Good post from Dana on identity in home education— she’s got me thinking about movements and communities, businesses and lobbies. Human groups. All the ways we individually brand ourselves for love and money, comfort and survival.
Waking up to the radio this morning, I heard NPR telling the story of how the Wonder Bread and Twinkie company has been bankrupted for years and probably isn’t coming back. It seems our generation of moms grew up with those foods as staples but we changed as American culture changed — or we as individuals WERE the change in the culture — and now those products aren’t healthy enough to feed our own kids.
Healthier kid foods weren’t mandated by government or public action, nor Wonder Bread and Twinkies banned. We as independent individuals over time collectively determined as community, that we should change family by family; each of us remains free in the so-called free market to decide what we think about Twinkies and Wonder Bread, and to spend our own money as we choose, but that’s not the whole story.
Once the brands lose their luster and too many of our neighbors turn away, then a shrinking minority can’t keep the company (or cultural meme) in business no matter how much we want to keep choosing it for ourselves.
Live by the brand, die by the brand. The once-golden bakery brand that had cornered the corner market’s market, turning it into its own community of happy loyalists, gradually “obsolesced” when the company didn’t respond to changes in information and attitude in that same community.
When finally their mistake was realized and they tried to change, adding whole wheat to the white bread and taking the trans-fats out of the snack cakes, it was too late. Public opinion had moved on and once that happens, no advertising can get it back, said the bankrupt bakery CEO.
Just like My Father’s Oldsmobiles, I thought drowsily. We always had GM cars when I was growing up, and they always broke down when we were on family vacations. I spent so many hot hours languishing on roadsides and in crummy out-of-state gas stations that General Motors isn’t likely to get me back. Ever.
My story with cars is personal and individual, but I wasn’t alone in changing my mind about brand loyalty to my father’s oldsmobiles. GM got itself written out of too many family stories like mine in our American community, after too many decades of not changing and not caring, banking on big business and big politics as usual.
So GM can fiddle with its brands, dropping some that aren’t selling anymore and building new ones. Government can create a car czar and take taxpayer treasure to bail out all our automobile companies and scold them about being clueless and hidebound. At this awfully late date it somehow might even lead to some good cars, maybe even to exciting personal transportation that wouldn’t be “cars” at all. Something truly changed rather than just rebranded.
Or they might just wind up where Twinkies and Wonder Bread went, anyway.
Perception is everything, says the marketing expert. If the public isn’t buying what your community or business or lobby is offering, it doesn’t matter how good you know you are, or it is, from the inside. Or how fickle or unfair you think public opinion is within any identifiable community:
Guess who was better in THIS time and THIS place for THESE fans, who today are so weary of ego over team, so disenchanted with incoherent self-absorbed media antics and Manny’s literal lashing out at those who won’t hit him back in kind, because they know he’s changed and not in a good way, and just think it’s time for him to go.
What matters utterly is the very different power of story inside their heads, and ours. That’s what creates the reality we live in, not stats and not paychecks and not the cynically divisive claims of their profiteering agents.
In our modern interconnected cultures where even quirkiness finds community and the apocryphal stories of isolated survival off the grid as an ideal are by definition all about NOT community, what about our beloved home education brand?
. . . without criticizing the stories other folks have in their heads . . .I sure can’t see how contracting into a little hardshell at home, each homeschooling family pulling into some self-contained, self-sufficiency survival mode script, would help the hard economic times get better. Much less be the change we want to see in the world!
This family’s homeschooling, for example, won’t be helped by mom tilling a garden, hoarding gold or not driving the family car to the library anymore. The economy isn’t so much about her family budget as her community’s thinking.
Where are we in home education’s story or its series of stories, would you say, the beginning, middle or end? — and what genre? Is it history we’re writing together or creative free verse, collected fables, science fiction, legal analysis, personal diaries, all or none of the above? Whatever it is, will it keep selling if we let the brand ossify while the larger community changes, and do we care?
Shall we continue to worship the veterans as larger than life leaders, as they bide their time off-camera and snarl under their breath at us like Jesse Jackson?
Or shall we learn from this next generation of young leaders, how to change history by refusing to believe that the past is the future already?
And finally, if our homeschool brand loyalists as a self-defined community don’t know and don’t care about such questions and answers, will that define our reality right out of existence along with Wonder Bread, Twinkies and my father’s Oldsmobiles?