5 Mind-Blowing Facts for a Disney Enthusiast

5. Ursula, the antagonist in The Little Mermaid, is based on a stereotypical drag-queen. Designed to be a larger woman, with an unnaturally deep voice, and too much make up, her blood red nails and bright blue eye shadow help her play the role.

Ursula

Ursula

4. Disney’s heavy involvement in WWII propaganda led to the well-known faces of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy being plastered on the sides of bomber planes, as well as bombs. To make matters more interesting, Disney also produced several military films for both soldiers and the American public to boost morale and portray anti-German and anti-Japanese sentiments. See “Der Fuehrer’s Face” or “Education for Death-The Making of a Nazi”

Donald Duck

Donald Duck

3. The classic film Beauty and the Beast conveys the message that one should not judge another by appearance, rather by one’s inner virtue, beauty, and goodness. However, after researching the affect of the message of Beauty and the Beast on young girls, researchers found the message may actually be “stick by your man; your love can change him from an abusive husband into a prince!”

Beauty and the Prince

Beauty and the Prince

2. Little Red Riding Hood, originally titled “The Grandmothers Tale”, first featured the line “a slut is she who eats the flesh of her grandmother.” If that wasn’t enough to alter your opinion of Little Red, let me tell you how she escaped the Big Bad Wolf in the original story. Trapped in her grandmother’s house with the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red asked if she could go outside to use the bathroom. The Wolf agreed, but only on the condition that she would allow him to tie a rope around her leg so she couldn’t escape. Little Red took so long outside that eventually the Big Bad Wolf called out, “Are you dropping a load out there?!” Hearing no reply he ran outside to see Little Red’s rope tied to a tree with her nowhere in sight. So what did Beauty and the Beast teach us Big Bad Wolf? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, the cunning Little Red was able to escape but in a bit more of a graphic way than I remembered.

Little Red and the Wolf

Little Red and the Wolf

1. Disney may partake in some occasional racism, which they spread to millions of children around the globe.

Oliver and Company:  Alonzo (a Latino Chihuahua) steals a car, and falls deeply in love with a female dog who tells him he’s the bottom of the barrel and not good enough for him.

Alonzo

Alonzo

Tarzan: The Disney version eliminates all of the black people in Africa from the film. Instead they portray a white man in Africa who is superior, and who swings from trees, and “[African children] see gorillas being the ones they relate to,” said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, the Director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children’s Center.

The Gorillas

The Gorillas

“What does that mean to an African child, is it promoting white supremacy to African children,” he said, “of course it is.”

The Lion King: The hyenas are identified with inner city minority people, particularly blacks, so it sends a message to associate these people with evil characters.

The Hyenas

The Hyenas

Lady and the Tramp:  The Siamese cats are depicted with “slanted eyes, the buck teeth and the very heavy accents,” said Chyng Feng Sun a children’s book author. The cats are shown as “cunning, sinister, and manipulative,” she stated.

The Siamese Cats

The Siamese Cats

Aladdin: The merchant attempts to cut off Princess Jasmine’s hand when she steals an apple to give to a hungry child. “ Dr. Jack Shaheen, a Professor of Mass Communications Emeritus at Southern Illinois University said, “this goes against Islam, in Islam you are obliged to feed someone if they are hungry, over and over again, and that’s what devout Muslims do.” He went on to say, “Only in Saudi Arabia, if you are a thief, a real thief, and after three warnings and three convictions if you steal something is the hand removed, in one country, with a population of a few million, and yet they opted to use this.”

Aladdin saving Princess Jasmine from losing her hand

Aladdin saving Princess Jasmine from losing her hand

And most clearly,

Pocahontas: In the song Savages, the viewer hears the white men sing out, “Savages, savages, barely even human…They’re not like you and me, which means they must be evil…different from us which means they can’t be trusted.”

Pocahontas

Pocahontas

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Learn Innovative Parenting Techniques With Dinner On Us

Dinner On Us Families

Dinner On Us Families

April 1, 2013—At 5:20 p.m. parents and children followed the scent of cheese pizza pouring out of the Earthfoods Café. The café quickly turned from a still sanctuary, to a room filled with the squeals of laughing and crying children, as parents registered for the Dinner On Us event.

