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America’s Star Teenage Scientist Is Catalyzing Generational Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/09/2021 - 6:00pm in

Motivated by the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, Gitanjali Rao was only ten years old when she created her first invention, a now patented lead test for water. For this, Rao, now 15, was named America’s Top Young Scientist of 2017 and TIME Magazine’s first-ever “Kid of the Year” in 2020. 

Not one to rest on her laurels, she has since invented an app to fight cyberbullying and an early detection kit for opioid addiction. But today, her greatest passion is getting more people like herself — young, female, people of color — involved in science. RTBC spoke with Rao from Lone Tree, Colorado, where she lives with her parents and younger brother, about the unique contribution her generation can offer, how science can catalyze social change and creating a platform for other young innovators. 

You just published a book this spring, A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM: 5 Steps to Problem Solving for Students, Educators, and Parents. Specifically, how can we get more young people into STEM, especially more young women and people of color? 

The first step is introducing young people to more role models. Most scientists don’t look like me. Seeing people who look like you in the field and on the news is one of the most empowering experiences. Science and technology don’t just revolve around robotics and coding, but that’s how it has been portrayed. That can scare people away. I like to present STEM as a means to solve problems, using science and technology as a catalyst for social change rather than just as raw skills.

Do you have role models that inspired you to get into STEM?

Gitanjali Rao“Innovation and problem solving should be introduced at a young age, as an everyday part of our life.” Photo courtesy Gitanjali Rao

My parents are both IT engineers and work in a different field than I do, but they have been my biggest supporters and are my biggest role models. One of the people who first got me interested in STEM is my second-grade teacher. Out of nowhere, she told me I was going to change the world someday, and that stuck with me. Little things like that empower me on a daily basis. 

Even now, I do tend to get comments about how I don’t look like your typical scientist. Or, ‘“You’re smart for a girl.”’ When it comes to innovation, a lot of times you’re expected to act or look a certain way. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to recognize that no one defines what I do, except for myself.

When did you first realize you had an interest in science?

When I was four, my uncle got me this earth science kit instead of the Barbie Dreamhouse I wanted. I complained about it for days, but I decided to open the kit and play with it. That was a great starting point. From a very young age, my parents exposed me to lots of ideas. Everything. I did everything. Ice skating. Hang gliding. Fencing. Baking. Playing the piano. I went to flight school. I was trying out things every single day. We had this deal: If I wanted to quit something I could the next day, but I had to go to one practice, one class, or one lesson. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but what that risk-taking did is that I was able to choose my own path and have that path fostered for me. 

Did your parents set any limits?

I wanted to invent a chair that sinks into the ground to save space, but my mom wouldn’t let me drill a hole into the floor. So that didn’t work out. 

You’re all about finding solutions to pressing problems, just like Reasons to be Cheerful. What are the problems you’re personally most passionate about solving? 

The biggest ones are definitely, number one, the contamination of our natural resources. Second, education opportunities, creating equality. Third, the spread of diseases and pandemics. I am working toward finding solutions for these three things in the next couple of years, but obviously, it takes time, effort and people.

Gitanjali Rao

Well, you already put in the effort with the first issue, contamination. When you were ten years old, you heard about the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and with just a cardboard box and a couple of drawings in the beginning, you developed Tethys, a lead test that resulted in you winning the 3M Young Scientist competition in 2017, arguably the most renowned science competition for kids in America. How did you achieve this?

I found it absolutely appalling to see how many kids my age are drinking poison every single day that causes lifelong damage to their mental capacity, their organs and their normal growth. I was also interested to see the impact carbon nanotube sensor technology has. It was already used to detect hazardous gases in the air, and I wanted to create a water-soluble version of it.

Hang on, how did you know what carbon nanotube sensors are at ten years old? I had to look that up. 

I was just reading through MIT’s Tech Review, seeing stuff that had already popped up on my radar and recognizing that it could be easily used and shifted over for multiple uses. Tethys is a fully patented device, but it is not currently available for people to start using yet. I’m working with a variety of organizations such as Intel to help with field testing and mass production. Hopefully, in the next couple of years, people can start using it. 

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The idea is that it’s something that anybody could use, like a resident of Flint could use it to test their water, right? You don’t need to be a scientist or have a lab to use it. 

Exactly.

How many inventions have you created? 

Seven to eight, depending on if you want to count the ones that are not fully developed yet. I’m currently working very closely with UNICEF on Kindly, my app against cyberbullying. 

