Friday, October 29, 2010

Día de los Muertos

One of the most meaningful yearly celebrations in Mexico, in fact throughout Latin America, is Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead"), celebrated for nearly a week at the end of October and the beginning of November. This elaborate celebration, dedicated to the cult of the dead (also referred to as Todos Santos—"All Saints' Day"), combines pre-Hispanic rituals and beliefs with Catholic practices and symbols. The central idea is that during this period of public and private rituals, the living and dead family members and friends are joined together in an atmosphere of communion and spiritual regeneration.

Important elements of Day of the Dead festivities in Central Mexico were practiced by Aztecs and have become integrated into the Catholic traditions of Mexico and other parts of Latin America. This same pattern of images of the dead, altar, food offerings, incense, and communion is carried out today. It is important to note that the rituals, symbols, and elaborate decorations of home altars and cemeteries differ somewhat according to region. However, all Day of the Dead celebrations focus on a spiritual covenant between the human community and supernatural entities of deceased family members, friends, or saints. What is outstanding in all cases is the belief that what happens during one's life here on this earth is dependent, in part, on treating the dead well. People believe that if the dead are not venerated, nurtured, and remembered in the proper manner, their own economic security, family stability, and health will be in jeopardy. Therefore, careful and generous preparations are carried out.

Read more on the Latino American Experience

Prominent in the decorations of family and cemetery altars are marigold flowers, or zempoalxochitl (a Nahuatl word meaning "twenty-flower"). This sense of preparation for the Day of the Dead intensifies at the start of October, when the people set out the necessary cash and other goods to be used in the generous decorations of altars and tombs, and at the ceremonial meals for the dead and the living. Journeys are made to local and regional markets, sometimes covering several hundred miles, so that the correct foods and decorations can be purchased in time for the sacred week.

Most important are preparations of special foods for the dead. These include baked breads, candied fruit, skulls made of sugar, and human figurines made of pumpkin seeds, as well as apple, pear, and quince preserves. Papier-mâché images of various kinds are purchased or made to be used in the decorations of the altars and the graves. The last and most crucial items to be picked or purchased are the zempoalxochitl flowers. Since these flowers will last only four days, they are placed on altars and tombs and as pathways between the cemeteries and the homes on the day before the Day of the Dead begins.

Day of the Dead altars can appear in public plazas, in schools, and even in competitions, but the most important altar appears in the individual household. This altar becomes a sacred precinct or a ceremonial center within the home made up of at least ten kinds of objects—breads, sweets, cooked dishes, delicacies, fruits and vegetables, liquors and liquids, flowers and plants, clothing, adornments, and (perhaps most important) pictures, images, and statues. These pictures and statues are usually placed in a retablo (a structure forming the back of the altar), where images of the Virgin, Christ, the cross, and saints watch over the ofrenda, or offering to the dead. This offering takes the shape of a feast for the spirits of the dead, who will return and be nourished on specific nights during the Day of the Dead. Cooked dishes, liquids, finger foods, loaves of pan de muertos (bread of the dead), candied fruits, tamales, bananas, and oranges constitute the bulk of the offering. The most impressive objects of the ofrenda are crystallized sugar skulls of different sizes and with various kinds of decorations. These skulls represent the dead infants, children, and adults being honored that year.

Currently, there is a resurgence of these practices in Mexico and in Mexican American communities. In the United States, Mexican Americans have increasingly used Day of the Dead rituals to focus attention on socioeconomic issues. Grand public altars to honor the dead, elaborate decoration of graves and dramatic rituals attract public audiences and media coverage, creating a medium for communicating political messages to the living via commemoration of the dead, whose causes of death, such as drugs and violence, are highlighted.

-Adapted from Daily Life of the Aztecs (1998) by Scott Sessions and David Carrasco



Discover more on Día de los Muertos including coverage on relevant foodways and the origins of the feast day by checking out content on the Latino American Experience. Click the link for a free trial.

Related Resources...

Davíd Carrasco and Scott Sessions
Greenwood, 1/2011

Examine the fascinating details of the daily lives of the ancient Aztecs through this innovative study of their social history, culture, and continuing influence, written from the perspective of the history of religions.

Janet Long-Solís and Luis Alberto Vargas
Greenwood, 2005

This survey of important aspects of the food culture of Mexico also illuminates Mexican history, society, and daily life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The History of Halloween

European Origins
The contemporary Halloween is most often said to descend from the Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced “Sahwen”), one of the four great Quarter days in the ancient Celtic calendar. Samhain, celebrated on November 1 in the Roman calendar, was in fact the greatest of the Quarter days; it was the first day of winter and the first day of the new year. While little is known directly of Samhain in pre-Christian Ireland, the sagas that were written down by monks centuries after the conversion (circa 300 c.e.) indicate that Samhain occupied a central position in the temporal organization of that society. As a turning point, both of a new season (or quarter) of the year, and of the year itself, many beliefs and rituals accrued to the festival. Traditionally there were bonfires, and there was a general belief that during this time of transition the barriers that separated the world of the living from that of the dead were permeable. The souls of those who had died during the year traveled to the otherworld during this period. Offerings of food and drink were left for these traveling spirits.

As Ireland converted to Christianity, the older celebrations and feast days were replaced with the official holy days of the church. Nevertheless, the pre-Christian traditions were maintained, often in an uneasy relationship with Christian doctrine. For instance, the mythology of the fairy world is thought by many scholars to be an adaptation of older Celtic myth to the new conditions. November 1 was celebrated as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day beginning in the seventh century, and November 2 became All Souls Day in the tenth century. These days of the dead may have been intended to redirect the pre-Christian spirituality toward church-approved devotions to all the saints who did not otherwise enjoy their own feast day, and to praying for the souls of those who had died during the previous year. However, this strategy also allowed for the continuation of many of the older beliefs and practices. The Eve of All Hallows, known by many names, including Halleve, Holy Eve, and Hallowe’en, became (or continued as) an important annual festival of family, both living and deceased.