The Dinner On Us program, arranged by the Office of Family Resources, provides UMass students, faculty, and Amherst Family Center families, an opportunity to learn skills of parenting and maintaining family relations. The program, which is open to households with children one day to five years old, occurs on 10 Mondays throughout each semester. During the event, every registered household receives a pizza dinner, and a parking pass. Then, each household separates. While the children attend childcare, the parents join an informational workshop. Frequently, once a household begins attending the program’s events, they consistently incorporate the events into their schedule, making Dinner On Us a weekly program for more than 20 households in the Amherst area.

Malinda Sears, undergraduate student at UMass Amherst and participant in the Dinner On Us program.

Malinda Sears, undergraduate student at UMass Amherst and participant in the Dinner On Us program.

One such household is that of Malinda Sears. Sears is an undergraduate student at UMass Amherst, studying wildlife conservation and hoping to graduate in May. Striving to finish her requirements to graduate on time, Sears often finds herself trying to balance coursework with caring for her six-year-old daughter, Victoria.

Sears has attended the program with Victoria for the last three years. She learned of the program through Victoria’s pre-school. “They had a flyer offering free child care, dinner, and adult interaction, and somebody else cooks,” said Sears. “I’m a single-mom, so providing dinner is a major plus in my life,” she said with a chuckle.

Malinda Sears (left) and Joanne Levenson (right) in the Office of Family Resources at UMass.

Malinda Sears (left) and Joanne Levenson (right) in the Office of Family Resources at UMass.

In 1997, when Joanne Levenson, the current Director of the Office Of Family Resources, conceived the Dinner On Us program, she considered each aspect that she would hope for in a family program. “I was pregnant with my first child at the time and I thought to myself, what would I want,” said Levenson. Her innovative idea of providing a free dinner and childcare, as aspects of a family program, was unprecedented in Massachusetts. This allowed her to apply for, and receive, funding for the program through state grants. Since its formation, Levenson has continued to lead the program, and provide support to households in the Amherst area.

According to Sears however, the program offers significantly more than advertised. “The social connection is the number one thing I like,” said Sears. She enjoys spending time interacting with other parents, and reuniting with friends she has met through the program. Additionally, she said, “I’m one of those people who likes to be informed.” Always hoping to improve at motherhood, Sears explained that although she may not always employ the techniques she learns during the workshops, she at least knows they exist.

Dinner On Us allows Sears to connect to a community of people, in a similar situation to her own. “It’s just somewhere to go, where nothing matters, and someone else will take care of my kid and I know she’s safe,” stated Sears. “Not having to always think is a life saver.”

The daughter of Malinda Sears, Victoria, age six, at Kindergarden.

The daughter of Malinda Sears, Victoria, age six, at Kindergarden.

Sears went on to say the program also benefits Victoria. “Socially, it helps her with my divorce,” said Sears. “We’ve moved two or three times so it gives her a sense of security and stability.”

Professionals in the area, recruited by Levenson, provide techniques and skills to the parents, like Sears. Frequently, Levenson draws on professors from the UMass Psychology, Education, and Nutrition to lead workshops during the program events. There, the professors present findings from recent studies, particularly those relevant to the participating parent’s children.

The most recent event was “Television’s and Electronic Media’s Impact on Young Children and on Parent-Child Interactions,” led by Daniel Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, at UMass Amherst. During the workshop, parents gathered in a small rectangular room, where all 30 parents squeezed into two concentric circles. The inner circle of parents surrounded the wooden, oblong conference table, and the outer circle of parents lined the room’s stark white walls in brown metal folding chairs. They all watched attentively as Anderson described select studies he had conducted about how television affects children of different ages. Some parents took notes, while others engaged directly with Anderson, asking questions such as, “If I say McDonald’s is bad, even after a colorful commercial that my two year old daughter really likes, does my opinion affect her?”

