Is the new, graphic, Australian PSA worth its weight in pageviews? Christian Clifton responds.
A new PSA on educational has recently hit the internet and has stirred up some huge waves. With it already going viral across the globe, I wonder if the content is worth all the hype. The foundation, Learn For Life, has begun spreading this PSA in the hopes that it will effectively spread the message of the importance of education.
If you haven’t seen it the video is short and opens with a group of kids rebelling against clichéd portrayals of teachers by jumping the fence and escaping from the school. Their adventure takes them across open roads and through sunlit hills to a wonderfully secluded beach. One of the couples embraces each other lovingly as the other couple continues to play in the surf.
The video then takes a dramatic turn.
One of the girls playfully runs from her partner, he looks on only to see her disappear in an explosion. The blast knocks him down, triggering another explosion underneath him. The second couple begins to run only for the boy to be blown up as well. The final girl is left on her knees screaming into the distance at the horror of losing her friends in such a gruesome way.
The last scene has the camera panning past a fence labeled “No Trespassing” followed with red block letters declaring “Explosives Testing Site”. As the screen fades to black we are warned that “This is what happens when you slack off” with a warning coming next telling the viewer to “Stay in School”.
As a younger man, only 23, with my days of skipping school not far behind me, this commercial doesn’t quite leave me begging to be allowed back in school. In fact the bit of teenager that still lurks in my mind, the one that thinks pranks are funny and homework sucks, looks at this video and laughs at the over-the-top nature of it. Instead of a stern reminder to buckle down, I walk away wondering if the educators that green-lit this PSA really understand students.
Obviously they were trying to be funny, I doubt anyone thinks that ditching school will lead a student to accidentally trespass on a military explosives testing site. Ok, I laughed at your crazy video, is that supposed to endear back into school? I had plenty of teachers who could tell a good joke and sure that made me more likely to show up to their class, but a faceless organization trying the same tactic doesn’t seem as powerful to me. It would be the same if the U.S. Marines had put out a “Harlem Shake” video a year ago trying to encourage enlistment, it might drive interest but the overall theme doesn’t quite fit the organization or their goals.
I want kids to go to school as much as the next person, perhaps more than others because I currently teach high school math, but I doubt this video would sway any of my kids into showing up for class. I’m sure it drove a lot of traffic to the website for the “Learn for Life” website, and probably got them some income from donations, but as a PSA for getting kids in school I don’t know if it will have the same effect.
Instead of trying to scare them straight or get the students laughing I think the money could have been better spent being honest with kids and teens. As a student I didn’t want some group of people in some far off boardroom telling me I had to go to school because it was good for me, this was never reason enough for me to wake up every day. No, what got me in the classroom were good teachers who respected me as a person, who encouraged me to learn, who taught me applicable lessons, and more than anything cared for me as a person and not a score on a test. I doubt I am alone in the sentiment that it took more than an inspirational poster about diligence to keep me focused through 15+ years of school.
In my opinion training teachers to not rely so much on what a test says about a kid, and leaving room for them to do so, would not only instill a love for learning in kids but bring more into the classroom. Every day I hear from my students how they long to be respected and have their identities as people valued, which is something that does not happen very often in most school systems that base their entire operation on standardized tests. So maybe the next PSA can focus on treating students like people, instead of a demographic that needs to be won over by clever story telling.