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How to Motivate Change Without the Stigma

Controversial "Stop Sugarcoating It Georgia" ad campaign

Controversial "Stop Sugarcoating It Georgia" ad campaign

 

Do anti-obesity advertisements effectively promote healthy lifestyles, or do they merely stigmatize ill-fated children who have grown up in unhealthy households? One recent news article, published by NPR correspondent Kathy Lohr, argues the latter.

Lohr’s argument centers around the “Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia” ad campaign, which uses scare tactics similar to those found in anti-smoking and anti-methamphetamine advertisements, in an attempt to reverse the growing trend of childhood obesity in a state with “the second highest number of obese kids in the country.” Lohr claims that while the message of healthy living is an important one, the tactics being used may provide more harm than good, as they disparage the same children who are already made to feel inadequate through the perpetual teasing and bullying they endure both at school and on the playground.

In addition to being detrimental to a child’s self-esteem, these advertisements may actually promote the exact behavior that they are trying to prevent, as Georgia State University professor Rodney Lyn states, “we know that stigmatization leads to lower self-esteem, potential depression. We know that kids will engage in physical activity less because they feel like they’re going to be embarrassed. So there are all these other negative effects.” So the question becomes, why does society continue to employ stigma as a motivator for change, when positive reinforcement has proven itself a much more effective tool?

In relation to class discussion, this is very much the same question brought up by the Free to Be story, “Ladies First,” where a young girl is eaten by a group of tigers due to her inability to recognize the negative consequences of her condescending and stuck-up attitude. “Ladies First,” similarly to Georgia’s anti-obesity campaign, focuses on a child’s negative quality, rather than a positive one, which may lead to many children thinking that they are inherently flawed in some way, when in reality, the problem may be caused more directly by the child receiving poor parenting than by the child itself. This potentially damaging effect of children viewing themselves as flawed may be the reason that “this ‘bad’ female subject [was] somewhat unusual for the Free to Be series, which [tended] to celebrate conventional images of bold and adventurous girls rather than to condemn conventional ones” (235). But if that is the case, it would seem to be in everyone’s best interest to focus solely on children’s positive attributes, rather than negative ones. That way, an obese or overly bratty child will be more inclined to change, as they won’t see themselves as holistically flawed individuals, but rather they will be able to isolate the problem, making change seem far more attainable.

 

 

Learning in front of a screen

After reading Bradbury’s “The Veldt, I’ve become very weary of the idea of a virtual environment, and upon reading an article on a CNN blog about the growing popularity of virtual classrooms, I was not excited. The article   looked at a seventh grader who utilised a virtual school system to accommodate her rigorous ballet rehearsal schedule. The virtual school was run by K12 Inc., one of the largest virtual teaching companies that creates curriculum for students from Kindergarten through High School. The virtual classroom is mostly used for students who need to work around a normal school schedule, are falling behind in regular classrooms, or just simply don’t fit in a standard setting. The article goes on to question the value of virtual classrooms, considering concerns of socialization, educational achievement, and funding.

From my perspective these virtual learning environments are lacking several components that are key to student development. The most obvious thing missing from this virtual equation is the socialization that is inherent in a “brick and mortar” school. As Chudacoff states in his piece on children’s play, schools are the “incubators of peer groups” and are incredibly important in the socialization of almost all American children. The student interviewed in the article meets with other students once a month, but this is far to little in comparison to the way traditional school systems expose students to others. Another “life lesson” taught in school that doesn’t translate virtually is the idea of discipline that reflects a work environment, such as prompt attendance and rule following. Although the value of these lessons can be contested, their connections to most work environments cannot.

But perhaps the way the 21st century is headed, more and more towards digital environments, having children sit in front of a computer screen for twelve years may not be so different from the way the rest of their lives will look…

Goodbye Bear (In the News)

The Associated Press report in their creatively titled article “Berenstain Bears Co-creator Jan Berenstain Dies” that Jan Berenstain, one of the creators (the other was her husband Stan) of the beloved Berenstain Bear book series has passed away. On Thursday Feb.23, Berenstain suffered from a severe stroke which ultimately resulted in her death, at the age of 88, on Friday.

