PTA News May 30, 2007 

PTA joins child advocates to stop commercialism and support nutrition standards in schools.
by Ellie Goldberg, VPLegislation@masspta.org

PTA was in good company on May 30 in Hearing Room A-1 as Ellie Goldberg, MassPTA VP of Legislation and Mary Ann Stewart, MassPTA board member, testified at the Joint Committee on Public Health public hearing in support of HB 489, "An Act Relative to the Public Health Impact of Commercialism in Schools."

Organized by the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, the first panel to testify included experts Susan Linn, Juliet Schor, and Diane Levin. (See their bios and credentials below.)
The second panel included Ellie Goldberg, speaking on behalf of MassPTA, Lin Vickery, a parent from Lunenberg describing problems caused by Channel One in her child's school, and Dr. Alan Meyers, associate professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, co-chair of the Obesity Committee of the Massachusetts Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and staff pediatrician for the Nutrition and Fitness for Life program at Boston Medical Center.
Next Mary Ann testified as a parent of three school-age children and an engaged citizen. See Goldberg Testimony re Marketing in Schools (below) and M A Stewart Commercialism Testimony
Quick note: Earlier in the morning, Ellie also attended a rally organized by the Massachusetts Public Health Association on the steps outside the State House to publicize the need to set nutrition standards in schools. For more information on H2168 - "An Act to promote proper school nutrition." Click to view school nutrition bill fact sheet
The press conference included Harold D. Cox (until recently Cambridge's chief public health officer and now associate dean for public health at the Boston University School of Public Health), John Auerbach (Department of Public Health Commissioner), and Representative Peter Koutoujian (Public Health Committee co-chair and chief bill sponsor) and others public health, nutrition and school health experts making the link between soaring rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and other junk food related diseases and disorders, especially in children.
If you didn't blink, you could see me in the Channel 5 news video of the press conference. See story and video clips: Banning Junk Food  Junk Food Ban Debated

For another expert reference on the urgent need for school nutrition standards see the Institute of Medicine (Washington DC) report:   Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way toward Healthier Youth April 25, 2007  Fact Sheet Report Brief
Other bills related to school health and child and adolescent health on the May 30 Joint Committee on Public Health School Health,  Child & Adolescent Health agenda included:  
H489 – "An Act relative to the public health impact of commercialism in schools." – Representative Peter Koutoujian
H1172 – "An Act relative to health education." – Representative Ruth Balser
H2005 - "An Act relative to the creation of a sports injury commission."- Representative Cory Atkins
H2095 - "An Act to improve access to nutritious foods and physical activity."- Representative Linda Dorcena Forry
H2107 - "An Act establishing a health education program in the public schools."- Representative Mary Grant
H2168 - "An Act to promote proper school nutrition."- Representative Peter Koutoujian
H2216 - "An Act relative to the creation of a sports injury commission."- Representative Douglas Peterson    
S1220 -"An Act relative to the creation of a sports injury commission." – Senator Cynthia Stone Creem
S1262  - "An Act promoting healthy alternatives in public school food programs." – Senator Richard Moore  

Panel 1 Experts. Bios and Credentials:
Susan Linn is an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Associate Director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children's Center. She is also co-founder of the coalition Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.  In her book, Consuming Kids, she takes a comprehensive and unsparing look at the demographic advertisers call "the kid market," taking readers on a compelling and disconcerting journey through modern childhood as envisioned by commercial interests.  Consuming Kids reveals the magnitude of this problem and shows what can be done about it.  
Juliet Schor's research over the last ten years has focused on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. Schor's latest book is Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner 2004).  Born to Buy is both an account of marketing to children from inside the agencies and firms and an assessment of how these activities are affecting children. Schor is chair of the Department of Sociology at Boston College, a board member and co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream, an organization devoted to transforming North American lifestyles to make them more ecologically and socially sustainable. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics and the Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies. She also teaches periodically at Schumacher College, an International Center for Ecological Studies based in south-west England.

Diane Levin is Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston where she has been involved in training early childhood professionals for over twenty-five years. Currently she teaches courses on play, media and violence prevention. She has a B.S. in Child Development from Cornell University, an M.S.Ed. in Special Education from Wheelock College, and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Tufts University in Sociology of Education and Child Development.  An internationally recognized expert, Levin helps professionals and parents understand and counteract the harmful effects of violence, media and commercial culture on children. Levin is a co-founder of Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment (TRUCE: www.truceteachers.org), which prepares materials to help parents deal with the media and commercial culture in their children's lives.  She is also a co-founder of the Coalition for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercialfreechildhood.org), which works to education the public about and end the commercial exploitation of children. She is a Research Associate at Lesley University's Center for Peaceable Schools.
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Massachusetts PTA
P.O. Box 421
Rehoboth, MA 02769

