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Saybrook Professor George Kent lectures widely on human rights

01/04/2012

GKheadshotThis past September and October, Prof. Kent delivered lectures in five different cities, based primarily on his recent books Ending Hunger Worldwide, and Regulating Infant Formula. His lecture tour began in Norway with an invitation to speak at the University of Oslo's Centre for Development and Environment, with talks entitled “Deepening Poverty and Ill Health with Infant Formula” and “Ending Hunger Worldwide: Changing Perspectives on Food Insecurity." From Oslo, Dr. Kent traveled to the University of Ghent and Belgian Health Ministry; Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary; Coventry, UK and finally back in the U.S. at the University of Connecticut (Storrs) delivering talks on similar themes: how to remedy social problems related to food security and nutrition.

UNESCO Chair Award

At the University of Connecticut, Prof. Kent received a plaque recognizing his work. It reads:

“UNESCO Chair Award. Presented to George Kent. In recognition of your practical contributions to women’s empowerment and to the expansion of the frontiers of human rights and to fostering global solidarity. UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights. 12th Annual International Conference on Food Security and Human Rights.”

Upon return to his home in Honolulu, Dr. Kent was invited to speak to the University of Hawaii's Law School, its School of Public Health, and its Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Currently he is working on a paper called “Rights-Based Disaster Planning,” which will be the basis of talks he has been invited to share this coming February at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and at a conference in March for the Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity.

The New Zealand Lactation Consultants Association has requested Prof. Kent lecture in three cities in mid-2012. Additionally, as Co-Convener of the Commission on International Human Rights of the International Peace Research Association, he plans to participate in its meeting in Japan in November 2012. These trips to New Zealand and Japan will be Prof. Kent's 93rd and 94th international trips, representing a lifetime of work dedicated to empowering the most marginalized people.

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Corporate commercialism in schools threatens critical thinking

01/01/2012

Partnerships between schools and for-profit companies are a growing trend in cash-strapped school districts but may cause harm to schoolchildren, according to new research by an international team of scholars. The potential damage goes beyond the immediate health threat posed by the school-based marketing to children of soft drinks and other junk foods. Corporate commercializing activities in schools undermine the teaching of critical thinking skills essential to a good education, according to Alex Molnar and co-authors Faith Boninger and Joseph Fogarty.

The report, The Educational Cost of Schoolhouse Commercialism: The Fourteenth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercializing Trends: 2010-2011, was released on November 7, 2011 by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The new report on schoolhouse commercializing trends considers how commercializing activities in schools directly and indirectly undermine the quality of the education children receive. Harm is due to the shifting of school time toward activities promoted by commercial sponsors. Such business-sponsored activities in recent years include product demonstrations and contestslike the “ASA School Tour.” The pretext for the tour is to show children that it’s cool to be tobacco-free, but when the Tour arrives at a local high school, classes aresuspended for a mandatory assembly that includes an action sports show and exposure to sponsors’ branding, with on-site promotions and sampling.  When Microsoft sponsored the tour, for example, new Xbox games were a featured attraction.

Finally, a less obvious but significant educational harm associated with school commercialism involves the threat posed to critical thinking. Research shows, Molnar and colleagues write, that critical thinking skills are best fostered in an environment where students are encouraged “to ask questions, to think about their thought processes and thus develop habits of mind that enable them to transfer the critical thinking skills they learn in class to other, unrelated, situations.” Yet, as they point out, “…it is never in a sponsor’s interest for children to learn to identify and evaluate its points of view and biases, to consider alternative points of view, or to generate and consider alternative solutions to problems.” 

“Corporate sponsors want their story to be accepted uncritically,” Molnar says.

The report references the coal industry’s collaboration with children’s book publisher Scholastic Inc.. Scholastic produced materials for the American Coal Foundation’s “The United States of Energy” 4th grade curriculum. Classroom materials in this program were written to emphasize many states’ use and production of coal.

