Prude rich censorship attempt of Barbie doll art

This satiric video says about itself:

Music video by Aqua performing Barbie Girl. (C) 1997 Universal Music (Denmark) A/S.

The Mattel corporation did not like that parody of their Barbie doll product, and sued. However, United States courts including the Supreme Court decided that the song was part of free speech.

Mattel has since released a promotional music video of the song (with modified lyrics) on the official Barbie web site in 2009, as part of a marketing strategy brought in to revive sales.

Now, there is a new attack on Barbie dolls in art. This time not by Mattel, but by prude rich people in Rotterdam city in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad today:

At a primary school in Rotterdam a riot has broken out about the spare time activity of a teacher. Parents keep their children at home because they find the art made by the teacher – sexy Barbies – indecent.

By Jitske-Sophie Venema

The Rotterdam School Association has two primary schools in Rotterdam. The parental financial contribution here is more than ten times as high as average at 760 euros, more than half of the pupils get the advice to continue at the highest level of secondary education and culture is of paramount importance.

So, very probably, this prude minority of parents now attacking a teacher for making art in her spare time are much richer than average parents in Rotterdam. They may well be the same kind of person as billionaire Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Berlusconi, who publicly censors eighteenth century art for showing a woman’s breast (not even a real mortal woman’s breast, the breast of the goddess of Truth). Meanwhile, Berlusconi had sex with a child prostitute. They may well be the same kind of person as billionaire Donald Trump in the USA. Trump, who uses religious Right theocratic ideas about ‘propriety’ for moving towards dictatorship. And who, meanwhile, privately, treats women like dirt.

Yet there is a fierce discussion on art here.

The teacher of the fifth grade is an artist outside school. On her Facebook page, scantily dressed Barbie dolls can be seen, set in challenging poses. The plastic blondes kiss each other,

‘Oh, how horrible!’ these anti-Barbie art parents think; ‘children getting to know that some girls don’t fall in love in boys, but with other girls‘. P.S. They won’t get to know that from their teacher, as she makes the Barbie doll art IN HER SPARE TIME and exhibits it IN HER SPARE TIME. She does not bring it to the classroom.

bend over in a translucent negligée or have a star on their bare buttocks. These images drive some parents of fifth grade students nuts. “It is not normal for a teacher to have this kind of images?” they scream in an anonymously sent e-mail. The parents even think that the teacher is a suspect of child porn,

Yeah, right. Good grief! A lesson in three steps: 1. A doll is not a child. 2. The Barbie dolls do not depict children, but young adult, often professional, women. 3. If the parents want to criticize purveyors of child porn, they should not attack that teacher, but their fellow right-wingers among the Roman Catholic clergy; among the Protestant religious Right in the USA; among Jehovah’s witnesses, etc.

demand that the management intervene and do not want to send their child to school until that time.

School director Per Severin sees this happening indeed. “The exact number of children staying at home differs per day, but there are more than five”, he sighs. In order to cope with the situation, he has now called in the help of the Education Inspectorate and the municipality. “This is an excellent teacher with a long service record. What my teachers do in their private lives is not my business and certainly not that of the children – unless the private activities clash with our school principles. In this respect, these artworks are okay. Facebook has never labeled them as offensive, even though they are very strict in such matters.”

… “Of course, there can be discussions about art. But even if the majority would find these works of art repulsive, that does not mean that I will take away a teacher away from her class.”


Anti-democratic far-right education in Michigan, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Changing the Rules of What’s Taught in Schools: Is America a Democracy?

18 June 2018

In this video, I dissect the changes made to the social studies curriculum that have made news headlines this past week in the state of Michigan.

If you are in Michigan and want to voice your opinion about the changes, you can voice your opinion online here

By Walter Gilberti in the USA:

Teacher hostility grows to Michigan Department of Education’s curriculum changes

20 August 2018

Anger over proposed changes in the social studies curriculum by the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) curriculum standards panel continues to spread among teachers in the state. On August 9, about a hundred teachers and parents attended one of a dozen “Listen and Learn” town hall-style meetings called by the MDE to discuss these changes.

As a result of backlash against the proposed standards, six more meetings will take place statewide through September. A final draft of the curriculum will [be] voted on by the State Board of Education.

As in the previous gatherings, those attending the Ann Arbor meeting added their voices to the sense of anger and dismay over the character of the curriculum changes, as well as the intervention of a cabal of Republican state legislators, led by the extreme right-wing state Senator Patrick Colbeck (Seventh District), who insinuated themselves into the process of determining what teachers teach and what will be tested on statewide mandatory exams.

