"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is the Best Practice Educating Students on Body Image and Confidence from the UK or US Educational System?

The UK government is providing parents with packs with information to help their children's body image about themselves.  From BBC News:

A pack to help parents educate children on how the media alters images and to inspire them to be confident in their bodies has had government backing.

Developed for six to 11-year-olds by not-for-profit organisation Media Smart, the pack contains before and after touched-up images of celebrities such as Britney Spears.

It also looks at how ideas of the "perfect" body have changed.

The government said it wanted the pack to "empower parents".

"Young people are being set an impossible standard by images in media and advertising which can erode their self-esteem," she said.

"As parents, we are often aware of these issues, but may not have the advice and guidance we need to talk to our children. 

"I want the pack to empower parents to have those difficult conversations and open the door to discussion."

You can download the parent pack here.  It's only 13 pages but is full of information for children to understand the world of advertising and how this world is a fantasy world made up of photo retouches.

The pack explains:
  • what is body image
  • what shapes body image
Parents learn raise these issues and questions with their children:
  • Are the images children see every day affecting their body confidence?
  • Help children understand the pictures they see
  • Asking their children "are the pictures we see in the media real"?
The packet details how the magic of advertising works to sell products through the use of airbrushing, digital enhancement and photo manipulation.  There are photos in the packet showing bust enhancement and digitally enhanced photos illustrating enhanced skin color and smoothness.  

One interesting fact listed is 75% of 11-21 girls diet to look more attractive.  What young woman who is "average looking" thinks she is attractive when she looks at photographs in magazines of extraordinary looking models...and those photos have been retouched to achieve that extraordinary level?  Would it help those 75% of women if they realized they were trying to achieve an ideal that is naturally not attainable?

The agency offers tips to help parents talk about their child's body image with the child, and the most important tip coming from this governmental agency is the first one listed, You are the most influential role model in our child's life.  From this very important premise, parents are asked to:
  • Be positive
  • Help your child accept other people's body sizes and shapes
  • Listen to your child's concerns
  • Don't tease them about their weight, body shape or looks
  • Place value on the achievements 
  • Respond to your child's concerns
This is a positive, non-punitive packet for parents to give their children information and learn to distinguish fantasy from reality.  This is quite different than the push to track children's Body Mass Index (BMI) here in the United States and to control food choices under the guise of healthy eating initiatives.  The DOEd's continual emphasis on food rather than acceptance of different body sizes and shapes may contribute to eating disorders, rather than making children healthier:

From Education News:

A new report released this week by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has suggested that the numerous programs implemented by schools across the country designed to tackle childhood obesity could be going too far — and could potentially cause eating disorders.

Controlling what students eat and tracking their BMIs seems counter-intuitive to empowering them to make good choices when the food police is not around.   Maybe the UK's idea of  helping children accept other people's body sizes and shapes as well as their own, is more healthy than focusing on worrying about obesity and calorie counting food all day.  The UK is equipping parents and students with information for them to talk as a family and make informed decisions, rather than being "nudged" into behavior set by governmental agencies.

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