This coal curriculum caught the attention of a coalition of advocacy groups in the spring of 2011 and led to a campaign that culminated in Scholastic’s July decision to halt distribution of the coal-related materials and to reduce its production and promotion of other sponsored content. Yet Scholastic Inschool, the publisher’s marketing arm for corporate clients, has launched numerous in-school marketing campaigns in recent years for companies such as Brita water filters, Disney and Nestlé.

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Occupy Everything

12/29/2011

by Glen T. Martin, with comments by Saybrook professor Dr. Marc Pilisuk

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread around the world. It has not only spread rapidly to cities and universities all around the US, there have been Occupy demonstrations and movements in Toronto, Athens, Sydney, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Milan, and elsewhere. With the bailouts and immunities from responsibility of the big banks worldwide, with huge military budgets draining most nations of the world, and with debt restructuring being forced on nations around the world by a global economic system that transcends all nations, people everywhere are becoming directly aware of the domination of the world-system by the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

In these protests, unemployed persons join with discharged veterans, heavily indebted students, and politically aware citizens to occupy public places in protest of this global system of domination and exploitation. Police, like the politicians and governments they serve, have been colonized to do the bidding of the 1%, as is so painfully clear from the systematic violence and brutality they have shown in the repression of unarmed and peaceful citizens within the Occupy movement.

If the new sense of solidarity and political awareness of the Occupy movement are to have a real effect on this global system, it will have to become a planetary political awareness and bind itself in solidarity with all of humanity. Half the world’s population lives on less than two US dollars per day. One sixth the world’s people lack access to clean water. One third lack basic sanitation. Worldwide, the richest 1% have as much wealth as the bottom 60% combined. These figures are not new, but they are all getting worse. Global poverty is growing. Global water scarcity is growing. The richest 1% are getting rapidly richer relative to the bottom 99% who are getting rapidly poorer. We need to occupy everything.

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Using the peace education lens

12/22/2011

This fantastic resource - developed by Dr. Elspeth Macdonald at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at The University of Otago, New Zealand - merges the fields of digital photography and peace education.

Using the Peace Education Lens illustrates the concepts of peace and violence and to highlight their potential influences on various fields of social and environmental study. Peace education aims to equip young people with the analytic skills necessary to develop peaceful perspectives on potential or actual conflict and/ or violence. School curricula often includes a range of topics related to peace education, such as:

  • Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 10.03.11 AMCultural diversity or multicultural education

  • Human rights education

  • Sustainability or environmental education

  • Development education

  • Global education

  • International education

These broad topic areas provide opportunities to educate for peace. Peace education also focuses on the knowledge and skills related to peacefulness and nonviolence - education about peace. Education about peace aims to build knowledge and understanding about conflict and violence and about peacefulness and nonviolence – to understand concepts of negative and positive peace and the various types of direct and indirect violence.

Curricula across a range of topics can include content related to problems of violence and conflict and ways to develop and promote peaceful perspectives. It uses a critical pedagogy to develop understanding of multiple perspectives or viewpoints and to critically appraise these – to understanding “why things are the way they are, how they came to be, and what can be done to change them" (Teachers Without Borders). In peace education, the analogy of viewing though a lens has been widely used to describe the framing of perspectives related to conflict, violence and peacefulness. Taken further the concept of viewing though a critical or analytic lens incorporates the underlying critical pedagogy. Peace education can provide students with an analytic lens or series of analytic lenses to view and evaluate particular events and circumstances.

These lenses can be used view and evaluate situations of conflict and violence, peacemaking, and a range of social and environmental issues impacting on individuals, families, communities and societies. While the lens analogy has been commonly used by peace educators and scholars to describe the activity of focussing on violence and peacefulness, to date this description has not been operationalized. What tools can help educators teach about concepts of violence and peacefulness and assist students to explore perspectives surrounding particular events and circumstances?

