GoldieBlox: Up With Girls (sort of)

We’ve had some discussion of GoldieBlox on the forum recently, but that conversation moved on and I’m finding myself still obsessed with the topic. On the one hand, I think the idea behind the ad is awesome! I had been having a hard time figuring out how GoldieBlox would be a toy that would be engaging over a long period of time of creative play, and the ad certainly directly addresses that point. And I love that my daughter has spent more than 6 hours over the last few days building her own Rube Goldberg machine.

But I am also interested in the views from this blog post on Fake and Real Student Voice

I like much about this video. I like the message. I like the way it’s shot. I like the girls. What I don’t like is the perception that this is the girl’s invention. It’s not. These girls are likely no more into inventing and making than most girls their age. While I might be able to look past that, and I can, I don’t like the perception that this is authentic as it suggests. Which raises the larger question of authentic student voice.

Somehow it seems even more disingenuous when I realize that the engineering team for the GoldieBlox ad is primarily male. If you watch the Making Of videos on YouTube, that’s the single thing that jumps out at me most. That, and watching the kids be coached on how to jump up and down in girly excitement.

For a palate-cleanser: a group of middle school girls build their own damn Rube Goldberg machine themselves.

I am not planning to buy GoldieBlox for my kids– mostly because every time I look at the toy itself, it seems very expensive for a very few pieces of plastic machinery without a huge amount of creative play options. If I did buy it, it would not be for the toy itself, but more like a charity donation to encourage women in STEM, and there are probably better ways for me to do that. But my kids have, love, and play with regularly:
Wooden blocks
Toolbox and wood scraps
Ropes, elastic (good for engineering and sewing), yarn, ribbon,
Science/nature kits with binoculars, magnifying glasses, notebooks, butterfly nets and cages, and a handful of field guides

They also have Snap Circuits and a toy chemistry set, neither of which were as popular as I’d hoped, mostly because they seem to like open-ended toys like blocks more than kits like Snap Circuits or GoldieBlox.

A while back, I put together a holiday wishlist including things like pulleys and tire swing swivels (the swing mechanics are part of their Rube Goldberg). I’m going to go back through it this year, and see what other “simple machines” accessories I can add to their collection. And I will be thankful (though apparently also grumpy) that the GoldieBlox ad has renewed their interest in simple machines.

Anybody else have strong feelings about GoldieBlox, encouraging STEM in our girls, the intersection of ideals vs. real world (WTF, seriously, if you are making a viral ad AND releasing a “making of” that will certainly also be shown to little girls, you can’t find a 50-50 gender balance in your engineering team?), or even parody vs. unlicensed music pirating for their theme song? Join me on the topic Goldie Blox, feminism, STEM, and an all-male engineering team.

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More about the video: Grape Girls Rube Goldberg Project, May 2013, PVJH

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Debunking Anti-Vax

Don't rely on herd immunity.Last month on Facebook, I posted a link to the HuffPo article I’m Coming Out… as Pro-Vaccine with this comment:

If you are relying on herd immunity because you are afraid of vaccination side effects, do you know what you’re really saying? “Vaccination is risky. You do it instead. My kids are more valuable than yours.” I have a response to that, but I’m trying to cut back on profanity on Facebook.

I’m lucky: my kids are fully vaccinated and attending a school where vaccination exceptions are rare. (How do I know this? We procrastinated on our fall vaccinations until the week before school started, and fielded many increasingly annoyed phone calls from the school nurse as a result.) But not everybody is that fortunate. The (really active) topic Vaccinations is full of stories like these:

What is the percentage of vaccine-exempted kids that would make you unwilling to send your child to a particular school?

G is starting public first grade next year, and we’ve been looking at schools.  So far, the leading contender has been a school that is close to our house and has a Montessori mixed-age program, which would be a good fit for her academically.  However, about 13% of the students there have filed a personal exemption from vaccination.  I’m not sure exactly why this is (maybe the Montessori program attracts more “alternative” parents?) but it’s been consistent for at least the past few years.

I know 95% vaccination is the generally quoted figure for herd immunity, but does anyone have a concrete sense of the risks of dipping below that?  It will really be a bummer if we have to rule out this school on this basis, but of course I don’t want to expose G to risk.

I have a great moms group in my area with lots of fun, fairly crunchy “alternative” moms.  Along with that, many of them are delaying or abstaining from standard vaccinations. We’ve been on schedule for the most part with my daughter, so I’m not too worried about her.  But I’m pregnant now, and there’s been a measles outbreak in my area, so I’m worried that I need to make a whole new set of friends who actually vax their kids.  Anyone been in this situation themselves?  what did you do?

If you’re in a similar situation, you might be interested in all topics tagged “vaccine,” particularly Vaccinations, Vaccines and Autism – Belief, Science, “Debate”, Vaccines, 9/11, and Climate Change: Confronting Conspiracy and False Belief, and Has anyone here chosen not to vaccinate their kids? You’ll find lots of thoughtful discussions on how to handle unvaxed friends and families around your newborn, how to determine the risk of attending a school with a large unvaxed population, and how to debunk anti-vax studies and articles.

Feeling a bit more on the fence about vaccinations? You might check out Vaccination scheduling – is it kind of flexible?Has anyone here chosen not to vaccinate their kids? or is anyone NOT getting the seasonal flu and h1n1 vaxes for their kids?

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This is Not About Miley Cyrus

I was scrolling through new discussion topics a few days ago, and this quote caught my eye:

I’m interested in talking about Miley Cyrus.

And I thought, “UGH! No! No, I’m not interested in talking about Miley Cyrus! I am sick to death of Miley Cyrus!” But the rest of the paragraph made me pause:

Interested in the interplay of empathy and pop culture? Check out the thread The Myth of the Teen Girl Temptress and Violence Against Women (log in first, it’s in the Politics section).

Not her grotesque performance, but how she’s the culmination of some really messed up stuff going on in our culture. There’s a proliferation of hyper-sexualized images of young girls everywhere, and a (responsive?) backlash against women in the form of violence, rape, and legislative restrictions on women’s access to health care, fair workplace cultures, etc.

The rest of the topic  The Myth of the Teen Girl Temptress and Violence Against Women has a a nice summary of articles to bring you up to speed, if you are as pop-culture-illiterate as I am.

But I’m sure you’re as sick of Miley as I am, so I’ll tell you the real reason I’m writing this article, in the face of absolute Miley saturation. It’s this post:

I think prejudice (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classicism, etc) is a tool used for moral disengagement.

Anyway, enough about the VMAs. I’ve been thinking about dehumanization and violence a lot this year, especially when the Steubenville trial was in the news. I think prejudice (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classicism, etc) is a tool used for moral disengagement. The ultimate moral disengagement is dehumanization, and dehumanization justifies and condones violence. An author I really like clearly had the same thoughts during the time of the Steubenville trial, because that week, she came out with this excellent article about research examining the earliest stages of moral reasoning: Machiavellian kids? Bullies, empathy, and moral reasoning. She believes the preventative to dehumanization is empathy, and I wholeheartedly agree. She wrote a great article about that four years ago: Teaching empathy: Evidence-based tips for fostering empathy in children. So when it comes to talking with our kids about these things, I think teaching empathy is as necessary a part of the discussion as is media literacy.

This is not about Miley Cyrus. It’s about empathy.

Got more to say about pop culture, feminism, violence against women, or fostering empathy? Comment below, or log into the forum to participate in the thread The Myth of the Teen Girl Temptress and Violence Against Women.

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How to be an effective citizen lobbyist?

workers and activists making their pointToday’s most interesting question:

On Saturday, I will be part of a group of 6 people meeting with my state assemblymember to encourage his support of gun control legislation. I made the appointment, so I’m feeling pretty front-and-center, although the woman who asked me to do it is an old hand at this stuff and very involved with the Brady campaign. She encouraged us to bring the kids, which adds another wrinkle. I do have my assigned talking points, although I need to figure out exactly how to cover them.

So – do you do this? Have you done this? Do you work with politicians? What can you tell me that will help me be a good advocate?

It turns out that altdotlife members have a lot of tips (and professional expertise) on how to approach your friendly neighborhood politician and actually get the results you’re hoping for.

Got some tips of your own to share? Leave a comment below, or log into the forum to participate in the thread Amateur Lobbyist Seeks Guidance.

You should be able to lay out your case succinctly and make sure you have a clear ask- get this bill posted in the committee, sponsor the bill, ask your colleagues to sponsor the bill, vote for the bill, etc.  You will likely have only about 15 minutes.  And make sure you follow up with a thank you and a reminder about the ask!  Get his legislative director’s name or chief of staff or whoever the aide is who you will follow up with.  I do an email for the thank you and then call with follow up.

Here are some more quick tips:

  1. Practice your elevator pitch a few times.  Generally they like hearing that you are in their district and a personal story or connection. I have met with state senators for work and had set patter as well as a story about someone in their district (if not about my life in their district).
  2. If you’re going to bring your kids, overdress them (fancy stuff) and practice their adorable greetings. (Protip: have someone available to whisk them away at the first whine.)
  3. Do you have printed materials that state and support your point? I think that is very useful, particularly if you end up meeting with a staffer instead of the elected.
  4. If you are asking for support of a particular bill, ask what his/her position is.
  5. Never underestimate the power of “Can I count on you to…[insert request here].”
  6. Don’t be insulted if you end up with an aide. Legislators have a huge amount that they have to keep track of and their aides do a lot of the heavy lifting on the policy side.
  7. Legislators and their staff can both be great sources of information about other legislators’ positions, how they expect bills to move in/out of committee, etc.
  8. The best way to increase the impact/pressure resulting from the visit would be to bring in media coverage.  Even bringing a reporter or photographer along from some tiny local paper would help.
  9. Don’t forget to thank the legislator.

Image credit: workers and activists making their point by Old Sarge

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