The Power of the Arts

Although this post deals with art and education in the USA, we thought it was a good share due to the lack of support for the arts in Lesotho, where an art program is rarely found in schools. Originally posted in Huffington Post by John M. Eger.

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

With America slowly awakening to the need to turn out creative and innovative workers who can join the 21st century workplace — it’s already 2012 — we have to change the current emphasis on STEM, for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, to STEAM, by insuring that the whole brain is nurtured through the arts.

Too many, simply put, see art as nice but not necessary…children’s art, even less valuable.

But more neuroscientists, psychologists, educators and others are finding that the arts help nurture the right hemisphere of the brain, and is exactly what the more left brained curriculum needs to create the new thinking skills leading to creativity. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that arts initiatives will be the hallmarks of the most-successful schools and universities and, in turn, the most-successful and vibrant twenty-first-century cities and regions.

As Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on creativity and education has said, “We are all born creative… ” but “creativity gets squeezed out of us” about the 4th grade. Fortunately, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) seem to agree: education is badly in need of an overhaul and the potential is hopeful.

STEAM — including the arts and art integration — is fundamental to our effort to reinvent our schools, our communities and our nation. To accomplish our goals, however, we desperately need to be willing to change the paradigm, reinvent our schools — the very concept of education — and meet the challenges of a global economy.

Two years ago Duncan said, “The arts can no longer be treated as a frill … Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical for young Americans competing in a global economy.”

More recently, NSF, in a grant of $2,654,895 called “Integrating Informal STEM and Arts-Based Learning to Foster Innovation” they made clear that it hopes that a new model for education will become apparent over the next few years. The goal of the project’s development activities is to experiment with a variety of “innovation incubator” models in cities around the country. Modeled on business “incubators” or “accelerators” that are designed to foster and accelerate innovation and creativity, these STEM incubators generate collaborations of different professionals and the public around STEM education and other STEM-related topics of local interest that can be explored with the help of creative learning methodologies such as innovative methods to generate creative ideas, ideas for transforming one STEM idea to others, drawing on visual and graphical ideas, improvisation, narrative writing and the process of using innovative visual displays of information for creating visual roadmaps.”

Earlier this year the NEA announced its grant agenda in art and science. Proposals that demonstrate how both subjects can be woven together in an artwork, or play, demonstration or lab experiment or even an educational effort costing no more that $10,000 to $100,000 are being encouraged. Bill O’Brian, senior adviser for Innovation programs at the NEA said that “creativity and innovation” clearly support U.S. economic interests and he expected this effort to continue well beyond the current request for applications. He also noted that the government community of artists and scientists are very much in agreement that these are the kinds of things they wish to fund.

As promising as these efforts represent — and they are heartening after No Child Left Behind legislation — every man, woman and child need to know and understand that the tectonic plates of the world’s economy have shifted. The task of recreating any city-any community-housing, transportation, roads and bridges, clean water electricity, schools, is enormous. The task of creating a knowledge city, a creative and innovative community, is even more complex but must be the central focus of business and government at every level of our society and economy.

Cities must prepare their citizens to take ownership of their communities, build the broadband communications infrastructures the workplace needs, and educate the next generation of leaders and workers to meet the new global challenges of what just recently been termed the “new economy”, the “creative and innovative economy”.

Fashioning creative communities is essential to developing and attracting the type of bright and creative people that generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services and the finance and marketing plans to support them. If we don’t first have smart and creative people we cannot have creative workplaces or communities. And time is of the essence.

A permanent fact of life is that a new economy is emerging and it is huge. It is an economy requiring creativity, imagination and innovation. It is an economy that is global, technology driven and knowledge based. There is a trend here, like a tsunami really, shaping our world and our workforce as never before.

During the Clinton presidency democratic strategist James Carville, was fond of saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Much the same could be said today. The stimulus and all the federal policies in the world will not help if all we do is prop up the old economy. It is rather the new economy, the creative and innovative economy, begging for attention.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form. TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice! Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.


A Vegan Diet (Hugely) Helpful Against Cancer

If you’re anything like me, the “C” word leaves you trembling. But today there is very good news to report: Research suggests you can improve your odds of never getting cancer and/or improve your chances of recovering from it. Not with a drug or surgery, although those methods might be quite effective. This is all about the power on your plate, and it’s seriously powerful.

A 2012 analysis of all the best studies done to date concluded vegetarians have significantly lower cancer rates. For example, the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer ever performedconcluded that “the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians.”

