Welcome to the new Spring 2013 semester of 130 The Family, at Siena College. During the first week of class, we will review the syllabus and talk about sociology, social institutions, with an emphasis on the intersections of the family and media. In the above video, family scholar Stephanie Coontz talks about the myths created around the American family through 1950s style television shows. Please watch this video and take down some notes that you can share with the class. How have these shows formed our (inaccurate) understanding of the family? Dr. Coontz shows us that social problems within the family have always been with us, but have simply changed over time. There was never a time period in which the American family did not have problems. This course will be focusing on social issues and problems that intersect with the family as a social institution.

What are social institutions? What are examples of how various social institutions intersect with the family? Please explore this topic, as you will be asked to talk about it during the classroom discussion.

During week 1 & 2, we will talk about the media’s influence on the family. Please explore this topic and come to class ready to discuss the various ways these social institutions interact with each other. During the first two weeks, we will read two chapters from Susan Linn’s book Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, and watch the documentary Consuming Kids.

In Susan Linn’s book, Chapter 2: “A Consumer in the Family: The Nag Factor and Other Nightmares,” Linn talks about the battle between advertising companies and parents. Her main thesis statement is on page 32-33: “Here I want to explore the attitudes and philosophies behind the creation of such products and the campaigns to sell them, as well as the impact of those attitudes and philosophies on families.” She points out that one of the aims of the marketing companies is to come between parents and children and cause havoc in family life, via The Nag Factor. She talks about the details of companies assessing the impact of The Nag Factor. Be sure to be familiar with these definitions.

In Susan Linn’s book, chapter 5 (p.75-93): “Students for Sale: Who Profits from Marketing in Schools?” she talks about the rise of school marketing that has grown exponentially since the 1990s. Her main thesis of this chapter is stated on page 77: “I’ll limit my discussion to more direct forms of advertising in schools–why it’s happening, what forms it takes, and why it is a problem.” In class, students should be expected to outline her argument, and point to the examples she highlights in her chapter. Feel free to find related web links to the topics she discusses in order to contribute to our class discussion.

The corporatization of the educational institution on all levels, and the faltering economy contribute the larger macro-economic structure to this growing social issue. Schools are receiving less money from the government, and corporations are taking advantage of this situation by targeting schools for their advertising and product placement. Regulations of such procedures were weakened under President Reagan, and continue to weaken. Some of the offenders that she highlights in this chapter include:

Channel One
Coca Cola and Pepsico and their “pouring rights
Pepsico School Source
Vending machines and food marketing: Vendu-cation
Field Trip Factory

What have your experiences been with marketing and products in your schools? Examples? Which of these can we see taking place at Siena?

The documentary, Consuming Kids, is distributed by the Media Education Foundation, a company that explores how social issues are presented in popular media (television, film). Please look over this website and try and watch one of the films (online for free). Come to class ready to tell us the synopsis of the film and what you learned, on Tuesday, January 29th. Post your response to the film you watched in the comment section of this particular blog posting. Be sure to include a link to the film on the MEF page, or a clip of the film on YouTube. Please try and watch a video that has not been mentioned by your classmates in the comment section below. Several have commented now on Mickey Mouse Monopoly, so it would be nice to hear about others. Thanks!