Archives For February 2014

You may have heard about the Lego debateor the mixed reviews  about Goldieblox or most recently the up and coming “design and engineer your own dolls house”,Roominatewhich, while brilliant in concept, still panders to the marketing of “girl colors.” And then of course, there’s the maelstrom that erupted when journalist Peggy Orenstein published Cinderella Ate My Daughter

All these are examples of attempts to look at what “stories” or messages we are giving children. 

And I say children deliberately. Much of the focus in these discussions is appropriately about what role models, stereotypes, and gender identity constrictions we are giving girls. But these not so conscious but conscious prescriptions also perpetuate a particular world for boys.

When Jean Kilbourne pointed out the advertising messages I was consuming about what it meant to be a women back in 1983 with her first Killing me Softly, I never saw the world the same again. I am deeply and eternally grateful to  her for making  the smog I was breathing obvious. But I abdicate how to fix the world of media messaging to the likes of her and Peggy Orenstein.  I also I leave the valiant attempts to encourage girls and women in STEM to the likes of the female engineers of Stanford such as the creators of Goldieblox’s, Debbie Sterling and Roominate’s Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen.

But I won’t let those who interact with children off the hook.

I challenge you to ask the following questions when you pick up a book for your self, for your child or for your students. These questions are geared to picture books but with imagination can be adapted to any story or message you or the child in your life is consuming.

I also challenge you to think about your reaction to the fact that I wrote this post in pink! Did it bother you if so why?  Feel free to share your gut reactions if you have managed to ignore the color and read this far!

When you read a book take a few minutes to ask yourself or the child you are with these or other questions about gender roles. Pay attention to what difference it makes to your experience.  Should you be asking yourself these questions all the time now that you have started to pay attention? 

  • What do the women/girls look like?
  • What kind of work /activities are the women/girls doing?
  • What objects/toys etc are the women/girls playing with interacting with
  • What do the men look like?
  • What kind of work /activities are the men doing?
  • What kind of work /activities are the men/boys doing?
  • How do women and men interact with each other?
  • What sort of emotions do you see expressed on a woman’s/girl’s face?
  • What sort of emotions do you see expressed on a man/boys face?
  • What messages do you think the book is sending about the gender roles of men and women?
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In honor of Presidents’ Day this week, I thought I’d share some quotes about difference and commonalities from various presidents through the ages.

Abraham Lincoln 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

“Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th U.S. President (1961-1963)

 “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

 

Hubert H. Humphrey 38th U.S. Vice-President under Lyndon B. Johnson (1965-1969)

 “Fortunately, the time has long passed when people liked to regard the United States as some kind of melting pot, taking men and women from every part of the world and converting them into standardized, homogenized Americans. We are, I think, much more mature and wise today. Just as we welcome a world of diversity, so we glory in an America of diversity — an America all the richer for the many different and distinctive strands of which it is woven.”

Jimmy Carter 39th U.S. President (1977-1981)

“We are, of course a nation of differences. Those differences don’t make us weak. They’re the source of our strength.”

Bill Clinton 42nd US President (1993-2001)

 “Justice may be blind, but we all know that diversity in the courts, as in all aspects of society, sharpens our vision and makes us a stronger nation.”

Barack Obama 44th US President  (2009–)

“What the American people hope -– what they deserve -– is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.” State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2010

“We can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things.” Remarks at University of Michigan, May 1, 2010

I wanted to include this last quote even though it is not from an American President because if we all follow the advice, I believe the world could be a better place.

Andrew Masondo, African National Congress, Freedom Fighter, survivor of
Robben Island imprisonment along with Nelson Mandela

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities.”

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/o/obama_barack.html#mATJmI3mptUmu4hW.99 or http://thinkexist.com

Call me naive. But I just don’t understand why people are so threatened by a book that can expand a child’s understanding of the world. I am talking about the hullabaloo surrounding the magnificent picture book, Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  domesWhile I am late to the controversy, I want to add my two cents to the conversation. Mainly because the whole brouhaha is a perfect example of why we MUST give children all sorts of windows and mirrors. If we do not share stories from a range of multiple perspectives, then fear will flourish and people will wage war rather than create connections.

If, like me, you are just discovering that there was both a twitter battle and a parent who returned the book in disgust, you might be imagining a very toxic book. However, Hena Khan’s powerfully simple, rhyming text merely shares with the reader traditions and colors of Islam. The artwork by Mehrdokht Amini bathes the reader in the beauty of this way of being in the world.

Yet certain “gatekeepers” feel like it is their obligation to protect children.

But what could be possibly threatening about a culturally specific example of the universal concept of helping those in need?giveneed

I can only imagine the fear that makes someone react to a recommendation or purchase of the book with the stance that “Islam is dangerous” (part of the twitter battle with author/ former educator Kate Messner) or  “I don’t want this culture around my children,…Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair.)

While there are individuals in any group who may have extreme views or behaviors if we as the adult “gatekeepers” don’t expose children to multiple stories about multiple ways of being, we are accomplices in perpetuating intolerance and terror.

Answer: Godly Luck and the Three Pandas, a new retelling of the old fairytale. While Natasha Yim’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears isn’t my favorite, I do LOVE the Asian spin on this Western classic. The text isn’t as lively a read- aloud as I would like for such a plucky character but the cultural details and rituals surrounding the lunar new year festival are a fun introduction to Chinese new year.

This is a great conversation starter for younger students who are already familiar with Goldilock’s antics so they can pay closer attention to the dragon parade passing by the open window in Grace Zong’s illustrations.Image

 

Gong Hei Fat Choi” in Cantonese or “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin.