Monday, August 22, 2005

Answering "Why aren't you at school?"

What do you reply when you or your child(ren) are asked:
"Why aren't you at school?" or "You're not in school today?" or "Which school do you go to?"

We live in the outskirts of a small country town on the Atherton Tablelands, Qld, where everyone knows everyone (or so it would seem). We have always been a homeschooling family. Our children are aged 16, 13 and 11 years old. When we first started, we were the only homeschooling family in the area. Nowadays there are dozens of families homeschooling in this area.

When the children were little and people asked why they weren't at school, the children used to shyly answer that they were homeschoolers and then pass over to me to say anything more. Right from the start, I was keen to
tell people that we were homeschoolers and the responses we received were always very positive. There were many different responses: "You're so brave. I couldn't do that!" "Can you do that?" "How can you do that?" "Why would you want to do that?" "What will you do if they want to go to university?" "How will they get a job?" "Of course you can do that, you are a teacher." etc.

I answered questions easily and used my feelings about the questions and answers as a barometer, to show me where I felt insecure or confident.

A couple of days ago the 16 year old was asked the question and I was tickled pink to hear her reply with confidence that she is and always has been a homeschooler. She was able to answer the questions herself, happily, with confidence and with experience. It feels good to be at the other end of the 'tunnel' and to see that what I dreamed to be possible for our family, really has come true.

Grace Chapman.


Monday, August 01, 2005

A Current Affair - News... or Roadtesting Products?

I'm not a regular watcher of A Current Affair, put off by the blatant promotion of products and all too often aggressive reporting style. I wasn't surprised to find this little gem at the bottom of TVs A Current Affair website - it confirms that this program is definitely NOT a NEWS program:

"Would you like to appear on ACA? Simply tell us a little bit about yourself and we'll let you know when we're looking for extras or people to roadtest products!"

I remember when ACA was a current affairs program, reporting on local news and providing background information to many stories presented more briefly in the News. It like the internet now - hard to tell fact from fiction or opinion. In a study done in Australia about consumer's perception of advertising, advertising is said to be more trustworthy because there is no hidden agenda as there can be with news media and politicians.

A recent survey by the research organisation Ipsos Australia unearthed signs of growing scepticism about matters far more serious than advertising: 63 per cent of survey respondents agreed that "I don't trust news and current affairs programs as much as I once did".
Hugh Mackay, Advertising as the real thing
Fairfax Digital, January 3, 2004

I'm not sure if I fall into to growing group of people falling prey to such scepticism, which paradoxically, contributes to a more sympathetic attitude to advertising, but I know that when I'm interested in a product, I'm put off by the kind of fake 'news' reports paraded by programs like ACA. Give me an honest, well-constructed advertsising campaign any day. But what works best? I suspect that the current affair 'ads' win the ever-increasing competitive battle for our dollars.

As Mackay asserts in his article, advertising is a cleaner industry than it used to be, with regulations providing protection against false, misleading or exaggerated claims. Plus, I belong to the growing crowd of remote control freaks that don't hesitate to hit the "mute" button or change channels when confronted by ads I find offensive or patronising - like Mackay says, I "simply won't give them space in my mind". But I'm much less likely to tune out or away from a personal interest story that's been cleverly designed to hook and hold my interest. We all know that ads are geared to manipulate our emotions and thus sell us whatever they're designed to do, but how many of us know that these so-called "current affairs" programs are covertly doing the same?

Surely programs such as "A Current Affair" would be more suitably named "A Consumer Affair".

© Beverley Paine

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