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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Our Young Children Shouldn’t Even Know What a Diet Is?

November 28, 2012

Message: Negative imagery painted with words like these are looked at by 500,000 people per year, a study has found

Our generation took body consciousness to a whole new level, with quite devastating results. We were taught to judge others not by the breadth of their character but by the size and shape of their bodies. It saddens me that this obsessive desire to look a certain way has seemingly overridden the desire of being a good person, resisting to gossip, being truthful and loyal to the people around us and acting with integrity. We live in a society where people would sell their souls for a preferred dress size and confidence is based on form and complexion over character development.

What has this philosophy provided us with?

Depression, peer pressure, cosmetic surgery addiction, diet crazes, suicide, bullying, anorexia and bulimia.

And what are we doing about it?

Passing the sickness on to our very young:

The internet is awash with pro-anorexia websites which thousands of girls – some as young as six – are using to compete against each other in deadly starvation games, a study has found.

More than 500 of these ‘gruesome’ sites exist and encourage vulnerable young women to barely eat and just drink coffee, smoke and take diet pills to look like a ‘goddess’.

Using the phrase ‘starving for perfection’ they say users should eat no more than 500 calories a day – the recommended level is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

They also include ‘thinspiration’ sections with images of super-slim women and in the last year 500,000 girls have admitted visiting them, and one in five were aged between six and 11.

University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich has carried out research into the issue and found than many of these websites are set up by people with anorexia and other eating disorders.

‘It starts with an individual who wants to share their experience and as they get a following they set themselves up as almost Goddess-like,’ researcher Dr Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies said.

‘When I started this research last January I came across a website set up by a girl who was disgusted with herself because she had put on a few pounds at Christmas. She planned to fast for three days and regain control.

‘In under two hours, she had 36 followers saying things like “You’re wonderful, you’re an inspiration to me, I’m only fasting because of you”.’

Some of the people are even posting pictures of themselves in very few clothes on thousands of blogs and on social media like Twitter.

Official figures show that one in 200 women and one in 2,000 men have anorexia – which means they starve themselves or exercise excessively to stay slim – although some experts believe the true number is much higher.

Around eight per cent of women and one per cent of men develop bulimia at some point. They binge on excessive amounts of food then make themselves sick or use laxatives to stop gaining weight.

Many sufferers of eating disorders hide their problem from family and friends by pretending they have already eaten to avoid meals and wearing baggy clothes to conceal their skeletal shape.

Doctors believe that anorexia or bulimia is more common in people who are perfectionists, tend to worry a lot or are often depressed.

Click on the link to read Charity Pays for Teen’s Plastic Surgery to Help Stop Bullying

Click on the link to read Most People Think This Woman is Fat

Click on the link to read It’s Time to Change the Culture of the Classroom

Click on the link to read Sparing Young Children the Affliction of Body Image

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Most People Think This Woman is Fat

June 3, 2012

This morning’s newspaper asked readers to comment on whether or not they thought this woman was fat. Whilst I don’t think this woman is fat at all, it is the question itself that got me worked up.

It reminded me about how obsessed we are about weight, and how this obsession is going to ensure that our children will spend more time aspiring to fit a certain look rather than to become good people.

Nobody seems to care anymore whether a person is caring, selfless, charitable or kind. These are attributes of losers. Surveys that ask what we would prefer to be, beautiful or kind, favour beautiful every time. The rationale being, that nobody is jealous of a kind person in the way they are of a good-looking one.

How are our children supposed to make sense of this?

It upsets me to see Primary aged children so conscious of their weight. It bothers me no end that 8-year olds know everything there is to know about the perfect body size and shape, but have no insights on the correct protocol for offering ones seat to an elderly person on a crowded train. The thought would never have entered their mind.

Haven’t we learnt our lesson? Did we not realise that an obsession with looks leads nowhere. It doesn’t make one happy. Why are we creating kids that follow our sick ways? Why are we perpetuating the message that there’s nothing wrong with gossiping, fakery and selfishness, but eating ice-cream is a sin?

