Odd choice of words

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by becky, Mar 20, 2011.

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  1. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    With some others having explained why they have some opposing thoughts, what in particular are you disgusted by, as opposed to being in disagreement over?
     
  2. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Students need to be "shocked" into eating healthier foods? Seriously? It seems to me that the wording in this text is not aiming to shock but to humiliate and hurt. Someone said it earlier: fat kids know that they are fat. They see it every day in the mirror. They probably hear it day in and day out from their classmates. So now, in addition to daily reminders that they are fat, they need to be told that they are ugly too? That seems reasonable to some people here? SERIOUSLY?

    Furthermore, even if there are studies that show that people think that fat people are ugly, that's not something that needs to be printed in a children's textbook. What if there were also research out there that shows that men with big penises are better managers? Would it then appropriate for us to print in children's textbooks, oh, hey, boys with small penises, BESIDES being unable to satisfy the ladies, you're also going to be unable to succeed in your professional life?

    It disgusts me that this was printed in a textbook. It disgusts me more that people here think that it is acceptable or justifiable in any way.

    We have had a number of threads here before about weight-related issues. There are some people who believe that it's all about willpower, so they see being overweight as a choice and as a personal failure. I disagree strongly with that opinion, and my disagreement comes from my own personal experiences. For some people, being overweight just is how it is. Asking someone to lose a lot of weight is sometimes like asking him to change his eye color. It's just not something some people can do, regardless of caloric intake or exercise, even with the help of medical intervention. People seem to think that it's okay to be super judgmental about other people's weight, that it's okay to comment on other people's weight, and to hypothesize about reasons why other people are or are not overweight. I think that people need to back off, stop thinking that they know everything about everything, and for god's sake, stop telling children that they are ugly.
     
  3. Southernese

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    Amen to this. For me, the rhetoric of "accepting different body types" sounds really warm and fuzzy, but I believe that in the situation we're in now, it's a dangerous message to deliver. Obesity isn't just a problem in our country anymore; it's a full-blown plague. And no, it's not just genetics. If it were, we would have had obesity epidemics for hundreds of years. Applying any amount of logic will lead you to an inexorable conclusion: it's about diet and exercise. Two things you can control.
     
  4. EdEd

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    Before this conversation spirals, as I've seen happen before, I wanted to call out a few ways you're using language here and see if we can't refocus back on the issue. For example, when you mention that "people need to back off, stop thinking that they know everything about everythig" - I'm not seeing evidence of this, at least anymore than is coming from your side as well. I can see where both sides are coming from - obesity is very widely seen as a problem, and the behavioral habits of Americans related to obesity is a well-documented trend. Your point is well-taken, too, though - some have no control, and a unilateral approach only blaming childrens' behavior would not be appropriate. In other words, I see both sides - I don't see anyone arguing that they understand obesity and disagree that there is a genetic link. I don't see anyone saying we should ignore the psychosocial ramifications of interventions. I don't see anyone advocating for calling children ugly.

    I think sometimes you are passionate about an issue, but the language you use can be inflammatory, and takes the issue off course. There is a legitimate discussion here, and although everyone point might not be valid, the fact that there could be another side to a discussion is not disgusting, offensive, or suggestive that everyone needs to back off and stop acting like they know everything.

    I hope I'm not ruffling feathers, but I've seen enough threads go south with comments from a few folks in particular who - rather than discussing the issue in particular - become disgusted that there could even be an opposition to your perspective. If you are right, which you very well may be, it will be more beneficial to all involved for you to clearly explain your position in a way that doesn't seem like a personal attack on the right of someone to disagree.
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think that it's possible to be all of these things, but not all with every person. I do think Caeser has a point when she says that - with some kids (and adults) - there is no choice involved, or that it may be very, very difficult.

    Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to obesity - it's not just diet and exercise, but it's not just genetics either.

    Clearly there are some strong opinions, and as I mentioned in my previous post, I hope that we can meaningfully incorporate our own personal experiences and pasts without letting accompanying emotionality cloud our approach to respectful conversation and disagreement.
     
  6. JustMe

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    Honestly, you need to ask? You may not agree with me, but surely you know what I'm disgusted by.

    If more textbooks and schools begin to "shock" students into being healthier by reminding them how unattractive they are, our efforts to reduce bullying has just suffered a major setback.
     
