent the Fisher Price logo. Then, follow one of the kids home (at a safe distance, say, fifty to sixty feet in an unmarked white van), and see what they're watching or doing when they get home.

Kids (truthfully everyone) is bombarded with ye olde advertisemente every second of every day. What stops us from spending all of our lunch money on the latest Sponge-Bob branded weaponry is a little thing called discrimination. Kids today encounter more complexity and nuance in five mintues of after school TV than in an entire season of the old Degrassi show (even that one where Spike gets pregnant).

With the right preparation from parents and other role models, kids can discriminate between useful products and meaningless crap. There's a reason why they don't buy every cereal advertised on tv, or send their money to every Nigerian prince that they receive emails from. In fact, in that latter situation, they're smarter than most adults I've met.

Sure, ads are designed to be effective, that's why they're worth big money. But an ad or two in the cafeteria -- maybe even a "today's morning announcements brought to you by the Subway across the street -- you know, the one you visit every day, without our help? That one!" -- isn't going to brainwash your kid to kill the president.

Advertising is not a great evil, and our kids are smart enough to figure it out for themselves.

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