Managing the Media Minefield: Resources for Helping Children (and Adults) Be More Media Literate

“I think it’s either na├»ve or disingenuous to believe that one family in isolation can combat a $17 billion industry working day and night to undermine parental authority, and to bypass parents and target children directly with messages that usually aren’t good for them.” ~ Susan Linn

Moms taking their 8-year-old daughters to get waxed. Parents buying their toddlers electronic gadgets. Young children being taken to R-rated movies. Most parents work hard to make good choices for their children, but with the bulk of billions of dollars in advertising influencing their perceptions and values, it can be confusing, frustrating, intimidating and exhausting.

The July/August edition of the Multinational Monitor has an interesting interview with child media guru Susan Linn, a Harvard professor, director of Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood and author of books such as Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood.
(BTW: If you’re a teacher, our website has a few ideas for using some of the concepts from Consuming Kids in the classroom.)

In her interview, Linn discusses how marketing to kids has changed, the impact of TV and internet, the commercialization of schools, the leading industries that market to kids, and how to deal with marketing to kids.

With marketing, media and advertising in the faces of everyone in the U.S. practically 24/7, knowing how to guide children to make healthy, compassionate, just choices can be a challenge. Fortunately, the number of resources available to help address these issues is growing. As a parent, teacher or concerned citizen, you may want to know about resources such as:

Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet Schor.

Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers by Alissa Quart

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes by Sharon Lamb and Mikel Brown

Recently we posted a mention of two newish books out about the sexualization of children, So Sexy, So Soon and The Lolita Effect.

IHE President Zoe Weil includes media literacy tips in her book for parents, Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times.

There are also some useful websites to help concerned parents and people traverse the media, marketing and advertising minefields. Here are just a few:
If you want to take your media literacy education steps farther than educating yourself and your kids and want to educate others, check out our activities and lesson plans related to media, advertising and culture.
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The Both/And Goal of Humane Educators

During our student residency training last month, we grappled with our goals as humane educators. Do we teach in order to change the world? Do we teach because we love our students and want the best for them? Do we teach with some combination of these two goals? How do we work with the tension that can arise when our goals may conflict?

I went into the field of education because I wanted to help create a more humane, sustainable, and peaceful world. In order to solve our problems, I believed, students needed information and inspiration to be changemakers. While I have always loved working with kids, my primary goal as an educator was to inform and motivate my students to participate in the development of a kinder world. Was it possible that I was “using” kids for this “higher” purpose, so focused on my vision that I didn’t care to listen to theirs?

Melissa Feldman, a humane educator for 25 years, and a member of our faculty at the Institute for Humane Education, shared with our group her goals when she teaches young people: to listen to them, to enrich their lives, to be a force for good for each student, to allow them to be themselves and be heard.

Humane educators must not see our goals in either/or terms. Instead we can realize that our vision can include education for a better world and education for the benefit and joy of each individual student. As one of our taglines reads at the Institute for Humane Education: The World + You.

~ Zoe
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America, the Beauty-Obsessed

Men making a movie about beauty? Uh oh! Is it another movie about “hot chicks,” unnaturally thin waifs and women who are Botoxed, waxed, liposucked, sculpted and styled to within an inch of their lives (or just airbrushed and Photoshopped to look that way)? Nope! America the Beautiful is about beauty, but it’s a movie made by men in support of women. Filmmaker Darryl Roberts has created this documentary to bring attention to our obsession with perceptions of beauty in the U.S., and the impact such an obsession has on everyone.

Thanks to images of beauty promoted through a plethora of avenues, from celebs to advertisers to media to modeling to plastic and cosmetic surgeons, to sometimes even our own parents, our perceptions of what’s beautiful, and what makes an acceptable model, celebrity, woman, mate, person, beauty regime, etc., have evolved into something strange, toxic and sometimes shocking, and it’s influencing our children at younger and younger ages.

As part of the film, Roberts interviews a variety of media, entertainment and social professionals, from Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to feminist playwright Eve Ensler to former Seventeen editor Atoosa Rubenstein. Much of the film focuses on the experiences of Gerren Taylor, who was discovered as a model at 12, became wildly successful, and then was dumped a couple years later because she no longer fit the modeling industry’s definition of perfection.

The film reveals a variety of sad and horrific realities, such as:
  • A 1990s study of the effects of television on the native people of Fiji showed that, before the arrival of TV, no girls were bulimic or anorexic; three years after TV arrived in Fiji, 11 percent of girls admitted to throwing up to control their weight.
  • The cocktail waitress who was fired from her job for not wearing makeup.
  • Magazine industry reps who state that putting “average” people on the cover isn’t an option because it would cost them money.
  • The 6 foot tall, 130 pound model who’s told she has to lose 15 pounds.