Selling over 260 million copies from it’s start in 1962, the Berenstain Bear book collection was often applauded for educating, and soothing, children on common childhood concerns “like dentist visits, peer pressure, a new sibling or summer camp.” Prior to this series, however, the couple made quite the lucrative living by participating in another popular children’s medium, comics. The Berenstain couple was well known for their children targeted comic, “All in the Family”, which ran in magazines such as Good Housekeeping and McCall’s.

Mike and Leo Berenstain had recently collaborated on a few books with their mother that also tackled the modern issues of “online safety and childhood obesity” and furthermore reenforce their mother’s lifetime of making children happy through her own love of writing. Because of his mother’s desire to continue this type of entertainment for children, Mike also says he will maintain his illustrative an writer’s position with Berenstain books.

This connects so closely with not only our continuing theme of whether or not different popular mediums are successful at teaching kids educational tools as well as moral values conducive to Western culture, but it also lets the reader know just how influential the comic book industry was. It provides a stark contrast to what critics of comic books maintained about the lack of moral content in this type of reading. It has also now been picked up by PBS as an educational show for children of younger ages.

 

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, book by the Berenstain family

 

Silence that Idiot Box!

In Jeff Jacoby’s article on the harmful effects of watching television on children, called Silence that idiot box!,  he argues that letting children watch extended periods of television on a daily basis is no different than giving them a drug that produces zombie like effects. He cites several other articles, including scientific publications from both the 1960’s and today, in his rant against what he also refers to as the “boob tube.” He points out that children who watch one or more hours a day of television are more likely to have poor assignment completion rates and negative attitudes towards school. Jacoby sums up a 2005 study published by the American Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine with these words: “Increased time spent watching television during childhood and adolescence was associated with a lower level of educational attainment by early adulthood.” He also points out studies which show correlation between children watching television and being more likely to smoke, be overweight, or suffer from sleep difficulties and high cholesterol.

Daily views of television in different countries from Boston.com

It is clear that that Jacoby is rabidly against the high volume of television watching that goes on in the world of children, but it might help to understand his point of view if we better understand his background. Jeff Jacoby works for the Boston Herald, is a nationally recognized conservative voice, he briefly practiced law, and has been a commentator for WBUR.

Jacoby points out children watching an extended period of television, and this relates to Bradbury’s story of The Veldt because of the fact that the children in the story Peter and Wendy have been corrupted by the nursery. The facts that the children would much rather have the nursery than have their parents are an extreme of the theory that children can be corrupted by television. In the story, The Veldt, the children are so dependent with the technology that natural activities seem like a chore to them. The fact that the children questioned and complained when their father wanted to move to a different house because the technology has been corrupting them shows that the authority of the household was not the parents but the technology. At the end, the children killed their parents with the help of technology controlling their overall thoughts. This story shows a fictional consequence of how technology can affect and corrupt children.

Is Reality Enough?