What sparked your interest in that? Have you experienced any bullying? 

Not personally, but I recognize it as an issue as someone who’s moved to seven different schools in the past 11 years because of my parents’ jobs. Every new place is something you have to adapt to, with a new set of people. But bullying is an issue that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. 

How does the app work?

Gitanjali Rao“I like to present STEM as a means to solve problems, using science and technology as a catalyst for social change rather than just as raw skills.” Photo courtesy Gitanjali Rao

The best way to describe it is “the spellcheck of bullying.” It looks at the latest terms, emojis, slangs, whatever, and basically categorizes them into various grades of intensity, what may be considered bullying or insults or “nice words.” The application itself is pre-programmed to take further action and send a message. It creates a learning experience out of every bullying situation, with a non-punitive approach. 

You’re also creating a network to bring other people who look like you into the field of STEM. How do you envision this? 

Three to four times a week, I’m running innovation workshops for students across the world. I have impacted about 50,000 students today across 26 countries and five continents. The goal is to make these innovation workshops self-sustaining beyond me to help students come up with an idea. But we do not stop at the ideation phase; I also mentor them on the execution, allowing their ideas to go from just a concept to out in the real world. 

How?

That support needs to come from organizations in the workplace, being willing to bring students in and making internships about more than coffee and copies. Because, believe it or not, youth play a part in the real world. We just need to take advantage of the latest work Gen Z is doing. We might hear about it on the news, but we don’t do anything about their ideas. 

What kind of ideas have come out of your workshops that you think have big potential?

One of my favorite ideas is from a kid in Wyoming who came up with this app similar to Pokemon Go, which allows you to collect litter. In the beginning he hated coding, but then he programmed it all by himself. It’s incredible to see how these students really recognize their potential after they recognize that science isn’t as intimidating as it seems in the real world. We just need to present it in a way that people want to engage with it. And that’s what I aim to do.

One of your main interests is opening science access for people who have fewer resources. What do you think schools can do to get more young people interested in science? 

K-12 education should explicitly teach ideation and problem solving. We shouldn’t just focus on getting an A in a math class, but getting an A in life. Innovation and problem solving should be introduced at a young age, as an everyday part of our life. And I think that it’s completely possible. 

What advice do you have for other kids who want to innovate solutions?

Don’t be afraid to take risks. And don’t be afraid to take that first step. Sometimes taking that first step is all you need to make a difference in society. And remember, the worst answer you’re going to get is no. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? It is that you fail. There’s no one stopping you but yourself.

The post America’s Star Teenage Scientist Is Catalyzing Generational Change appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Petless Couple Lavish Creepy Amounts Of Attention On Their Children

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/09/2021 - 7:49am in

Friends of a petless Kirrawee couple are concerned that they may be overcompensating for their lack of a cat or a dog by obsessing over their children.

“You go over to visit and like the kids are just running around inside the house as if they own the place,” said Phillipa Nerkle, good friend of Tony and Jane Fiddlesticks. “They wash them every day. Every day. And they take them out to a special place just to get their hair cut every month or so.”

“They actually take them with them when they go away on holidays”, said Phillipa’s incredulous husband Scotty. “The last time I was there one of the kids didn’t want to eat all its dinner and Jane finished it off for them, using the same knife and fork. I was almost ill.”

“They’re not just kids, they’re part of the family,” admitted Jane, who even changed her work schedule to part time so that she could stay at home and spend more time with them. “Tony and I tried to become dog owners but it just wasn’t to be. I know people look at us funny when we take the kids out in public dressed up in little outfits we’ve made for them.”

The Fiddlesticks’s crazy daily routine includes spending several hours playing with their children in a special part of the park set aside for children and their owners. At night they read them a bedtime story.

“You just can’t have a conversation with Jane where she doesn’t twist the subject around to what her children are doing,” said Janes frustrated sister Karen. “She was going on the other day about how one of her kids was walking. Big whoop. All kids walk.”

Peter Green
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Grandparents Watching the Kids? Your Job Could Be Paying Them

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

Originally published by The 19th

In rural northwest Arkansas, one of the country’s child care deserts, it likely would have taken Morgan Edington many months before she found a reliable sitter to care for her one-year-old son on the unlucky nights when both she and her husband were called into work at the Clorox factory a town away.