So, no, I don’t find the woman fat. But guess what? I don’t care whether she is fat or not. I care whether she is a good woman, a kind wife, a loving mother, a loyal friend, a friendly co-worker etc. And ultimately, that’s what I want us all to look for.

There are frumpy, unfit people out there, with pale complexions who have unpopular taste in clothes. Some of these people are also tremendously kind and good-hearted. It would be criminal for us to marginalise these people, as some of them are the real beautiful people!

Police Handcuff a 6-Year Old Student

April 18, 2012

I wasn’t there so I should be careful not to be too critical, but I can’t help but wonder how calling the police on a 6-year old having a severe tantrum is the right way to go. I feel this drastic step is a very bad look for the school. It gives the message that all is not right at the place where parents trust that their child is safe and well cared for. When a 6-year old presents such a risk that police are required, it doesn’t say a great deal about the school’s capacity to deal with problem students, especially older ones.

Police in Georgia defended their decision Tuesday to handcuff and arrest a 6-year-old elementary student after the school called to report a juvenile had assaulted a principal and was damaging school property.

Milledgeville police said they were called to Creekside Elementary School on Friday for an unruly juvenile, who was allegedly throwing a tantrum.

According to their report, when the officer arrived, he observed kindergartner Salecia Johnson on the floor of the principal’s office screaming and crying.

The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”

“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.

Despite the girl’s behavior, her family said police should not have been involved.

“I don’t think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken downtown to the police department,” Johnson’s aunt, Candace Ruff, told CNN affiliate WMAZ.

The girl was released to Ruff after numerous attempts to reach her parents failed, the police report said.

Swicord said his department still has not heard from the girl’s mother or father.

But the parents have spoken to reporters.

“Call the police? Is that the first step?” Johnson’s mother, Constance Ruff, asked.

Johnson’s mother said she wondered if there was “any other kind of intervention” the school could have used to help her daughter.

“They don’t have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child,” said Salecia’s father, Earnest Johnson.

I also wonder why the school couldn’t have dealt with this in-house, or at least call a family member before resorting to getting the police involved.

Having said that, I feel that the parents should have declined interviews and resisted finger-pointing, and instead focussed on the behaviour of their child. That child needs to know that her behaviour was unacceptable and dangerous. By focussing on the school’s handling of the incident, the parents seem to be sending the message that this behaviour was somehow excusable.

I am also quite comfortable with the police’s handling of the situation. Once called, they have every right to use handcuff should they deem it necessary to subdue the child.

There are millions of loving parents out there with often a lack of choice when it comes to the schools their child can go to. They need to have the confidence that if an incident erupts the school has the wherewithal to deal with the problem in a calm and thorough manner.

By calling the police on a 6-year old, I wonder what message that sends to parents who have no choice but to trust that their child’s school is capable of looking after its students.

The Teacher Bashing Era Must End

February 26, 2012

Teachers have never been more criticised and devalued than they are right now. Whilst you can’t blame all negative incidents on a political and media campaign against teaching standards, I’m sure children pick up on the discontent in the wider community.

To read that three children in the 5th Grade twice attempted to poison their teacher, makes me wonder how children as young as that can rationalise in their own minds that killing their teacher would be a worthwhile solution to their problems:

Three California fifth-graders who confessed to using rat poison in attempts to harm their teacher are being moved to other schools.

The three students at Balderas Elementary School in Fresno admitted lacing the teacher’s coffee and a cupcake with rat poison in two separate incidents, according to the Fresno Teachers Association and published reports.

Miraculously, the teacher never took a sip of the coffee or a bite of the cupcake.

One of the three accused students apparently had a change of heart and knocked the coffee cup out of the teacher’s hand before she could drink from it.

The mid-December incidents came to light two months after they happened because a parent of one of the students bragged that her boy saved a teacher’s life.

No criminal charges have been filed against the two boys and one girl, according to ABC’s Fresno affiliate KFSN. The Fresno Police Department is continuing to investigate, but says there is little or no physical evidence remaining from the December incidents. The Fresno County district attorney’s office will decide whether to press charges against the children.

