Pork and Influencing Young Minds

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It’s not easy to get money for schools. In my classroom, I have an interactive white board and 4 computers. I have a rug and an easel, a couple of tables and a desk and chair for each student. I also have enough text books and workbooks for each student (the things I’m listing have not always been the case). Aside from that, I buy just about everything else. Staples, paperclips, the alphabet chart, notebooks, pencils, crayons, globes, copy paper, construction paper, a classroom library of hundreds of books plus bins and shelving, the list could go on and on. So I’m always looking for sales, bargains, freebies and grants.

One grant my husband directed me to this year was for $2000 towards a school vegetable garden. Sounds great! My principal is on board as well as a core group of teachers who will help develop and take care of the garden should we win the grant. I just have to finish the application and submit it. Another grant that appeared in my school mailbox came from the Illinois Pork Producers Association in collaboration with the Soybean Council. It seems all I have to do is show my class a video called Food for Thought.

Here I’ve provided the trailer, but you can also watch theĀ  full-length video if you’re so inclined. There is also a 7 minute version included on the dvd. The grant application just asks if you showed it, if you did any of the provided lessons, and if you have any comments. This grant is worth $200 toward agricultural materials. That would be a nice boost for our (hopefully!) soon-to-have garden.

Unfortunately, I cannot show this video to my class in good conscience. It is an infomercial for factory pig farming. I am against showing my students slanted media regarding any topic without critically analyzing it, but this one hits especially close to home for me. I cannot just show the video and teach the accompanying vocabulary lesson. It just won’t happen.

So my idea is to show the seven minute version of Food for Thought and have students take notes on the words they heard, how they felt, and what sensations the creators were trying to get across. Then, I’m going to show them a video that is against factory farming. The Meatrix parts I and II is a possibility for what I could show, but I’m still looking for something easier for children to understand, and more clearly opposite to the first video.

I’ll have the students will think about the same things they were thinking about during the other movie- what words were used, how did it make them feel, and what point were the creators of the video trying to make. Then I’ll have them compare and contrast the videos. We’ll discuss the tactics the creators of each cartoon used to persuade, and the effectiveness of those tactics.

Teaching is a political act even if teachers don’t know it or refuse to believe it. What we promote in our classrooms, the way we handle disagreements, the things we talk about, the things we ignore, it all has meaning for us and our students. Even if my students disagree with me on the issues, (as they all love to run to Burger King after school) I still have the responsibility to teach them to think critically about the images and media that are presented to them. And getting $200 from the Pork Council for a vegetable garden by analyzing the bias in their media makes me smile.

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8 responses »

  1. Pingback: Influencing Young Minds part 2 « (Mostly) Vegetarian (Mostly) Ramblings

  2. I agree SOOOO much with you. Good job in presenting the kids with both points. The analytical thinking skills and coming to their own conclusions with all sides and evidence is crucial. I taught for 6 years and I know where you are coming from as far as putting your own views onto your students. I was always afraid to get into anything controversial or anything that could be taken the wrong way.

    • Thank you! I’m not teaching the lesson til this coming Thursday because I’m still trying to figure out how to get the Meatrix to play at my school with the parental control barriers against videos.
      I’m trying this year to have more of a social justice curriculum. Actually, next week and the following (before break) I’m going to be discussing immigration and the US/Mexico border. We’ll see how it goes.
      Do you still teach?

  3. In case anyone was wondering, the lesson went well. Two students told me the next day that they rewatched the Meatrix at home by looking it up on youtube. Pretty cool since it is rare for them to do much on their own related to school that they aren’t assigned.

  4. I like what you are doing with respect to the Illinois Pork Producer video and showing both sides to pork production and where the meat comes from.

    I think it is a terrific idea to try to get a garden going. I hope you get the grants you are looking for.

    • Thank you! I was surprised by how much the students enjoyed watching them and comparing the videos. It went really well. And you reminded me to send in the grant submission- I had forgotten!

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