Halloween in Ireland is also a time for family reunions and feasts. It is similar to the American Thanksgiving in this regard. The Irish equivalent to trick-or-treating, Halloween rhyming, is done in the weeks prior to Halloween, leaving the night itself open to family get-togethers. Due to its perceived origins in ancient Celtic traditions, and its position as one of the four great Quarter days, Halloween remains a major festival in contemporary Ireland.

Halloween Comes to the U.S.
It is said that when millions of Irish people immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century, fleeing the potato famine, they brought their Halloween traditions with them. Earlier Irish immigrants, including the Ulster Protestants who had helped colonize North America, had already introduced Halloween to the New World, but in the nineteenth century the holiday took hold as a day for parties and games, much as it had been at home. “Dunkin’” for apples, burning nuts on the hearth to predict whether a couple would have a good relationship, trying to bite an apple suspended from a string (“snap apple”) and other games and divination beliefs were joined by traditional pranks and tricks. The spirits of the dead were joined by living mischief-makers who were given license to make noise, harass homeowners, and overturn outhouses. Perhaps because of its origin as a transitional point in the old calendar, Halloween is a time out of time—a liminal period when the dead join the living; marginal creatures such as ghosts and witches roam; the future can be determined, and people are allowed to break the rules of order.

Halloween rhyming in Ireland is directly descended from earlier mumming practices. “Mumming” involves dressing in traditional disguise and processing from home to home, where a performance of some sort is rewarded with a gift of food or drink. The American analogue, trick-or-treating, is clearly influenced by the Irish model, as well as the many ritual begging customs of other peoples who came to the United States. Thought to have begun in the 1930s as a way to deflect the ever-spiraling pranking of youngsters, trick-or-treating caught on nationally after World War II, as urbanization and suburbanization grew rapidly. By the 1950s, it had all but displaced domestic parties as the primary custom of Halloween (pranking continued apace in more rural areas), and Halloween became known as a children’s holiday. However, within two decades, Halloween was appropriated by college and university students as a festival of public costuming as well as of excess. Further, in major cities such as New York, the holiday was appealing to great numbers of adults. For some time, Halloween had been utilized by groups of gay people as an occasion to publicly parade their otherwise forbidden identity. In Boston, gay men dressed as women and paraded annually, as they did in New York. Eventually the New York Halloween parade became a kind of performance art festival, joined by people of many backgrounds. Likewise, in cities throughout the country adults reclaimed Halloween as an occasion of masquerading and festivity. Many cities now are home to more than one such street festival: Washington, D.C. features one such carnivalesque occasion in the Georgetown section, comprised largely of students from the nearby university, while families with children promenade in costume along East Capitol Street on Capitol Hill.

With the growing involvement of an older generation has come the inevitable consumerism. As trick-or-treating became established, store-bought sweets gradually replaced the homemade treats such as apples and doughnuts. Storebought costumes replaced the old clothes and rags scoured from drawers at home. Today, these commercial efforts have been joined by “trick-or-treating at the mall” and among merchants, efforts that are often blatantly commercial in nature. Other Halloween customs have quickly been capitalized upon, as well. For instance, along with the street festivals, people have begun to decorate their homes extensively with assemblages of symbolic objects such as dummies, ghosts, corn stalks, and so forth. Mass-produced versions of these usually homemade objects are now found in the department stores, along with electric outdoor display lights similar to those used at Christmas.

Nevertheless, despite its increasing importance economically, Halloween remains a popular celebration that allows for inversion and political satire. Images of politicians and celebrities have joined the traditional costumes of ghouls and other evil, malevolent folk. Groups of people disguised as atomic waste—this and other contemporary plagues, such as consumer goods that have been tampered with, are all part of the parade of taboos publicly paraded at Halloween. It remains a time of danger, as attested by the legends of poisoned treats and razor blades in apples, all of which have proven untrue. If people once feared demons and vampires, today we are more likely to fear the neighbor we do not know, or the stranger who just might be an axe murderer. For all its corporatization, Halloween remains a night of festive inversion, a time when people partake in age-old customs, not because they have to, but because they want to.


From the chapter "Halloween" by Jack Santino
Greenwood, 2006
Did you know the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas? Or that trick-or-treating on Halloween began in the late 1930s?  Every holiday has a history, and this book sets out to tell it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Icons of Horror: Werewolves, Witches, and Mummies (Oh My!)

...An introduction to 3 of the most popular icons of horror. 

No one can say with complete certainty when the first tale of the werewolf was told. What seems indisputable, however, from a reading of Elliott O’Donnell’s Werewolves (1912), Montague Summers’s The Werewolf (1933), Basil Copper’s The Werewolf in Legend, Fact and Art (1977), Charlotte F. Otten’s A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture (1986), and other clinical and anecdotal histories, is that virtually every culture has a variant on the werewolf legend as part of its mythology and folklore. Indeed, accounts of human transformation into feral form (and, in some cases, vice versa) are just part of a larger body of myths concerned with shapeshifting into a variety of animal guises. In general, these stories range from marvelous accounts of unusual powers humans acquire by changing form and nature to cautionary tales in which the wicked backslide into a bestial state.