Colbeck and his team were actually invited to attend the standards panel deliberations, and quickly proceeded to push through a far-reaching proposed standard that essentially rewrites history, expunges the crimes of U.S imperialism, minimizes the struggle for democratic rights, and places in jeopardy the ability of teachers and students to inquire about the nature of historical truth.

The proposed omissions eviscerate teaching about the revolutionary character of the democratic rights proclaimed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the founding documents of the American Revolution. Under the proposed standards, examples of the Constitution’s core values no longer include equality, rule of law, unalienable rights, social compact theory and the right of revolution.

Likewise, examples of rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights no longer include the freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Everywhere they previously appeared, the words “separation of church and state” are removed. These references or “examples” are literally struck out of the text, which means that educators will no longer be required to mention them.

Perhaps, the most telling item among the curriculum changes, and the one that has galvanized the most opposition to this new and reactionary attempt at sanitizing American history, has been the removal of the word “democratic” from the phrase “core democratic values” traditionally at the center of the study of civics and US history in Michigan public schools.

Colbeck, a major recipient of campaign contributions from the billionaire family of federal Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, fraudulently claims that the removal of the word “democratic” is in the interests of “balance” and “political neutrality”, and that it should be emphasized that the United States was established as a republic rather than as a democracy.

This is in keeping with the ultra-right revision of history, in which the American Revolution is presented, not as a struggle for democracy and popular sovereignty against aristocracy and privilege, but as the establishment of a republic in which the guarantee of property rights—including property in slaves—was the principal goal.

The new standards downplay references to crimes committed by U.S. imperialism. References to its seizure of colonial possessions are removed, as is any reference to one of the monstrous war crimes of the twentieth century, the nuclear annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War Two.

The powers-that-be also want no mention of “US military missions in Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf War.” While it is permissible to discuss “the attacks on 9/11 and the response to terrorism” the curriculum removes “wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” In other words, young people whose entire lives have been dominated by US wars of aggression should not be taught this history!

The proposed standards came under withering criticism for their proposal to severely reduce the study of the US civil rights movement. The new proposal eliminated mention of freedom riders, the Montgomery bus boycott and the Black Panthers, for example. An entire appendix, page 136 of the proposed curriculum, which references the growth of industrial America and the mass migration of southern blacks to the North to seek jobs in the burgeoning industries and escape Jim Crow segregation, is eliminated. The deleted appendix also includes a section on women’s suffrage. Ironically, Michigan was one of the first states to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.

Other deletions remove any mention of LGBTQ rights, climate change and Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.

The utter bankruptcy of the process by which the curriculum is being altered to appease these arch reactionaries in the state legislature was not lost on those attending the Ann Arbor meeting, despite assurances from the panel that their “voices would be heard.” During the course of the hour-long discussion that followed the submission of questions, many spoke eloquently and angrily over the attack on democratic values, and their utter distrust of the MDE panel.

In fact, the question and answer period that preceded the open discussion was constantly being interrupted by comments of disapproval from those in attendance. One teacher commented, “The concern of many in this room is that the focus group was hijacked.”

Another admonished the panel. “We feel that the whole process is flawed. We don’t understand why we are sitting here. Your group was involved with the process, but then a second group comes in that is politically motivated. Why was that allowed?”

“Process here matters a lot … it seems like a hyper-partisan way to decide what we teach our children.”

When the open discussion commenced a retired Detroit teacher and supporter of the Socialist Equality Party told the audience. “The problem here is that the word ‘democratic’ has already been removed from the phrase. It is now “core values”. The word is not in parentheses. It is not in quotes. It is gone. How is this not being presented by the panel as a fait accompli?” He called for a fight to overturn the curriculum changes, explaining that these democratic rights were not simply given, they had to be fought for.

Susan, a parent, commented, “I’m white. This is not a whitewash of history. It is a lie. These standards are a lie. My ancestors settled at Plymouth, and were involved in the Pequot massacre … One was a slave trader, while others fought on the side of the North in the Civil War … But when you put in these changes, you are erasing their history, and my history. The fact that I am white does not mean I want this history erased.”

Rachel, a political science teacher and lawyer, described the intervention of Colbeck and his ilk as “the 2018 version of book burning. One set of beliefs from an isolated group that wants to bring back racism. Because of how this went down, no one has confidence in your process.”

And elderly Catholic nun explained, “I have a very strong affinity for democratic ideals. Our government is a republic, but what about those democratic ideals. We have had to fight for them. I worked in Detroit for many years, and I feel that we still have to fight for these ideals. Someone else is not supposed to make up our core values.”