To the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health, May 30, 2007

State Senator Susan C. Fargo

State House. Room 504, Boston, MA 02133


State Representative Peter J. Koutoujian

State House Room 130, Boston, MA 02133

Re: House Bill 489, "An Act Relative to the Public Health Impact of Commercialism in Schools."  
On behalf of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, an affiliate of National PTA, the largest and oldest child advocacy organization in the nation, I am writing in support of House Bill 489, "An Act Relative to the Public Health Impact of Commercialism in Schools
The Massachusetts PTA supports the goal of protecting children from commercial exploitation by prohibiting advertising and marketing on school grounds or on property that is owned or leased by a public school.  
We agree with the recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that pediatricians should work with parents, schools, community groups, and others to ban or severely curtail school-based advertising in all forms.  We need a strong bill to set a high standard to protect children from the growing commercialism in our schools and to help us work together to stop all exploitation of children by advertisers.  
We speak on behalf of children because they are especially vulnerable to the ubiquitous and unethical advertising and branding that is all around them.  As responsible adults, we are concerned about marketing that feeds the growing epidemic of obesity and other physical disorders and mental health problems, especially in children.  As responsible adults, our responsibility is to protect children from corporate marketers who aggressively promote damaging values and destructive behaviors to children, such as violence, hedonism, addiction, materialism, and fast food.
Advertising and branding is so pervasive and so manipulative that it has distorted cultural values, threatens children's physical and mental health, undermines parent and child relationships, and hinders education and healthy development. This marketing in schools, in all media, and in new and insidious ways via new technologies is explicitly designed to brainwash our children. The presence of logos and advertising in schools conveys an endorsement and creates an attachment to products and manufacturers that exploit children and encourages extravagance and waste.
These corporate advertisers take advantage of school officials and parents in underfunded schools.  Underfunding of schools has opened the door to advertisers that work to turn schools into agents of businesses and our children into walking billboards wearing logos and brand names.
Today too many schools cooperate in corporate programs that encourage families to participate in product promotions and in advertising campaigns that lure children to websites for more indoctrination into the culture of fast food, violence and consumerism.  
MassPTA believes that HB 489 will protect children and promote the shared responsibility of pediatricians, parents, teachers, and policy makers to help schools achieve their primary mission of promoting and protecting the healthy development of children.     
Yours truly,
Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed. 617 965-9637
79 Elmore Street
Newton, MA 02459-1137
on behalf of the Massachusetts Parent Teachers Association


Remarks by Ellie Goldberg, May 2007

I am glad to have the opportunity to honor Rachel Carson during her Centennial Year.  Rachel Carson taught me the most important lesson of my life -- that our health is intimately connected and dependent on the quality of the environment.  Rachel Carson was not really an environmentalist; she was an ecologist.   She understood our world is our life support system and that contaminating air, water and food was a violation of human rights.

Rachel Carson had the courage, the confidence, the reverence for life, and the sense of responsibility to speak out against widespread pesticide abuse and environmental degradation.  In fact, she wrote about global climate change in 1948.

While all of Carson's writings stand the test of time, Silent Spring, published in 1962, deserves special focus because it is a Call to Action.  Now, as the growing evidence continues to make the link between illnesses at every stage of the life cycle and the contamination of our water, air and food, we know that Rachel Carson was right.  Prevention is the imperative.

Rachel Carson inspires me to ask: What would Rachel Say? It is a clear ethic for evaluating our public policies such as the state's continuing permit of the widespread use of pesticides and even aerial spraying as our families and communities experience growing rates of asthma, cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders and in spite of the loss of biodiversity, especially the pollinators.

The National Resource Defense Council calls Silent Spring one of the landmark books of the 20th century.  It points out how Rachel Carson faced overwhelming illness and adversity, and in spite of an orchestrated chemical industry campaign to discredit her work, she "rose like a gladiator …motivated by her unabashed love of nature and sense of responsibility."  Thanks to Rachel, an enlightened public and their legislators eventually created the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Rachel inspires us to think of ourselves, not as whistle blowers or canaries in the mine, but as guardians, steadfast sentries, and defenders of our community.  Thanks to Rachel we can see ourselves as sentinel lions, the universal symbol of protection at the entrances of cities, buildings, bridges... guarding the treasures of community.

In remembering Rachel, we can work together to foster a culture of sentinel Lions who, like Rachel Carson, is motivated to take responsibility for the health of their communities and to work for sustained political and cultural change to make public health a priority.


Fulfilling our mission as advocates for children

Ellie Goldberg, VP Legislation, Massachusetts PTA
www.masspta.org www.healthy-kids.info

(Photos: Ellie Goldberg with Rep. Peter Koutoujian, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and Ellie with Maureen Ferris, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legislative Children's Caucus.)

If you belong to PTA, I know you believe as I do that PTA members can and must participate in public policy making. We belong to PTA because it supports us in advocacy and lobbying efforts to mold local, state and national programs, policies, and priorities on behalf of children, schools, and communities.

What does the Massachusetts VP of Legislation do? What can PTA members do?

As VP of Legislation for Massachusetts PTA my role is to raise awareness of PTA issues and positions among PTA members, policy makers and the public. At times, I am a spokesperson on national and Massachusetts PTA priority issues, giving testimony at hearings and joining policy making committees on behalf of the PTA.

I keep informed on legislative activities at the state and national level, I attend national meetings and conferences, and I participate in national legislative and policy conference calls. Then I send out the e-newsletter Massachusetts PTA Takes Action to keep you informed about the news and resources you need to play a leadership role in making children a high priority in your community and at the state and national levels.