Although the werewolf legend is thousands of years old, its most popular version dates only to the middle of the twentieth century. Robert Siodmak’s screenplay for the 1941 film The Wolf Man reduced the legend to bare essentials: The werewolf is a hapless victim who, once bitten in human form by another werewolf, changes into wolf form during the days of each month when the moon is full, between the hours of moonrise and sunrise. The human who is a werewolf usually is unaware of the supernatural side of his life, or at very least of his behavior after his transformation. As a werewolf, his sole purpose is to slaughter other creatures (especially humans), sometimes (but not always) for sustenance. Any injury he sustains as a wolf persists after his reversion to human form. The werewolf can be repelled only by wolfbane, and can be killed only by a silver bullet. Once killed, the werewolf immediately reverts back to his human form.

Most of the werewolf lore Siodmak put into his screenplay was taken from folktales or werewolf fiction that itself was derived from folk legend. However, the movie’s impact cannot be underestimated. Reaching a larger audience than perhaps any werewolf narrative of the preceding century, it codified werewolf lore in the same way that Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula created the template for all vampire fiction written in its wake. However, the cinematic werewolf deviated markedly from the literary werewolf, which had by that point enjoyed a rich and varied life for nearly 2000 years. Universal, the studio that produced The Wolf Man, had ten years earlier produced the film adaptation of Dracula, and Siodmak’s werewolf is easily identifiable as a vampire in wolf’s clothing. In literature, the werewolf has a distinctly different pedigree and speaks to different concerns and ideas than the vampire does. The canonical werewolf sprung from the film The Wolf Man was largely cut loose from the rich literary tradition that has made the werewolf one of the more fascinating and complex icons of horror literature.

The classic witch is easy to depict, but the icon in all its variety is difficult to define. We imagine a woman, old and baleful, perhaps with a long, warty nose and one clouded eye. She is accompanied by a familiar, a supernatural helper in the shape of an animal, especially a black cat. She meets others in a coven, usually a group of thirteen, to call upon the devil to work magic. This magic is always harmful, usually involving herbs, recited spells, or a doll that symbolizes her victim. She often ends up getting burned at the stake.

Even in the witch trials of medieval and early modern Europe, male as well as female witches were condemned, and in England and its colonies, they were not burned, but hanged or pressed to death. Both fiction and fact include witches who are young and attractive, good as well as bad witches. Their power can come from the devil or demons, from a benevolent goddess, from  their ancestors, from study of books to gain knowledge of the right words and herbs, from items with supernatural power, or from being qualitatively different, supernatural creatures themselves. From a modern perspective, the witch may be an innocent victim of superstition, a master of the powers of suggestion, or perhaps someone with abilities that should be studied by a parapsychologist. Moreover, those who fight witches—the ‘‘witch doctors’’— often become confused and identified with what they fight, in part because their powers seem similar.

The main criterion, in fact or fiction, is of course that the person is called a witch. However, an old, unattractive woman with supernatural powers would still qualify, even without the label; so would a young child who works destructive magic. Satanic worship is so closely associated with the term ‘‘witch’’ that it alone could lead to accusations of witchcraft. The themes witches represent—their psychological resonance, their social implications—vary as widely as the witches do. A witch, in one short story, may evoke disgust as the abject, reviled ‘‘other,’’ while in another, she or he is the inciter of uncontrollable desire. One story of a witch may evoke our sympathy for an innocent victim of persecution, while another may chill us about how easy it is to be corrupted by power. Even the lessons of historical cases of witchcraft have changed as various eras reinterpreted them in the light of different values and beliefs. At the core, though, there still lies a figure who is like us because she or he is human (or seems to be), and also not like us because he or she is said to really have powers that most of us have fantasized about. As Stefan Dziemianowicz writes in his editorial introduction to 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, ‘‘It is this dual nature that makes witches so fascinating—and so frightening’’.

The Mummy
The mummy itself is not much of a horror icon. There is nothing innately monstrous to be found in well-preserved corpses from the ancient past. Mummies, unlike freshly decaying human remains or bits and pieces of bone, convey something of the essence and personality of a long-dead human being. We look upon a mummy’s desiccated but often still-recognizable face and see a once-vital and distinct individual. The mummified have attained certain immortality and they live again in our imaginations. For many, mummies fascinate more than repel.

Our horrific connotations lie not so much with the mummy itself, but in associated fears. The mummy serves, of course, as a general reminder of our own mortality and our fear of death, but this alone is not enough to make it a monster.

Lifelike as they are, mummies appear to have the potential for reanimation. With our western acculturation to the concept of ‘‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’’ mummies defy what we see as a natural cycle. And if the mummy defies the natural order, then it slips into the supernatural realm where the dead may walk and talk again. Reanimation of the dead can also be ‘‘weird science’’ and prompt a connection with the ‘‘Frankenstein syndrome’’: man must not scientifically tinker with the unknown.

Even though it is based in incorrect cultural indoctrination and misplaced beliefs concerning ancient Egypt, the fear of magic or curses is also attached to the mummy. By breaking some sort of burial (in other words, religious) taboo vengeance from beyond the grave is invoked.

Mummies have also acquired entirely artificial horrific associations, with possession or reincarnation linking the long-dead with the presently alive. This aspect of mummy-fear is often directly related to a storyline of love that lasts beyond the grave, and that has a subversive, unspoken sense of the erotic and necrophiliac.

Although the mummy was eventually cast in the roll of monster, it has never been an entirely effective one. We lack a solid psychological link to it as a scary creature. Its fear factor comes almost entirely from circumstances surrounding it or cobbled on to it. Nevertheless, the mummy deserves investigation as, at least, a catalyst if not a true icon of horror. 