The Brutality of Virtual Reality

In an article from the New York Times titled, “Go Directly, Digitally to Jail? Classic Toys Learn New Clicks” the topic of how children’s toys are becoming more integrated with technology is discussed. Specifically, children no longer are simply just playing with their physical toys but are now interacting toys with mobile devices.  For Monopoly there are now iPhone apps available that count everyones money (I guess it stops people from stealing from the bank!). In Barbie, there is a lens in her back and the captured camera image appears on the front of Barbie’s T-shirt. The topic that most caught my attention though, was an app for Apple products that shows “live video of the environment overlaid with graphics”. An example of this would be a child pretending to shoot his TV and the TV blows up on the Apple product display screen. Could this new app possibly be a step towards virtual reality becoming the preferred reality for the younger generation as in Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt”? In “The Veldt”, there is a nursery room in which “Whatever you thought would appear” (pg. 164). I interpreted this to be symbolic for the increasing stake children have in the consumer landscape (preteen children bought $30 billion worth of goods in 2002. pg. 176) and companies producing products rapidly to satisfy there wants. If children start to prefer virtual reality, then virtual reality will be produced. The parents in “The Veldt” become scared when the virtual environment has become “a little to real” (pg. 162), and I sense that actual parents will too, become scared. I would not blame them either because as human-beings we have a socially internal need to be, not only with each other but, with nature. Bradbury refers to this bond as “living” (pg. 169). I cannot further articulate what the social bond with other living things is so I will borrow an excerpt from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature”, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintences, master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.” 

However, hypothetically, if virtual reality does advance so much that it is impossible to decipher it from actual reality, who decides this is a bad thing? Who decides that the feeling of reality is not as good as reality itself?

Video of “Bad Robot Interactive App” that lets you stream ”live video of the environment overlaid with graphics”. From http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjra0Fw_Anw

Beanie Babies

When I was three years old my mom got me Lucky the Ladybug, my first Beanie Baby.  Lucky quickly became one of my favorite toys and after receiving her I wanted all of the Beanie Babies.  Back when I was growing up I would spend hours playing with my stuffed animals.  For some reason they were more appealing to me then regular dolls.  I suppose since they were animals it allowed me to use my imagination more.  Beanie Babies were a huge deal for me and for many other kids when I was in elementary school.  Beanie Babies were stuffed animals made by Ty Warner Inc. in 1993 with only nine different animals at the time and they eventually became extremely popular in the late nineties. There were several different animals and styles that you could collect and I wanted all of them.  The more Beanie Babies I had, the more crazy and exciting adventures we could go on.  Many parents got their kids Beanie Babies so they could collect them and have them be worth something someday, and many limited collections are very valuable.  Some rare collections can go from hundreds to even thousands of dollars in certain markets.  I, personally, wanted the stuffed animals with the sole intent of playing with them.  Their bright colors and individualized name tags were very appealing to kids because they all seemed to have their very own personality.   Beanie Babies were definitely a very popular childhood item, which relates to the reading by Stearns and Cross.  They state that “an array of new consumer products was aimed at children” (Stearns 3).  These stuffed animals were directly aimed at kid’s imaginations.  They also were not necessarily gender specified like dolls; boys and girls could both collect the stuffed animals without feeling pressure from friends or their parents for collecting them.

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La Belle Diaperina

In Glad Rags to Riches, Shirley Temple plays La Belle Diaperina. Diaperina is a showgirl in a night club that is stuck in a life she despises. The club owner wants Temple for himself, forcing her to perform until she marries him. She refuses and wishes that her sweetheart would save her. Her sweetheart, Elmer, just so happens to stumble into the poster for her act and realizes that he may have finally found his love. They find each other in the club during a very can-can like dance number, upsetting her boss. He kicks Elmer out of the club, but only until he comes crashing back in with police to arrest the horrible club owner. Diaperina and Elmer share a celebratory smooch and leave hand in hand to the Wedding March.

There are so many different things that toe the line “between innocence and flirtatiousness.” Temples character is burlesque dancer, in the first scene she is wearing a top hat and shiny black top/diaper. Immediately after her performance it pans to a boy clapping enthusiastically. Her boss is creepy, especially since he is played by a child, and in the final scenes is shown trying to force a kiss on Temple as she tries to get away.

I understand completely the idea behind the Baby Burlesks, it is funny to see kids imitate adults. This was something I still love in appropriate settings such as Little Rascalls. But Riches crosses the line, these are four year olds! Even if the child “goes through the motions of adult characters without…comprehending anything”(Kasson, 197), what does it say about the adults watching? Just because they don’t understand, we do.