All three students have been expelled and moved to other schools, according to KFSN. The two boys are being transfered to the Phoenix Academy, which does not sit well with at least one of its teachers.

This story is quite sickening. I wonder if those students involved were in any way incited by a general lack of community respect for the teaching fraternity.

Should Parents Be Allowed to Smack Their Children?

January 29, 2012

Parenting is a difficult job, and as much as I am not in favour of smacking, I think it inappropriate for me as a loving yet imperfect parent to impose restrictions on other parents. How they choose to discipline their children should not be up to me or our politicians.

I believe that smacking does little good in the long-term and can potentially do a disservice to the child. Yet, I was smacked by my parents and have nothing but respect for the way they reared me. They clearly disciplined me out of love and an unwavering determination to enforce healthy routines and boundaries, not out of frustration.

I realise that smacking can escalate into worse cases of abuse, and I naturally abhor the abuse of children. I must say, that I also dislike the spoiling of children and the indifference of some parents in setting boundaries and enforcing consequences for their childs’ unruly behaviour.

Advocate good parenting skills and practices by all means, but don’t stop parents from doing what they feel is right for their own children.

The Bid to Make Barbie Bald

January 13, 2012

I am not a big fan of Barbie. However, I think the initiative to get Mattel to include a cancer suffering “Bald Barbie” has plenty of merit:

Most kids in America recognize Barbie immediately.

She’s tall, she’s thin, and she’s…bald?

Rebecca Sypin is one of the people behind this Facebook campaign urging Mattel to create a bald Barbie, one she says children battling cancer and other diseases that cause hair loss can relate to.

“When you go to the supermarket, sometimes you have little kids who’ve never seen it before, staring, and I think it would make it much more mainstream and more normal for kids to see that,” said Sypin.

Sypin knows about children and cancer all too well. Her daughter, Kin Inich, is battling leukemia.

“Everybody else has hair, even a boy has hair and you don’t. So it would make you feel like you’re Barbie, you would be the glamorous girl with the big lifestyle and everything now,” said Kin.

The Beautiful and Bald Barbie Facebook page has been up and running for less than a month, and already has more than 65,000 friends.

But despite that support, Sypin says the bald Barbie idea has gotten a cool reception from Mattel, saying that the company has told her they do not take unsolicited Barbie doll suggestions from outside sources.

A bald Barbie may still be a possibility though. Mattel released a written statement Thursday saying the company is honored that so many people are looking to Barbie as the face of such an important cause.

“We receive hundreds of passionate requests for various dolls to be added to our collection,” the statement reads. “We take all of them seriously and are constantly exploring new and different dolls to be added to our line.”

Let’s face it. The reason that Mattel seem less than enthusiastic about the idea, is that it would almost certainly make a loss. That, and the fact that the Barbie name is synonymous with looks and dimensions that lack realism and are deliberately out of proportion. A doll that humanises the Barbie name and presents her as flawed and vulnerable is not what they are setting out to do.

I will be watching closely to see whether or not Mattel has the conviction to bypass profits for this extremely noteworthy cause. If they don’t, it will only serve to reaffirm my current dislike of the product.

Teachers Administered “Slave” Maths Problems

January 11, 2012

When I first heard about the story of a teacher who wrote maths problems such as, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”, I was as angry as many of the people calling for the teacher’s sacking.

After further contemplation, I am no longer as irate.

This teacher made an awful mistake (and one that will brand him/her, rightly or wrongly, as a racist). It was a very poor choice of maths problem and I am sure that the teacher involved feels very ashamed about their role in this incident. I have to say, that I don’t think this teacher was being racist. But I wont go too far in my defence, as some acts of stupidity defy any plausible defence.

A Georgia school insisted today there was no “maliciousness” intended when a third grade math quiz asked students to compute the number of beatings a slave got a week and to calculate how many baskets of cotton he picked.

But the Gwinnett County School District has launched an investigation to determine how the offending questions made it onto the students’ homework sheets.

The math homework assignment was given to more than 100 students at Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross, Ga., as part of a social studies lesson, Gwinnett County school officials said. The assignment outraged parents, community activists and members of the Georgia NAACP.