She could manage most days, when the two parents were on opposite schedules. What she needed was what the child care industry calls “backup care,” the kind taken up by friends, family members or the occasional high school or college student when a parent is in a pinch. If it’s paid at all, it’s often not enough, and, for parents like Edington, who need it at odd hours, it’s usually unreliable.

Until recently, Edington would have had few options. She has no friends or family nearby, and even big providers — like Care.com and Bright Horizons, which offer backup care as an additional service — can’t always fill the gap.

But that’s all been changing. The pandemic caused mass closures of child care centers, putting a focus on just how weak the existing structures for care really are. That sent parents — especially mothers — in search of solutions.

Edington found hers in Helpr, a new, fast-growing service that allows parents to screen and book sitters in their area for last-minute care through an app. Parents can also add their own existing sitters — siblings, parents, friends — to the database and help them get paid for all the care they would typically perform for free. The service is paid for by parents’ employers, who partner with Helpr to subsidize the care as a work benefit. In the last year, Helpr has tripled its growth, now reaching nearly 100,000 workers through partnerships at about 30 companies, including Snapchat parent Snap. It’s also influencing the first piece of legislation in the country, out of California, that seeks to mandate that large employers offer backup care.

Edington recently got access to Helpr through her employer, Clorox, which offers 60 subsidized hours through the app. She taps into it once or twice a month, when her schedule overlaps with her husband’s, and pays her sitter about $8 an hour. Clorox pays the rest. (Workers on the app get paid the area’s living wage.)

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For Edington, accessing the aid was transformational. In rural Arkansas, her options for affordable, quality care are slim. Her only choice was often a friend who lives three hours away.

“It fills a big gap that we have because we don’t have anyone else,” said Edington, 25, who is expecting her second child in November. Without options, she said she would “rather miss work than leave my kid with someone I don’t know” and don’t trust.

Having accessible child care is crucial to the financial and economic stability of parents, especially mothers, who are most likely to take time off to do care work. About six percent of unemployed people, most of whom are women, are not working because they are caring for a child who is not in school or daycare. That’s 6.3 million people, according to the most recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The disruption of child care has contributed to an exodus of hundreds of thousands of women from the workforce in the past year. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in August found that nearly half of manufacturers in that region said child care challenges made it difficult to bring back furloughed workers or hire new ones, a problem that was affecting assembly lines. And in recent months, child care access has been framed by President Joe Biden’s administration as critical to parents returning to work.

It’s the moment Helpr co-founders Kasey Edwards and Becka Klauber Richter have been working toward in the five years since they launched the app after working in the child care industry themselves. They created Helpr with the idea that access to backup child care could help parents fully participate in the workforce and keep them employed. Now the moment is meeting them, the pandemic making the case they’ve been trying to make for years: Offering this benefit is essential, not tangential.

“We envision a future where … child care should sit alongside [employment benefits like] vision and dental,” Edwards said. “It shouldn’t sit alongside the perks program. We’re not talking about discounted tickets to the Lakers game or whatever.”

The undervaluation of care work is reflected in how it’s paid — and how it’s not.

The median hourly pay for a child care worker in the United States was $12.24 in May 2020, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it one of the lowest paid occupations in the country. Child care workers earn less, on average, than retail sales workers, who earn a median wage of $13.02; housekeepers, who earn $12.61; parking attendants, who earn $13.02; and telemarketers, who earn $13.42.

Low pay and few benefits also contribute to high turnover and low retention rates in the child care industry — as high as 40 percent in some states. This makes it hard to find quality care for families that are already paying exorbitant rates to access it, annually costing parents more than in-state tuition at a four-year college in some states.

The care work that isn’t paid — the work often performed in homes by women — is estimated to be worth trillions of dollars a year. One estimate found that the unpaid work women do is worth at least $1.5 trillion a year in the United States if those women were paid minimum wage. On a global scale, that’s $10.9 trillion.

To help address that, Helpr ensures professional sitters are paid about $25 an hour on average, but must have at least two years of child care experience. The app is in most major cities, about 20 in the United States, plus internationally in Mexico, Canada, China, Argentina, Australia and others. Wages are adjusted based on the living wage in each location.

Helpr is also hoping to change another practice: expecting family and friends who typically do care as a favor for parents to not get paid at all. The service launched a new feature for onboarding family and friends in 2019, and it has since become fully integrated into the Helpr app. It’s the most popular option for families, Edwards said. About 700 family and friend sitters have been uploaded so far. The app also offers about 1,000 of its own professional sitters.

