My Point Exactly – The STORY of Stuff

Serendipitously the New York Times published a front page article yesterday about “The Story of Stuff”, a short movie about man’s impact on the environment. It makes the point I was after in Sunday’s post about the power of story-line in instructional materials. The movie has gone viral globally (7 million views) because it encapsulates the lesson in a broader narrative that kids (and grown ups) can connect to their own lives.

Some quotes from the article that support the contention that we can use stories more effectively in instruction and that we can trust kids to make up their own minds when given a chance to.

“…many educators say the video is a boon to teachers as they struggle to address the gap in what textbooks say about the environment and what science has revealed in recent years.”
“Mark Lukach, who teaches global studies at Woodside Priory, a Catholic college-preparatory school in Portola Valley, Calif., acknowledged that the film is edgy, but said the 20-minute length gives students time to challenge it in class after viewing it….Mr. Lukach’s students made a response video and posted it on YouTube, asking Ms. Leonard to scare them less and give them ideas on how to make things better. That in turn inspired high school students in Mendocino, Calif., to post an answer to Woodside, with suggested activities.”

Ironically Missoula banned the movie because of something they call “academic freedom” but which is the direct opposite of it. They banned it because it is one sided and biased and isn’t kind to Capitalism. Rather than bring in competing narratives and letting the kids decide (academic freedom) they prefer to have watered down he said/she said materials that sacrifice academic freedom to “balance.” I’m confident Capitalism can withstand this little movie, too bad the burghers of Missoula think it is shakier than that.