Teaching Some Shocking Stuff

May 14, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“The Story of Stuff,” a short environmental-activism cartoon, has been making the rounds on the internet since 2007 and evoking the controversy you’d expect from a video about such a heated topic. The New York Times reported recently that teachers from elementary to high school are using the video as a tool in their classroom to spark conversation about the environment.

The video—produced and narrated by activist, independent lecturer, and former Greenpeace employee Annie Leonard—takes an in-depth but accessible look at where our products come from, how they’re procured, how they’re disposed of, and the impact this process, called “the materials economy,” has on the environment. Along the way, Leonard takes a few jabs at the military-industrial complex and multi-national corporations.

After the video was posted in 2007, word spread amongst educators that it was a “brief, provocative way of drawing students into a dialogue about how buying a cellphone or jeans could contribute to environmental devastation.” According to the Times, 6 million people have viewed the video on the “Stuff” Web site, millions more on YouTube, and over 7,000 schools, churches, and others have purchased the DVD.

Mark Lukach, a college-preparatory teacher in California, admits that the video is edgy, but sees it as a good learning tool. “Compared to An Inconvenient Truth, it is much shorter and easier to compact into a class segment. You can watch it and then segue into a discussion.”

Not everyone thinks so highly of Leonard’s video, however. Mark Zuber, a parent in Missoula, Mo., objected to the video noting that, while well done, it didn’t say “one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing.” Zuber took his issue to the local school board citing a violation of the district’s standards of bias. The board voted 4-3 to ban the video.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week