altI have never subscribed to the notion of popular culture and new technologies bringing about a ‘toxic childhood.’ I have always believed (and still do believe) that schooled literacy should take account of new and varied literacy practices so that children can make meaning through the modes that society provides.

However, yesterday I visited ‘Toys ‘R Us’ (a different story) and was greeted by a huge multimodal display that incorporated the brand of High School Musical. I have nothing against this as a film (in fact I actually enjoyed the first one a great deal) but something struck me as slightly concerning about the multimodal advertising techniques being used. I then recalled how my class are boreding on obssession with this particular ‘brand.’ What started as a simple TV movie has escalated into a brainwashing corporate cult. I even saw branded make-up accessories for children… let’s not even go there.

This reminds me of something I read in Eve Bearne and Helen Wolstencroft’s book about how although children engage with multimodal texts at home they only have a subconscious understanding of them and accept their meaning at a superficial level. This appears to be the case with ‘HSM.’ If ever there was a need for Critical Literacy in schools… it is now!