Archive for April, 2007

The Definition of Insanity

Monday, April 23rd, 2007


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed) US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

I’m not sure how we expect things to get better when we aren’t doing anything differently. We have to understand a problem before we can fix it. Unfortunately, we aren’t giving current problems enough attention to actually fix them, so they come back to haunt us.

What you’ll see below is our child-like ability to be easily distracted by the next big news story. Let’s step back a few years and look at the news stories just before 9/11.

In the year 2000, we were watching a million moms march to protect us from gun violence, but that lost news coverage.

If you recall, that summer prior to 9/11 was the summer of shark attacks. Did we ever figure out what prompted the attacks?

That is until the search for missing former intern Chandra Levy focused the spotlight on U.S. Rep. Gary Condit. Did we ever figure out who killed Chandra Levy?

The mystery with Chandra Levy’s disappearance was dramatically overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks; also know as the day the world changed. Did we ever find Osama Bin Laden?

In more recent news we had a series of child abductions where both 13-year-old Ben Ownby and 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck were found at an apartment in Kirkwood, miles from the rural locations where the boys disappeared 4 1/2 years apart, but we still don’t protect our children well enough from predators.

That story was overshadowed by a diaper clad Lisa Nowak, a Navy captain, accused of accosting Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, 30, in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport early Monday and spraying her with pepper spray.

The astronaut story was overshadowed by the death of Anna Nicole Smith which took over the headlines for a very long time.

Which was then overshadowed by Don Imus’s comments about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team. These were not new comments or new problems – just news. But we are distracted once again, and won’t stop to resolve the root cause of the Imus comments or racial tension that still exists.

Because the Imus comments were overshadowed by the shootings at Virgina Tech which just seem to bring us back to the first line of this blog – protecting us against gun violence.

We certainly qualify under Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Virgina Tech 4/16 is a 9/11 Like Numbness

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Time heals what reason cannot. – Seneca

We felt the same numbness in the days following 9/11.

Families looking for their children were a reminder of the families looking for loved ones in the post 9/11 days where pictures and names were posted. At that time, postings were on walls surrounding Ground Zero, in local hospitals, churches and make shift memorials.

Yesterday, names were posted on newly posted websites sharing whatever information they could. Some read names of those missing, while others were listed under the category ‘OK’ and sadly there were posts of those deceased.

The frightening events of those moments were captured in a student’s cell cam video where we can hear the chilling sounds of bullets being fired.

Where and when will our children be safe?

For now, our prayers go to the victims’ families and friends and we hope the long process of healing can begin. More than anything, let’s pray these awful stories end.

May 18, 1927

Bath, Mich.: Andrew Kehoe, a school board official, kills his wife, then blows up the town’s school, killing more than 40 people, including himself.

Aug. 1, 1966

Austin, Tex.: Charles J. Whitman kills 16 and injures 31 from atop the University of Texas tower.

Jan. 16, 1979

San Diego, Calif.: Brenda Spencer, 16, waits outside the Cleveland Elementary School for the principal to open the school. For 20 minutes, she fired on arriving students and teachers. She killed the principal and school caretaker, and injured nine students between the ages of 6 and 12. She then went home and waited for police to arrive. “. . . I just did it for the fun of it. . . . ,” Spencer told police. She was convicted on two counts of murder and is serving two 25-to-life sentences.

Dec. 1, 1997

West Paducah, Ky.: Michael Carneal, 14, fatally shoots three classmates and wounds five at a high school prayer meeting.

May 20, 1988

Winnetka, Ill.: A mentally ill woman named Laurie Dann steps into a second-grade classroom with two handguns and opens fire, killing a child and wounding five others. Dann flees the school and later kills herself.

Feb. 2 1996

Moses Lake, Wash.: Barry Loukaitis, 14, walks into algebra class at a junior high school and opens fire with a hunting rifle. The teacher and two students are killed, and one student is wounded. He is convicted in 1997 of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and sentenced to two life terms without parole.