The information presented is prepared for the registered parents so that a parent may ask a question and receive the specific advice that he needs. Thinking of Victoria, Sears said, “It’s helped me get her to focus on tasks at home, helped her learn to self regulate, and express herself better.” Sears continued, “the program has given me information that I’ve passed onto her,” which is why, Sears plans to return to the program with Victoria in the fall.

Jessica Dautruche, a graduate student and full time staff member of UMass Amherst.

Jessica Dautruche, a graduate student and full time staff member of UMass Amherst.

Another household that consistently attends Dinner On Us is that of Jessica Dautruche. Dautruche is a part-time graduate student, and full-time member of the professional staff of Curriculum Development and Community Education, at the Center for Women and Community on the UMass Amherst campus.

Jordan, Jessica Dautruche's three year old son.

Jordan, Jessica Dautruche’s three year old son.

Dautruche and her son, Jordan, began attending Dinner On Us when he was less than one week old. For the last three years, Dinner On Us has become a regular part of their routine she explained. Dautruche said, “I have friends I talk to during dinner time, and I know that Jordan gets to play with his friends.” The program offers an opportunity for Dautruche to “know he’s doing something productive.” “I’m always trying to do my best for him, and it’s helpful to know he’s there and safe,” she stated.

The diversity of topics keeps Dautruche interested and engaged in learning more.  She finds the resources offered to be supportive, and sometimes enjoys the social dynamics of the events. However, Dautruche feels that after 15 years of operation, the program may be improved. She explained, “Dinner On Us could be adapted to be multiple days, instead of just Monday nights.” Or, she suggested, “What if you could choose to go do your homework, or listen to an intensive workshop.” More simply she said, “we have the same food every time, it’s nice because it’s consistent, but it’d be nice to explore different international foods too.”Overall however, Dautruche plans to continue attending Dinner On Us with Jordan. She will also keep spreading the word about the program, which has helped support her over the last few years.

When asked what will become of Dinner On Us in the future, Levenson replied, “I have no idea.” She hopes to move to a new facility, to accommodate more families and broaden the experience the program offers, but in reality, she just plans to continue to take the lead in teaching active parenting in the Amherst area.

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Sommer Collier in A Spicy Perspective

Sommer Collier, “professional food writer, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer,” and mother of two, according to her website, is the cheerful author of the food blog, A Spicy Perspective. Image

Collier’s blog focuses on a variety of foods, as well as topics relating to food. She shares vegetarian options, decadent meals, healthy foods, comfort foods, and international foods. Collier also provides basic instructions for beginners, like how to cook pasta to perfection every time. A Spicy Perspective offers something for everyone, as Collier provides recipes for every course of a meal, as well as an explanation of how to throw a stress-free dinner party. Adventures from her own life are also included in her blog, such as the process of remodeling a kitchen, in which she asks readers for their opinion about her remodeling plans, allowing her readers to connect to her. Collier’s goal, to help her readers create healthy and delicious meals, and gain confidence in the kitchen, is demonstrated through every post on her blog.

Collier writes on average 388 words per post, which she posts every two to three days. Occasionally Collier has a post that exceeds the others in length, for example, her 884-word post on How to Plan a Stress-Free Dinner Party.  Additionally, Collier often draws upon other relevant food bloggers, such as Heather Christo, to do guest posts that are approximately 436 words in length, offering recipes and insight into the blog of the guest blogger.

Collier’s posts are often written with a casual and approachable tone. As a reader, you feel as though you’re reading a note from a friend who shares with you an everyday experience that a recent moment in her life brought to light. For example, in Speedy Tex-Mex Breakfast Muffins, Collier writes as though she’s speaking to a friend about how a lack of time to prepare her family breakfast led her to the creative invention of a healthy, quick, and delicious breakfast muffin.

Her tone is also frequently playful and fun. In her Lemon Curd Sandwich Cookies recipe, Collier says, “This Lemon Cookie Recipe is a fun and simple baking project for kids. Load that cookie gun and let ‘em at it!”