That’s good news, yes. But what if we’re looking for great news? If vegetarians fare so much better than meat-eaters, what about vegans? Is that an even better way to eat? We didn’t know for sure until now.

A new study just out of Loma Linda University funded by the National Cancer Institute reported that vegans have lower rates of cancer than both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. And this was compared to a group of healthy omnivores who ate substantially less meat than the general population (two servings a week or more), as well as after controlling for non-dietary factors such as smoking, alcohol, and a family history of cancer.

Why do vegans have such lower cancer risk? This is fascinating stuff: An elegant series of experiments was performed in which people were placed on different diets and their blood was then dripped on human cancer cells growing in a petri dish to see whose diet kicked more cancer butt. Women placed on plant-based diets for just two weeks, for example, were found to suppress the growth of three different types of breast cancer (see images of the cancer clearance). The same blood coursing through these womens’ bodies gained the power to significantly slow down and stop breast cancer cell growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a healthy plant-based diet! (Two weeks! Imagine what’s going on in your body after a year!) Similar results were found for men against prostate cancer (as well as against prostate enlargement).

How may a simple dietary change make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer in just a matter of days? The dramatic improvement in cancer defenses after two weeks of eating healthier is thought to be due to changes in the level of a cancer-promoting growth hormone in the body calledIGF-1. Animal protein intake increases the levels of IGF-1 in our body, but within two weeks of switching to a plant-based diet, IGF-1 levels in the bloodstream drop sufficiently to help slow the growth of cancer cells.

How plant-based do we need to eat? Studies comparing levels of IGF-1 in meat-eaters vs. vegetarians vs. vegans suggest that we should lean toward eliminating animal products from our diets altogether. This is supported by the new study in which the thousands of American vegans studied not only had lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, but significantly lower cancer risk as well.

This makes sense when you consider the research done by Drs. Dean Ornish and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn; they found that a vegan diet caused more than 500 genes to change in only three months, turning on genes that prevent disease and turning off genes that cause breast cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer, and other illnesses. This is empowering news, given that most people think they are a victim of their genes, helpless to stave off some of the most dreaded diseases. We aren’t helpless at all; in fact, the power is largely in our hands. It’s on our forks, actually.


For more by Kathy Freston, click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

Inspired by Malala

We Must Make School Accessible to the World’s Children

When Malala Yousafzai was targeted and shot by the Taliban in Pakistan on October 9th, simply for wanting to go to school, the whole world of education was changed forever.

Globally, 32 million girls do not yet go to primary school and since October 9th, thousands of children have demonstrated, signed petitions and registered their demand that Malala and girls like her should be able to go to school free of fear and intimidation.

Elsewhere in South Asia, children have started to assert their rights to schooling. In Bangladesh, a new movement led by girls and boys is demanding an end to child marriage. In district after district ‘child marriage free zones’ are being declared as children themselves assert their right not to be sold into loveless marriages they did not choose.

In India this weekend a 300 kilometer march of children started from Assam province, calling for a ban on child labor. Led by 100 child laborers rescued from trafficking, they will demand their right to be at school.

So long as there are children denied the chance of school, Malala will be the standard bearer for their rights. Now and for every day until all young children have the chance to go to school, ‘I am Malala’ will be the banner under which millions of girls throughout the world will demand their right to education.

Today we embark on a new stage in our global campaign to secure education for every one of the 32 million girls who do not go to school. We set out the next stages in our plan to match in-country action with international support from governments, UN organizations and the general public.

Some girls are in bonded labor, forced to work in factories, farms and as domestic laborers and we estimate more than five million girls are completely denied any education because they are working.

Some 10 million girls each year are sold or handed over into forced marriages they did not choose. Some girls are just 9, others 10, many 11, 12 and 13 — all of them too young to make life-changing decisions that remove them from education and the chance of an independent life.

And then there are girls who are trafficked into prostitution, thousands of whom end up in the street brothels of some of the world’s best-known cities.

Many girls can’t go to school because we are short of two million teachers and four million classrooms. Even where classrooms exist, the schools are often ill-equipped and insanitary. In many cases girls who go to school are not being fed, denied school meals we could so easily provide.

In KPK, the province in Pakistan where Malala lives, 700,000 children are still not at primary school — and 600,000 of them are girls, whose chances of education are a fraction of those of boys. In Pakistan overall, 60 percent of the out-of-school children are girls, despite the desire expressed by girls in the ‘I am Malala’ campaign to attend classes.

Around the world 32 million of the 61 million out-of-school children are girls. They need champions like Malala to stand up for their rights.