Oct. 1, 1997

Pearl, Miss.: Luke Woodham, 16, stabs his mother to death before going to Pearl High School and shooting nine students. Two die, including Woodham’s ex-girlfriend; seven others are wounded. Woodham is convicted as an adult in June 1998. He is serving three life sentences.

Dec. 1, 1997

West Paducah, Ky.: Three students are killed and five wounded while praying in a school hallway. A 14-year-old, Michael Carneal, is arrested and pleads guilty but mentally ill to three counts of murder and six other charges related to the shootings. He was sentenced Dec. 17 to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years.

March 24, 1998

Jonesboro, Ark.: A 13-year-old boy and his 11-year-old cousin open fire outside a middle school, killing four girls and a teacher and injuring 11 others.

April 24, 1998

Edinboro, Pa.: Andrew Wurst, 14, is arrested for shooting to death science teacher John Gillette in front of students at a middle school graduation dance. Two 14-year-old boys are wounded. Wurst will be tried as an adult.

May 19, 1998

Fayetteville, Tenn.: Jacob Davis, an 18-year-old honor student, fatally shoots a classmate in the school’s parking lot. The victim was dating his ex-girlfriend. Davis awaits trial.

May 21, 1998

Springfield, Ore.: Kip Kinkel, 15, fatally shoots four and wounds dozens after being suspended a day earlier for bringing a gun to school.

June 15, 1998

Richmond, Va.: Quinshawn Booker, a 14-year-old student who is angry at a classmate, opens fire in a crowded high school hallway, wounding a 45-year-old social studies teacher and a 74-year-old Head Start volunteer. Booker pleads guilty to five charges and will remain at a school for troubled boys until he completes its program.

April 20, 1999

Near Littleton, Colo.: After planning for a year, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, kill 12 students and a teacher and wound dozens before killing themselves at Columbine High School.

March 21, 2005

Red Lake, Minn.: On an Indian reservation, Jeff Weise, 16, kills his grandfather and a companion, five fellow students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself.

Aug. 24, 2006

Essex, Vt.:2 Dead In Vermont School Shooting Police: Elementary School Teacher Possibly Killed; 4 Others Injured

Oct. 2, 2006

Nickel Mines, Pa.: Charles C. Roberts IV, 32, shoots 11 girls execution-style at an Amish school, killing four of them and wounding seven.

Don’t Lose the Lesson

Saturday, April 14th, 2007


We need to be reminded of the children’s poem “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me.” After listening to the articulate and heartfelt comments by the Rutger’s team of talented, educated young women and their coach we know that it is not true; words can harm you.

Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. – Edward R. Murrow

These ‘wrongs’ are protected by our rights. This country is still the greatest experiment in the world and does allow freedom of speech. We are divided various issues that largely center on the words we use and who can use them. This is a slippery slope. Who will make decisions on freedom of speech?

Don’t lose all the lessons that we’ve learned from this news du jour experience. Discuss what happened with your children and most importantly how they should treat people. Why was this offensive comment highlighted when Don Imus and others have a history of making offensive comments? There were a number of reasons:

The comments made by Don Imus were targeted to a specific group. Much like tossing a pebble in small pond, the ripple effect of those comments was hurtful to real people. While other comments are equally offensive or worse, they impact such a broad audience that people don’t feel the comments are directed to them and tend to be ignored, similar to tossing a pebble in an ocean. It would require a large group to mobilize and challenge those comments and hold the offender accountable.

We are in a world of 24-hour news, YouTube and convergence of technology so you will see those comments hundreds if not thousands of times. Important for young people to remember that pictures and video captured and posted on the Internet is there forever, so don’t be foolish about what you do and say.

Address the root cause of the situation and explain to your children why stereotypes are unfair and wrong, and encourage them when disagreeing with someone how to deal with that. Name calling is clearly not a solution.

Explain that when children feel something is wrong, they have a choice and can call a sponsor to say that content is offensive. If they feel very strongly about it, they can let the sponsor know that if the sponsor continues to support a particular show, as a consumer, you will no longer be a customer.

Finally, let’s celebrate and discuss the news we should – the accomplishment of these young women to reach the NCAA finals. They earned and deserved that moment.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol US artist (1928 – 1987)

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007


In a scene from the movie Mean Girls, an eight-year old girl pulls up her shirt while dancing in front of the television watching a commercial for Girls Gone Wild.