You can see the trailer on the website.

America the Beautiful has only recently been released in theaters and is making its way around the country.

Although the film is rated R (some strong language and shots of cosmetic surgery), it provides a great opportunity to explore and discuss issues of beauty, marketing and advertising, body image and more, especially with teenagers and pre-teens.

Find out more:

Roberts writes about his experiences in a Huffington Post article.

A recent article about the film from the Long Beach, CA, Press-Telegram.


~ Marsha
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.


New strategies may pay off – for people and trees both - Discover Magazine (9/08)
“REDD would bring much bigger resources to the table than have ever been contemplated in global conservation, and that is opening the eyes of government ministers who had previously opposed such ideas. ‘What have been efforts valued in the millions, [REDD] would bring into the billions.’”

Lab chimps get second chance at better lifeSeattle Times (8/25/08)
"’There was this look in his eyes. He had such kind eyes. It just spoke to me,’ says La Chappelle. ‘And then, knowing his history in labs, that just solidified for me what a sanctuary can do for chimps.’"

Australia on track to reduce animal testing - Science Alert (8/25/08)
”Three-dimensional models made up of skin cells to create a human skin equivalent could replace pig skin, which is often used to test new therapies, cosmetics and chemical consumer products.”

Wasted food = wasted water = too much waste - New York Times (Dot Earth blog) (8/22/08)
”The amounts of waste are staggering. In the United States, nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year, worth about $48 billion, is discarded. The water it took to grow and process that wasted food amounts to about 10 trillion gallons, according to the analysis. Many European countries have similar losses, proportional to their size.”

Texas woman offers humane “pest” control - Dallas News (8/21/08)
”[Bonnie Bradshaw] owns 911 Wildlife, a licensed pest control service that helps humans deal with any species of wildlife in a safe, humane way.”

FDA to allow irradiation of spinach, lettuce - New York Times (8/22/08)
“The government will allow food producers to zap fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce with enough radiation to kill micro-organisms like E. coli and salmonella that for decades have caused widespread illness among consumers.”

Study finds that children of color, special ed kids more likely to be paddled - St. Augustine Record (8/21/08)
”African American students are more than twice as likely to be paddled. The disparity persists even in places with large black populations, the study found. Similarly, Native Americans were more than twice as likely to be paddled, the study found.”
(Thanks for the tip, All About Race.)

CNN “hero” tools of choice to help the world = bikes & sewing machines - Hunterdon Review (8/21/08)
”Pedals for Progress is a nonprofit organization that collects used bicycles and sends them overseas to provide transportation for people in developing countries throughout the world.”

96 indigenous slaves freed in DRCOne World.net (8/19/08)
”Earlier this year, a team of twenty-five WPIO activists spent three months visiting 240 families and a number of companies in five territories in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during their ‘Ten for One Peace Campaign.’ The campaign resulted in the release of almost 100 people who had been held as slaves.”


Self-recognition now observed in magpies
- BBC News (8/19/08)
”In one test, the researchers placed yellow and red stickers on the birds in positions where they could only be seen in a mirror. On seeing their reflections, the magpies became focused on the stickers as they tried to reach them with their claws and beaks.”
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Want Real Communication? Leave Your Agendas Behind

During the communication sessions during our residency week at the Institute for Humane Education we do an activity called “Spectrum.” Participants find themselves on a linear spectrum of choices that they make in relation to animal protection, human rights/social justice, environmental preservation, and consumerism. After doing the spectrum four times around these separate issues areas, people begin to notice something: often, an individual will feel a wee bit righteous about their great choices in relation to “their issue,” but suddenly find themselves making less compassionate and less intentional choices around an issue that deeply concerns someone else, but with which they are not personally engaged.

When we do this activity we ask people where they stood on the spectrum a decade earlier, and more often than not the person was making less humane choices. When I ask why they moved along the spectrum, it’s never because someone was hostile or judgmental toward them. Usually, they learned something, read a book, saw a film, or were inspired by a friend, colleague, teacher or family member.

Initially, this activity can make people feel exposed and vulnerable, but in a safe learning community, this vulnerability usually dissipates and along with it any sense of judgmentalness. That’s when Joanne comes in. "Joanne" is my fictional neighbor, a composite of several people I know in rural Maine who live simply, largely out of necessity. On the consumerism scale, Joanne lives lightly. But for those members of our group who are especially concerned with animal protection, Joanne is on the other end of the spectrum. Her family hunts, fishes, and breeds dogs who live outside year round.

