One social study – The Thursday bunch of flyers

The Thursday bunch of flyers is the thickest of all. Tony had remarked on that before, during the time he had a paper route. At first, I thought it was just a random occurrence but now I know it is so. Thursday heralds the approaching weekend via flyers and people follow the trail all the way to the mall (or other individual stores) to shop.

A regular Thursday pile of flyers is thick. The Black Friday pile was the thickest I’ve seen so far, but then again, there’s always a next opportunity. After all, any event can be made into a sale event, says the marketing guru team overlooking our ways from where they can see what the masses are attracted to and even if they are not, what they can be persuaded to buy. Overwhelming irresistible visuals, promises of so much (emptiness.)

Hence our homeschool social study. The boys got three flyers each – one from a food store, one from an electronics store and another from an everything retail store. Then came dissection time!

For the food flyer, I made a few categories: wholesome, local/seasonal, environmentally-damaging, misleading, and processed (yes, there is good/necessary processed and bad processed (if you think Cheesies you are on the right track.) For starters.

As expected, it was an eye-opener, not that my eyes are not open enough. Yes, cynicism seeps in from all corners, but such is the nature of the journey. The boys added a letter here and there, L for local, S for seasonal (seasonal where, Mom?) and then we chatted. Have the ‘why’ answered when you chat with children, they said. I did. The local food is scarce in big stores. Plus, it’s winter – what would seasonal offer? Seasonal in areas that are close enough geographically so that the food does not accrue too high a fossil fuel tag, can we add that up? Can one eat healthy with just seasonal/local offers? People did it for a long time. Would that foster better appreciation for food and reduce waste? Perhaps.

We moved on to the electronics flyer and the ‘everything’ store. We perused the images and as we did so I felt many shades of shame for my fellow humans. How many kinds of laptops and cell phones do we need to have available for consumption when we know the high price in human lives and environmental damage that the extraction of precious metals inflicts?

The huge TV screens – how many kinds do we ‘need’? And if the size is so, where can you fit it? Not in a small room, that’s for sure. And that is before you get the rest of the surround system paraphernalia. Bigger is not better, unless it refers to the size of one’s heart, metaphorically speaking of course. How can kids of today learn about it if they see bricks of flyers every week advertising the opposite?

If we are to find a way out of this environmental mess and wasteland we have created over the last century but more so over the last 50 years, we really need to promote ‘small’ and necessity-based living. Leaving room for what matters (how do we determine that?) is a daunting task for today’s youngsters. There is an army (more in fact) of marketing specialists, ad wizards, and app creators ready to add to the shackles that enslave too many the young minds. Sure it cannot be so dark you may say. Take a look around is what I say; it’s not a pretty sight.

Consumerism is out of hand. What’s ironic of course is that many people find themselves buying things they do not need, or they buy because the deal is too good to pass on. There is an avalanche of things and special offers that keeps on tumbling down, and the fast-paced life allows for little, is any breaks to conjure critical thinking and make sound decisions regarding consumption.

Onto the ‘everything store’ flyer. In the toy section there are board games – how refreshing! – featuring Nintendo games and some big brand names. Subliminal messages? Ah, but the message is rather in our faces. Do we mind? I do. Why not leave games as they are? Why not leave toys unbranded and children’s minds unpopulated with logos? It would only benefit them, leaving enough room to observe, question, wonder, choose.

Truly, there is so much to learn from merely observing the paths we travel during just one day of existence. Looking around, reading, pondering, but most of all, questioning. That is what we want our children to grow up into. Critical thinking tools are too precious and necessary to not be passed on. In a world that is bursting at the seams with too much stuff, but where famine and poverty are rampant in so many parts of the world, leaving our children minds open to see and question becomes a moral obligation.

The conversation expanded in many directions. The boys had questions, doubts, answers, and then more questions. I had some of the answers too, but the point is not for me to answer but for us to converse on the topic. Not just on a regular day of homeschooling but on any day. To delve deeper still by looking around and casting glances that do not succumb our minds to the mainstream flow but rather help us question the happenings of today, which ideally will prompt ideas for change. Spring will not be brought about by one flower, it’s been said countless times, but then again, it’s a start.

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