“Everybody has some sort of village that they lean into, and we try to help those folks see that you can stop asking your sister-in-law for favors and you can put some money behind the transaction and formalize that relationship around that caregiving need,” Edwards said. “That way it’s more reliable, it’s more punctuated and it’s more helpful to both parties in the transaction.”

Grace Johnston, a tech worker in California, has onboarded her sister and sister-in-law into the Helpr app to help with care for her daughter, who was born in May 2020, when Johnston and her husband transitioned to working from home.

“I realized within a few days that it was unrealistic for us to both work full time and watch our baby. That is when we started relying on Helpr,” Johnston said. “Having someone for just a few hours a day has made a massive difference and has made it feel totally sustainable to both keep working from home with the baby.”

For family and friend sitters, parents provide a name and email, and Helpr handles the onboarding process. Johnston uses the app several times a week and pays $6 an hour. Her employer, a tech company in Silicon Valley, pays the rest. Because she can rely on sitters she already trusts, Johnston said she feels more comfortable using care services more frequently, calling it the single thing that has had the “biggest impact on my journey to become a working mom.”

But there are still barriers to adoption, both for parents and companies, Edwards said. About 42 percent of parents are afraid using the child care benefits provided through their employer could put their job at risk, according to a survey by Catalyst, a nonprofit that does research on working women.

“We’re going to continue to face challenges on user adoption,” Edwards said. “There’s still a lot of guilt for a lot of moms and parents who don’t want to feel like they’re over overstepping or leaving their kids alone.”

What’s encouraging, in the face of the pandemic, is that more companies are looking to normalize access to child care benefits as an economic imperative that improves retention. The recession has also created the space to even have the conversation about solutions.

“We’re really excited about this being a new language to say, ‘The bottom line of any company is highly supported by this network of people who are taking care of everyone’s kids,’” Edwards said.

This story was supported by the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. It is part of SJN’s SoJo Exchange.

The post Grandparents Watching the Kids? Your Job Could Be Paying Them appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Children, Academia, and the Life of the Mind

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/08/2021 - 8:00pm in

“If children take time away from a habit of intellectual activity that is bad in itself, it’s hardly a real accusation against them.”


[Mary Kelly, “Plaster hand cast prototype for Post-Partum Document VI”]

That’s Mary Townsend (St. John’s University), in an essay in Plough responding to the idea that having children and flourishing as an academic are in tension:

[C]hildren are difficult enough as difficult things go, and so is academia; trying to do two difficult things at once is enough to risk much going awry. But those filing the charge against children in the academy usually stake a much stronger claim than this. There’s a not-at-all hidden sense that children and this oddly-named “life” of the “mind” fundamentally don’t mix…

But this is the moment to start asking exactly what sort of life we’re talking about here, while also taking note of the odd sort of geometrical or even chemical thrust of the claim, that children exert a kind of radioactive action at a distance, even while asleep or at school or in the backyard, that distorts – what? Our time, our attention, our midnight oil, our very thought? This would be a failing indeed. If it were true. But it is not.

Part of the distortion present in these arguments comes from the very strange work ethic of the most visibly successful academics. Again, plenty of (American) professionals love to brag about how hard they work – it’s what a sense of self centered in professional wage-labor does to you – but professors losing their sleep, their health, their romantic relations, while bragging about the articles they’ve written, for free, are their own sort of beast in the zoo. This so-called ethic supplies the idea that unless you’re draining your life force in service of research, you’re not doing it right…

Rather than overstate the problem in service to an undersirable ideal, Dr. Townsend, herself a single mother, provides a more realistic and reasonable account of the difficulty of children:

Babies require attention, and this is a practical problem. They are like the squeaking door at Jane Austen’s study that alerted her when company was on the way, except babies squeak more, and are indeed one of the most pressing and visible manifestations of human responsibility going. Virginia Woolf talks about the thought escaping one like a fish downstream; the truth of attention and memory is that any interruption risks pushing the rest of the dream of Kubla Khan straight out of the forefront of our mind and out the back of it too, forever…

One of my sons is home with me for the day, and he has as many thoughts as I do, and rightly claims some recognition from me for at least seventy percent of the ones he wishes to share… 

But the ability to find my way back to mine, to my thoughts, from his, is the same sort of ability I used to call on when, childless, I wrote in coffee shops and tried to keep my mind on my Greek translation… I am much, much better now than I used to be, before children, at finding my way back to the thought at hand; memory for my thoughts has been athletically trained, which for me came about while writing a dissertation with a two-year-old and a four-year-old home for the summer, and me the best childcare going, after their three and a half hours of gymnastics camp was done for the day…

[F]inding the thread of thought again is a skill everyone has to become good at, if they intend to hold onto threads… 

Of course, skill alone is not the whole solution. Read the whole thing—thoughtful, interesting, provocative—here.