I let the group know I’m going to get Joanne, who has graciously agreed to come talk to them and answer their questions. Before I step out I tell them to try to learn from Joanne, to treat her respectfully, and to build a bridge where there might seem like a chasm of separation. When I come back in, dressed in different clothes, I am Joanne.

Our group is usually respectful, but Joanne can tell when questions are really just opportunities to teach her what’s good and bad, right and wrong. Some are genuinely curious about Joanne, her family, and her lifestyle, while others really just want to change her opinions. Joanne, like all of us, knows the difference, even with the most well chosen, friendly words.

Khalif Williams, our executive director at the Institute for Humane Education, watched the activity unfold and reminded us of something so very important. We need to leave our agendas behind for real communication and understanding to happen. We need to focus on the relationship we can forge with someone, not on teaching them what we know or trying to make them be like us. When true relationships develop, so does true learning and the possibility that we can all grow and change in positive ways.

~ Zoe
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The Cure for Population Confusion

The current September/
October issue of World Watch Magazine
explores human population issues. In the editor’s introduction, we learn that “while young people understand that growing populations strain Earth’s resources and that ‘global family planning initiatives will help improve the health of our planet and people around the world,’ only a third believe that having fewer children of their own will help protect the environment.”

And while human population continues to rise globally, in recent years the media report population declines in several wealthy European countries as national calamities.

Sometimes there is blatant racism in our contradictory statements about population, and I’ve heard even the most progressive activists whisper in hoped for confidence that people like “us” should have babies, not people like “them” (them being poor, uneducated, unenlightened people).

I’ve heard individuals in the U.S. argue that their third or fourth child may cure cancer, suggesting that there are really no ethical obligations to limit family size, despite the reality that a privileged child in the U.S. will use a disproportionate share of world resources compared to a child born in a less wealthy country.

Sometimes there is simply a narrow understanding of a finite planet. For example, a declining birth rate in Germany equals a perceived crisis in the German workforce and eldercare, necessitating more babies rather than a call for opening the borders to more immigration. Yet allowing more immigration would alleviate Germany’s declining population problem and non-industrialized countries’ growing population problem.

Why the disconnection?

Having children is, for most of us, a biological drive. Our species, like all mammals, have evolved to want to reproduce and to want to care for our offspring with all our energy and resources. Not all of us want children, of course, but if a large majority of us didn’t and took steps to prevent pregnancy, our species would become extinct. And for obvious evolutionary reasons, as a species we generally favor those like us, especially those who share our genes, and so we justify biological tendencies and drives to reproduce ourselves with attempts at rational arguments. But they aren’t rational arguments.

It’s critical that we recognize and explore our biological imperatives to contextualize and understand them, refusing to confuse them with MOGO choicemaking. We must do this through education to ensure that people can make the connections between their own personal family planning choices and the global necessity to reduce population consciously and with integrity.

Once again, education is the answer. If we included population issues directly in our secondary school and college courses, the next generation would not be so confused and would be able to make conscious, informed, MOGO choices about population as they entered adulthood.

~ Zoe
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Too Sexy for My Onesie: The Sexualization of Children in Media and Culture

The controversy over Miley Cyrus’s partially-nude cover shot. Seven year old girls begging to be put on diets because they’re “too fat.” Thong underwear for pre-teens. Padded bras for 6-year-olds. High heels for infants. Tees for tots with slogans like “I’m gonna be hot!” or "Hooters Girl (in training)" on them. The landscape today’s young children are traversing is significantly more sexualized than in years past.

Parents, educators and child advocates are becoming more aware of the pressures and messages media and culture are surrounding young children with – children too young to understand and make good choices for themselves – and are speaking out about such practices.

The Today Show (and MSNBC) recently had Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne on their show (see the Q and A and sample chapter) to talk about the sexualization of children in the media and our culture and to promote their new book, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

The authors raise important issues, such as the fact that sexual images are being used to target younger and younger children, and that the sexualization of children -- especially of young women -- also affects young men. They say:
"Boys learn to see girls as objects and judge and value them by how they look and how 'sexy' they are. And boys are taught to conform to a very narrow definition of masculinity — being tough and invulnerable and aggressive. This can make it very difficult for boys to become men capable of having positive, caring, and connected relationships."

Another book on the same topic was recently released: The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It by M. Gigi Durham.


