The propaganda assignment I mentioned in my last report took two and a half sessions to cover. Each group presented their samples of positive and negative propaganda, sharing their rationale before opening to questions/observations from the rest of the students and (minimally, from) me. Each group was also asked to send in a written note on their rationale, shared below.
‘This (image 1) is the topic we have chosen for positive propaganda. The caption says “We are the same” and portrays a man and a woman with the same brain. Till today, there are cases where women are considered to be inferior to men in all fields and born only to perform household chores. However, the mindset of the people is now changing. People are now realising the fact that women are equal to men. It’s only that their physical appearance is different. Movements supporting women empowerment are gaining importance. Women are equal to men in every aspect . Thus we would like to conclude with :
No matter where you are in life, inspire and empower the women around you. Success is never shared alone and wisdom and wealth are sweeter shared.’
‘This (image 2) is the topic we have chosen for negative propaganda. The poster basically serves as a medium of indirect motivation for people to join the army and serve for their country. We think that this is a negative propaganda because it invites people to join war which causes a lot of destruction and ends up getting no lasting results. War just results in killing, affecting thousands and thousands of lives. There is no real victory in a war. Simple resolutions can be passed rather than fighting wars over territories. War is ugly. ‘
Feedback: Poster 1 did not elicit much response from the students except one question regarding where such posters would be put up since that is also important. I pointed out that perhaps ‘equal’ might be a more appropriate and less contested term to use than ‘same’. When it came to Poster 2, at least three students questioned the rationale as being too simplistic and narrow a perspective on war even though there was larger consensus on there being no real victory in a war. The presenting group concluded through this discussion that they should have put in more thought into their claim that simple resolutions can always substitute wars over territories, though they stood by their original message of war never being the best solution.
‘Positive (Poster 3): We should always cherish our parents and never grow apart from them. This bookmark is given out free with books in children’s bookstores.
Our view : This propaganda really has an impact on the people who read it ( especially teenagers). It makes them think about all the happy times they have had with their parents and how they don’t want to lose that.
Negative (Poster 4): We should only buy from supermarkets as they are much cleaner and not from local sellers because they are extremely unhygienic. This is a shopping bag given out in supermarkets for a very little amount of money.
Our view: We do not agree with this as local sellers are not as unhygienic as the propaganda shows. The quality of food is pretty much the same. The only difference is that in supermarkets, the goods are packed and shelved. We must not forget that before being shelved, the goods are kept in godowns which have unhygienic condition. We think that this is a negative propaganda, as buying from supermarkets only will lead to a greater gap between the rich and poor sections of our country.’
Feedback: Both of these posters propelled the session into extensive discussions. Poster 3 was received with more than a grain of salt as students pointed out that the message was too ‘moral science-y’ and made a generalization on children-parent relationships. ‘What teenager would be inspired to cherish their parents after seeing this?’ ‘What if a child who has lost a parent/ both parents gets this bookmark in a book? This might upset them unnecessarily.’ I asked the group to clarify what age group they intended the bookmark for and suggested they distribute them either to children up to the age of 10-11 or as additional material in a children’s library or some institutionalized club that does value-lessons etc.
ccccPoster 4 was actually a paper bag that the group proposed be used in supermarkets instead of plastic carry bags. While 2 students stated that vegetables and fruits are indeed sold in unsavoury conditions outside the supermarket and therefore seen as dirty, another student (soon joined by a few more) launched into debate with the presenting group’s claim about local market sellers selling vegetables using fewer pesticides and therefore more organic. This allowed me to introduce the subject of population strength, the pressure of production on farmers and where GM foods come in as convenient, despite public and environmental groups’ concern over their effects on human health and on the environment. Nevertheless we largely agreed that the shopping bags could work quite effectively as propaganda.
ccccOn a personal note, this was a heartening experience to witness/participate in, watching students take on critiques of their work without launching into personal attacks (something many adults can learn from perhaps?) and in one case, having a student overcome massive social awkwardness in attempting to respond to questions with additional support from students who weren’t even a part of her presenting group.