Any corpse with well-preserved flesh is considered a mummy. Mummification may be deliberate or accidental. Extreme cold, dryness, and lack of oxygen are all natural conditions that may result in mummification. Intentional exposure to chemicals—embalming—as practiced by the ancient Egyptians produced the ‘‘bandaged’’ mummy that is now iconic. There are a handful of non-Egyptian mummy tales, but the vast preponderance of horror literature and film dealing with mummies is based on the Egyptian model.



S. T. Joshi, ed.
Greenwood, 2006

Extended entries on 24 iconic figures from the world of horror and the supernatural discuss the essential features and enduring significance of these subjects. Other topics include: Aliens, Devils, Curses, Ghosts, Monsters, Sea Creatures, Sirens, Sorcerers, Vampires, and Zombies.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Origins of Chocolate

What is Chocolate?

The difference between cacao—the bean and commodity—and chocolate—the processed product—is important to our understanding of this luxury drink turned popular food. In 1753, the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus gave the plant its binomial scientific name, Theobroma cacao. Theobroma from the Greek means "food of the gods," while cacao is a loan word from the Mixe-Zoquean family. Conventionally, the term "cacao" is used to refer to the plant, the almond-shaped beans encased in the multi-hued pod, and all its raw materials before processing. In the next stage, whether in liquid or solid form, the beans become "chocolate"—a word that went through a process of linguistic hybridization, similar to the creolization of the drink itself. While the derivation and etymology of the term chocolate from cacahuatl in the Nahuatl language may be in dispute, the word nonetheless refers to the cold, bitter, water-based beverage of the native Aztecs that the Spaniards learned to drink hot and sweetened with cane sugar. With some exceptions in American and British usage, the term "cocoa" refers to the defatted powder after separating cacao butter from the cacao solids. This process, invented by Dutch chemist Conrad Van Houten in 1828, thereafter revolutionized chocolate preparation.

Chocolate today is so much a part of our everyday lives that we soon forget the many transformations that this product has undergone to arrive at its present place on the table. In the United States, where hot chocolate has become a mass-market, marshmallow-laden drink for children, it is difficult to envision the beverage as a luxury or exotic delicacy limited to the top strata of European society in the 17th and 18th centuries. Yet in an even earlier time and place, chocolate was not only the drink of Aztec and Maya elite but also a form of currency and a means of exchange, in which large sacks of cacao beans were used for taxes or tribute. 

Discover more on the history of chocolate—from its expansion to the masses during the Industrial Revolution to its recent emergence as a new luxury commodity—by checking out the full story on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.

Schnepel, Ellen M. "Cacao Genome Project Results Revealed: Background." The American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 22 Oct. 2010.


Related Resources...

Lois Sinaiko Webb, Lindsay Grace Roten
Greenwood, 10/2009

Contains recipes such as: Sachertorte (Chocolate Cake) and Chocolate Sauce from Austria, Truffles au Chocolat (Chocolate Candy) from France and Monaco, Champurrado (Chocolate Atole) from Mexico, and Brigadeiros (Chocolate Balls) from Brazil.

Zilkia Janer
Greenwood, 3/2008

This is essential reading for crucial cultural insight into Latinos from all backgrounds. Readers will learn about the diverse elements of an evolving pan-Latino food culture-the history of the various groups and their foodstuffs, cooking, meals and eating habits, special occasions, and diet and health.

Robert J. Sharer
Greenwood, 5/2009

Experience daily life in Maya civilization, from its earliest beginnings to the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cholera: A Brief Look

Cholera is still a public health problem in many parts of the world because more than one billion people do not have access to safe water. In many poor countries, drinking water in rural areas as well as city slums is heavily contaminated with parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Public health experts estimate that about half of the world’s poor still suffer from waterborne diseases. Thousands died of cholera in India and Bangladesh in the 1960s and 1970s. Cholera outbreaks also occurred in Cambodia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Peru. Sporadic cases of cholera in the United States were generally traced to consumption of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Travelers to areas where cholera is endemic have acquired the disease by drinking contaminated water or consuming contaminated food, particularly raw shellfish.

During serious cholera epidemics, mortality rates of about 50 to 60 percent are usually reported, but mortality rates as high as 80 percent have occurred during some outbreaks. Infectious disease experts believe that almost all cholera patients could be saved through the administration of intravenous liquids. Unfortunately, the medical resources needed for intravenous infusions are almost nonexistent in areas where cholera outbreaks and diarrheal diseases are common. Liquids given by mouth (oral hydration) are usually ineffective in cases of severe dehydration, but in the 1970s, researchers discovered that appropriate solutions of glucose and salts given by mouth were absorbed rapidly enough to save victims of cholera. Oral rehydration can also prevent most deaths from severe infantile diarrhea, even in the most primitive settings, if safe water is available. With proper oral or intravenous rehydration therapy, the case fatality rate is less than 1 percent.

