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Van Horn Advocate


Wednesday, Sept. 17, 1997

Greg Harman

Loose Fish

By Greg Harman

Giving kids "the weasel"
at public schools in Texas

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The old adage attributed to Abraham Lincoln, "You can fool all of the people some of the time; and you can fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time," may no longer hold true. According to Daniel J. Boorstin in his book The Image, the problem is not that people are less intelligent than they used to be--but that the alternatives to truth have become so much more appetizing.

Lincoln's argument rests upon the commonly held idea that most people, when presented with a truth and a lie, will prefer the truth. But these days the lies just grow more and more attractive to the majority of us. The "lies" to which I am referring exist within the world of advertising.
In the past, product advertisements (and hence: their sales) relied solely on issuing statements regarding what a product could do for the consumer. The problem with the old cure-alls peddled up and down the corridors of commerce was that the fantastic claims often could not be proven, and tight regulations were therefore enacted to protect the consumer.

These days the lies are not a matter of what a product can or cannot do, but, rather, they are the suggestions of an alternative world that may be ours--for a price. The best example of this type of advertising that I have seen lately transpires within a 30 second clip for a sport utility vehicle, the tongue-in-cheek claim is that the vehicle "can also save your soul." The indulgences of the early Catholic church have returned with a vengeance: you may now save your soul for around $25,000 (plus tax, title, and license).

Advertisers also rely on unclear language and comparisons to establish the fictional value of their product. For example, a soft drink may be promoted as the "best soft drink in its class with a one-of-a-kind pineapple taste." What makes this add unclear, or in advertising terms: the weasel of this add, is this--the fact that this particular refreshment has a "one-of-a-kind" pineapple taste automatically makes it the only pineapple soda, therefore the "best" (and the worst) in its class. It's the only pineapple drink, period!

Texas seems to be leading the pack toward the commercialization of its public schools--and, consequently, slipping its kids "the weasel." Half a dozen schools in Texas have already adopted corporate sponsors. Sadly, it is the pitiable funding allotted to these schools that leads them to jump into the sack with the big money boys. Some corporations are after vending machine monopolies; others seek to find their trendy logo gracing all of the sport's jerseys. Anyway you figure it, advertisers in public schools comes down to the brainwashing of the young. Our children have been sold out.

Brian Corcoran, Marketing and Sales Manager for Universal Sports America told the Houston Chronicle that for the corporate kings "There's no better way to make an impact on their consumer than to get them when they're young."

For my money, I'd rather work to get the civic wing fueling educational fires, armed with the interest of creating a better society, than turn the responsibility over to the likes of Nike, Reebock, and Coca-Cola (whose own ethical practices are questionable to say the least), whose sole purpose is increasing their market and waging public relations warfare.

Remember, our children are very impressionable and especially vulnerable to the fear tactics of the advertisers. This is especially true when it comes to matters of their bodies (which are a heightened state of change during adolescence)--just watch some soap, toothpaste, or breath mint commercials to get an idea, then imagine you're 12 or 13--at their age it may never cross their minds that an advertiser would be lying to them. Why would they lie?

School should be a place where children are endowed with the tools to help forge a better society, not placed on the market block and sold to the highest bidder. To survive in, and ultimately lead, this tremendously diverse nation, children need to discover a self-worth that comes from right action, not the brand names they purchase. The youth must be taught the difference between reality and salesmanship, because these days the lies are looking better all the time.

Editor's Note: Greg Harman is an Enterprise wirter shoe column appears each Wednesday. His e-mail address is

Our Views

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We have received a very good letter that we would like to use. However, it is not signed. It is our policy that we can withold the name if requested on a letter but we must have the letter signed for our confidential files. Whoever wrote the letter that was received in the mail signed "(broken heart drawing) Torn Apart would please come by the Enterprise office and sign the letter, we will be glad to use it. Thanks.
Mac B. McKinnon

Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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