Over all, Collier’s posts are relaxed, fun, and effective, as she often addresses her audience directly. In How to Plan a Stress-Free Dinner Party, Collier says, “Since I won’t be having one soon, I was sort of hoping today I could inspire You to throw a spring dinner, and live through it vicariously!” This illustrates the way in which Collier engages her readers, as well as how she maintains a casual and yet clear tone in her posts.

Collier often chooses the recipes she shares based on the time of the year, in addition to events occurring in her personal life. For example, in the spirit of Easter, Collier had a guest post, from Maria Meridith, sharing a gluten free and grain free, carrot cake recipe, with Peter Rabbit on top. She also does particular recipes for holidays such as Valentines Day and Thanksgiving. Intertwining her personal life into her blog, Collier shares posts such as, a Simple Ceviche Carpaccio, as her family was craving something sweet, fresh, and light, in addition to several posts surrounding the kitchen remodel that her family was completing. As a result, I think there is significantly less reporting and research occurring than compared to that of a traditional journalist reporting hard news. That said, Collier clearly has to do her homework before posting these pieces, and I imagine that takes quite a bit of trial and error, in addition to impressive photography included in her works.

All in all, I think I would enjoy Collier’s job. I like the ability and freedom she has to connect her personal life to her writing, by sharing her experiences with readers, but that said, I am not certain that I would be able to handle the freedom that comes with being a food blogger. There is almost too much choice, and too little direction, as she constantly gets to choose what her posts relate to, rather than needing to report on breaking news stories.

Although I am not personally certain that I would want her job one day, after following Collier’s posts for a few weeks, I am certain, that I will continue to do so!

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Dinner On Us: The Beginnings

Joanne Levenson, the director of Commuter Services & Housing Resources Center, conceived the idea of Dinner On Us just over 15 years ago.

In the February of 1998, a grant was accidentally placed on Levenson’s desk soliciting proposals for innovative family programs.  As a young, soon to be mother, Levenson considered what she would like, if she were to attend a family program.

“I’d like it to be after five,” she said, “that way, I could go after work.” Also, “I’d like it to include dinner, because I’d be exhausted,” said Levenson. Thinking about it more, Levenson said that the ideal program “would have childcare, to make [the program] available to different classes,” and, “it should be free,” she said.

The Dinner On Us program was the first of it’s kind. To include childcare and dinner was unheard of, so when Levenson applied for the grant, she was able to turn her innovative idea into a reality.

Since it’s opening in 1998, Levenson has been accommodating approximately 20 households, for a total of about 35 adults per event, which occurs 10 times throughout the semester. The program is open to families with children ages “birth to five,” said Levenson. There is a “mix of undergraduate, graduate, staff, faculty, and Amherst families, from the Amherst Family Center,” she said.

Every week, Levenson chooses a subject for the week, selects speakers, verifies the food that will be delivered, and does all-around trouble-shooting for families attending the event. Over the last four weeks, there have been five new households to participate. Levenson said,

“if a family comes in once, they’re basically hooked.”

She has had families that she has watched transition from participants with newborn children, to parents with teenage children who now come to speak at events.

The Dinner On Us program began a trend of family programs, which offer more to their participants than ever before. Leading that charge, Levenson hopes that sometime in the future her program will gain more funding to expand. If she gains funding, she hopes to arrange for a new event space, making the program more children friendly and available to more adults in the area.

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April 16, 2013 · 1:39 am

To Learn by Human Observation or to Learn from a TV Screen

A study conducted by the Psychology Department at UMass Amherst indicates that babies learn more effectively when observing human behavior, rather than when the same behaviors are exhibited on a television screen.

Currently, there are no hypotheses, which can be proven explaining this discrepancy. Based on conducted studies however, it is clear that this difference exists until the age of three, when learning from a screen becomes equally effective as learning behavior through observation.

In conducting this study, researchers designed a situation in which a child would observe behaviors and hear directions through a window.  For example, the child may have heard, “Cindy likes to hide Barney under the couch.” Or, “Cindy likes to hide Barney behind the television.” Then, Cindy, a graduate student, would demonstrate these actions for the child to watch. Afterwards, the child would be led into a different room, with the exact set up as outside of the window, and asked to find Barney. Nearly 90% of the time, the child would find Barney on his first attempt.