The first twentieth-century cholera epidemic in South America was detected in Peru in 1991. About fourteen million people in Peru were infected, and 350,000 were hospitalized. Although the fatality rate was only about 1 percent, about thirty five hundred people died. Some cases were traced to contaminated food served in airplanes leaving Peru, proving again that an infectious disease anywhere in the world is just a plane ride away from any other point on the globe. The Pan American Health Organization reported that within six years of the 1991 outbreak in Peru, cholera had become established in fourteen countries because of inadequate water quality, sanitation, and hygiene. Thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths were reported, but experts suspect that only a fraction of all cholera cases are ever reported. Epidemiologists suggested that the cholera outbreaks were associated with unusually warm ocean currents that promoted the growth and spread of cholera vibrios carried by plankton, the mixture of microscopic plants and animals that drift in the ocean. Warmer waters promote their growth, thus increasing the chance of cholera epidemics wherever people lack access to safe water supplies and proper sanitary facilities. Misinformation about the 1991 cholera epidemic in Peru included claims that the disease appeared after chlorination of the water supply was discontinued. This was untrue because the water supply in the areas where the disease was most prevalent was quite primitive and was seldom, if ever, chlorinated or otherwise treated. Except in the capital city of Lima, Peru’s drinking water supplies at the time of the epidemic were generally not chlorinated.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, cholera was still present in seventy-five countries and on all continents. Epidemiologists estimate that hundreds of thousands of people contract cholera every year, but the true extent of the threat is unknown because governments prefer to list deaths from cholera as gastroenteritis, intestinal flu, food poisoning, or other euphemisms for diarrheal diseases. A United Nations report published in 2006, Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis, estimated that more than one billion people get water for drinking, washing, and cooking from sources polluted by human and animal wastes. Diseases associated with the lack of safe water and adequate sanitation kill more than two million people in poor countries every year. Diarrhea and other diseases associated with dirty water and inadequate sanitation kill more than two million children every year. Cholera outbreaks continue to vindicate the sanitarian doctrine that poverty, pollution, and the lack of hygienic conditions are the most significant factors in generating and disseminating epidemic disease. Even prosperous, modern cities are vulnerable to the epidemic diseases that can emerge after natural disasters, such as floods, and man-made catastrophes, such as war and military occupation. When basic services—drinking water, sanitation, and health care—are disrupted, cholera and typhoid fever become significant public health risks, especially among refugees and displaced people.


Lois N. Magner
Praeger, 4/2009

Magner discusses the history behind major infectious diseases, how they are spread, and how to treat them.

What is a Wiki?

What is a Wiki? 

The 21st-century educator and media specialist have an array of Web 2.0 tools to utilize in their endeavor to make resources available for the students and staff they serve. Web 2.0 is based on user participation that encourages open communication, allows for data to be controlled by many people, and inspires teamwork. In education, it can be used as a vehicle that allows teachers to connect, communicate, and collaborate. Our students use Web 2.0 tools on a daily basis in the form of blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings. Teachers who want to maximize their ability to relate to today's student must know what their students know about technology, and must be able to learn with the same tools students learn with every day.

Although there is a place for all of these tools in the pursuit of their goals, perhaps one of education's greatest tools is the wiki. It is a tool that allows the media specialist and teacher to demonstrate collaborative and leadership skills that serve students in supportive ways. Wikis can be the most effective tool we have in today's educational setting, where time to collaborate face-to-face has almost disappeared. 

The word wiki derives from a Hawaiian word that means quick. This definition is applicable to this tool, as a wiki is a Web site that can be created in a hurry. Wikis have many uses, among which are managing information, knowledge, and ideas. In today's world of fast-paced, highpressure, high-stakes learning, educators have a specific need to manage the tremendous amount of information available to their students. We can no longer ignore the fact that the remarkable amount of information, tools, and strategies available to today's teachers and students needs managing and organizing in order to be useful. Wikis can bring order to this information overload phenomena and help students make sense of facts, statistics, details, and data they collect while doing research or even while browsing for information. Moreover, teachers as well as students increasingly need to do this managing in a minimal amount of time, which is precious. They also need a vehicle that is of nominal cost or free to use. (Free is the universal keyword to educators everywhere!)

The most well-known and most used wiki today is Wikipedia, which has developed into a huge free, collaborative, Web-based, multilingual encyclopedia. It grows larger every day as users add to the base of knowledge and correct misinformation others have posted there. While the editors strive for accuracy in this source, many articles are not verifiable or are out-and-out wrong. Because the information on Wikipedia cannot be considered authoritative, this wiki has developed a tarnished reputation. While the content is generally factual, many school districts will not allow students to cite Wikipedia articles in research. However, students still tend to gravitate to Wikipedia frequently for their own purposes in gathering information.

So, given the popularity of wiki use, what is the value of wikis in education today? Even though today's students are probably the best multitaskers the world has ever produced, the sheer amount of information they take in can be overwhelming and block them from spontaneously doing the higher-level thinking that is required for analysis and synthesis. Educators looking for a method of improving the environment for these students to facilitate information management will find that wikis can provide them with an instrument that will systematize, organize, classify, and categorize knowledge, information, statistics, and ideas. These elements serve to enhance student learning. Wikis are not only beneficial to teachers and media specialists but are extremely helpful to students.

There are three types of wikis that educators will find helpful: the library wiki, the reciprocal wiki, and the student-produced wiki.

A library wiki provides a storehouse for resources, information, documents, and audiovisual artifacts that the user collects for a particular purpose. It is usually locked down, or secured, so that users of the wiki cannot alter the information it contains; however, users can comment on the information.

One of the best uses for a library wiki is one that systematically lists information, resources, and directions for a student-centered alternative assessment project. The product of this type of project assignment can be anything from a formal research paper to an oral presentation, Power Point, podcast, or video production. The library wiki warehouses safe online resources; teacher-directed instructions; links to useful interactive
sites; as well as images, video, audio, documents, or other materials that students may or may not need to complete a particular assignment. A library wiki becomes an online extension of the media specialist, as it leads students to relevant, safe, unbiased, and factual knowledge that they can analyze and synthesize into the final product. This type of direction is most useful to students who are just learning how to do research, how to cite sources, and how to use information they get without plagiarizing the source material.

