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Geometry 101, Brought to You by the US Navy

by Dr. TERESA WHITEHURST

“Nearly every graphic contains the Channel One logoThe omnipresent logo “1” throughout the program on the monitors and floor is interspersed with “Power of One” music video montages, which might include heroic individuals (sometimes thematically presented such as pilots and astronauts)

“When one examines the “Power of One” montages alongside the advertising content in the regularly repeated United States Marine ad “The Few, The Proud, The Marines”-an ad that features a single, young muscular man catapulted into what looks like a dungeons and dragons video game where he slays a techno-dragon with a techno-sword-there is no sense of discontinuity. The computer graphics, the science-fantasy, the “Power of One” theme are nearly seamless from program to advertisement. Indeed, the running theme for the U.S. Army recruitment campaign at the time of the study, “Be an Army of One,” would fit equally well with the celebration of “oneness.””

“Neo-liberal news for kids: Citizenship lessons from Channel One”

by Bybe, Fogle and Quail, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, Volume 4, Issue 1 (February 2004).

 

“Are you sure they’re military recruiting commercials, not just news stories about the military?”, I asked my daughter Isa, when she complained that every morning in homeroom all students are required to watch Channel One News, during which military recruiting ads are aired, often two in a row. (See “Guess What Your Child is Watching on “Educational” Television at School?”, Commondreams.org).

“They’re ads, Mom. They’re all about “The Power of One”-you know, the military theme. They mainly aim at black and Hispanic kids.”

As we pulled into a Barnes and Noble parking space, I asked, “How often do these recruiting ads appear on Channel One news? I really can’t imagine this-educational TV is supposed to abouteducation! And how do you know they target Hispanics and blacks more than whites?”

She emphasized in words reminiscent of Erin Brockovich: “I’ve been keeping a log.” Well, that’s what her best teachers always taught her: Don’t just spout off opinions-keep records, take notes, do your research. Isa has given me permission to share her log (verbatim) of the last few days’ programming on Channel One News that all homeroom classes at her public high school watch:

Thursday, 2/10/05:
1st Commercial Break:

Navy ad: Isa describes this one as “Boring, showing boats and stuff”.

Army ad: Close-ups of Latinos and Latinas looking out of foxholes, piloting planes, holding automatic weapons, and working on large computers while wearing headphones. Isa says, “Their Hispanic names were highlighted under their determined-looking faces, as they turn towards the camera with a look of great purpose. There are voiceovers so we can hear their strong Hispanic accents.”

AdCouncil ad: Isa notes, “This ad said, “You never forget the people you hurt when you’re high” (re: drugs). AdCouncil ads come right after the military ads. Sometimes they say “stay in school”, “don’t smoke weed”, that kind of stuff. Nobody pays any attention to these.”

2nd Commercial Break:

Gatorade ad: “Get Active” theme

Friday, 2/11/05:
One Commercial Break:

Pop Quiz: A male announcer says, “Today’s pop quiz brought to you by the US Army”. A picture of the army graphic is at the bottom right of the screen during the “fun” trivia quiz that Isa describes as “utterly useless, irrelevant trivia”.

Black Heroes ad: This seemed tailored to Black History Month because it showed, Isa notes, “lots of black people doing heroic things. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. were mentioned, but not Malcolm X or the more radical people”. At the end of the ad, on a large black strip across the middle of the screen, with photos of black heroes on the top and bottom borders, these words were written in bold white letters (and spoken by a male narrator): “Black Heroes, Brought to You by the US Army”.

Monday, 2/14/05:
1st Commercial Break:

UPN ad: “Ads for the loudest, most slapstick black sitcoms on UPN”

Winterfresh Gum Ad

MADD ad (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)

2nd Commerical Break:

United Negro College Fund ad

US Navy ad: “Shows lots of big gray boats toolin’ around, and lots of people yelling commands and “Sir, Yes Sir!”, looking really determined and filled with purpose.”

Pop Quiz: Announcer says, “Today’s pop quiz brought to you by the US Navy”. Isa says, “just like the Army Pop Quiz, this one shows the US Navy graphic at the lower right corner of the screen during the quiz”.

“En Loco Parentis” and “No Child Left Behind”: Working Together in American Schools to Supply the Military with Young Warm Bodies

Nobody asked for my consent before exposing my daughter to military recruiting ads at her public school, where I thought she was getting an education, not getting into the hands of military recruiters. But times have changed, and so have our schools.

Since the No Child Left Behind act, many public and private schools stress the total authority of school personnel over the child, which “overrides” the parent’s authority during school hours. The term “en loco parentis” is used in schools all over the U.S. to intimidate students and parents so they’ll be reluctant to disagree with, oppose or even question school policies.

“En loco parentis” is used to justify and protect everything from adult male principals getting their jollies by paddling the buttocks of nubile female students, to military recruiters using sophisticated marketing techniques to lure children away from college and into the military. When I attended high school in the 1970’s, I never heard that term. Parents were considered the ultimate authorities in their children’s lives, not the teachers, the principals, or anyone else.

I guess those days are gone. Kids today are taught to trust and obey without question the “father figure” of the militarized school environment, which allows them to then transition seamlessly into the military itself: This is an ideal setup for War Presidents who require a continuous stream of young warm bodies.

But this doesn’t mean we should roll over and play dead. We can’t sit back, relax, and trust that our schools can stand up to the pressures of military recruiters who have the backing of the Bush administration and its aggressive supporters. If we want our children to remain moral individuals, we can’t allow them to fall in with the wrong crowd. Our once-proud military, transformed as it’s been these last years by evildoers like Bush, Rumsfeld and Gonzales, has become a very bad crowd for our children to get drawn into, a crowd wherein orders to “soften” prisoners through depraved sexual torture or to bomb neighborhoods must be obeyeda crowd where commanders teach kids that “shooting people is fun”, and that killing is “a hoot”.

Today’s imperial military exerts a new kind of peer pressure on impressionable youth: It can change your beautiful, moral child into a ruthless killer with twisted moral values, or a wounded soul tormented with guilt and shame.

Call your child’s school today, and ask if Channel One News is shown to students, and if these include military recruiting commercials. It’s your right to watch this “news” program to see what your children are being exposed to at school, where violent ways of handing conflicts (whether interpersonal or international) should not be taught, and where safety from seduction and harassment ought to come first.

Arrange to visit a class or some other room at the school where you can observe this programming for yourself. If you really love your child and want to keep him or her alive, call today, before it’s too late and your child has signed that dotted line.

“The world’s solution-identical to that of Christians who ignore Jesus’ charter-is not to reevaluate the ways our children are being taught to handle problems, but to come down harder on kids who fight back to prove their toughness as they’ve learned to do from the heroes our culture holds up as winners and tough guys. If we don’t actively teach them a realistic alternative, our children can’t be blamed for learning conflict-resolution skills from video games, films and TV shows glamorizinggood guys who win by behaving just like the bad guys-only more efficiently.” From Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles that Will Transform Your Family

Dr. TERESA WHITEHURST is a clinical psychologist and writer. Her most recent book describes the nonviolent guidance of children,Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles that Will Transform Your Family, Baker Books, 9/2004.

You can contact her at DrTeresa@JesusontheFamily.org

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