You know those big blue obnoxious metal boxes that are scattered around campus, with huge blank spaces for advertisements? They’re ostensibly Torch boxes — I eventually looked in one and saw a few copies of the Torch stacked up in there — but they’re actually much more disquieting.
Those large rectangular blank frames are intended for ads. In my writing classes, as part of my goal to help students improve their critical thinking skills, we examine the ways media, especially commercial media, try to manipulate us to do things that might not be in our best interests (mainly, buy stuff). These media bombard us constantly, and I believe that writing, thinking and reading are skills that can strengthen our resistance to that bombardment.
So imagine my chagrin when I noticed recently that one of the boxes features, in the unoccupied advertising frame, a big fish hook and the phrase “Get ’em hooked!” Lane is inviting corporations to place an ad in that space that will successfully turn our students into fish blindly biting into some attractive bait and “getting hooked” — exactly what I exert tremendous energy trying to help our students avoid.
It’s enough to make ya crazy! The very institution which hires me to, I thought, teach students to think, to write, to read — to discover, as John Trudell and Paolo Freire would put it, that they are human beings — is trying to turn them into blind, thoughtless fish, biting at the next pretty hook that comes along.
Jeff Harrison is an instructor in the English Department at Lane Community College.