The end of the population pyramid (scheme)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/06/2021 - 3:46pm in

Tags 

Children

In a case of l’esprit de l’escalier, I just worked out the perfect parenthetical addition to this piece that was published in Inside Story, responding to a string of pro-natalist pieces in the New York Times and elsewhere. The central point is that the economic model in which strong young workers support elderly retirees is outdated and will only become more so.

A sharp fall in births during 2020 has provoked a wave of handwringingabout the implications of an ageing population. The decline can’t be attributed solely to the pandemic, since most of the babies born in 2020 were conceived before the pandemic began. However, it appears to have accelerated as the impact of the pandemic has been felt.

Some of the complaints reflect old-fashioned, not to say primitive, concerns about birth rates as an indicator of national ‘vitality’. But the main focus of concerns reflects a 20th century understanding of the economy that is deeply embedded in our ways of thinking and economic measurement, even though it is now almost completely obsolete.

The central assumption underlying these concerns is based on economic model in which “societies are organized around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old”.

The model in which the young supported the old emerged in the 20th century, and ended with the 21st. For most of human history, old people were expected to work as long as they could, just as children were put to work as soon as they were able. The very young and the very old depended on their families to support them.

The welfare state which emerged at the end of the 19th century changed this radically. On the one hand, children were excluded from the workforce and required to attend school until the official leaving age, typically around 14. Governments paid for the schools, but, for the most part, required parents to support their children as in the past.

On the other hand, the introduction of old age pensions meant that old people (most commonly those over 65) were now entitled to public support, sometimes though not always, subject to a means test. Pensions were paid out of taxes or contributions to social security schemes. Either way, the cost was borne by the population of ‘working age’, defined as 15-64. With a high birth rate, the age distribution of the population appeared as a pyramid, with a large working age population supporting a small group of retirees.

The model underlying the desire for a population pyramid is one in which physical work predominates. Young and strong, needing only on-the-job training, workers leave school at 14 and immediately start contributing to the economy. By 65, they are worn out and ready for retirement. In this model, the more young people, the better.

To see that this assumption is problematic, we need only to look at US data on employment by age. At the turn of the century, the assumption described above looked reasonable enough. Around 60 per cent of young people aged 16-24 were employed compared to barely 30 per cent those aged 55 and over.

But by 2019, before the pandemic, the gap had mostly closed. Just over 50 per cent of people 16-24 were employed, compared to 39 per cent of those over 55. Many of the jobs held by young people are part-time and low-waged. By contrast, older workers are, on average, just below their peak lifetime earnings, reached around age 50.

Taking these facts into account, it seems likely that mean earnings per person are already higher for the old than for the young.

The reality of a modern economy is quite different from that underlying the population pyramic. To become a productive member of the community, young people need post-school education, whether academic or vocational. That implies a large expenditure of resources, which may be paid for by government, parents or through loan schemes like HECS. Taking all these together, the proportion of national income allocated to education is stable or increasing in developed countries like Australia and the US, even as the proportion of young people in the population declines.

https://www.acer.org/au/discover/article/three-charts-on-how-much-austra...

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/us-education-expenditure-as-share-of-...

A return to high birth rates over the next few years would imply the need for a large increase in education spending. The payoff in terms of a more productive workforce would not be fully realised until the second half of this century, when the expanded age cohort entered the prime-age workforce in their late twenties and early thirties.

At the other end of the age distribution, official retirement ages have been abolished, and the eligibility age for the pension has been pushed to 67, with further increases in prospect. There is still a substantial group of manual workers for whom physical exhaustion makes retirement a relief. Attitudes that under-value older workers are still prevalent, with the result that many are pushed into retirement whether they like it or not. But for a large group of white collar workers, working past 65 is an increasingly attractive economic option.