Sloan Roach, a Gwinnett County school district spokeswoman, told ABCNews.com that the students were studying famous Americans and as an attempt to create a cross-curricular worksheet, one teacher used Frederick Douglass and slavery beatings for two of the questions.

Although only one teacher wrote out the controversial questions, another teacher made copies of the assignment and it was distributed to four out of nine third grade classes at Beaver Ridge, Roach said. The school is not publicly naming any of the teachers who are suspected to be involved.

In lashing out against the school and its teachers, I think people are missing a small but still important side story. There is a growing obsession in educational circles to integrate the curriculum. Teachers are called on to integrate all subjects under an unbrella topic. For example, as this year in an Olympic Year, many teachers will plan their maths, language, science, art and music classes around the Olympic theme. This can work well, as the topic lends itself quite easily to the subjects listed above.

But then you have a subject like American History and Slavery. You are the maths teacher, and you have to find a way to cover the curriculum whilst at the same time, covering the topic of slavery. This is neither an easy task nor a fair one. I am glad that I haven’t been asked to combine the two, as I would find it all too hard.

It is time we realised that not every topic can be integrated across the curriculum. Sometimes you have to let the maths teacher teach maths, without imposing on them a topic that doesn’t fit well with skills such as chance and data and order of operations.

Was this teacher in the wrong? Absolutely! Was he/she a racist. Probably not. Should the teachers found administering this worksheet be fired? I don’t think so. Should a maths teacher ever be expected to combine maths problems with a slavery topic?

I would have thought the answer to that question was obvious.

The Courts Are Failing to Protect Our Children

November 30, 2011

If you ever needed a reminder at how weak our courts appear to be when it comes to protecting the safety and wellbeing of our children, take the bewildering case of former Tasmanian MP, Terence Lewis Martin.

Mr. Martin was found guilty of sex offences (which included having oral sex and taking photographs) with a 12-year-old girl.

Did he get life imprisonment? Nope!

How about 20 years? Try Again!

Well, surely he got at least a 10 year jail sentence? Not even close!

No, Mr. Martin got to walk free with a suspended sentence!

Walk free?

Why you ask?  Good question!

THE former MP guilty of sex offences with a 12-year-old girl has walked free from court with a suspended sentence, provoking outrage from anti-abuse campaigners and some of the girls’ relatives.

Former Tasmanian upper house MP Terence Lewis Martin had been in custody since being found guilty last week of unlawful sexual intercourse with a young person and of producing child exploitation material.

In the Supreme Court in Hobart yesterday, judge David Porter handed down a 10-month prison sentence, with the balance suspended provided the 54-year-old remains of good behaviour for two years.

Outside court, Martin was abused and challenged by a group that included relatives of the girl.

Justice Porter said a “dominant factor” in his sentencing of Martin was that the former MP had been suffering hyper-sexuality caused by medication for Parkinson’s disease. He had concluded there was a “direct causal link” between this dopamine agonist medication and Martin’s offences.

The judge said the condition caused by the medication had impaired Martin’s ability to make moral judgments and therefore “his moral culpability is reduced”.

“But for the medication, he would not be facing sentencing for this crime,” Justice Porter said.

Martin, a Labor-turned-independent MP and a former mayor of Glenorchy, in Hobart’s north, had oral sex with the girl and took naked photographs of her in September 2009.

Martin had pleaded not guilty and insisted he believed the girl was 18. When first confronted by police, he expressed shock that she was 12 and “disgust” at having engaged in sex acts with a child.

So let’s get this straight:

1. Mr. Martin’s excuse at the time was that the girl looked 18 when she was in fact 12.  Give me a break!

2. The judge says that Mr. Martin wouldn’t have offended if it wasn’t for the medication.  How would he be able to make that statement with such certainty? Even if the medication does indeed take away a person’s moral judgement, it surely doesn’t mean that they will do something this heinous. You can’t tell me that an average person stripped of their moral judgement would start taking up pedophilia as a result of their clouded sensibilities.