Media has a strong influence on the choices that we all make, and since younger children have less facility with critical thinking and making healthy, positive choices, the effects can be even more significant and long-lasting.

Resources like these can provide useful insights for discussing such issues in the humane education classroom, or in making choices for our own children.

~ Marsha
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Brooklyn woman completes “250” year-long locavore adventurePlenty (8/08)
”On the day after her 45 birthday, she started ‘the 250,’ a year-long experiment in eating foods grown within a 250-mile radius of her Brooklyn apartment. Thus began the process of retraining herself—planning every meal ahead, scouring the city for local beans and flour, canning countless jars of tomatoes so she could eat something other than potatoes all winter.”

Youth explore food-social justice connectionSeattlepi.com (8/18/08)
”Adults accompanied dozens of teens from the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Delridge who for the past two months have cooked dinner together on Wednesday nights and discussed how food relates to race, class and social justice.”

Putting a price on the natural world to help save itSF Gate (8/18/08)
”This is a new way of saving nature. Until now, the conservation movement has said people should care about nature for nature's sake - with charity as the driving economic force to preserve land. And that, Daily said, has failed. She sees a renaissance in the conservation movement hinging on investment.”

Engineering students use skills for good - Broomfield Enterprise.com (8/17/08)
”The invention? A coconut press that will quickly, easily and inexpensively turns raw coconuts, which are abundant in Tanzania, into coconut oil, a commodity in high demand around the world. The expensive oil is used primarily for cooking and beauty products.”

Teens garden to help people and the planet - Yakima-Herald.com (8/17/08)
”So about five students, from a school club called Peaceful Planeters, decided their contribution to the world would be raising food for other people and doing it in an Earth-friendly manner, without pesticides.”

Teens take advantage of Harry Potter craze to help Darfur refugeesPoughkeepsieJournal.com (8/17/08)
”While searching for the festival's theme, the girls chose an idea they thought would be fun and highlight the social justice aspect of the cause. ‘There's an organization called the Harry Potter Alliance that does social justice projects, and we wanted to mix that with the Darfur theme.’"

New ban on phthalates important step - Chicago Tribune (8/17/08)
”The potential risks from thousands of other widely used chemicals remain undetermined, and the federal government admits it has no idea whether many chemicals are safe, despite promises to conduct more thorough reviews.”

Pigs find peace at shelter just for themSeattle Times (8/17/08)
”But unlike almost every other pig farm in creation, Pigs Peace exists not to ready piggies to become bacon or pork roast for QFC shoppers, but to give them all the comforts of meadow grasses and custom-milled grain they were denied in their former lives as once-trendy potbellied pets in someone's apartment or backyard or as hogs grown for human consumption.”

California classrooms going greener - SF Gate (8/15/08)
"The intent behind it is not only to do activities, but to really make young people, teens included, informed users of the environment so they can take responsibility and make informed decisions…."

“EcoMom” movement growing - SF Gate (8/15/08)
"People are by nature reluctant to make significant lifestyle changes, even when they know it's in the best interest of the environment - that is, until they bring a new life into the world, and then we find they're open to change."

Ocean dead zones spreading worldwide - Scientific American (8/15/08)
”According to a new study in Science….there are now 405 identified dead zones worldwide, up from 49 in the 1960s—and the world's largest dead zone remains the Baltic Sea, whose bottom waters now lack oxygen year-round.”

Amazon to be opened up for oil & gas exploration - The Guardian (UK) (8/13/08)
”Detailed mapping of the region shows the majority of planned oil and gas projects, which are operated by at least 35 multinational companies, are in the most species-rich areas of the Amazon for mammals, birds and amphibians.”
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Raid at Iowa Slaughterhouse Another Reason to Change U.S. Agricultural System

The anti-immigration sentiment that’s growing in the U.S. is fomenting not only inhumane actions but also a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars. In an opinion piece in the Miami Herald, author Mary Sanchez describes a government raid on an Iowa meatpacking plant in which almost 400 Mayan Guatemalans “were scooped up and shuffled in shackles to a fairground designed to hold cattle” before being jailed for 5 months (at taxpayer expense) pending deportation to Guatemala.

