Educating the Consumer: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media

Educating the Consumer: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media

Educating the Consumer: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media

Educating the Consumer: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media

Synopsis

In Educating the Consumer-Citizen: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media, Joel Spring charts the rise of consumerism as the dominant American ideology of the 21st century. He documents and analyzes how, from the early 19th century through the present, the combined endeavors of schools, advertising, and media have led to the creation of a consumerist ideology and ensured its central place in American life and global culture. Spring first defines consumerist ideology and consumer-citizen and explores their 19th-century origins in schools, children's literature, the commercialization of American cities, advertising, newspapers, and the development of department stores. He then traces the rise of consumerist ideology in the 20th century by looking closely at: the impact of the home economics profession on the education of women as consumers and the development of an American cuisine based on packaged and processed foods; the influence of advertising images of sports heroes, cowboys, and the clean-shaven businessman in shaping male identity; the outcomes of the growth of the high school as a mass institution on the development of teenage consumer markets; the consequences of commercial radio and television joining with the schools to educate a consumer-oriented population so that, by the 1950s, consumerist images were tied to the Cold War and presented as the "American way of life" in both media and schools; the effects of the civil rights movement on integrating previously excluded groups into the consumer society; the changes the women's movement demanded in textbooks, school curricula, media, and advertising that led to a new image of women in the consumer market; and the ascent of fast food education. Spring carries the story into the 21st century by examining the evolving marriage of schools, advertising, and media and its ongoing role in educating the consumer-citizen and creating an integrated consumer market. This book will be of wide interest to scholars, professionals, and students across foundations of education, history and sociology of education, educational policy, mass communications, American history, and cultural studies. It is highly appropriate as a text for courses in these areas.

Excerpt

Consumerism is the dominant American ideology of the 21st century. “Shop ‘til you drop” is the clarion call of our age. The triumph of consumerism was made possible by the related actions of schools, advertising, and media. This book illustrates the history of that joint endeavor to create a consumerist ideology and ensure its central place in American life. Like any history, this story is not a straight line from one time period to another. There was no master plan or conspiracy. However, through the twists, turns, and contradictions of life, consumerism now rules the American economic system and society.

I begin this history in chapter 1 by defining consumerist ideology and consumer-citizen and discussing their 19th-century origins in schools, children's literature, commercialization of American cities, advertising, newspapers, and development of department stores. In chapter 2, I examine the development of the home economics profession and its impact on the education of women as consumers and the creation of an American cuisine typified by Jell-O and Wonder Bread in home economics courses, school cafeterias, hospitals, and the food industry. The new professions of advertising and home economics created public images of the new woman as a consumer. In chapter 3, I discuss the crisis in White male identity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and its resolution in male identification with professional sports, high school sports, cowboy images, and advertising images of the clean-shaven businessman. In this chapter, I also trace how a teenage consumer market was created when the high school became a mass institution and attempted to control male sexuality through sports, sex education courses, and ritualized dating practices.

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