Another use for the library wiki is for communication of school-based information for staff, because it can maintain a secure file of data that teachers and staff need to access on a regular basis. This type of wiki will become the place where teachers could find important information without searching files of e-mails or documents on their personal computers.

The reciprocal wiki is an online tool used by educators and media specialists to collaborate with classroom teachers, students, and parents. It is used primarily for organization and brainstorming. It can take the form of to-do lists, planning guides, curriculum plans, forecasting charts, or schedules. The purpose of this type of wiki is to enable diverse groups to work in partnership to achieve a common goal. They offer collaborative online storage space to create, revise, enhance and modify documents of all types and offer the choice of making the wiki a private (open just to designated individuals) or public (open to everyone) site.

The Student-Produced Wiki
More than any other Web 2.0 tool or application, wikis represent access to total open content. This fact alone appeals to the 21st-century student, who texts, tweets, chats, and blogs on a daily basis. Online collaboration with other students and teachers is engaging to students, who quickly learn the procedural steps in wiki creation and usually are not afraid to experiment with the features wikis provide. This leads to exciting shared community conversation and development of documents and projects. While the student-produced wiki is not a good vehicle for publishing, its real power is in the collaboration of developing, revising, and maintaining research, as well as sharing findings with a larger audience.



Adapted from Wikis: The Educator's Power Tool
Kay Teehan
Linworth, 9/2010

Wikis provides information on the ABC's of Producing a Wiki, in-depth information on each type of wiki, helpful organizational charts, copyright considerations, using wikis with foreign language students, and more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mike Eisenberg on How to Implement an Information Literacy Program

Today's students need information literacy skills more that ever.

Check out the second vodcast in the Mike Eisenberg Information Literacy Series: How to Implement an Information Literacy Program. In this vodcast, Mike answers a series of questions collected from students and colleagues around the country about implementing an information literacy program.

ABC-CLIO is a proud sponsor of the LMC @ the Forefront Professional Development Webinars—be sure to register for Mike Eisenberg's session: "Teacher-Librarian Wake-Up Call" on Wednesday, October 27th at 4:00 p.m. ET. Click here for more information.

Learn more about the Big6 method with these fun products (including bookmarks, posters, and notebooks) available through Linworth Publishing. 



Mike Eisenberg's forthcoming book: The Big6 Workshop Handbook: Implementation and Impact, Fourth Edition, publishes this coming January 2011. 

The latest edition of the Big6 Workshop Handbook contains the information that is current and essential to understanding and implementing this premier information literacy model.

Monday, October 18, 2010

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, Domestic Violence Awareness Month stemmed from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the NCADV. The purpose was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week when a range of activities were conducted at the local, state, and national levels. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed and the first national toll-free hotline was put into place. In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation.

In an October 1st, 2010 Proclamation by President Barack Obama, he states "In the 16 years since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), we have broken the silence surrounding domestic violence to reach thousands of survivors, prevent countless incidences of abuse, and save untold numbers of lives. While these are critical achievements, domestic violence remains a devastating public health crisis when one in four women will be physically or sexually assaulted by a partner at some point in her lifetime. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we recognize the tremendous progress made in reducing domestic violence, and we recommit to making everyone's home a safe place for them.

What is Domestic Violence? "Domestic violence has many names, including “intimate partner violence.” Additional terms that are or have been used include “spouse abuse,” “domestic abuse,” “domestic assault,” “battering,” “partner abuse,” “marital strife,” “marital dispute,” “wife beating,” “marital discord,” “woman abuse,” “dysfunctional relationship,” “intimate fighting,” “mate beating,” and so on. Intimate partner violence is a relatively recent term introduced in an attempt to include all violence against an intimate partner, regardless of marital status, and to exclude other forms of violence, such as child abuse, elder abuse, sibling abuse, and violence between roommates who are not intimate partners.
A definition of domestic violence used by some legal professionals is “the emotional, physical, psychological or sexual abuse perpetrated against a person by that person’s spouse, former spouse, partner, former partner or by the other parent of a minor child. Abuse may include threats, harm, injury, harassment, control, terrorism or damage to living beings or property”.
The definition developed by the Oregon Domestic Violence Council is “a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to control and subordinate another in an intimate relationship. These behaviors include physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse. Tactics of coercion, terrorism, degradation, exploitation, and violence are used to engender fear in the victim in order to enforce compliance.” This definition is most useful as it defines the violence as a pattern of behaviors as opposed to a single incident, refers to the types of abuse, states the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator, establishes the purpose of control and subordination, and lists the tactics."
---Adapted from Domestic Violence: A Reference Handbook, Second Edition

It is imperative that people continue to speak out against domestic abuse. It is equally important to understand what domestic violence is, how to cope as a survivor, and how to reach out for help. Visit for more information.


Margi Laird McCue
ABC-CLIO, 2007

This thoroughly revised second edition is an examination of domestic violence from social, legal, and historical perspectives.

Philip W. Cook
Praeger, 2009

An award-winning investigative journalist provides a disturbing new look at an underreported type of domestic violence—the abuse of men.


Katherine van Wormer, Albert R. Roberts
Praeger, 2008

This volume details the most violent form of abuse in an intimate relationship, and steps that should be taken on individual, societal, and public policy levels to stop the killing.

Angela Browne-Miller
Praeger, 2007

A riveting look at abuse and violence - as well as patterns that point to developing abuse - in intimate relationships, and how to change, overcome or escape such patterns and abuse.