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Protecting the Earth's sacred places through education and action

12/17/2011

LogoEarth Island Institute’s Sacred Land Film Project produces a variety of media and educational materials — films, videos, DVDs, articles, photographs, school curricula materials and Web site content — to deepen public understanding of sacred places, indigenous cultures and environmental justice. Their mission is to use journalism, organizing and activism to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices. For the last decade they have focused on the production and distribution of the documentary film, In the Light of Reverence. They are currently developing a four-part series on sacred places around the world, entitled Standing on Sacred Ground.

In addition to their films, the Sacred Land website houses many useful resources, including Tools for Action, Native Media links, and a Map of Sacred Sites.

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Popular TED conference begins a new initiative focused on education

12/16/2011

293502-tedIn trying to revolutionize education, amazing strides have been made in the last few years, but so many of them don't spread beyond the local level. Real movements for change need a critical mass of interest and a force to help drive them.

TED, the conference series that highlights groundbreaking ideas and people across every discipline you can think of, has in many ways become an informal voice for the "change education" movement. This week TED made it offical by announcing a new initiative called TED-ED.

The TED-ED Brain Trust is a private forum created to shape and accelerate TED's push into the realm of Education. The aim of this community is to assemble a new archive of remarkable TED-ED videos, each designed to catalyze learning around the globe. Unlike TEDTalks, TED-ED videos are less than ten minutes long and may assume a variety of different formats.

At present, the non-profit association has an open call for interest. "We're seeking the expertise of visionary educators, students, organizations, filmmakers & other creative professionals to guide, galvanize & ultimately lead this exciting new initiative," TED posted on a TED-ED Brain Trust interest form. The Brain Trust will pool together these formative ideas to help shape TED-ED, which will later showcase videos, too.

According to a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education, TED-ED will also maintain a list of existing TED talks that relate to educational issues and will re-categorize them in a way that makes sense to educators and learners. Currently, TED tags its talk with terms like "jaw-dropping" and "courageous," which encourages exploration, certainly, but is less useful to educators and administrators looking for ideas and motivation in specific fields or business issues.

Part of this post taken from PCMag.com

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Harnessing technology for transformation

12/15/2011

By Matt Bannick, crossposted from McKinsey & Company

With a 9 percent annual growth rate, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But corruption remains a serious problem; in 2010, Transparency International ranked the country 87th out of 178 countries in its annual corruption perception index. Indian citizens are regularly forced to pay bribes for everything from birth certificates to driver’s licenses—with little recourse for changing the situation. Individuals who blow the whistle on rent-seeking officials face the threat of retribution, a risk to both themselves and their families.

2007 - Spring - India (79)Technology has the potential to rapidly change this state of affairs. In August 2010, Indian civic leaders launched a website called IPaidaBribe.com allowing citizens to document incidents in which they were forced to fork over money illegally to government employees. The website has gained traction with impressive speed. In little over a year, citizens from 400 cities have reported incidents of bribery more than 16,000 times, and the site has had over 600,000 visitors. Requests to replicate the site have come in from more than 18 countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, the Gambia, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka, as well as several countries in the Balkans.

When we hear about the role of technology in spurring social change, our minds may immediately turn to well-worn images—such as activists using Twitter and Facebook to organize uprisings this past spring in the Arab world. Hidden from the headlines, however, is an equally inspiring story. Technology is not just being used to organize protests; it is empowering citizens to intervene on a wide variety of difficult, risk-laden social issues. It is also providing a platform to rapidly scale these interventions —so that millions of lives can be touched in a relatively short period of time. It is time for the social sector to firmly commit to increasing our investments in these kinds of innovations.

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Happy Human Rights Day 2011!

12/10/2011

December 10th is the day each year set aside to celebrate, remember and organize around human rights concerns throughout the globe. 2011 has been a year like no other for human rights. Human rights activism has never been more topical or more vital. And through the transforming power of social media, ordinary people have become human rights activists.

