Don’t tell me it’s good for me
Dec. 1, 2017
by Ivan Raconteur

I recently read something by a talented young writer that made me smile.

One of the things that I like about her work is that it is often educational without seeming educational.

What I mean is the reader is drawn into the story and barely notices he is learning something along the way.

Maybe I’m unusual (I suspect plenty of people would testify that such is the case). But when I was young I hated educational material.

I have always loved learning, but I’m enough of a rebel that I have never liked the idea of being forced to learn something.

That may be a subtle point, but it was definitely true in my case.

When I was a lad, I spent hours reading for the pure enjoyment of it.

If, however, a teacher stuck something in my hands and said I had to read it because I would learn something, I’d immediately go on the defensive.

First, I was not much of a fan of being told what to do.

Second, I was convinced that anything that was designed to be educational would surely be boring.

I had a lot of evidence on my side.

It seems much of the educational curriculum that was forced on innocent children when I was at school was either simple to the point of being inane, or dry as dust.

I developed this view early, and it may have prejudiced me against educational materials that were actually OK.

Back when I was a lad, educational television was gaining prominence.

Instead of simply entertaining children with cartoons, there was a push to teach them things through educational programming.

When Sesame Street burst onto the scene in 1969, it was a big deal.

My mother took care of the neighbor kids while their mother was at work, and they watched Sesame Street with great enthusiasm.

I absorbed a certain amount of the show’s content, since it seemed it was on all the time when I was at home, but I remained aloof.

I think I might have enjoyed the show if it had simply been described as an entertaining new program.

Calling it educational was the kiss of death, as far as I was concerned.

It was just bad marketing, at least for kids like me.

Then, and now, I have always preferred to make up my own mind. I don’t want someone telling me something is educational. I can decide that for myself.

For me, it’s a lot like telling me something is good for me.

If someone were to set a new brand of cereal in front of me when I was a kid and tell me it was good for me, I’d immediately assume it must taste nasty.

I would be absolutely convinced it could not be as delicious as Cap’n Crunch or Froot Loops.

Those were my favorite cereals back in the days when I was ignoring Sesame Street.

It seems to me marketing people would have more success – especially when selling to kids – if they focused on the features their target audience likes, versus what some people think they should aspire to.

Learning is not a bad thing, and there is nothing wrong with healthful food, but if you want to win over someone who is on the fence, you should never lead with that.

If you can convince a person to try something new by extolling its entertainment value or tastiness, and let them realize in their own good time they feel better for having consumed it, your odds of gaining a customer for life will increase dramatically.

I don’t mind if something is good for me. Just don’t tell me it’s good for me.

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