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Education Reporter

'Story of Stuff' Teaches Anti-Capitalist View
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"The Story of Stuff," a 20-minute movie on the evils of human consumption, has lit up not only the blogosphere and YouTube, but also classrooms at all grade levels and across the nation. According to the New York Times, the movie "has been embraced by teachers eager to supplement textbooks that lag behind scientific findings on climate change and pollution" (5-11-09). The movie has been viewed six million times on its website, www.storyofstuff.com, and millions of times on YouTube. Over 7,000 schools, churches, and others have ordered "The Story of Stuff" on DVD.

The movie's creator, Annie Leonard, is a former Greenpeace employee and a self-described "unapologetic activist" who is critical of corporations and the military. "The Story of Stuff" portrays corporations as a bloated man in a top hat with a dollar sign on it.

Critics of "The Story of Stuff" say that it demonizes all human use of natural resources, and that it neglects balance in favor of an unabashedly negative take on capitalism. "We'll start with extraction," the movie says, "which is a fancy word for natural resource exploitation, which is a fancy word for trashing the planet. What this looks like is we chop down the trees, we blow up mountains to get the metals inside, we use up all the water and we wipe out the animals."

A parent in Missoula, Montana complained that presenting "The Story of Stuff" without the balance of an alternative point of view violated the district's standards on political bias in the classroom. Mark Zuber said the video was "very well done, very effective advocacy, but it was just that." He also noted "there was not one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing." The school board took Zuber's point and voted 4-3 that teachers should present materials favorable to capitalism as well if they were going to screen "The Story of Stuff" for students.

Nevertheless, of the many students watching "The Story of Stuff" in school, very few will hear any caveats or problems with the movie presented or discussed.

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