Screen shot 2011-12-10 at 7.48.09 AMThis year, millions of people decided the time had come to claim their rights. They took to the streets and demanded change. Many found their voices using the internet and instant messaging to inform, inspire and mobilize supporters to seek their basic human rights. Social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe - from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York - at times in the face of violent repression.

Human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. As a global community we all share a day in common: Human Rights Day on 10 December, when we remember the creation 63 years ago of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For more information, visit https://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/2011/

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A new century of social innovation

12/08/2011

Man has in him two distinct master impulses, the individualistic and the communal, a personal life and a social life, a personal motive of conduct and a social motive of conduct. The possibility of their opposition and the attempt to find their equation lie at the very roots of human civilisation.

-- Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man

The upcoming decades will be different from what has gone before. Our global society is in the midst of great transformations that will usher in new social and cultural formations. Many nations have been living the high life as a result of the prosperity afforded by rapid industrial, technological and material growth. The long tail of this -- the technological revolution -- has been fundamental in stretching tentacles of dependency far and wide. Complex structures of supply, demand and energy are now near to their breaking points.

Screen shot 2011-12-08 at 9.06.28 AMThe new century for humankind begins as the traditional structures provided by governments and social and political institutions are overwhelmed and no longer capable of serving humankind in its best interests. Problems and difficulties are likely to continue rising up, like a tsunami, and manifesting in our immediate social environments. Yet unlike a natural tsunami, these social uprisings can also serve to clean the slate and clear the brushwood. They can provide the opportunity for individuals and communities to re-evaluate their life priorities. It can be a time for reconstruction and reorientation based on newly-emerging perceptions of how better to lead a fulfilling life. Yet this outcome, perhaps, will not be for everyone: There will still be many who choose to return to the old, familiar, tried-and tested ways. However, this will prove difficult, as some of the old systems will no longer be functional.

New forms of social innovation need to be encouraged to emerge from the chrysalis of the fossilized structures. By this it is meant that more appropriate and creative social, economic, technological, cultural and political edifices can replace current dysfunctional systems. For example, new -- or previous -- skill sets can return for inclusion in our social and community roles. This may force many people to shift from office and administration jobs, from the service and manufacturing sectors, toward functions that serve a regional and localized need. These may include community teaching (in both theory and practical skills), maintenance and construction, localized economies (both currency and barter), permaculture, farming, creative inventions, regional management, community committees and more. Many farms may need to shift (or return) to organic forms of agriculture and crop growth in order to combat the rise in soil depletion. As many of us are now aware, petrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers negatively polarize the soil. While they may produce apparently abundant growth in the short term, in the long term they deplete the soil and exhaust its natural growing capability. The food produced is thus often lacking in nutrients and minerals. In short, many methods now employed will be forced, or catalyzed, into change.

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Global Social Justice Journal invites articles to be considered for publication

12/05/2011

The Global Social Justice Journal invites the submission of original research articles for publication. For further details including full submission guidelines, please visit the journal website.

IndexThe Global Social Justice Journal is a new Open Journal System initiative published by the Centre for International Studies at Cape Breton University http://cbu-cis.ca/. The Global Social Justice Journal disseminates peer reviewed research on all aspects of global social justice including issues of economic globalization, human rights, indigenous peoples, the environment, education, gender, class, poverty, inequality and race. The journal publishes research from disciplines including political science, philosophy, geography, economics, sociology, law, gender studies and indigenous studies. The journal welcomes the submission of articles analyzing the social impacts of markets and governments from normative or marginalized perspectives and specifically those originating in the global South. It especially welcomes the submission of articles that shed light on an otherwise neglected aspect of global social justice or that analyze alternative forms of social and political organization to the present structuring of globalization.

The Global Social Justice Journal has a commitment to the Open Access model of research dissemination and provides free public access to articles accepted for publication.

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