A realistic model of the future workforce is one in which productive workers are mostly aged between 25 and 70. It’s unlikely that life expectancy will ever be much above 95. On that basis the typical person will spend about half their life in the working age population and the other 50 years evenly divided between education and retirement.

In all of this, I’ve focused on the age distribution of the population. Despite the concerns that have been expressed, the age distribution associated with a lower birthrate is unlikely to cause major problem.

By contrast, the implications of a lower birth rate for the the size of the world’s population are unambiguously beneficial. The world is already overcrowded, and the needs of a growing population are straining the capacity of the planet to support us. Even with falling birth rates, the worlds population is certain to rise between now and 2050.

By 2100, population might return to the current level of eight billion or perhaps a little fewer. The idea that we should push people to have more children in order this number, rather than making marginal adjustments to the economic institutions we have inherited from the 20th century, is simply nonsensical.

Inheritance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/05/2021 - 9:00pm in

Book cover provided by Beacon Press ————— Honey. For a long time, that’s the only name I had for her,...

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Beverly Cleary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 7:15am in

In this episode, Natalia, Niki, and Neil discuss the life and legacy of the late children’s author Beverly Cleary. Here...

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The Infamous Class 3 School Illustration (1976-1979)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/07/2020 - 6:30pm in


On 10 September, 1976, dozens of children, including every single pupil from class 3, Scarfolk High School, vanished on their way to school. A police operation was launched but no clues were ever found. The children were pronounced dead the following Monday, a mere three days later.
Every year thereafter, the police commissioned their sketch artist to draw, in the style of a school photograph, how the missing children might have looked (albeit with their faces removed) had they not disappeared in mysterious circumstances. This was sent to the bereaved parents of class 3 at an exorbitant cost of £31.25.
In the 1979 class sketch, one parent noticed a small label on one of the faceless figure's clothes that contained a code word only their child could have known. 
Under mounting pressure from parents, the police eventually raided their artist's studio and found 347 children in his cellar where many had been held captive for several years. The police immediately seized and confined the children as evidence in a crime investigation, which, after much dithering, ultimately never went to court leaving the families no choice but to pursue a private prosecution against the kidnapper. 
As the children had already been pronounced dead and the cost of amending the relevant paperwork was high, they were given away as prizes in the Scarfolk police raffle, which helped pay the legal fees of their sketch artist, who, it turns out, was the son of Scarfolk's police commissioner.

Let's Think About... Booklet (1971- )

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/11/2019 - 12:06am in

The Let's Think About... booklet was published by Scarfolk Council Schools & Child Welfare Services department in 1971. It was designed for use in the classroom and encouraged children between the ages of five and nine to focus on a series of highly traumatic images and events.

Parents and teachers assumed that the booklet was based on psychological research but it had no scientific basis whatsoever. The booklet's medically untrained author was one of the dinner ladies from the council canteen before she was fired for attempting to slip strychnine into bowls of blancmange.

Despite the scandal, the booklet remained on the school curriculum for many years and the author was invited by the council to pen an updated edition from her prison cell in 1979.

'Little Lady' Breath Mirror Corpse Detection Set (mid-70s)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/11/2019 - 2:12am in


Apocalyptic toys were all the rage in the late 1970s, not that they were thought of as apocalyptic at the time. Citizens didn't fear their annihilation; they quite looked forward to demonstrating their 'Dunkirk spirit' with the misguided belief that it would somehow bring the country together. It didn't occur to them that their dogmatic nationalism might instead bring about the demise of the nation.
As the country moved toward collapse, social unrest and inevitable casualties increased. The paranoid state began anonymously exterminating citizens who so much as hinted at insurrection. Average (and the vast numbers of below-average) people were killed in street clashes between opposing factions and there were spates of frightened suicides.

Scar Toys exploited this expanding market opportunity and created a range of toys aimed at the many children in the process of being orphaned. One such toy, the Breath Mirror Set, aimed at young girls, was designed to accompany their more traditional beauty/vanity toys. The deluxe set (see picture above) included one mirror for each parent, colour-coded as per gender convention: pink for girls, blue for boys.

The wording on the back of the packaging encouraged children to use the mirrors beyond the death of their own parents. Included was a little booklet into which little pink stars could be affixed for every corpse that was identified using the mirrors. Highly sought-after prizes were awarded to the girls with the most stars and council archival documents reveal that the police turned a blind eye when gangs of little girls began slaughtering adults in frenzied attempts to accumulate more stars.

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