The Story of Stuff

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The Story of Stuff

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:30 pm

video documentary

The Story of Stuff
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The Story of Stuff is banned in a Montana high school

Postby Wilberforce » Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:00 pm

The Story of Stuff is banned in a Montana high school:

School board assailed for video decision
By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian

The Missoula County Public Schools board of trustees got an earful Tuesday night.

Angered by the board's recent decision over a Big Sky High School teacher who showed a controversial video in class, students, parents and other teachers urged the board to reconsider its decision.

Teachers told the board the decision involving biology teacher Kathleen Kennedy and a video called "The Story of Stuff" had a chilling effect on them.

"I'm nervous," Sentinel teacher Dave Severson said. "Many of my colleagues are nervous."

Last October, Mark Zuber, the father of a Big Sky senior, complained to the school about two videos. One, a PBS production, was shown in a government class; the other was "The Story of Stuff," a pointed critique of consumer culture shown in Kennedy's class.

Zuber said teachers failed to provide balance to those videos, which he viewed as partisan and liberal. Zuber's complaint reached the board on Jan. 29. The board, by a 4-3 vote, backed the use of the PBS video.

But by another 4-3 vote, the board said the use of "The Story of Stuff" was a violation of district policy regarding academic freedom. The majority said Kennedy offered nothing to balance the view put forth in the "Stuff" video, even though the district policy doesn't mention balance.

That decision was assailed Tuesday night, and the fiercest critics were students themselves. They appeared in number, with carefully written statements and strong presentations.

"If my generation is the 'future,' censorship is only setting us up to fail," said Ana Beard, a senior at Hellgate.

Big Sky students Katie Michels and Rose Dickson told the board that their teachers are simply doing their jobs - making students think.

"They are trying to start a new conversation, not to brainwash us," said Michels.

In a letter to the board, Michels and Dickson wrote: "Discussion and debate provide one the most effective ways to discover and articulate our own beliefs, and we hope that school will continue to provide occasions for us to do so."

Students and teachers strongly defended Kennedy and her teaching, but they also stepped into the debate about the film itself.

While the film is certainly opinionated, the students said it was used primarily to start a discussion. Besides, they said, who's going to argue that consumer culture hasn't had an effect on the environment?

Hellgate biology teacher Rob Jensen said board members who claimed the video had no application to a biology class - that was part of Zuber's argument, as well - were off base.

"Everything in that piece - well, almost everything - had to do with wildlife biology," Jensen said.

Brandon Honzel, another Big Sky biology teacher, said the board's decision was "discouraging."

The video, he said, was about sustainability.

"Our curriculum tells us to teach that," said Honzel, who noted that it's his job to make students think.

Jensen and Honzel, like almost every other speaker, asked the board to reconsider its decision.

"I believe there was a pretty serious error made in the last vote," said Deborah Oberbillig, parent of a student and wife of a Hellgate science teacher.

"We strongly encourage that the board takes the time to reverse such a decision for the sake of academic freedom," Hellgate students Chase Maxwell and Marlena Serviss said in a letter delivered to the board after they spoke.

Only one person voiced support for the board's decision. Mike Ramsey, parent of a Big Sky student, said the board was right to scrutinize the use of the video.

"This should be about more than just teachers," Ramsey said.

Ramsey was swimming upstream on Tuesday, though, as speaker after speaker challenged the board's decision and called for its reversal.

Although board Chairwoman Toni Rehbein wants the board to revisit the topic, it won't be easy, in part because a motion to reconsider the vote must be made by a trustee who voted with the majority. Because of that, the voices of three board members who were absent for the Jan. 29 vote may never be heard.

For now, the vote stands, much to the chagrin of students, teachers and parents who spoke Tuesday night.

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or at

source ... news03.txt
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