Michele A. Paludi and Florence L. Denmark
Praeger, 10/2010

A team of educators, counselors and scholars examine the widespread problem of sexual assault and abuse in the United States from a legal, criminal justice, psychological, clinical, and legislative perspective.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Office Romance Etiquette: 10 Helpful Tips


Since the workplace is where employees meet, flirt, and explore their relationship face to face, it requires mainstream etiquette—everything you know about being civil and attentive to other people’s feelings applies. According to a computer software marketing consultant with 35 years of experience, there has been a major change in how companies train their personnel, in regard to the standards of human interaction, and the social side of collegial relationships that they want to see maintained in the workplace. “There used to be meetings designed to build comfortable relationships with co-workers, identify sexual harassment issues, and initiate welcome wagon-type discussion groups to inform new employees. Now it’s sink or swim. You have to catch on from your co-workers and come with your P’s and Q’s firmly in place.” Various lessons that employees must learn quickly include:

Flirting is rampant in the workplace. In an online survey of office romances, two-thirds of the 31,207 respondents reported that “there’s a lot of flirting going on” in their current work environment. Our recommendation to employees is to avoid flirting if your relationship is directed toward only one person and to never let your chats by the coffeemaker give a “we’re exclusive” signal. Let the third party who approaches feel welcome.

Keep your compliments in the range of dress or job performance, not physical qualities. Even in a marriage, a woman would rather hear “You look beautiful tonight” than “You have a great ass.”

Err on the side of caution when it comes to sharing funny stuff you see on the Internet. What would be funny off the premises may seem tactless at the office. Also, maintain your professionalism. With coworkers, this generally means no gender jokes (references to PMS, prostate problems, and so forth), and no use of trivializing words or expressions like “attaboy” or “You go, girl.”

If you go on a business trip together, do not post photos of it on Facebook, the office bulletin board, or “out of sight” at the edge of your computer screen.

Do not depart from the helpful rule of no touching except from the elbow to the hands—what’s called the “guiding touch.” If you are seeing each other, viz., have attained the stage of physical fondness, keep your relationship private. This means no looks of longing, no bedroom eyes, and no touching. Even if you are sleeping together, these “love signs” can make you look like a jerk at the office. In a study of sexual behavior at work, a team of researchers identified two types of sexual behavior—ambient sexual behavior (ASB), which involves sexual jokes, language, and materials; and direct sexual behavior (DSB), which involves direct sexual comments and advances. Of 238 employees, a majority of respondents (58%) reported experiencing
at least one of these sexual behaviors in the past two years at work. Almost half (46%) of the men who experienced sexual behavior at work evaluated it positively, in contrast to 10 percent of women.

E-Mails and Texting
Avoid sending e-mails and texting from nine to five. E-mails can be read by your supervisor and used in litigation against you if things get nasty.

Lunch with Colleagues - The Bill
When you go out to a restaurant with colleagues, make it clear that you alternate who pays, or pay for yourself. Do not let anybody, including your boss, pay for you unless it is work related.

Sneak a Snuggle?
If it feels natural to snuggle or kiss when you’re in an elevator, be sure you are between floors and nobody else is in there with you. If you want to hold hands, do it someplace else, not at the office on the sly (it’s human nature to be devious about sex, but do not). Even if you are doing something co-curricular, such as playing on the company softball team, remember that all eyes are on you.

Do not wear tight clothes; instead, choose clothes that softly cling, showing off your curves. Wear clothes appropriate to your age.Do not look as though you are reliving your high school cheerleader days, especially when it comes to skirts. Dress with an eye to your overall reputation, not to look sexy for “him.” Dress classy and business-appropriate or appropriate for a conservative occasion if it’s an office party. You can be sexy without going overboard. Reputation is important, and it can precede or follow you. Go for the sweet detail in your attire. When dressing to be attractive/noticed in the workplace, less is more has a twist. The principle is to be toned down with one extravagant element. This always catches attention in a positive way.

Pacing Your Relationship
The idea is not to let the relationship freeze-frame at work. First you go on a non-date . . . e.g., you go together to the gym, or you help the person choose a new couch, or you go on a charity run together. You want to be seeing each other to some extent outside the office before you get it on in the office. Your gifts to each other should be basic courtesies and kindness combined with a low-profile sensitivity to keeping mum (no bouquets on the desk). If you are working on a project together, keep a yardstick between you. Limit your e-mails to each other to 10 words—“Sure, see you at 6 at Macalaster’s Pub!” Do not say anything you would not say to a friend. Follow this rule and you will have a brilliant, slow-building, risk-proof future with the person you are seeing from the office.

If you are seen by your boss at a restaurant or movie, be calm—you have a right to be together. If the boss asks later whether you are seeing each other, answer “Yes.” Say no more. You need not say that your relationship interferes with your work performance because it does not.

Office Dating - A Caveat
Dr. Marie McIntyre, a specialist on office romances who gives corporate talks on this subject, noted what is most ignored by employees who get involved in office romances. She said: One common problem is that people in the throes of an office romance tend to think they have a cloak of invisibility and that no one is noticing the change in their relationship . . . which is almost never the case. So they may say or do things that are not really appropriate. Another problem is rushing into a sexual relationship too quickly. People in the throes of lust are seldom patient, so they often fall into bed without considering how this change in the relationship will play out on Monday morning. When one party realizes that this was a mistake or views it as a casual fling, and the other sees it as the beginning of a beautiful romance, the working relationship is going to be toast. And the people around them are going to be very uncomfortable for a while. Office couples need to separate their work and personal relationships just like office spouses. This is sometimes harder at the beginning of a relationship, since people who are smitten often find it hard to act “normal” around each other. They need to keep their hands to themselves and resist the urge to discuss their love life with their office buddies. When people who work in the same group decide that their dating relationship is going to continue, someone needs to tell the boss. Managers need to know about such a significant change in workplace dynamics. And the couple also needs to describe how they will keep this relationship from affecting their work or the office. Finally, office couples need to be sure that they never try to manipulate projects, tasks, or trips in order to maximize time together. That would be unethical.

