Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • "Rewriting the Script"

    Together, the following eight articles outline how the standards-tests-punishment machine has subverted public schools from their democratic promise. With action, we can write a future where education isn't a soulless profit machine for the few.
  • Think Less Benchmarks

    A flawed test does more harm than good

    By Amy Gutowski

    "Thanks to the folks at the Discovery Channel, that TV channel with the nifty little logo of the earth spinning, my 8-year-old students have four more opportunities to stop learning and fill in the bubbles."

  • Cover Story
  • Beyond NCLB

    By Monty Neill

    A new era requires new thinking

  • Teaching in Dystopia

    Testing’s stranglehold on education

    By Wayne Au

    "The problem is this: Testing is killing education. Not only is it narrowing the curriculum generally, it promotes bad pedagogy, while making some private companies very rich in the process."

  • Reading First, Libraries Last

    Scripted programs undermine teaching and children's love of books

    By Rachel Cloues

    "In these bleak NCLB days of regimented, scripted reading programs and financially drained school districts, I am deeply worried about the future of elementary school libraries."

  • The Scripted Prescription

    A cure for childhood

    By Peter Campbell, Peter Campbell

    Testing mania reaches the pre-K classroom.  "It saddened me to think that my daughter's first impression of school was based on taking a test and failing it."

  • Bogus Claims About Reading First

    By Stephen Krashen

    When it comes to Reading First, don’t believe the hype

  • Textbook Scripts, Student Lives

    A math teacher goes beyond the standardized curriculum

    By Jana Dean

    "Textbooks, published by corporations that have much to gain by maintaining business as usual, aren't likely to press students to envision a future any different from the past and present."

  • Bonfire of the Disney Princesses

    By Barbara Ehrenreich

    Contrary to their spin machine, Disney’s princesses are far from role models

  • Underfunded Schools Cut Past Tense from Language Programs

    By The Onion

    "A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education."
  • TV Selfishness and Violence Explode During 'War On Terror

    2nd graders discover new trends in TV since 9/11

    By Margot Pepper

    "Six years into the 'War on Terror,' my 2nd-grade Spanish immersion students found that aggression, selfishness, and insults have exploded on national television."

  • Queer Matters

    Educating educators about Homophobia

    By William DeJean, Anne Rene Elsebree

    "While we were excited to support the opening of the educational closet, unintentionally we became seen as the 'residential experts' for all things queer."

  • Feeding Two Birds With One Hand

    Why educators should demand a national health care plan

    By Bob Peterson

    "I can't imagine any teacher union leader or local school board member who wouldn't welcome a new federal program that would make the issue of healthcare benefits a moot point in bargaining."

  • Building Teacher Solidarity

    Larry Kuehn talks about building ties between teachers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States

    translation missing: en.articles.interviewers Bob Peterson

    “I would really like to see a new movement that gives the kind of hope
    for change that there was when I came into teaching in the late 1960s.”

  • Cover Stories
  • The Power of Words

    By Linda Christensen

    Top-down mandates masquerade as social justice reforms

  • Departments Free
  • Short Stuff
  • Resources
  • Review
  • Letters to the Editors
  • Good Stuff

    By Herb Kohl

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Bonfire of the Disney Princesses

Bonfire of the Disney Princesses

Contrary to the rumors I have been trying to spread for some time, Disney Princess products are not contaminated with lead. More careful analysis shows that the entire product line books, DVDs, ball gowns, necklaces, toy cell phones, toothbrush holders, T-shirts, lunch boxes, backpacks, wallpaper, sheets, stickers, etc. is saturated with a particularly potent time-release form of the date rape drug.

We cannot blame China this time, because the drug is in the concept, which was spawned in the Disney studios. Before 2000, the Princesses were just the separate, disunited, heroines of Disney animated films Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Belle, and Mulan. Then Disney's Andy Mooney got the idea of bringing the gals together in a team. With a wave of the wand ($10.99 at Target, tiara included) they were all elevated to royal status and set loose on the world as an imperial cabal, and have since have busied themselves achieving global domination. Today, there is no little girl in the wired, industrial world who does not seek to display her allegiance to the pink- and purple-clad Disney dynasty.

Disney likes to think of the Princesses as role models, but what a sorry bunch of wusses they are. Typically, they spend much of their time in captivity or a coma, waking up only when a Prince comes along and kisses them. The most striking exception is Mulan, who dresses as a boy to fight in the army, but like the other Princess of color, Pocahontas she lacks full Princess status and does not warrant a line of tiaras and gowns. Otherwise the Princesses have no ambitions and no marketable skills, although both Snow White and Cinderella are good at housecleaning.

And what could they aspire to, beyond landing a Prince? In Princessland, the only career ladder leads from baby-faced adolescence to a position as an evil enchantress, stepmother, or witch. Snow White's wicked stepmother is consumed with envy for her stepdaughter's beauty; the sea witch Ursula covets Ariel's lovely voice; Cinderella's stepmother exploits the girl's cheap, uncomplaining labor. No need for complicated witch-hunting techniques pin-prickings and dunkings in Princessland. All you have to look for is wrinkles.

Feminist parents gnash their teeth. For this their little girls gave up Dora, who bounds through the jungle saving baby jaguars, whose mother is an archeologist, and whose adventures don't involve smoochy rescues by Diego? There was drama in Dora's life too, and the occasional bad actor like Swiper the fox. Even Barbie looks like a suffragist compared to Disney's Belle. So what's the appeal of the pink tulle Princess cult?

Seen from the witchy end of the female life cycle, the Princesses exert their pull through a dark and undeniable eroticism. They're sexy little wenches, for one thing. Snow White has gotten slimmer and bustier over the years; Ariel wears nothing but a bikini top (though, admittedly, she is half fish.) In faithful imitation, the 3-year-old in my life flounces around with her tiara askew and her Princess gown sliding off her shoulder, looking for all the world like a London socialite after a hard night of cocaine and booze. Then she demands a poison apple and falls to the floor in a beautiful swoon. Pass the Rohypnol-laced margarita, please.

It may be old-fashioned to say so, but sex and especially some middle-aged man's twisted version thereof doesn't belong in the pre-K playroom. Children are going to discover it soon enough, but they've got to do so on their own.

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