3. If this drug is indeed seen as so destructive to a reasonable person’s moral judgement as to compel him to sexually molest a 12-year-old girl, why didn’t the judge call for the medication to be banned. Any bet, the drug stays on the shelves regardless of the implications as a result of this trial.

Either the drug is the culprit and it needs to be banned, or this former MP is just making excuses, in which case he would need to be locked up for many years.

Whatever way you look at it, it seems that this 12 year-old girl, like many others, have been given a very raw deal by our courts.

Big Tobacco Funding Primary Schools

September 23, 2011

In today’s age, knowing what we know about the risks of smoking, how is it possible that tobacco companies have access to schools?  As important as it is to take into account cultural differences, China has no excuse in allowing tobacco companies to make their pitch to impressionable young children.  The cost of a quality education is not worth it if it comes with lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema.

MORE than 100 primary schools in China are sponsored by tobacco companies in a move described by anti-smoking campaigners as hunting for the next generation of smokers.

The schools often have the names of Chinese cigarette brands, such as Zhongnanhai or Liqun, over their gates and in some cases have promotional slogans in the playground.

”Talent comes from hard work – Tobacco helps you become talented,” says one slogan, in foot-high gilt letters, on the front of the Sichuan Tobacco Hope Primary School.

Tobacco helps you become talented?  No China, tobacco helps you die well and truly before your time!
Unfortunately, the message is successfully getting through to China’s underage demographic:
There are 16 million smokers under the age of 15 in China, 6.3 per cent of the youth population, according to the Chinese government.

For a country that is reknown for its strict regulations, it is mistifying that there is no regulations prohibiting tobacco from parading their brands in schools.

Making a Difference

September 6, 2011

I just read a brilliant piece by Charles M. Blow from the New York Times.  Blow was driven to write the article because “he wanted to celebrate a group that is often maligned: teachers.”

What touched me so much about his piece was his account of Mrs. Thomas, a teacher who he described as changing the direction of his life.

The first teacher to clear those hurdles in my life was Mrs. Thomas.

From the first through third grades, I went to school in a neighboring town because it was the school where my mother got her first teaching job. I was not a great student. I was slipping in and out of depression from a tumultuous family life that included the recent divorce of my parents. I began to grow invisible. My teachers didn’t seem to see me nor I them. (To this day, I can’t remember any of their names.)

My work began to suffer so much that I was temporarily placed in the “slow” class. No one even talked to me about it. They just sent a note. I didn’t believe that I was slow, but I began to live down to their expectations.

When I entered the fourth grade, my mother got a teaching job in our hometown and I came back to my hometown school. I was placed in Mrs. Thomas’s class.

There I was, a little nothing of a boy, lost and slumped, flickering in and out of being.

She was a pint-sized firecracker of a woman, with short curly hair, big round glasses set wider than her face, and a thin slit of a mouth that she kept well-lined with red lipstick.

On the first day of class, she gave us a math quiz. Maybe it was the nervousness of being the “new kid,” but I quickly jotted down the answers and turned in the test — first.

“Whoa! That was quick. Blow, we’re going to call you Speedy Gonzales.” She said it with a broad approving smile, and the kind of eyes that warmed you on the inside.

She put her arm around me and pulled me close while she graded my paper with the other hand. I got a couple wrong, but most of them right.

I couldn’t remember a teacher ever smiling with approval, or putting their hand around me, or praising my performance in any way.

It was the first time that I felt a teacher cared about me, saw me or believed in me. It lit a fire in me. I never got a bad grade again. I figured that Mrs. Thomas would always be able to see me if I always shined. I always wanted to make her as proud of me as she seemed to be that day. And, she always was.

In high school, the district sent a man to test our I.Q.’s. Turns out that not only was I not slow, but mine and another boy’s I.Q. were high enough that they created a gifted-and-talented class just for the two of us with our own teacher who came to our school once a week. I went on to graduate as the valedictorian of my class.

And all of that was because of Mrs. Thomas, the firecracker of a teacher who first saw me and smiled with the smile that warmed me on the inside.

So to all of the Mrs. Thomases out there, all the teachers struggling to reach lost children like I was once, I just want to say thank you. You deserve our admiration, not our contempt.


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