The contributions of many of the speakers at this meeting in defense of historical truth along with deeply held egalitarian notions regarding democratic rights were in sharp contrast to the general indifference of local and state Democratic politicians. While some local Democrats have attacked the proposed curriculum, and the Democratic members of Michigan Board of Education have vowed to vote against it, it is notable that this right-wing attack on teachers, parents and students has not elicited a response from Michigan’s principal Democratic Party elected officials in Washington, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, or the Party’s candidate for Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In opposition to both capitalist parties, supporters of the Socialist Equality Party candidate for the US House of Representatives in the 12th District, Niles Niemuth, distributed campaign material outside the meeting and received a warm response. Thus far, Niemuth’s Democratic opponent, the incumbent Representative Debbie Dingell, has also been silent on the proposed curriculum changes.

Ever-increasing social inequality in the United States is incompatible with democratic forms of rule: here.

Children about dinosaur fossils and replicas

This September 2016 Dutch video is about people visiting the exhibition of Tyrannosaurus rex Trix in Naturalis museum in Leiden.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Fake or real? What children think of dinosaur fossils and replicas

16 July 2018

Children find that both dinosaur fossils and replicas belong in a museum, but they appreciate the real objects more. This is shown by research from Leiden University and Naturalis Biodiversity Center. ‘Children look beyond superficial looks and attach great value to less obvious characteristics, such as the history of an object.’

Real objects

Science museums find it important to show real objects to their audience. Not so strange, when the question ‘Is it real?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions by museum visitors. But, how do visitors interpret the difference between real and fake? And how do they value real objects? To this end, Master’s student Dylan van Gerven and researcher Anne Land-Zandstra of Leiden University together with Welmoet Damsma of Naturalis examined how children think about real dinosaur fossils and about replicas. The results of the research can help museums to bring their objects to life more.

The dinometer

In Naturalis seventy children from eight to twelve years old got to work with the Dinometer: a life-sized abacus on which they indicated how much certain objects belonged in a museum. It involved two real objects and two replicas. The two real objects were a T. rex phalanx and the paw print of a dinosaur. The two replicas of the phalanx looked identical, but one had supposedly belonged to famous TV biologist Freek Vonk. The children assessed the complete objects, but also indicated how much a small piece of the object was still museum worthy.

The results

The test with the Dinometer showed that children appreciated the real fossils more than the replicas, although they found that both objects belonged in a museum. However, even a very small piece of a real fossil, according to them, was worth more than the replicas. A small piece of replica, on the other hand, was ‘just a fake piece of a replicated dinosaur fossil’ and did not belong in a museum. The replica of Freek Vonk did score higher than the ‘normal’ replica.

Dinosaur contagion

When children reason why an object belongs in a museum, they do not only look at the appearance. They also value the association with the past that the object brings about. A dinosaur fossil, for example, is associated with the large T. rex. In addition, they have the feeling that ‘something’ of the dinosaur still sticks to the object. ‘So, a dinosaur once stood in this clay. You do not see that every day!’ one of the children said. This argument is called contagion and seems to underlie the appreciation of real objects in museums.

So, because the phalanx once was part of a real dinosaur and because a dinosaur once stood in the clay, the objects still have a connection with it and thus belong in the museum. ‘We found it special to see that these children are thinking about the story of such a fossil, that it really belonged to a dinosaur,’ adds Land-Zandstra.

Bringing objects to life

Science museums can make use of these outcomes by thinking carefully about which associations and stories are hidden behind an object. They can then show them explicitly. ‘Children are also very capable of appreciating that deeper layer of an object. A nice example of different layers of authenticity can be seen at Naturalis’ own T. rex Trix. This object includes the story of the dinosaur itself, the adventure of the excavation and the exciting work of paleontological research into the life of Trix’, according to Land-Zandstra.

Research collaboration

Land-Zandstra explains that this study is the beginning of a research collaboration between Naturalis and the Science Communication and Society department at Leiden University. The goal is to do more research on how visitors deal with real objects. ‘For example, we have already investigated how families talk about objects, such as a dinosaur egg or a stuffed spider. It is nice to see that the results of this research find their way directly in the museum in the form of family activities or text signs.’


Gerven van, D.; Land-Zandstra, A. & Damsma, W., 2018. Authenticity matters: Children look beyond appearances in their appreciation of museum objects. International Journal of Science Education, Part B.


‘Contagion means that previous contact with of the object, for example with a living dinosaur, continues to act on the object after the physical contact has been severed’, explains van Gerven. He illustrates this with a striking example: “Suppose there are two glasses, one of them containing a cockroach. I thoroughly clean both glasses so that they are both 100% clean and then fill them with water. Then you will see that every person prefers to drink from the glass that did not had a cockroach in it, even though both glasses are just as clean.’