The online comments left by two readers of the opinion piece applauded the action, citing identity theft by illegal immigrants and lack of jobs for U.S. citizens. It’s understandable that citizens facing economic hardship and/or identity theft would be angry, but there’s a reason why agribusiness relies on illegal immigrants, whether for harvesting in fields or working in slaughterhouses. Few U.S. citizens want these jobs, especially jobs in meatpacking (slaughterhouses) which reportedly have the highest injury rates of any profession in the U.S. Agribusinesses hire illegal immigrants to keep the meat rolling off the assembly line at prices they can profit from, and if we in the U.S. decide to stop illegal immigration, it’s the employers we should punish for breaking the law, not desperate people fleeing relentless poverty.

As always, left out of articles and opinion pieces such as these are animals and the environment. Large scale slaughterhouse work, with its sped up lines and dangerous working conditions, is brutal and inhumane for humans, but it is a travesty of relentless cruelty toward animals, with millions of fully conscious mammals and birds dying terrifying, slow, and excruciating deaths. And the destructive effects of animal agribusiness on water, air, soil, and climate is egregious.

We could solve a host of problems, massively diminish the inhumane treatment of both people and animals, and save a massive amount of taxpayer money if we changed our system of agriculture to protect people, animals, the environment, and the safety and health of our food.

~ Zoe
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The Gist of You: Developing Your Own Tagline

Last month, our M.Ed. and Humane Education Certificate Program students gathered at the Institute for Humane Education for their residency training – five days in which we all came together to learn in person in an otherwise distance-learning format. Twenty-three humane educators from all over the United States, and one from Germany, shared brilliant ideas, great wisdom, and heartfelt emotions about the challenges we face. During the week every student offered the group a fifteen minute presentation on some topic in humane education. All of our toolboxes are now full of new activities which we can use with a range of groups. (Visit our Humane Education Activities section, where these, and other activities, are/will be available for free download.)

One student, Charley Korns, introduced us to the concept of taglines by testing our tagline knowledge (a fun and enlightening activity in and of itself), and then led us into an activity in which we wrote our own taglines. Can “The Gist of You” (not to be confused with the equally compelling “gift of you”) be put into words that represent your vision, your mission, your self such that your personal tagline works as a guiding meme for your life? Try it! Then live it.

~ Zoe

Image courtesy of anand16bk.
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Teens seek social change through their own magazine - Gazette.net (8/13/08)
“Chen and her brother Jack, 15, who helped start the magazine, enlist the help of artists around the world as well as local youth to create the publication, which they have dubbed JJ Express. Focusing primarily on comics and cartoon art, but with several written articles as well, the magazine aims to encourage youth to affect social change.”

Proposed ESA changes would bypass scientists - MSNBC.com (8/11/08)
"’If adopted, these changes would seriously weaken the safety net of habitat protections that we have relied upon to protect and recover endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years,’ said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming initiative.”

Kids getting into going green - Courant.com (8/11/08)
”Whether they make the decisions on their own or are urged by others to be more eco-conscious, children are naturally drawn to the idea of protecting nature and the earth, educators and experts say.”

Israel implements coastal protection curriculum - Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection (press release) (8/11/08)
”Keeping the Coast Clean, a curriculum program especially developed for elementary school students, aims at fostering environmental literacy and creating a personal and social behavioral code for protecting the marine and coastal environment.”

“Colleges peddle bikes to car-loving students”Associated Press (8/10/08)
”The school is selling discounted bicycles to students and faculty, adding bike lanes to campus roads and stocking bikes that can be borrowed for free. The university is pushing its $250,000 ‘Bike Emory’ initiative, launched a year ago, in hopes of convincing students and faculty that the eco-friendly bikes are a better alternative to their four-wheeled, gas-guzzling counterparts.”

Gold standard = child laborAssociated Press (8/10/08)
”Most bush mines are little more than holes in the ground, but there are thousands of them in Africa, South America and Asia. Together, they produce a fifth of the world's gold, according to United Nations reports. And wherever you find bush mines, these reports and mine experts say, you also find child labor.”

Students choose different kind of activism - Chron.com (8/10/08)
"’It's not really as much protesting as students taking charge,’ said Murray Myers, a senior at the University of St. Thomas who runs the campus recycling program. ‘I guess protest was pretty popular in the '60s. I see me and other students ... doing positive things, rather than protesting.’"

Is Arizona State the trend in “The New American University”?Newsweek (8/9/08)
“Locked into an increasingly fierce global race for students, professors and resources, schools are realizing they need to distinguish themselves to survive. More and more, that means moving students away from specialized academic training and toward more integrated approaches to complex, real-life problems.”

Australians looking at eating kangaroos as partial global warming solutionTimes Online (UK) (8/9/08)
”The study, conducted by George Wilson, of the independent consultancy Australian Wildlife Services, found that increasing the kangaroo population to 175 million and decreasing the number of livestock over the next 12 years would lower Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 3 per cent.”

