Tag Archive | consumerism

Educate away from Stuff

As we move further away from the memories of Lockdown and staying away from crowded places and shops I realise how little exposure I’ve had over the past year to overwhelming amounts of ‘stuff’!

I recently visited a garden centre looking for a plant present for a dear friend. Thought this would be a nicer gift to give than another bit of useless rubbish for the sake of giving to someone who has everything they need anyway.

To get to the delightful growing things I have to walk through walls and stands full of ‘stuff’, much of it Christmas related already and completely unrelated to gardens and gardening and growing things and probably destined eventually for landfill.

Shelves and shelves of unnecessary stuff just for the sake of buying

Having been locked away from regular contact with it all, as we have on and off over the past eighteen months, it seemed overwhelmingly vulgar. I couldn’t help feeling the weight of it bearing down on the planet; the weight of manufacture, pollution, the use of precious resources, for what? Probably for a moment’s pleasure soon diminished as we search for the next big fix.

I think our addiction to shop, and to have, is probably to do with our primeval hunter-gatherer need. A very real need in our psyche, but maybe one we should try and fulfil in other ways.

Our children are raised in a consumerist culture. They are educated in a consumerist culture. They are taught to be consumers. The system aims them towards it as sure as an arrow to a target, with promises of high qualifications equalling high incomes equalling high consumption (although that bit is never admitted openly) which is promoted as leading inevitably to high happiness. This is the overall message. Adverts on the telly promote stuff as equalling happiness, and push parents towards believing that the more stuff they buy their kids the better parent they are, the more educated their kids will be, and the more this indicates they love them.

Total balderdash!

The more stuff we buy isn’t any more guarantee of a better education than having the right shoes! And we should examine carefully all the insidious ways in which we educate our kids to be consumers and instead educate them to be the opposite; to ask ‘do I really need this?’

For the bottom line is; the more stuff you buy the more you destroy the planet upon which your kids, your grandkids, your great grandkids, depend. How does that future destruction show you love them?

What is needed instead is to teach them that life can be happy, successful, fulfilling without huge amounts of stuff. Teach them them to be resourceful. Teach them to reuse, repurpose, recycle. Teach them to look for ways to do things differently or do without – not such a bad thing – not deprivation as it is held up to be. Instead, it’s a way of avoiding the environmental deprivation we’re inflicting on the planet.

We need to change our thinking, particularly if we’re addictive shoppers. Readdress our own habits as an example to our children. And as an added bonus, appreciate that all this challenging thinking increases the intelligence and skills and mental agility of children far more than buying an answer will!

I came away with a beautiful plant that will no doubt be returned to the earth at some point. I’m under no illusion at the dubious pollutive practices (and the inevitable plastic pot) that got it to this point, but at least the plant itself will not add to the plastic mountain of unnecessary ‘homestyle’ trash I could have bought. Perhaps I’d just do better rethinking birthdays and gifts, rethinking any type of shopping or consuming!

Learning and education never end do they! Rethinking our consumerist habits must become a valuable part of that.

What mark are you making with your parenting?

The programme ‘Extinction – the Facts’ was hard to watch. I admit it took me a few days to screw up my courage and catch up with it. Face the inevitable bad news and desperate images and update my own education on the issue. But it ended with hope, I think. And bless Sir David – what a mark he’ll leave on this planet. (YouTube link here) But it’s on Iplayer too.

Of course, we’re all making a mark of one kind or another. Sadly, most of us a less positive one than his as we consume our way through our lives . And sadly we’re leaving a mark that will cost our children dear.

I guess most folks reading this will have children, will be parents. And another sad fact; it’s often the parents who are the worst offenders when it comes to consumerism, one of the worst causes of planetary destruction – needless consumerism that is.

I’m not only talking about the endless throw away baby products, wipes, toys etc. but the misguided belief that some parents have that the more they buy their child the more they demonstrate their love for them. They use consumerism as an expression of love. Much of it through plastic. And they are hoodwinked by the emotional blackmail companies use to suggest we are less of a parent for not doing so.

It’s an insidious form of blackmail when we see images that insinuate that our kids are better, best, superior if they have the latest trainers, phone, tech, or are losers and inferior if they don’t. These are the lessons children learn not only from the advertising but by parents’ attitudes falling prey to it, thus perpetuating the lesson.

Instead we should be teaching them something quite different. Teaching them that the better, best and commendable are those who resist the pollutive effect of this type of consumerism, resist the throw-away culture that pervades everything. Teaching that we don’t need to update all the time. We don’t need to always buy new. Teaching them that this is the kind of behaviour that is contributing to the mass extinction talked about in the programme. And we can love without doing that! Even better – it’s FREE; doesn’t cost money or the planet!

Each one of us is probably guilty of doing it in some small way. But each one of us can make valuable changes however small.

Our children are going to pay the price of our ignorance in these matters and we need to educate them to behave differently; but only by behaving differently ourselves. By updating our own attitudes and habits and seeing that we are not falling foul of subversive messages embedded in some of our cultural behaviours.

We need to start a change. Educate our children to behave with conscience. Make sure they feel loved and cared about not by what we buy them but by what we do, by the principles we uphold and the things we place value upon. That they understand through our actions that love is not connected to money or consumerism.

And one way of starting that is by thinking about, and talking about with your children, what kind of mark you’re going to make – or not – in pollutive terms!

You don’t have to be Sir David to mark your own special difference!

How the education system is contributing to the climate crisis

I’m absorbed in a wonderful book. ‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide’ by Jen Gale. It’s a practical look at the things we can do to to help lessen our damage to the planet.

I know; you’re sick of hearing about the climate crisis!

