Introduction: Why This Curriculum?

 

Scarecrow: I haven't got a brain... only straw.
Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?
Dorothy: Yes, I guess you're right.
© The Wizard of OZ, 1939 film, MGM studios, starring Judy Garland

 

If you were to follow the yellow brick road called journalism or take the new information superhighway, you might never come to the end.  It’s still under construction and the way it is expanding, that kind of journey just may stretch to infinity. When it comes to words, there has been an unparalleled explosion. Words are everywhere and more words than our ancestors or forefathers could have ever dreamed.

Television brings us the twenty four hour news cycle and instant “breaking news” that can bring amazement or horror unbidden and screaming into our living rooms. Facebook and Twitter bring us enmeshed and intricate social networks that can cross the globe and back in moments.

Virtual meeting rooms offer us the opportunity to converse and do business with newly discovered colleagues half a world away. Internet radio and broadcasting gives us programming and a doorway in real time, into worlds that we have never before explored.

Technology in our palm affords us the ability to make a telephone call from anywhere to almost anywhere or text a silent message to anyone in our orbit instantly.

We now live in two worlds, the material world and the virtual world and both impact our lives. It is becoming more and more necessary to check in with both worlds daily. The implied anonymity of the virtual world brings to light some disconcerting issues: the permanency of material placed into the cyber space, the potential vulnerability for users, the opportunities created for bullying and the incidence of abuses that beg cautionary and thoughtful response to that parallel reality. 

Our network can decrease our net work but can seriously affect our net worth and can do it almost instantaneously. “The network” can also impact emotional wellness, psychological well being, work life, personal life, self esteem, sphere of influence, circles of power, and people’s reputations.

How do people speak to one another in a civil society? What is prudent to reveal? What is the role of self restraint in an increasingly shrinking world? Does the word “censure” still send chills up the spine? How does the American First Amendment impact this virtual new world and how do other societies govern the use of words? What responsibility to prevent harm comes with an entry into this exploding world of words? And should the same rules apply in any space whether it is cyber or not?

As a consumer, what responsibility do you hold for what is disseminated in your worlds? What power, if any, do you have to control what comes into your sphere? What role does critical thinking play in the digestion of this information overload? How and why should you regulate your sphere and your world? Is it possible to harm or slay with words? And if someone is harmed by the misuse of words, what are, or should be, the consequences?

And the most important question: How does the dawning reality that we are all part of an interconnected web of life play a part in your consumer decisions, consumption and actions in this new world and on a planet rapidly becoming a global village?

These are modern questions for a modern world that impact and affect everybody. It is becoming increasingly evident that people hunger for a more humane society and world. There is growing longing for a return to civility in discourse and interaction. Recently the tolerance for the use of words and language that harm or potentially harm has waned: Don Imus was dismissed from his post as morning commentator when he used the phrase “nappy headed hos” referring to a sports team populated by black women.

Shirley Sherrod was vilified by blogger Andrew Breitbart when he cut and spliced a speech she gave to an audience. The media picked up the story without checking out its veracity and the NAACP joined Brietbart in his condemnation of Ms. Sherrod. Government officials then asked her to relinquish her post with the department of rural development. When it came to light that her words were deliberately taken out of context and that the charge of racism was manipulated and false, the media was forced to reverse its position.  But damage was already inflicted to her reputation, her livelihood and her psyche.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger used the N-word, a well known historical epithet and insult to African Americans eleven times during her radio show to a black woman who called for advice about her relationship with her husband. Dr. Laura resigned her position (she claims voluntarily) citing that her first amendment rights were trampled when listeners used their consumer voice to register complaints . Spokespersons including clergy and other commentators replied to Schlessenger’s charges of censure saying that the listening audience exercised their first amendment rights to speak out in protest her uncivil use of the public airwaves.

What prompted this curriculum Violence and Words and what drove the impetus for its completion and release, was a discovery and horrifying realization after the death of mega star and musical icon Michael Jackson, that the press perpetuated a protracted and misanthropic portrait of someone who, it turns out, was a global humanitarian and a champion of civil rights, human rights and the rights of children. An investigation into the lives and work of highly visible personalities like Lady Diana Spencer, Bill Clinton, Vince Foster and others  revealed inhumane treatment and suffering inflicted by tabloid journalism and the resulting medialoid conversion of the mainstream press.

This curriculum comes out of a collective and gathering storm and force that eschews maligning public figures for sport and to sell headlines and newspapers. It’s a response to the growing impulse toward recognizing the innate spiritual nature of humans, the hunger for recognizing the brilliance rather than darkness of our planetary race, and a longing for more civil discourse and humane treatment of humans and their planet. It follows the human evolutionary impulse away from the dark and confining uncivilized and inhumane nature of the human mind leading toward a renewed human decency and humane narrative on this planet that eventually brings salvation back and leads to peace.  

Reverend B. Kaufmann on behalf of all the contributors 8/2010

Uses of the Curriculum 

Words and Violence is considered a work in progress. What you see here is the first incarnation of a curriculum designed for students of all ages. With a few revisions or adaptations, the curriculum may be tweaked for students of any age.

The packet is filled with individual activities helping students understand the power of words and the responsibility attached to using them. There are provocative articles on the press, tabloid journalism, and words used as mass destruction--all of these practices leading to potential violence. With over ten case studies, numerous quotes and poems related to the importance of words, the "Words and Violence" education packet is ideal for use with middle through high school. In addition, the "In Depth Reflective Articles" are geared for college classes. As with all Voices material, the education packet is free.

You are Invited to Contribute

The Words and Violence curriculum contributors come from the ranks of more than just educators. You do not have to be in education to have something of value to contribute. You do not have to be a writer either as there are volunteer writers and editors on the team. If you have a great idea for a submission contact us.  Submitting a case or an idea does not guarantee publication or inclusion but  the team will gladly and eagerly look at your ideas. If you know of an article or publication that would support the work of this curriculum, please send it along.

As we said, this project is a work in progress. So we also invite feedback, suggestions or commentary and reactions from educators and students. Please let us know your thoughts.  Contact: contact@charterforcompassion.org.

Authors and Contributors

The authors and contributors for Words and Violence come from varied fields including: education, social work, medical field, technology, religion and several others. Many are parents and grandparents.  

A list of Contributors and their biographies may be found in the appendix.