Girls get this message repeatedly: What matters is how “hot” they look. It plays on TV and across the Internet. You hear it in song lyrics and music videos. You see it in movies, electronic games, and clothing stores. It’s a constant, powerful message.

Fortunately as a result of pressure, Hasbro has canceled plans to produce a line of fashion dolls modeled on the pop act the Pussycat Dolls after parents objected to the group’s racy image.

Hasbro saw the Dolls series as a line that would fit in with — and compete against — the Bratz fashion dolls from MGA Entertainment. But an advocacy group, Dads and Daughters, recently mounted a letter-writing campaign pressing the company to shelve the Dolls line.


Psychologists call for replacing sexualized images of girls in media and advertising with positive ones

A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.

“The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” says Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development.”

As parents, you can teach girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how they look. You can teach boys to value girls as friends, sisters, and girlfriends, rather than as sexual objects. And, much like the Dads & Daughters organization, you can advocate for change with manufacturers and media producers.

Our little girls have a right to be little.

Tina Nocera is the founder of Parental Wisdom, a patented parenting website.

Parents – The Perfect Educational Toy

Friday, April 6th, 2007


Play is the highest form of research.
-Albert Einstein, German-American physicist 1879-1945

How do you build a brighter baby? Recent studies show that it isn’t necessarily done by sitting them in front of CDs and DVDs that promise to make them smarter.

I have often questioned the notion about these educational products and found a major flaw. Don’t most parents know their colors, letters and numbers? If as I suspect they do, then can’t parents teach their children what the educational products promise?

The underlying message to our children is this device (TV, DVD player, etc.) is where you will learn; it is the authority. That is fine and safe when we’re talking about learning our colors, letters, and numbers, but jump ahead a few years when the information presented is questionable. “But mom and dad, you told me this was where I get my information from!”

Do children learn through play – absolutely! But watching a DVD is exactly the opposite of the kind of play they should be doing. The best toys are the simplest toys like blocks and those that inspire creative play. Electronic toys that seem to offer the most stimulation are actually the least effective for doing what parents want most – to raise a thinking child.

No harm comes from putting your child in front of these educational products but there has been no evidence that any good comes from them either. I’ve always been strangely uneasy about these educational DVDs, and recently read Your Children Are Under Attack by Dr. Jim Taylor. In one statement he clarified my fears. [Even good media can be bad as it can make your child an observer rather than a participant.] It is almost like saying to a parent would you like to raise a leader or a follower?

The very best educational toy has always been there, right under your nose – it’s you!

Play with your children.

Marketing Apples to Stop Childhood Obesity

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007


My six-year old nephew Gerard didn’t know what he wanted for Christmas, so I asked if he liked any of the toys he saw on TV commercials. “There are no toy commercials, Aunt Tina,” he said, “Only food commercials.” That conversation happened about four years ago.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released a study entitled Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States which proves what my nephew and all kids knew for a long time. They are targets for food commercials. Up to now, the governments’ position was that they can’t regulate parenting which they felt was the real problem contributing to the increase in childhood obesity. After all, there was no quantifiable data. They now have such information.

New Study Finds That Food is the Top Product Seen Advertised by Children – Among All Children, Tweens See the Most Food Ads at More than 20 a Day
34% of All Food Ads Targeting Children or Teens are for Candy and Snacks
Half of All Ads Shown During Children’s Shows are for Food

Types of Food Advertised. Of all food ads in the study that target children or teens, 34% are for candy and snacks, 28% are for cereal, and 10% are for fast foods. Four percent are for dairy products and 1% for fruit juices. Of the 8,854 ads reviewed in the study, there were none for fruits or vegetables targeting children or teens.

Follow the Money

Decades ago, an anonymous source known only as Deep Throat told Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to “Follow the money” which led them to expose the Watergate cover-up. That advice still works.

Follow the money to cure the childhood obesity problem. Let’s find a way for marketers to make money from healthy foods and our problem is solved.

To see a slide presentation.