  7. LUCHopefulTeach

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    My personal opinion on overweight children doesn't matter here and to be honest, I think that our personal opinions should not be mentioned as they don't address the issue at hand.

    Anyway, I don't like the wording or the message of the text. There has been a dramatic increase in bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, etc. I do not like this wording because it does imply that overweight children are unattractive- an opinion that doesn't belong in the textbook. This opinion may encourage children to bully, harass, or bring attention to those who are overweight because now they're unattractive. To me that is unacceptable.
     
  8. TeacherShelly

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    The concept that anyone can diet and exercise leads to a question. Why doesn't everyone do these things?

    The answer usually involves opinions that the person is lazy, over-indulgent, out of control, lacks will power, or ignorant.

    The underlying value is about self-determination, individualism, and a "just world" where people get what they deserve.
     
  9. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I actually agree with you here, but I also respect that there's another side to the discussion, even if it may be wrong. I can see how you would strongly disagree with the language, and I can even see how you'd be disgusted by the language, considering it does call kids unattractive who may have no choice over their appearance. However, when you say that you are disgusted that someone else could have an opposing opinion, it makes it seem as though you are attacking the person, not the issue. From my experience, attacking people rather than issues leads to people encamping themselves even more so on their side of the fence. Without the comments about being disgusted at people's opinions, we can hear your side of the conversation, and it's compelling. When you make it personal, though, you lose most any chance you might have of allowing someone else to share your perspective.

    I was the first one to start posting anything but disgust at the language used in the text, but for sake of explaining my position here I will say that I disagree with the language. I think obesity - while an epidemic - is still a personal issue - we can't reduce all cases obesity down to a single cause, and not all cases of obesity may be amenable to treatment. As a result, the comment about being "unattractive" to me is not only ineffective, but out of line. Furthermore, it may not even be accurate - plenty of people still find folks who are clinically obese to be attractive.

    However, I think exploring the issue - including understanding why the comments may have been made - isn't a disgusting thing. Children die from obesity, and it's not reprehensible to me to consider the option of making obesity socially unacceptable as an intervention. Do I agree with it? In this case, no. But, to unilaterally dismiss comments with terms such as "disgusting" ignores the complexity of the topic and shuts down healthy, respectful conversation.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    My comments were directed towards society at large and posted here specifically because in the past I've seen those societal-majority opinions expressed here.

    I think that my language is appropriate here. Is ugly not a synonym for unattractive?

    In any case, no further worries about me being inflammatory. I'm out of this discussion, just as I am out of most discussions these days, because although others are evidently entitled to their opinions, I am not. So be it.
     
  11. JustMe

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    I am disgusted that a person would find this acceptable.

    While I acknowledge differing opinions and perspectives, I will not always respect those differing ideas. I just won't. It doesn't mean I think a person is unworthy, cruel, ignorant, stupid, or less than...it just means I can't find value in a given opinion.

    EdEd, you have many times tried to educate members of this forum about our tone, our choice of words, and in general our reactions to a given issue and how we can better communicate our ideas. Thank you, but I will continue to be honest and straight-forward about my opinions regarding various topics. Could you perhaps at least consider pulling back a bit on your policing efforts?
     
  12. EdEd

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    Well, you may or may not read this - hopefully you will! I definitely apologize if I sent the message that I didn't value your opinion. I haven't been visiting the forum long, but I've actually found that you tend to add a very interesting perspective to the mix - my personal experience here would be less without your contribution!
     
  13. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I see where you are coming from, and yes - definitely a fair request. I haven't been visiting long, and am certainly not a moderator. Hopefully you can understand that my intentions were to preserve healthy conversation and come to the defense of some other opinions, but you're right - it's not my place to step in and ask you to change the way you or others share their opinions.
     
  14. Mathemagician

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    Also, notice the discussion the wording has sparked here...don't you think it would spark a similar discussion for students as well as they read it? I think that would have more educational value than anything written.
     
  15. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    You said it so much better than me. Thanks, JM.
     
  16. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    The only thing it would create is more bullying of the overweight students. I can just hear the bullies now- 'Even our health book says you're ugly!'
     