The population puzzle - Independent (UK) (8/8/08)
”But, quietly, something has changed in recent years. The global population is continuing to grow. But, fairly suddenly, birthrates are falling all across the globe. In the 1970s women around the world had six children each; today they have just 2.7 children on average, and in some places that figure is as low as 1.”

Business students looking greener - Market Watch (8/7/08)
”What's happening is a distinct shift in consciousness. The stereotypical MBA student looking to make his or her mark on the world through a successful career on Wall Street or within the ranks of Corporate America has become a different type of character, someone who hopes to effect social change through business and finance rather than merely profit.”

Jordan’s queen uses cyberspace to educate about stereotypes - Christian Science Monitor (8/6/08)
“With personal videos, slide shows, and documentaries, Jordan's first lady has created her own YouTube page in a virtual experiment to combat Western misconceptions about Middle Easterners.”

The key to happiness - Christian Science Monitor (7/22/08)
“People, he notes, are often happiest when helping other people, when engaged in ‘self-transcendent’ activities. What does this mean? Rather than making a gift of the latest iPhone, buy someone dancing lessons, he says. Instead of taking a resort vacation, build a house with Habitat for Humanity.”
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Get Inspired By Youth

Today is International Youth Day, an observance designed to encourage campaigns, forums, cultural events and other activities focused on supporting youth in addressing youth issues, as well as to celebrate they ways that youth contribute to society. I'm finding myself encouraged and inspired by all the stories in the media about youth involved in humane causes and issues, working toward a more compassionate, just, sustainable society.

Recently I happened upon a promotional video that some college students at Pacific University created back in the spring in order to advertise a flea market event to raise funds for the Not for Sale campaign, which is focused on ending slavery in our lifetime. People were asked to bring items to sell. As one of the organizers said:

“[This is] not just the junk we’ve been meaning to get rid of....We’re mindfully considering the material objects that matter to us, and we’re giving those up, even if it’s just one thing. In parting with our possessions, our goal is to—through the feeling of sacrifice—experience a very personal connection to our cause.”

Check out the video:



What are youth doing that has inspired you?

~ Marsha
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Economics AND the Environment: Beyond the Dead-End Either/Or Question

In the August 4 Ethics Newsline , you'll find the results of a research report that asked the question: Which is more important: Economic Growth or the Environment? The answer to this question, from a Harris poll, is:
“As economic conditions worsen, people who are asked to make a decision between protecting the environment or economic growth and development have moved even more strongly into the economic growth column.”
Why do we ask people to make a (false) decision between protecting the environment and economic growth? Such questions reinforce the regressive perspectives that continually influence us to take sides that don’t serve us. They narrow our vision and stifle our creativity. They are either/or dead-ends instead of both/and possibilities.

We must reframe such questions and ask instead: “What can we do to simultaneously protect the environment and create a healthy economy?”

The pollsters won’t have an easy time analyzing the answers because they’ll receive creative ideas that require pages to describe, but they will have meaningful responses to actually solve economic and environmental challenges. Wouldn’t that be nice?

~ Zoe
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Mark Your Calendar: International Democratic Education Conference Next Week in Vanouver, B.C.

More than 300 educators, parents, students and supporters of democratic schools and learner-centered communities from around the world will be attending the 2008 International Democratic Education Conference at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, August 11-18.

In addition to a variety of keynote speakers (Yaacov Hecht, Mimsy Sadofsky, Jerry Mintz, Helen Hughs, Gabor Mate, etc.) and presenters, there will be “Windsor House Live” which is a week-long series of events for all ages.

Find out more.
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Study Confirms What Humane Educators Have Always Known

In a news release from the Association for Psychological Science titled, "Reflecting on values promotes love, acceptance," humane educators’ efforts to foster personal reflection on individual values is vindicated. Such reflection, which humane educators typically offer students, results in less defensiveness, more generosity, and willingness to change unhealthy or inhumane choices. It’s always nice when scientific studies provide evidence for what many educators already know.

