Culture SUNfiltered: Story of Stuff Deemed “Anti-Capitalist” and “Biased”

Published on May 12th, 2009 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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SUNfiltered: Story of Stuff Deemed “Anti-Capitalist” and “Biased”

[social_buttons]In internet time, Annie Leonard’s The Story Of Stuff is relatively old. But the 2007 web video, produced by Free Range Studios and funded by the Tides Foundation and Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption (among others) has attained cult status in American classrooms. According to the New York Times, teachers around the country use the video to supplement environmental education textbooks that often lack information on recent scientific discoveries.

Creative teaching, right?

Not in Missoula County, Montana, where the school board responded to a parent’s complaint about the video’s “anti-capitalist” message with a decision that use of The Story of Stuff “violated its standards on bias.”

Read the rest at the Sundance Channel’s SUNfiltered blog



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    A probable conservative taking a play out right of the liberal playbook? And it works!?! What’s next? Will the right wing start utilizing the ACLU to protect the unborn and the 2nd Amendment?

    All kidding aside, I offer my compliments to Missoula County’s school board for listening to its constituency. The removal of this one film is a bit of censorship; however, the left-wing’s messages are far from being removed from the classroom. What you call “creative teaching” some might call “creative indoctrination” and I can guarantee that it is alive and well. For example, the last three pie charts on my daughter’s homework were in the distinct shape of the peace symbol. That’s too frequent to be considered a coincidence. On one of my son’s recent grammar assignments the following sentence appeared:

    Rachel carson writ the book Silent Spring.

    His job was to correct the errors. I questioned how – with all the great authors and all the great works of literature available – we ended up with Rachel Carson and “Silent Spring”? Why was it really necessary to plant that seed? Also, in the nine years that my oldest has been in the school system, none of the reading assignments have included the names that taught my generation to read: Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot. The new names are more diverse and probably necessary, but why completely exclude the old standards? Doesn’t true diversity include all of us?

    Lastly, most leftists claim to be against censorship. However, it was liberals who removed The Bible and prayer from the classroom, and have more recently targeted The Pledge of Allegiance. So, why is it such a big deal when a school board at the behest of its parent constituency removes a film that was probably never part of the approved curriculum from the curriculum?

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Hmmm… not sure why registering a complaint with a local governmental entity is “right out of the liberal playbook,” but so be it…

    With all due respect, Bob, I think you’re seeing a conspiracy where none exists… on The Story of Stuff, I’m a little unclear how explaining the lifecycle of products, and the environmental consequences that often come from “business as usual,” equals “liberal bias.” Why is telling the whole story “liberal” or “anti-capitalist?” Nowhere in the video does Leonard suggest that capitalism is the problem… it’s all focused on production processes, and a consumption-based economy. You could still have a very robust system of capitalism with changes to these processes and economic models.

    Finally, the board did clarify its ruling by saying it wasn’t banning the video; just wanted it presented in a context with other alternative views. I’ll admit that Leonard’s tone is a bit strident, but the concepts she presents are sound and scientifically valid.

    On the Bible and Pledge of Allegiance… where have these been removed from the classroom? Is there any school in America where a student can’t pray or carry a Bible, or say the Pledge of Allegiance? The only thing that’s been removed is enforced prayer time, or enforced recitations of the pledge… but that’s the same as removing them…

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby B.

    When Hillary laid claim to a “vast right-wing conspiracy”, she opened the door to the possibility that a left-wing conspiracy also existed. The number of liberal, progressive and environmental messages that appear in every subject’s textbook in today’s public school system is mind boggling. Some are subtle references like the Rachel Carson and peace symbol examples cited above. Others are blatant condemnations of the United States; its people, its economy, its politics, its past and its future.

    “Nowhere in the video does Leonard suggest that capitalism is the problem… it’s all focused on production processes, and a consumption-based economy.” Dude, you just stumbled across the cosmic divergence! Environmentalism claims to support capitalism, however, it is staunchly against consumerism. Capitalism (or any other economic “-ism”) hinges upon consumption. Goods are made to meet the wants and needs of the consumer. The difference in each of the “-isms” is whether or not (or to what level) the government controls the consumer’s freedom to consume based upon his individual desires. You said, “You could still have a very robust system of capitalism with changes to these processes and economic models.” That’s partially true, but only if the market supports the model. A forced economic model that stifles consumer freedom can no longer be considered capitalism and is doomed to failure. Obama Motors will fail – or drastically shrink – if it chooses to only manufacture PHEV econo-boxes in a market that demands trucks and SUV’s. The United States’ economic model has already been forced beyond pure capitalism and faces even further regulation. The question is no longer “if” it will collapse. The questions are “how soon” will it collapse and “what follows the collapse”?

    Yes, students can still carry The Bible on school campuses, and pray or say The Pledge in private. The forced participation in these “Christian” rituals is a thing of the past. The basis of that change was that non-Christian religions were not given due consideration. As this change has continued to morph, today’s classroom actually teaches lessons about non-Christian religions while steering clear of Christianity. The study of Christianity must be handled outside the classroom. Since environmentalism is largely built upon challenging the old standards of religion, economics, politics and science, is it right for today’s educators to force children to accept green ideology as fact without the benefit of opposing views? Will the future see environmental education morph to the point that the 3-R’s must also be taught outside the classroom?

  • Ben

    Wow, I think we may have found an arch enemy in Bobby B. It’s not all that often that someone will take the time to form such cogent and lengthy rebuttals. However, by attempting to lump us all together as anticapitalist, he is only deceiving himself in thinking we are so easily defeated. It’s not that far a leap and he’ll be describing us all as Communist Muslim sympathizers. Delusional.

    Consumerism has caused this collapse. People borrowing and spending beyond their means, all because the FED attempted to escape the business cycle with unsustainable perpetual growth. Interest rates are still too low. Every loss was leveraged a million times over in an attempt to create bigger investment opportunities. Soon though, the dollar will be worth so little that consumerism cannot continue. Quality and need will define value again, and sustainable consumption will return.

  • http://reality.ohio.newintellectuals.org Brian

    The definitive critique to the Story of Stuff:

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