The message is clear. Very clear.
On the surface, the message comes across as positive, saying there is an organization out there to help children. I am all for helping children.
However, there is hidden message. An agenda, perhaps? This subtle meaning sends its message to the community even if the community does not consciously read it that way.
Under the surface, I was struck by the phrase "…where schools leave off" as it implies that schools are failing our children. This billboard perpetuates a negative idea of schools. It implies that schools are not working, cannot fulfill the needs of our communities, and as such are failing.
I find this hard to believe because every day my colleagues and I work our minds, emotions, and fingers to the quick. And most continue to do so after school hours.
The phrase "leave off" is present tense, implying that this failure is the way it is (and will always be). A forgone conclusion. Compare this phrase to a past tense version and you will hear the difference.
I am bothered by the verb tense and the message it sends.
Then I stood there .. staring at the sign because something else was there. Something that I could not place, but knew was deeper than the debasement of my profession.
Then I saw it. I understood. The billboard is really critiquing the public: the public that builds the public schools. If the public school is failing, then the public is failing. You are the public.
This billboard could more overtly state:
I used the present tense as well.
I imagine that most people who past by this sign at 30 miles an hour read the surface meaning. This saddens me because it means that we are allowing organizations and media to perpetuate a negative image of our public schools. Even if the surface meaning is the one that is read, the deeper, negative meanings are understood by the brain.
With budget cuts, ever-thinning resources, cuttings of the school year, reductions in staff, and increased class sizes, public school teachers are highly qualified and helping students to achieve higher than ever before.
I will share this post with Camp Fire USA to start an open dialogue. I hope that the advertisement campaign was not to intentially discredit the hard work of our schools. However, given the underlying message of the ad, it would be negligent of Camp Fire USA an you to ignore it.
I am curious to hear what Camp Fire USA says. I will keep you posted.