The above 10 lessons are adapted from Chapter 5: Office Romance Etiquette from Finding Love from 9 to 5: Trade Secrets of Office Romance by Jane Merrill and David Knox.

Praeger, 9/2010

This book provides an engaging guide to finding adventure, love, and a life partner at work while avoiding the pitfalls of an office romance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Miley Cyrus: Young Celebrities as Role Models

Miley Cyrus is without a doubt one of the most popular female celebrities under 20. The daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley has been stirring up controversy for skimpy photo shoots, scandalous after-hour activities, and most recently, a provocative music video for her new song "Who Owns My Heart?". At only 17, she is a role model for the millions of young girls who have grown to idolize Hannah Montana, Miley's wholesome alter ego on the Disney Channel. But whether or not she should be a role model is the current debate. This same question has been posed in past years about Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and almost every new young actress who grows up in the public eye. What do you think about the way celebrities are labeled as role models? Do you think it's fair the way young actresses are placed on a pedestal, yet so easily knocked off because of their behavior?


By Kimberly Dillon Summers

The enchanting story of the real life Hannah Montana and her stunning success as a film, television, and music superstar.

By Mary Anne Donovan

Meet Christina Aguilera through a thorough and honest portrayal of her life and career and the things that have influenced both.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blanche Woolls on Crash Course Series for Librarians

The Crash Course Series [a series from Libraries Unlimited currently consisting of 15 titles] was created to help librarians working in small rural libraries who needed a quick introduction to a variety of management topics. The books have been found useful by persons working in a larger system who may be asked to move from their assignment to another area in a temporary situation, such as a reference librarian who must assist in the children's room. -- Blanche Woolls, Director and Professor Emerita, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, and past president of the AASL and IASL.

Blanche Woolls sits down with us at ALA Annual to discuss this important series.


For more author interviews, tune in to our YouTube channel: ABCCLIOLive.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cyberbullying: 10 Myths Debunked

There are obviously many pieces to the complex puzzle of bullying, but developing a greater understanding of the issue provides a solid foundation to initiate meaningful and much needed change. Enduring myths about bullying however continue to be accepted as truths by adults as well as youth, who look to the adults for guidance on how to respond in bullying situations. The following myths must be debunked in order for additional progress to be made in reducing bullying behaviors, with the caveat that the “truths” offered below in response to each of the myths are not absolute. In reality bullying is a complex social problem made worse by virtue of capabilities now provided as a result of the Internet and technological devices. No single myth or suggested truth is likely to sum up every bullying situation encountered by youth.

Myth #1: Bullying helps victims “toughen up,” and only makes them stronger in the long run.
Truth: Bullying generally does not help victims toughen up—it causes substantial pain. Left unchecked continued bullying causes more pain.

Myth #2: Bullying is a “normal” part of childhood development. Get over it.
Truth: Being repeatedly subjected to cruel and abusive treatment is not a normal part of childhood development or acceptable in civil societies as a matter of law.

Myth #3: Bullying is sometimes just “playing or goofing around” so what’s the big deal?
Truth: Bullying is not playing around unless everyone involved is having a good time.

Myth #4: When bullying becomes serious enough, kids will tell an adult.
Truth: Youth rarely tell parents or other adults about being bullied. This is especially true if their friends are the bullies. Instead they live by a code of silence with “no snitching” allowed.

Myth #5: Parents of students who bully or are bullied, are usually aware of the problem and will intercede if they deem it necessary.
Truth: Because bullying victims rarely tell parents or other adults what is happening in their online world, grownups are often unaware of the warning signs.

Myth #6: Most bullying occurs outside of school or on the way to and from school.
Truth: Although schools usually provide for very safe computing environments, most physical and verbal bullying occurs within schools or in connection with school activities. Cyber bullying however, can occur at any time, while a victim is interacting with bullies online or not, and from any location in which portable computing devices make it possible for bullies and/or victims to connect to the Internet.

Myth #7: Physical bullying is the most common form of bullying among boys and girls.
Truth: Verbal bullying is the most common form.

Myth #8: Bullies suffer from insecurity and low self-esteem.
Truth: While some bullies are insecure or have low self-esteem, many bullies are not suffering in these ways. For whatever other reason(s) they can be just mean!

Myth #9: Bullying and conflict mean the same thing.
Truth: Bullying involves a perpetrator holding power over and dominating a victim in some way usually over an extended period of time. Conflict however, involves mutual disagreements. Whereas two or more parties involved in conflicts may perceive themselves as being “the victim” who needs to stand up for their rights, bullies originate and perpetuate one-way aggression directed toward the victim(s).

Myth #10: Bullying affects only a small number of students.
Truth: Bullying affects a large number of students as victims or witnesses in direct or indirect ways. Spin-off effects of bullying can disrupt families, school environments, neighborhoods, and even entire communities.

Adapted from Chapter 2: Characteristics and Causes of Bullying Among Individuals and Groups (Pgs. 29-36) of Cyber Bullying: Protecting Kids and Adults from Online Bullies (Praeger, 2009) by Samuel C. McQuade, III, James P. Colt, and Nancy B. B. Meyer.

This volume details the extent and types of cyber bullying and offers practical advice for combating the problem from a variety of approaches.