  17. monsieurteacher

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    Let's be honest... bullies will be bullies no matter what... reading something in a textbook (albeit, with incredibly poor choice of words) is not going to make someone who doesn't bully think to bully... a phrase such as the one in the OP will not cause MORE bullying.

    Having said that, I agree it's a poor choice of wording, to put it lightly.
     
  18. Mathemagician

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    To which the student would reply, "You nerd, no one actually reads the health textbook!" I say this because I know I've never actually had to read a textbook for health class....health class was just an afterthought. But in any case, I don't think bullies are getting their ammo from textbooks! And I think it could promote tolerance if the discussion is properly led. For instance, I know many classes have discussions on homosexuality and that doesn't lead to increased bullying.
     
  19. JustMe

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    The teacher presenting this information could be considered the bully...in my opinion, of course.
     
  20. TeacherApr

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    I would blacken out those first 3 words in every textbook = )

    While I see what people are saying as far as being unattractive, a textbook is NOT the place for opinions. It needs to be FACTS and facts only!


    What someone said earlier about how it's not the kids fault that they are overweight is correct. Kids need role models. I have an 8 yr old in my class that is EXTREMELY overweight. So much so that he has had HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. I fear every day that I may not see him again. He has already been in the hospital because of his health problems, cannot participate in PE because he has asthma and no meds and is starting to get teased.

    Valentine's Day he supplied the class with treats. The family member he lives with specifically told the office "any extras NEED to come home" um....no they don't. I'm pretty sure he ended up eating all the extras.....
     
  21. Upsadaisy

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    Any wording that encourages students to judge other students based on their looks is just plain misguided. Aren't kids already mean and hateful enough? Leaving out the personal opinion that overweight is unattractive would not encourage students to 'normalize' obesity. And ridiculing students sure won't encourage them to become healthy.
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

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    Whether such a discussion is possible is likely to depend on the maturity and self-possession of the students in question. If becky's using this curriculum, it's almost certainly intended for an elementary-age audience - but even high-school students often find it difficult to identify and challenge presuppositions made in a textbook. How much harder when the presuppositions cut so close to home!
     
  23. EdEd

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    Having stepped back from the conversation for a while and given it more thought, the language actually sounds like it comes from one of those 1950s "home economics" type books where it talks about how to "be a lady" etc.

    Also, one of the more recent comments was about the presentation of "facts" in textbooks, which sparks a separate line of thought about how much textbooks actually present facts at all. For example, when an American history textbooks presents facts about the start of the Civil War, those might not be considered actual facts, but still are presented. Still, they are probably commonly held academic theories.

    One random question pops up in my mind - if we look back at 1950s textbooks, it would be very easy to identify tons of awfully stated phrases that would be offensive to many today. I wonder what things we will look back at in 50 years about textbooks written in 2011 and see wrong?
     
  24. TeacherGroupie

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    Plenty, I trust, EdEd.
     
  25. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    Hopefully, the heavy kid would have enough self esteem to stand up for themselves like that.
    I still believe the kids who already bully would run with this kind of thing. They don't know any better.
     
  26. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    It was written in 1990. I looked at a sample of their latest version and it's not much different...unfortunately.
     
  27. tchr4evr

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    As a heavier person who is actually very healthy, I do take great offense to this, because it's not about making obesity acceptable. By definition, I am overweight, and have been for most of my life. BUt, I exercise at least 3 times a week, I eat relatively healthy ( I do like my chocolate and Dr. Pepper), but I am very healthy. My blood pressure, sugars, cholesterol, etc, are exactly where they should be for my age and gender, but I'm classified as overweight. I don't like this wording at all, because it makes it unacceptable to be anything other than thin.
     
  28. becky

    becky Enthusiast

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    Diet Dr Pepper will wash down that chocolate much better!!:cool:
     
  29. silverspoon65

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    I am sorry to attack but this post makes me really angry. I was in the same situation as a child, and I am watching my little sister in this situation now. It is totally unfair to expect a child, even in elementary or middle school, to make those decisions. If one person in the family is overweight, everyone in the house needs to be on board with helping that person get healthy. If she were allergic to peanuts, you wouldn't say "well, I am not going to deprive my son a peanut butter cup" even if it could kill her. Obesity kills, and she needs to learn to eat appropriately now. When the food is in the house and she can't eat it, you are 1) expecting too much of a child to choose to snack on carrot sticks when she could have potato chips, and 2) you are saying "this food is for us, not for you, because there is something different about you." She is dependent on you for the food she eats. Her food SHOULD be policed by you, but in a delicate balance of being healthy and not making her feel different from everyone else. Because for someone who may be developing a food addiction, that feeling different is fuel for the fire.