The plan for action we set out today will be handed to the UN secretary-general to end the scourge of girls’ illiteracy and the denial of their right to education.

First, public pressure must be kept up. We will continue to add to our petition that calls on not just the Pakistani government but also the United Nations to ensure we invest the resources – in some cases only 100 dollars per year per child — to get girls to school. The petitions have already secured two million signatures around the world.

We will soon have an additional million signatures from the children of Pakistan alone which will be presented to the president of Pakistan and the United Nations. It is still possible for any member of the public to join us by signing up today on the website

I can also announce that after consultation with Malala’s family there will be on July 12th next year, Malala’s own birthday, a day of action and we will invite children to assemble, walk, march, demonstrate, petition and pray for children’s education to be delivered worldwide.

Second, we are asking countries that are off-track in meeting the 2015 target of universal girls’ education to sign up to a new process, to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Countries as big as Nigeria and India and as small as Timor Leste and South Sudan will be asked to draw up the plans that will ensure education for all girls and boys will be delivered by the end of 2015.

Third, we will hold a summit in Washington on April 19th to be hosted by the secretary-general, the president of the World Bank, Jim Kim, and myself. At that summit we will agree urgent measures to get children into school by end of 2015, offering the support of international organizations to back up the efforts of off-track countries that are ready to do more.

Fourth we will launch an international campaign for public subscriptions by companies, foundations and individuals to raise one billion dollars to show governments and international organizations that the public wants us to ensure every child is at school. We will soon offer citizens a unique chance to contribute directly, free of any administrative costs, to teachers, classrooms, books and nutrition for millions of children who want to go to school.

Education alone can break the vicious cycle of poverty that is transmitted today from generation to generation. To help in this endeavor, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, will become my special adviser on global education. His unique qualities — a teacher and headteacher as well as a parent who has had to struggle against opposition to girls’ education and the closing of schools — makes him ideally suited to leading in our educational effort to get all to school.

We wish Malala a speedy recovery from the terrible injuries inflicted on her in the attempted assassination. In time Malala herself is determined to join the campaign for every girl’s right to education and when she has recovered she will do so, becoming one of the leaders of that campaign.

With today’s announcements we show that as a result of Malala’s courage and her inspiration the whole world is now on a bolder and more urgent path for change. Before she was shot Malala was advocating the cause of girls’ education, faced with a Taliban that had closed down and destroyed 600 schools.

We now know that when the group of girls she was with on a school bus was assailed by a gunman asking ‘where is Malala?’, a fearless and defiant Malala did not scream and she did not cry but simply replied ‘I am Malala.’ Bravely she held the hand of her friend as she received what the Taliban considered her ‘punishment’ for the ‘crime’ of wanting education.

If the Taliban sought to silence her voice once and for all, they failed. For today her dream and her insistent demand that children should go to school echoes all round the world as girl after girl, each wanting all girls to have the right to go to school, identifies with Malala, repeating the words she used — ‘I am Malala.’

Source: Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; UN Special Envoy for Global Education

The Huffington Post –

Social Media, a Powerful Means to Condemn GBV

Harare, Zimbabwe — Twitter and Facebook are popular social media platforms, with Facebook being the more popular of the two. As popular as they are, social media platforms can be tools for change or can give more opportunities for the vulnerable to be further victimised, exploited or harassed.

Tinopona Katsande, a performer and disc jockey based in Zimbabwe used Twitter to name and shame her boyfriend, Brian Munjodzi, who bashed her for asking him to do the dishes. She went on to post photos of her bruised face and vowed that she wanted to speak out about abuse and educate other abused women to emulate her brave stance. The case is before the courts and whatever verdict the magistrate comes up with, Munjodzi’s reputation will never be the same.

Katsande’s twitter posts sent social and online media sites abuzz in Zimbabwe and the diaspora. Katsande has 1371 followers on Twitter. Three images were posted on the NewsDay, a daily independent newspaper, facebook page, two of Katsande’s swollen face and one of Munjodzi, the perpetrator. The first picture of Katsande attracted 630 comments, 272 likes and 79 shares. The second picture of Katsande had 664 comments, 117 likes and 63 shares. Munjodzi’s picture received 325 comments, 35 shares and 53 likes.

Katsande’s outcry on twitter ironically became a site for contesting discourses of patriarchy and gender equality which continue to play out in a country which appears less than ready to promote an equitable society. Zimbabwe is a polarised and conservative nation and the majority of citizens who said their views about Katsande’s ordeal blamed the “victim” for the abuse rather than empathising with her.

