“Not Your Father’s Buick” was a marketing ad a few years ago, created by General Motors. Its intent was to inspire younger buyers to consider buying their product on the premise that today’s Buick was sleeker, sexier and hipper than the car they may remember their father, or more likely their grandfather, driving. Those involved in the work of school improvement and prevention may benefit from learning a few lessons from this approach. Today’s students don’t want and may not be responding to “our father’s prevention programs”.
Consider these questions:
· Are today’s students, who are exposed to and participate in state of the art HD action-oriented video games with multiple explosions, destruction, fire and violence of all levels, likely to be frightened or scared into making different decisions by viewing a wrecked car and staged accident scene?
· Are today’s students assimilating yet another prevention-oriented curriculum delivered by an adult who they may or may not believe really understands their world?
· Are red ribbons, balloons and decorated classroom doors the strongest way we can message to today’s students who daily experience the most sophisticated forms of marketing technology in our history?
· Are today’s students fully connected and engaged in their school experience and believe they can make a difference or do they feel disenfranchised, devalued and unimportant?
I would contend that today’s students are not moved by many of yesterday’s efforts toward school improvement and prevention because they don’t find them appealing, question the credibility of the message and generally don’t resonate with them.
The problem lies not in the intent of these efforts but in the design of the strategy. Today’s most promising solutions are designed to provide strategies which allow students to play an active role in determining how best to address the issues that they face.
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