Helping students learn how to listen

``Civil defense against media fallout'' is what Marshall McLuhan hoped the schools would provide one day. And to that end, Tony Schwartz has been doing his part. For the past two years, for example, Mr. Schwartz has helped students at his son's high school fulfill the school's public-service requirement by making spots for local radio stations.

One young man did a public service spot on the homeless, and Schwartz has kept the tapes - not only of the ads (which are amazingly professional) but of students talking about their projects as well.

``It gives you a whole new perspective on all ads,'' one student said. ``Instead of just thinking whether or not you like an ad, you think of how it works.''

``It gives you the ability to discriminate between these mes sages that are being shot at you left and right by the media today,'' said another, whose spot was on President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.

Schwartz has also used media projects to help children labeled ``poor listeners.'' The conventional way of working with such children is to give them things to listen to, ``which doesn't make any sense because they are poor listeners,'' Schwartz says. ``So I would get them involved in things where listening was a byproduct.''

In one project, he gave the children 60 tape-recorded sounds to turn into a story. (``You can't edit tape without listening.'') In another, they made biographies on tape. ``One kid did a story on the death of his grandfather, which I would put up against any piece of art,'' Schwartz says.

Parents called the school and asked, ```What are you doing to our kids? They are now listening at home,''' he adds.

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