One male commented, “Calm down about these equal rights. We are in Africa, you Zimbabwean. Do not adopt the European ways of living. You are not the first one to be disciplined. You have learnt from your mistakes…”

GBV is still rampant in Zimbabwe and preliminary findings from a research carried out by Gender Links in 2012 show that 69% of women in the country have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Thirty three percent women said that they have been physically abuse by their intimate partner in their lifetime. Despite these daring statistics, the attitudes of Zimbabweans towards GBV leave a lot to be desired.

From the comments made on Katsande’s case society can disclaim a utopian concept that the Internet is an unproblematic environment. For some, the Internet has provided a platform for abusers to exploit and harass women.

The fact that the Internet is uncontrolled means that readers can post comments some of which do not challenge the status quo.

Throughout the discussions women and men on the platform insinuate that Katsande may have done something more than asking her boyfriend to do the dishes to be beaten. However, even if there is a story behind, it cannot be justification for Katsande to be beaten. Comments on Munjodzi’s picture praised him for beating Katsande because she is “loud mouthed” and must be disciplined.

Women who commented on the issue didn’t sympathise with her. One woman said, “You [Katsande] should keep quiet about some of these things. How many women are being beaten in their homes but do not take to Facebook? If I were your man I would leave you because you are just telling everyone your business.” These comments demonstrate that women have normalised gender violence, are convinced that it is the way things are supposed to be and it cannot be changed. Further, GBV is still relegated to the realms of the household and perceived as a sensitive issue that women should not speak to anyone about.

There is also a misunderstanding about what gender equality means. Suggestions by the public are that gender equality is a foreign agenda that has come to erode African ideals, in particular patriarchal values. A male reader commented that, “if this is what your aunts taught you, to make a man do the dishes, you shall forever be battered. Leave this equal rights business. If they preach equal rights, they should also give you the balls.”

However, human rights and indeed women’s rights are universal and should be enjoyed by all women no matter which context women find themselves in.

In this case, government and civil society need to restrategise their efforts on educating citizens about gender equality. What has surfaced from this case is that people are still ignorant about gender issues.

It is high time women realise that there is nothing right about being abused and perpetrators should be brought to book. The power is in speaking out and setting an example for other women not to suffer in silence.

Social media can facilitate the speaking out process for women who have been abused. It is a participatory public sphere where discussions are more inclusive and interactive. Citizens share ideas and these technologies provide information and extend the role of the public in the social arena. Social media is therefore a powerful tool that must also be used to get citizens to openly debate pertinent issues. Activists should engage in these discussions and use them to educate citizens about gender equality and most of all about GBV, which has become a cancer in our society.

Katsande is a brave and courageous woman who chose to speak out, and educate “elite” women who have the means and access to social media, that violence knows no class, religion nor tribe. Few women from the middle-class speak out about abuse. They can use social media to speak out and share their stories of abuse.

Tarisai Nyamweda is the Media Programme Officer at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service series for the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.


Recycling generates 26‚000 jobs

Recycling PET‚ the plastic used to manufacture beverage bottles and food containers‚ has helped generate almost 26‚000 indirect jobs‚ and the plastics recycling industry can reduce poverty across SA and contribute to GDP growth‚ says PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz.

PETCO is the industry organisation responsible for PET recycling in SA.

Addressing the SA National Bottled Water Association’s Conference in Midrand on Tuesday‚ Scholtz said that PETCO and its recycling initiatives had become a global benchmark for extended producer responsibility because of its success to bale by bale‚ year by year‚ reduce the volume of post-consumer PET plastic in the waste stream.

Working with collectors‚ recyclers‚ converters and packaging designers to ensure the successful growth of the PET recycling industry‚ PETCO is well on the way to achieving its challenging target of recycling 50% of all beverage PET by 2015.

Extrupet’s Chief Operating Officer Chandru Wadhwani told the conference that the dilemma for bottle converters to meet challenging customer demands for “marketing friendly” packaging while at the same time meeting the demands of the Waste Act to be responsible producers’ was an ever growing one.

“No longer is it sufficient for packaging to just be ‘recyclable’‚ it must be able to demonstrate that it is in fact being recycled. Designing packaging with recycling in mind from the offset is critical in determining its final recyclability as recyclers are ever cautious about which ‘packs’ they will accept‚ and which they will not.

“Ultimately‚ there is a ‘win/win’ approach that can be achieved from pro-active engagement between the designers of packaging and recyclers so we can all ultimately achieve a ‘cradle to cradle’ solution for packaging‚” Wadhwani said.

Source: IOL Business Report