The situation then changed to have the child watching and hearing these behaviors demonstrated on a television screen. In this case, the child only “found Barney” approximately 60% of the time. This illustrates a significant gap in learning, attributed to the way in which the child is exposed to the information.

As a result, the psychology department suggests, that using educational television for children is often ineffective until the age of three. However, beginning at three, the psychology department also did studies suggesting that a relationship exists between watching educational television and a student’s high school grade point average. According to the study, there is a positive correlation between the two, illustrating that educational television does have a positive effect when used in appropriate situations for children.

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Top 3 Methods to Prepare your Child for your Departure

The parents who participated in the Dinner On Us program, which occurred on Monday, April 8, 2013 were asked to leave their children with lead teacher, Erika Loper, and nine student volunteers while they attended a workshop, put on by the Office of Family Resources.  Each family had a different method of preparing their child for an hour and a half of separation.

Below, are the three most effective methods to prepare your child for your departure, according to my observation of the participating families.

  1. “Mom and Dad will be just down the hall, and seeing you soon,” exclaimed an excited parent.

Their daughter, who appeared to be about two years old, looked up at her parents with wide brown eyes, and then, walked away. Their plans were of no concern to this young girl as she gathered herself to play with the other children. Her parents proceeded to leave the room without concern. When they came back, an hour and half, they found a happy, healthy, and sleepy little girl, who was ready to go home to bed.

  1. “You’re going to have so much fun! You’ll get to play with all of these toys and the girls while Mommy is gone. I love you and I’ll be back soon,” said another mother with a grin on her face.

Though her daughter did not seem old enough to understand. The mother’s reassurance to herself, that leaving her daughter was okay, seemed to be enough. Her daughter cheerfully grabbed hold of a grey and red car, sending it careening down a Lego coaster, and failing to notice that her mother had left.

  1. “You have to be good. Okay? I’ll see you at seven,” said another Mom.

While a less encouraging approach than her peers, this mothers words stuck. Her three daughters sat quietly for an hour and a half at a children’s table. They played with Play-Dough, puzzles, and books without making a fuss. This Mom showed us that sometimes, the direct approach is best!

And, that perhaps, mother does know best!

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“Television’s and Electronic Media Impact on Young Children and on Parent-Child Interactions”

 

anderson

Daniel Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, at UMass Amherst

Studies conducted by Professor Emeritus Daniel Anderson of the Psychology Department, at UMass Amherst suggest certain outcomesbased on a child’s age and television and electronic media exposure. Professor Anderson shared his findings at a recent event held by the Office of Family Resources entitled, Dinner On Us.

During the event, Professor Anderson presented a power point to a group of parents in a small, rectangular room, where all 30 parents sat in two concentric circles. An inner circle of parents surrounded the oblong conference table, and an outer circle of parents lined the room’s stark white walls. They all watched attentively as Anderson described select studies and explained the results.

Two and a half year olds are extremely variable in how much they pay attention to a screen, explained Anderson. At three years however, toddlers are significantly more engaged as they are able to understand more about the depicted situation. This conclusion is important because parents may then consider the fact that two and a half year old children may not receive any measurable benefit from watching educational programming, while, three year old children may.

In addition to describing patterns in television watching by children, Anderson also went on to discuss the habits of parents parenting, while engaged with the television. Anderson conducted studies, which he showed to the parents, exploring the way in which parents spend time with children, with the television both on and off. His findings suggested that parents participate in “scaffolding” when the television is off. He explained that this means parents are engaged with their child, gently helping them solve puzzles and being attentive, while the same parents fail to be as engaged when the television is on a program of his or her choice in the background.

Sharing results such as these throughout the program allowed Anderson to make a few final suggestions to conclude. He said, “there shouldn’t be any screen time for children under two years of age, and at most one hour of television on in the background.” These findings allowed parents who attended the event to compare their own behavior, with the prescribed behavior, thus hopefully making adjustments in the near future to improve the family time in their household.

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