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Common Core’s able research assistant, Lauren Prehoda, came across a new series of online commercials for MSN that strikes a chord. The series is titled “No One Wants to Look Dumb” and stars twentysomethings in situations they find intimidating due to their lack of knowledge. A young professional named Kathy is thirsty but she’s afraid to visit her office watercooler because it is surrounded by colleagues she considers “mental sharks.” Rather than risk being asked a question she cannot answer Kathy cowers in a nearby supply closet stalling until they scatter. Another commercial features Billy Beckett, a young man who is picking up his date. As he knocks on her door he’s seized with worry that she might ask about something—subprime interest rates or the Kyoto treaty—that he knows nothing about.
These spots are trying to sell MSN news services so some of the knowledge they highlight is ephemeral—basketball scores, current weather, celebrity gossip, etc. But of course not knowing tomorrow’s forecast wouldn’t embarrass anyone. What makes these commercials ring true is that they depict a generation of young Americans who live daily with the insecurity that accompanies a severe lack of knowledge. These commercials are funny for the same reason many jokes are—because there’s a kernel of truth in them. As Common Core’s “Still At Risk” report demonstrates many young Americans are indeed graduating school and entering the workforce with almost no real base of knowledge.
I suppose we can at least find solace in the fact that the ads depict “looking dumb”—their word choice–as an uncomfortable, unpleasant state. Ignorance is not yet bliss, thank goodness. If you have a second, watch a couple of these ads at
http://msn.imeem.com/video/N6m7Onjx/msn_supply_closet_commercials_video/ and tell us what you think.