But this is full of real doable things we can all do, we must do, in order to help make changes. That responsibility lies with us all. It is part of our own life learning, part of being an educated intelligent person. Got to be part of any child’s education.

We like to think that education is an answer to the climate crisis. And of course it is; people need to become informed about the earth, what impact we’re making and how to minimise the damage we make.

But education, and the education system, are different things. And it’s the education system that’s contributing to the problem. Because we have a system that is educating people to be consumers.

It does this by making education big business. By training learners and their parents to be consumers of it; passive recipients. And by making education all about an end product, i.e. results, grades and qualifications and more is better, rather than an enlightening process of learning that develops educated people who see themselves as part of something much bigger – the planet. And more is not always better.

The system leads people to believe that education is about what you can get in a narrow, consumerist, grade-grabbing way, rather than education as part of understanding a world upon which we all have impact, qualified or not.

Youngsters are trained to believe through this system that they’re only worthy if they get the most and highest grades possible. Because this, they are told, will lead to higher salaries – in other words, getting more.

Rarely are job satisfaction, humane qualities like kindness, well being – personal or planetary – mentioned.

Or the fact that the higher your salary, the more likely you are to be buying stuff and wasting stuff and jetting off in a blaze of pollution. Let’s face it – it’s not the poor or the homeless who are doing this; a fact that doesn’t get much coverage!

And seldom is it mentioned that consumerism, materialism which is a political issue, and bog standard buying endless stuff is the real cause of the problem. Or that the businesses thriving on conning us into having stuff we don’t really need, contributes to it. And I believe that the education system perpetuates this by its immoral and discriminative, high stakes obsession with testing, getting exams and qualifications and teaching people to be consumers. Which, after all, furthers its corporate and political cause.

If we want to save the planet we must stop incessant and unnecessary consuming. We must stop educating people to be consumers within a system that subversively suggests you’re a better person for doing so. For that’s what this corporate education system dictates, although few seem to spot it.

I’ve heard said that the education system is broken. The planet is certainly breaking. Perhaps the two could be mended hand in hand.

It’s no good blaming the politicians and doing nothing, neither with regard to the planet nor the education system which is contributing to ruining it. We must change our consumerist habits and change what we expect of education.

What we need is not a system or a political game plan that ensures the rich get richer and the poor to stay where they are. Not an education to make more money but to educate us to use the money we do make to live more wisely. What we need are learning experiences not based around winning or getting or high stakes, but based around learning to live with each other and the planet without detriment to either. Something I see home educators do all the time.

There is no higher stake than the health of the planet. Don’t need a qualification to tell us that.

Do make the book part of your family’s education!

My pre-Christmas plea

Is it not all too over-the-top?

I love Christmas.

It means the family are together again.

There’ll be love, warmth, cameraderie, jokes, fun, probably a few irritations and a little bit of power struggling in the kitchen no doubt! Soon resolved as the tensions of being together again after living independent lives slip away and bonds refresh and regroup.

But I also can’t help cringing every year at the prospect of the burden the earth has to bear as a consequence of our festivities.

When I start a bit of shopping – and compared to most it is only a bit, I get immensely anxious at the quantities of packaging, plastic, lights and useless tat I see in vulgar quantities for people to buy, and the equally vulgar attitudes with which people disregard the consequence of doing so.

I don’t want to be a humbug here. I also like to wrap, decorate and buy. But each year the consumerism seems more over-the-top than the year before and I have a very real sense of the earth groaning under the strain of it.

So this is a plea. Can you think about that and practise moderation as you buy trimmings and wrappings and disposables?

Please, please, please create Christmas traditions in your family that incorporate habits which consider the earth as much as the people on it.

Make love of the earth an important part of your Christmas preperations!

Consumer Kids

View the book on Amazon

How much screen time do we allow the kids? I blogged on about this issue a little while ago – here.

What we didn’t mention is the insidious influence on our kids of the advertising, commercial, materialistic and celebrity worlds portrayed on screens.

‘Consumer Kids’ is a book attempting to raise awareness of that very issue. It’s by Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn and is a rather scary and shocking insight into the way businesses groom kids through screens of all sorts for a materialistic and consumerist future.

I’ve often had the feeling that schooling plays a part in this grooming. It grooms kids to the idea that education is just another materialistic acquisition – something to get, i.e. grades – rather than being a process that is lifelong and has other more valuable elements. And the culture of comparison and competition in schools, which influences their image, possessions and lifestyle, sets children against one another rather than uniting them.

There are efforts in schools to make kids ‘media literate’ as they call it, to help kids see through advertising strategies and the consumer culture, but the authors suggest that its impact is far outweighed by the power of marketing. Besides it’s a bit of a double standard if on the one hand schools have ‘media literacy’ on the curriculum while on the other they host vending machines for commercial purposes that are full of junk with little nutritional value to the child.

Yet another advantage of home education; better control over this commercial and materialistic influence, an influence which also harms the planet.

While home schooling you can discuss issues like advertising and spending when they arise, raise awareness of the impact of big businesses on our lives and the earth, and encourage your kids to make independent, informed and personal decisions about what they like, rather than decisions made under peer pressure. There will always be peer pressure but it is never as great as it is within a school.

And if your kids are used to deciding what they like and what to choose independently, that skill of knowing their own mind will stand them in good stead all their life.

Among the concerns raised in the book there’s a beautiful piece towards the end about what they think children need:

‘…children need inner strength and understanding to flourish – not materialism. They need warm bonds of friendship with their peers – not competitive consumption. They need strong relationships with their parents – not the alienation that can be encouraged by marketing. They need to be occupied in projects which work for the common good of a community. In a commercial world, the odds are stacked against achieving this.’

But maybe not so much in the home educating world, don’t you think? And something for your home schooling to work towards perhaps.