Diesel’s BE STUPID campaign is stupid, writes James Lileks on The Bleat.

According to the ad campaign, “stupidity is really what the square world calls creativity, risk-taking, imagination, and a refusal to live by the timorous precepts that constrain people who don’t wear Diesel.”

“And stupid consequently suffered a brain injury, resulting in even more betterer stupider that required tube feeding,” Lileks responds.

Take that, SMART! You don’t even TRY to put your head in a mailbox. Ha ha stupid SMART with your understanding of volume and vertebrae stress.

What’s stupid? Paying $285 for jeans, Lileks answers.

Teaching kids how to read ads

To teach children how to read advertising, the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer bureau has created Admongo, where children in grades four through six can get an “ad-ucation” by playing games. From the New York Times:

“Advertising is all around you,” the home page declares in urging youngsters to always ask three questions: “Who is responsible for the ad? What is the ad actually saying? What does the ad want me to do?”

Many schools teach media literacy, “intended to help students analyze various methods of persuasion, among them sponsored messages,” the Times notes.

Admongo will be “nonjudgmental,” says David Vladeck, director of the consumer bureau. It won’t imply “that marketers continuously try to trick consumers into buying things they do not want or need.”

My father was an ad man, so I learned all this at home.

Schools pay to advertise

Tired of losing students to charter schools, private schools and suburban alternatives, urban districts are hiring marketing consultants and running ads, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Administrators say they are working hard to improve academics — but it can’t hurt to burnish their image as well. 

The are recording radio ads, filming TV infomercials and buying address lists for direct-mail campaigns. Other efforts, by both districts and individual schools, call for catering Mexican dinners for potential students, making sales pitches at churches and hiring branding experts to redesign logos.

“Schools are really getting that they can’t just expect students to show up any more,” said Lisa Relou, who directs marketing efforts for the Denver Public Schools. “They have to go out and recruit.”

Some charter schools also run ads to recruit students — including boasting of higher graduation rates than district-run schools. But KIPP decided that recruitment ads make a school sound “desperate.”
Advertising can backfire if the public decides a district is wasting money on image that could have been spent on substance.

Speaking of advertising

It seems much of education is turning into a PR campaign. The “21st Century Skills” movement seems quite fond of advertising.

Here are some sample projects from the “21st Century Skills Map” for social studies (from the P21 website):

Fourth grade:

Outcome: As a group, work together to reach a decision and to explain the reasons for it.

Example: Working in small groups, encourage and engage other classmates to assist with a group service-learning project. Using digital media, students demonstrate the need to raise the awareness of their classmates on an issue within their community, (e.g., students create a digital poster that persuades classmates to participate in a school fundraising project).

Eighth grade:

Outcome: Students develop entrepreneurial skills by undertaking a business project.

Example: JA World Wide (Junior Achievement) provides a semester project for middle school students, in which business leaders from the community teach a weekly class, and each student group in the class develops and markets a product.

Students are responsible for setting goals, developing and implementing their plans, monitoring their progress in developing and marketing their product, and modifying as needed.

Twelfth grade:

Outcome: Students create an economic venture that requires the application of economic principles such as supply and demand.

Example: Students work together as a class or in groups to execute a simple business task such as selling a certain amount of a popular snack by a certain date. The activity could be structured competitively or in such a way that various groups are attempting to reach group-based specific sales goals. Students use a range of sales techniques that incorporate forms of technology such as video and web-based promotion. Students could also create a new product or packaging of an existing product and make a competitive pitch to fellow students who decide which product or packaging should be awarded with a “venture capital” type of investment. The activity could be incorporated into a co-curricular school-based venture that has access to some start-up funds.

I don’t understand why kids should be selling snacks instead of studying history.

Why advertise the public schools?

When I take the subway to school in the mornings, I sometimes puzzle over the ads posted in the cars–ads promoting nothing other than our very own public schools, or rather, someone’s story about how much progress we’re making under the current leadership.

These ads cost $270,000 and are part of a public relations campaign by the Fund for Public Schools. It seems strange that we would need to advertise our own public schools–but the schools are not really the subject of the ads. One of the ads states proudly that 800,000 teachers, parents, and students responded to a survey. Now who would spend thousands of dollars on an ad like that? Not teachers. Not parents. Not students.

Who funds the Fund for Public Schools? We do not know, for the organization has made the most of a loophole that exempts it from disclosing such information.

What are the ads for? Supposedly the Fund for Public Schools exists in order to attract private donors to the school system. But why would those private donors be riding the J train out to East New York early in the morning? East New York is a poor section of Brooklyn. The airport is out a little further, but I imagine that if the potential millionaire donors were going to JFK, they’d take a cab or car.

No, this can’t be for money. I suspect the Fund for Public Schools is doing this for another reason: to get flimsy logic wafting in our minds. If we come to believe that a survey is a sign of progress, then we won’t blink twice over the other ads, like the one that reads, “Because finishing is the start of a better future, New York City public high schools have increased graduation rates by more than 20% since 2002.”

The 20% figure has been roundly disputed–but I would also dispute the reasoning, “Because finishing is the start of a better future.” Is that why graduation rates have supposedly increased? Can platitudes improve our graduation rates?

Don’t think about it. Just “Keep It Going NYC.”

College degrees that lead to a job

The most marketable college degrees of 2009 are nursing, computer/information science, engineering, economics and education, says MSN Encarta.

The least marketable degrees start with print journalism and include film studies, advertising, real estate and architecture.