If you’re interested in reflecting upon your own values and living your life so that it more deeply embodies them, I invite you to complete the MOGO (Most Good) Questionnaire below:


1. The qualities (virtues) that are most important to me are:


2a. With my family, friends, and neighbors I model the following qualities:
2b. I would like to model the following qualities more consciously with my family and friends:
2c. In order to achieve this goal, I will take the following steps:


3a. In relation to my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) I take care of myself in the following ways:
3b. I would like to learn/do the following in order to improve my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual):
3c. I will take the following steps to improve my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual):


4a. In relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use, I currently make the following choices to prevent others from suffering or being exploited:
4b. In relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use, I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my values:
4c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more humane choices in relation to people who produce and supply the products and services I use:


5a. In relation to animals (wildlife and those used for food and clothing, in product testing, in forms of entertainment, who are in shelters, etc.), I currently make the following choices to minimize animal suffering and exploitation:
5b. In relation to animals (wildlife and those used for food and clothing, in product testing, in forms of entertainment, who are in shelters, etc.), I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my values in relation to animals:
5c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more humane choices in relation to animals:


6a. In relation to the environment (air, salt water, fresh water, land, soil, forests, rainforests, natural resources, etc.) I currently make the following choices to live an environmentally friendly, sustainable life:
6b. In relation to the environment (air, salt water, fresh water, land, soil, forests, rainforests, natural resources, etc.) I need to learn about the following in order to make choices that better reflect my commitment to protecting and restoring the environment:
6c. I will take the following steps to learn, think critically, and make more environmentally friendly, sustainable choices:


7a. In relation to activism and volunteerism, I already do the following:
7b. In relation to activism and volunteerism, I would like to help more in the following ways:
7c. I will take the following steps in order to help others through activism and volunteerism:


8a. In relation to charitable giving and sharing my resources, I contribute in the following ways:
8b. In relation to charitable giving and sharing my resources, I would like to contribute more enthusiastically and effectively in these ways:
8c. I will take the following steps to contribute more enthusiastically and effectively:


9a. In relation to democracy, I’m active and engaged in the following ways:
9b. In relation to democracy, I need to learn the following in order to be more meaningfully and actively engaged and participatory:
9c. In relation to democracy, I will take the following steps to be more meaningfully and actively engaged in the democratic process.


10. This is the epitaph I would like to have:


11. In order to turn my intentions in this questionnaire into practical changes, I will use the following methods to support and discipline myself (this support can be internal, such as starting a meditation practice, or external, such as taking a class, finding or creating a support group, or a combination of both):


12. Within the next week, I am going to do the following 3-5 things in order to implement this plan:


13. I am going to put a reminder to myself in my calendar on this date to assess and evaluate my efforts and successes at fulfilling my commitments and to plan again:


~ Zoe


If you'd like to explore living your values in more depth, consider attending one of our MOGO (Most Good) Workshops. We currently have workshops scheduled in Watkins Glen, New York, Woodstock, New York, Orlando, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.
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Residency 2008: Inspiring and Empowering Today's Humane Educators

Twenty-three M.Ed. and HECP students from the U.S., Canada and Germany journeyed to IHE's headquarters in Surry, Maine, for our 2008 Residency, July 7-11. Residency is an energizing week that includes practical, hands-on learning, and offers students an opportunity to practice and explore humane education activities, techniques, and issues with fellow students and faculty. The week includes dynamic, interactive training, which helps students hone presentation skills, receive and give critical feedback, and connect with IHE staff and others in the program.

Check out a snapshot of Residency 2008.

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Helping Change the World is Child's Play

How can we help young people learn about important social justice issues in ways that engage their interests? One means is games. More organizations, businesses and individuals are looking to a games platform for educating and engaging youth in important global issues, from poverty and global warming to food security and wildlife conservation. Check out our Online Games resource section, which features online "games for change" that may be of interest.

We'll continue to add new, quality games as we hear about them. (There are "games for change" that can be purchased or downloaded, but we're focusing on ones you can play for free right from your computer and Internet connection.)

If you know of great "games for change," let us know!

~ Marsha
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Humane Education Issues in the News...

Each week we post links to news about relevant humane issues, ways that people all over the world are manifesting humane education & humane living, and items that provide excellent material for discussing humane issues, from human rights to environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture.

Almost half of world’s primates “at risk of extinction” - Guardian (UK) (8/5/08)
”The study, which drew on the work of hundreds of scientists and is the most comprehensive analysis for more than a decade, found that the conservation outlook for monkeys, apes and other primates has dramatically worsened. In some regions, the thriving bushmeat trade means the animals are being ‘eaten to extinction’.”


New SF group practices kindness
- SF Gate.com (8/3/08)
"’I'd say the goal is to raise awareness and consciousness of change through positive action,’ Jared said. ‘The ultimate goal is for people to be true to themselves.’"