    TEACH her about portions and eating right, but make it an expectation for everyone in the house. Poor meals and lots of snacks in the house aren't good for anyone.

    I could keep going but I will bite my tongue.
     
  30. porque_pig

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    This is the biggest problem I have with the wording.

    A family member of mine is a slightly overweight teenage girl. She has a very healthy diet and lives an active lifestyle (plays sports, works as a lifeguard during the summer, loves to work out). She has seen nutritionists and followed all the rules perfectly, but she can't lose weight. She is incredibly healthy, but according to this textbook, she would be considered "unattractive."

    As an adult, I read that phrase and roll my eyes. If I were a young, overweight student, I would probably be devastated by it. I think the wording indicates a narrow-minded understanding of weight and health.

    In terms of how to approach childhood obesity issues within schools, I have no idea where to start. A child can't help what foods their parents feed them at home, and I'm not sure if elementary school and middle school children are capable of making solid decisions regarding nutrition. While schools should teach the basics of nutrition and provide objective information about the negative effects of obesity, no curriculum can magically remedy the obesity issue.
     
  31. peachacid

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    Yes, but at the same time, she will have to make those choices eventually -- as anyone must -- on her own, without her family there to make the choices for her. Sure, having a house without snacks in it is helpful toward making those good choices, but it is restrictive and being restrictive about food can lead to problems. I think it makes more sense to say, "The choice is yours. I will help you make the right choice, but you need to know how to make that choice." Ice cream, candy, potato chips, etc etc etc are all fine in moderation. Learning moderation is just as important as learning which food to choose. It goes the other way, too. Children need to learn that food is good for them, that any food in moderation is acceptable, that it is our choice as humans what we eat, that the food we put in our bodies affects our bodies, etc etc. Teaching a child that ice cream is bad because it will make you fat is problematic because then the child will be conflicted about herself/himself when he/she WANTS ice cream. Does wanting this make me a bad person? Is food that tastes good bad?

    As for the textbook, the choice of words were indeed offensive. Perhaps the teacher could use them for a discussion...maybe a conversation about the way in which obesity is viewed, what the kids think the causes are... Then they could read the facts presented in the textbook and see how their assumptions fit the facts. As someone else said, bullies will be bullies regardless of what's in their health textbook. Maybe something good could come of this.
     
  32. Southernese

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    Funny thing about the '50s. A lot less obesity back then.

    You're making the same mistake as countless others in this thread. You're overlooking the fact that the original language said obesity is unattractive, not being slightly overweight. There is a big difference, and I can't believe the terms are being conflated in this conversation by teachers, who I would think would pay more attention to detail.
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

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    The terms ARE conflated, Southernese, because they are conflated in the culture: note the rise in anorexia and in related body-image issues.
     
  34. 3Sons

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    If you're going to cite the original language, it might be more in keeping with attention to detail if you were to cite it accurately:

    That passage and the vague phrase "excessive weight" looks very much to me like it could include anything from a few extra pounds to morbid obesity. It most certainly did NOT say "obesity is unattractive", it said, "excessive weight" is unattractive.

    As far as the 50's, the reasons for lower obesity rates at the time are likely complex, and I'm sure include fewer processed foods, fewer sedentary childhood activities and a less reliance on cars. I suspect language in textbooks had a minimal effect, if any at all.

    I find the language unprofessional, irrelevant to their discussion, and ill-considered.
     
  35. Mathemagician

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    I've seen countless times phrases like "Besides being unattractive, cigarette smoking can lead to ....." and no one takes issue with that. I don't smoke, but let's say I was raised in a family of smokers where smoking was seen as acceptable. Say I've tried and tried, but I can't quit. Why is something I "can't help" allowed to be labeled unattractive? I guarantee no one would take issue with that. To me, it's exactly the same.
     
  36. TeacherGroupie

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    Mathemagician, that amounts to arguing that as long as something's already being done, it is ipso facto acceptable.
     
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