My fourth grade class is hip-deep in a story right now about advertising - specifically television advertising. Among the many points raised for discussion in the story is this little factoid: The average TV viewer sees approximately twenty thousand commercials every year. This is a fairly round number that seems to be backed up by some research, so we decided to do some math with it. First, we assumed that most of the ads we saw were probably of the thirty-second variety (though a few of my students professed an appreciation for the occasional infomercial). That put us at ten thousand minutes a year watching commercials.
Wanting to push the point still further, I asked if anyone could tell me how many hours that would be. When we divided our ten thousand by sixty, we got one hundred and sixty-six hours (and a little bit of change). I still wasn't satisfied, so I asked how many hours there were in a day, "Twenty-four? How many days would that be?" Turns out to be just a little shy of seven days. I told my class that they could look forward to watching one week of commercials this year.
They were not excited at the prospect. A bunch of them wanted to tell me that they never watched the commercials (fourth graders lie about a lot of things) and they were not the least bit affected by the advertising that did make it through their considerable defenses. To this I responded by writing the phrase "Is it in you?" on the board. Before I turned around, three students shouted "Gatorade!" So much for the avoidance theory.
When it was all said and done, I told them that I wanted them to watch half an hour of television for homework, and I will be surprised if I get a phone call from a parent on that one. I asked them to keep track of the number of commercials they see in the course of one program. When I'm done here, I think I'll be doing some homework as well.