Are organics set to overtake the “green revolution” in India? - AlterNet.org (8/2/08)
"What are you achieving by feeding people at the cost of their health?"

Aborigines win “exclusive access” to coastline - Independent (UK) (8/1/08)
”Until now, anyone with rod, net or line, could access Northern Territory waters, reputed to offer some of the best fishing in the world. Now traditional owners will decide how fishing is conducted along 80 per cent of the Territory's coast.”

Survey indicates children losing connection with nature - Independent (UK) (8/1/08)
”Sir David Attenborough warned that children who lack any understanding of the natural world would not grow into adults who cared about the environment. ‘The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out,’ he said, ‘and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should. Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it.'"

Some look to geo-engineering as solution to climate catastrophe - BBC News (7/31/08)
"’It's Dr Strangelove. But it's the kind of Dr Strangelove you could see governments really using.’ That's how one expert describes geo-engineering - the idea that we can use a kind of technical quick fix to cool the planet if global warming accelerates.”

Interest in environmental education blossoming - USA Today (7/31/08)
”In June, a key House committee blessed a bill that would provide money to help states develop environmental lessons and train teachers to deliver them. In addition, the National Environmental Education Foundation, which teams up with schools and other institutions to promote green curricula, has seen the number of partners jump from 330 in 2006 to 1,855 this year.”

Citizens use web to pressure corporationsMontreal Gazette (7/30/08)
"’Before, it used to be buyer beware. Now, more and more, it's firms beware,’ Mulvey said. ‘If you treat your customers with disrespect, if you're doing the shell game with them, you get what you've got coming. It's like a new age of consumerism.’"


Cooking up ways to use food to help people
- Washington Times (7/30/08)
“Today, D.C. Central Kitchen is a nationally prominent social enterprise. With the mission of using food to 'strengthen bodies, empower minds and build communities,' it gathers and reprocesses about 2 tons of surplus food, sending more than 4,500 nutritious meals to shelters, drug treatment centers and children's after-school programs every day.”

Spain announces plan to cut energy consumptionGuardian (UK) (7/30/08)
”Spain has launched an ambitious plan to reduce energy consumption and save millions of euros on oil imports by cutting the speed limit to 50mph and handing out millions of low-energy use light bulbs.”

NJ Supreme court upholds some farming practices, questions others - NJ.com (7/30/08)
"’Because we find in those regulations both unworkable standards and an unacceptable delegation of authority to an ill-defined category of presumed experts, we conclude that the Department failed, in part, to carry out its mandate. We therefore conclude that some, but not all, of the regulations are invalid,’ wrote Justice Helen Hoens for a unanimous court.”

Humane education works at the roots of animal cruelty - USA Today (7/29/08)
”The anti-cruelty message that decades ago consisted mostly of cheerful be-kind-to-animals posters that appeared in classrooms every May is now a massive, multifaceted crusade that falls under the rubric of 'humane education.' There's even a 4-year-old Institute for Humane Education in Maine that offers distance-learning graduate degrees as well as workshops (attended mostly by educators) in humane education.”

“China price” fading as costs rise - Dallas News (7/29/08)
”For the hundreds of thousands of apparel, footwear and consumer electronics buyers who have loved the Pearl River Delta, the bloom is off the romance. For many years, this region brought lower prices to American stores. Now it's bringing inflation.”
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Reframing, Part 2: Reframing Societal Myths

In my previous blog post, I discussed reframing education in general. From the humane educator’s perspective, almost all the myths of society require reframing. Consider these:
  • If we don’t buy lots of non-essential things, the economy will collapse.
  • You’re either with us or against us.
  • Economic globalization is the greatest hope for developing countries.
  • Economic globalization is empire-building colonization at its worst.
  • Milk is good for your bones.
The list is endless. Each of these statements, even those that represent opposite viewpoints, like the two about economic globalization, is, on its own, false. If we reframe these assumptions into meaningful questions, however, we may find positive answers to solve persistent challenges. For example:
  • How can we maintain a healthy economy and promote sustainable, life-enhancing, environmentally regenerative living?
  • What are the many different perspectives on a specific issue, and how can we learn from and resolve conflicts in a peaceful, healthy, safe way?
  • How can we promote the life-enhancing, progressive, and positive aspects of economic globalization while making sure that we are not causing destruction, pollution, or suffering?
  • What are the healthiest ways to ensure strong bones as people live longer?
Try reframing every assumption or myth or opinion masquerading as fact into a meaningful question. Then seek to answer it. And please post any thoughts on these or other false assumptions!

~ Zoe
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