I also send out Action Alerts. These are usually urgent appeals for action at critical times in the legislation and budget-making process. I hope you will write letters or make phone calls to state and national legislators, legislative committees, and news editors. Usually I can provide a draft, template or script to make it easy for you. These Action Alerts are an important way to make the PTA voice count.

The real key to public advocacy is developing and maintaining relationships with policy makers throughout the year. I encourage you to build strong relationships with your policy makers at the local, state and federal level. Get to know your legislators and their staff. Write letters to the editor about PTA priority issues. Increase the visibility of the PTA and promote PTA's advocacy agenda among the public and policy makers.

Do you have a passion? I am most passionate about environmental health and safety, pollution prevention, health security, asthma and other chronic health conditions, and school indoor air quality issues.

There are many other health promotion, education, nutrition, community safety and parent involvement activities that need your attention and involvement. Consider serving as the PTA liaison to or as a member of public policy committees and groups organized to promote the issues you care about.

Most important, think of yourself as a resource to your local PTA, to your legislators, their staff people, and other community policy makers. You are their eyes and ears at the local level. Let them know your personal, school and community concerns, interests and needs.

Also seek out local community partners and organizations such as the League of Women Voters, your district's Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education, Stand for Children, and other groups working to promote the interests of children and to enhance pride in the schools and community.

There is always plenty of room for new ideas! We are most powerful and effective when we work together. Please contact me at vplegislation@masspta.org.

I look forward to hearing from you.



The Legacy of Rachel Carson 
b. May 27, 1907 – d. April 14, 1964

Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., Newton, Massachusetts www.healthy-kids.info

Rachel Carson's Centennial Year (2007) is a golden opportunity to introduce Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring, to a new generation of students, citizens, journalists, opinion leaders, and policy makers. A national awareness of Rachel Carson's life and legacy can stimulate broader public engagement in efforts to stop the damage caused by the unbridled chemical industry and to integrate and align public policy with Rachel Carson's values.

In 1962, Silent Spring was a call for sanity, common sense, public integrity, health security and human rights from a scientist who catalyzed a wave of such political urgency that it generated a powerful "environmental movement."

It was Rachel Carson's reverence for life and sense of responsibility that motivated her to write Silent Spring (1962). Al Gore wrote in his introduction to the 40th anniversary printing, "…without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all…"

As a master storyteller, Carson exposed the extensive harm caused by the reckless use of modern chemicals and eloquently explained the intimate connection between our health and the quality of our environment. To a public dazzled by chemical industry marketing and government complicity, Silent Spring detailed the assault on the essential elements that sustain life: clean air, clean water, and safe food.

Within a few years of its publication, in spite of an orchestrated chemical industry campaign to discredit her work, an enlightened public and their elected leaders led to the creation of the US EPA, the ban on DDT, and environment regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, laws being systematically undermined today.

Silent Spring is as relevant today as in 1962.

Rachel Carson Was Right: Prevention is the Imperative

While all of Carson's books and other writings stand the test of time, Silent Spring deserves special focus because it is a Call to Action. As the evidence of harm continues to grow, Rachel Carson tells a story that gives citizens a clear rubric of values for evaluating public policies and institutional practices in communities now suffering from environmentally induced epidemics of asthma, autism, cancer, and the long list of acute and chronic illnesses and development disorders.

"What Would Rachel Say?" sets a standard for legislators, institutions, corporations, public agencies and citizens.

The National Resource Defense Council calls Silent Spring one of the landmark books of the 20th century and points out how Rachel Carson faced overwhelming difficulties, illness and adversity, and in spite of an orchestrated chemical industry campaign to discredit her work, "rose like a gladiator…motivated by her unabashed love of nature and sense of responsibility."

Like a "Sentinel Lion," Rachel Carson had the courage, the confidence, the reverence for life, and the sense of responsibility to speak out during a period of widespread pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. Silent Spring still has the transformational power to be the touchstone for a new wave of social consciousness and political urgency. 

Rachel Carson inspires us to think of ourselves, not as whistleblowers, troublemakers, or canaries in the mine, but as guardians, steadfast sentries, and defenders of our community against the decisions that allow pollution to contaminate our air, water and food. We can picture ourselves as the sentinel or guardian lion, the universal symbol of protection, alone or in pairs, at the entrances of cities, buildings, gates, bridges, museums -- guarding the treasures of our community. We are the sentries, gladiators, the "guardian at the gate," the sentinel lions working to inform and engage citizens in the work of aligning local practices with the Precautionary Principle and sustainability standards.

The image of the "Sentinel Lion" will help reframe (and reclaim) the goal of environmental advocacy from simple consumer activities, often limited to changing light bulbs, buying "green," and recycling, to greater citizen engagement at all levels working for government and corporate transparency and accountability.[1] The goal is to foster a culture of Sentinel Lions who, like Rachel Carson, are motivated to take responsibility for the health of their communities and to work for sustained political and cultural change that prioritizes public health.

[1] Confronting Consumption, Edited by Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, KenConca, MIT Press, 2002.