Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fair and balanced reporting? NAHHHHHH

As I contemplated writing tonight, I had to be honest and realize I am probably too close to this event to be objective, but then I decided It's My Blog, and I'll Decry if I Want to!

Today I was a member of a focus group at an advertising company. The ad on which we were "focusing" was for a premise of unknown origin (we weren't told the sponsor till the end, although it wasn't that hard to deduce) that higher education should be subsidized by the government. Perhaps each of the seven participants weren't told that, as I was, in the qualifying round. There, I've given my fellow focusers one benefit of the doubt. What the heck, I'll be generous and give each of them one more, based on their individual traits. And I know! I'll give them cutesy little names, which may or may not lesson the barbs of my analysis.

Techie Manager Man was mid 30s, dressed hip but doesn't want to look like he tries to be, college educated but didn't feel that college really does much for today's graduate, since he sees with his amazing tunnel vision that his field employees both grads and non-grads, and their advancement is determined in great degree by their ability.

Jabberjaw Ma, was a friendly and frazzled "small family business owner" as she was wont to remind us repeatedly. I could tell she was nervous by the way she babbled incessantly when called upon. She was a large woman with thin, curly hair she obviously tames with way too much product, and dressed in a flouncy Lane Bryant I'm-styling-even-though-I'm-old-and-fat way. People's clothing choice is interesting to me because I am so clueless myself. I especially like to see the fashion choices women of my years make. She had a creamy lace tank covered by a brocade duster and pants that were not noteworthy. I got the impression she may have bought the outfit for the occasion. It was stiff, like it was new. She is a college grad who admitted she was handed a "small family business", has a daughter who "didn't make the best grades" and attended a small technical college with what she determined were great results. She lauded the college for helping her daughter focus, although I found it ironic that the girl enrolled in some medical study and a year later emerged in graphic design. She has another child entering college soon. She is concerned, we learn ad nauseum, about foreign labor taking away our jobs and businesses.

Businessman Bob is next. Now before my little nickname gives you some vision of the genuine article, you should know BB's business is an electronic publisher for ministers. Right off the bat I am suspect of any businessman who can take a two hour chunk from the middle of his day in order to make $125. BB waved his flag early on and struck me as a typical conservative, espousing the party line with nary a brain cell firing. He was quite dogmatic and surprised me afterward by flagging me down to tell me he also has two adopted French children with an open adoption. For someone with foreign born children, he sure ragged on our colleges being overrun with international students a lot!

WishyWashyWobbler was next. Whatever he perceived was the reigning direction of the group was this man's chosen path. He is a college grad, works for a tech. company that sources Dell in some capacity. He is most likely a very nice man who doesn't like to offend and wants to be perceived as someone who is open-minded and reasonable. He told us he has no children and to be honest, I can't remember much else about him. He achieved his goal of being unoffensive. He was also unremarkable.

The last woman was also large (I can't believe it, but I was the smallest woman there!), dressed conservatively in a brown suede jacket I was coveting. She made a good first impression on me as we ate a quick lunch, because she was friendly and seemed to be trying to make everyone feel at ease. She has five children, several of whom have been or are in college. I was disappointed to hear mindless "mommy speak" ruled her opinions.

The one characteristic that we all shared and which qualified us for the study was that we read the Wall Street Journal. I'm really shocked that we all had that in common. I suspect that several of these people only read the reviews and headlines. They just didn't strike me as well-informed or well-rounded individuals.

So we were asked to talk about the present state of education. BB was concerned, naturally, that there were so many foreign students in our universities. He believes, and WishyWashy bobbled his head in agreement, that we are educating our competitors and thereby assisting the migration of domestic jobs to foreign soil.
This certainly concerns Jabberjaw, since disappearing domestic jobs threaten small U.S. businesses.

I set myself as the antagonist at the onset. I let them know I am not a nationalist, that I am a globalist. That I believe higher education is beneficial to ALL YOUNG PEOPLE, that the diversity of ideas and culture in universities causes a necessary broadening of young minds and leads to greater understanding among us all. I told them that I did not finish college and it remains my fondest desire. But I told them when I speak of the necessity of higher education for success, I am speaking of satisfaction, not salary!

Since the premise of the three ads we were shown was that the U. S. economy directly correlates to higher education (I'm not entirely sure this is true, and definitely not to the degree the ads represented), my viewpoint was certainly that of a minority of ONE. Now, go figure--this is the truly amazing part--around the table were uh-huhs and nods of agreement. I think if I had stated any point of view with conviction and eloquence, they would all have heartily agreed. What a bunch of....yeah, you know it, SHEEP! Baaaaaaaa

As I have long maintained, people are SHEEP! Once again I was forced to face an essential untruth I consistently assume--that all people are essentially like me! I always think of myself as "everyman" but it simply is not true. While I hold up ideals like harmony and diversity as universally accepted GOOD THINGS, I must face that this is simply not true. Whenever I see irrefutable evidence of this, as I did today, it rocks my world.

By the end of the session I noticed my arms were crossed over my chest and I was scarely containing my eye-rolling. Judging by the knowing smirks of the folks I saw leaving what must have been the room behind the two-way mirror on one side of the meeting room, I wasn't the only one to notice this! While it was a relatively easy $125, unfortunately I realize I won't be called back because I don't represent the general populace.

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