Berenstain discusses family values apparent in ‘The Berenstain Bears’

By: Carolyn VanBrocklin

“The Berenstain Bears” series has chronicled the “foibles, worries and joys of family life” since 1962,said David Cooper, Dean of the School of Education as he introduced Michael Berenstain, son of Stanand Jan Berenstain.

Berenstain explained how his own family’s daily life influenced the fictional stories in a lecturesponsored and organized by the School of Education.

The Berenstain Bear family. Image from Atomic Popcorn.

But first, why bears?

“Bears are the traditional staple of childrens’ books,” said Berenstain.

In literature, bears in books range from large and lumbering to cute and cuddly. The Berenstain bearsare somewhere in between, a stand-in for people, he said.

This allowed the Berenstains to address family subjects, themes and values.

“It was never my family’s intention to take on the role of do-it-yourself family counselors,” Berestainsaid. “But now we’re stuck with it.”

Readers like the books because they teach valuable lessons and there is appeal in how these lessons arepresented, he said.

Many readers assume there is a connection between the Berenstain bears and the Berenstain family,Berenstain said. When people ask him if he inspired the character Brother Bear, he replies that he hasan older brother, so that must make him Sister Bear.

But Mama Bear’s gentle wisdom and Papa Bear’s bumbling father-figure were drawn from Berenstain’sparents, he said.

Stan and Jan Berenstain came from working-class family backgrounds and shared a love of art. Theymet on their first day of drawing class in college and after getting married, Stan Berenstain envisionedthe two of them working together on cartoons.

The early “Berenstain Bears” books were usually full of wild and funny adventures; Papa Bear andBrother Bear go hunting for honey and must run from a swarm of bees. They encounter a toothed seacreature while scuba diving and “they get into traffic accidents,” said Berenstain while showing a pictureof the Bear family falling off a multi-rider bike.

“The Berenstain Bears” evolved after the arrival of Sister Bear, which opened the way to many value-driven stories.

The bears learned not to eat too much junk-food, went to camp and dealt with issues concerning familyand friendship. All of these stories and lessons were inspired by everyday family life.

Berenstain’s presentation coupled images of his children playing soccer, selling lemonade and playing
doctor with similar illustrations from the books.

His mother influenced his artistic inclinations and today he helps her write and illustrate new BerenstainBears books.

“My parents set a remarkable example of how to be full-time Creators, with a capital C,” Berenstainsaid.

Today, the Berenstains have published over 300 books and sold more than 260 million copies, but familyis still the center of their enterprise. Berenstain said he cannot pick a favorite book, that they all madehim nostalgic for his childhood.

The audience echoed Berestain’s nostalgia.

“Oh, I remember that one!” whispered the audience members at every image from one of “The Berenstain Bears” books.

Originally published on The Pendulum.


Professor Ken Calhoun Speaks to Elon Students About Interactive Media

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

On Wednesday April 8, Professor Ken Calhoun spoke to Janna Anderson’s class about interactive media and the new iMedia major at Elon University.

Professor Ken Calhoun speaks to Reporting students about the increase in use of interactive media.

Professor Ken Calhoun speaks to Reporting students about the increase in use of interactive media.

Calhoun spoke about interactive media and using it to extend one’s reach through the internet.

“Interactive media is allowing us to communicate in other ways,” Calhoun said. We can tell stories and reach wider audiences through such interactive media and Web 2.0.

These days there is a two way system of communication. It allows for participation, choice and control, like choose your own ending books. “The permutations of experiences are endless,” Calhoun said.

Interactive media users can have unique experiences within set limitations. “That’s what people want from their media and technology is now enabling that,” Calhoun said. The choices are endless, convenient and available.

Calhoun said that there are three “flavors” to interactive media: storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation.

“I like the word flavors because first of all it reminds me of ice cream,” Calhoun said. “But secondly flavors kind of suggests that there’s some blending and mixing of opportunities.”

These pieces of interactive media give users options for online use.

“I consider multimedia to be things that aren’t necessarily interactive,” Calhoun said. There are opportunities to have a media experience you can navigate yourself.

Calhoun showed the class examples of sites that match the definition of interactive media, such as and These sites are mostly storytelling tools that show the variety of internet applications that can be used to put them up.

To make an attractive site, web designers must make it self-revealing, responsive and rewarding, Calhoun said.  Otherwise people will not spend much time there. The web is a platform for communication, and people want their information to come from there.

“It’s almost a broadcast kind of mentality,” Calhoun said, referring to RSS feeds that keep people constantly updated.  When competing in a technology heavy world, staying on top of the trends and what audiences expect is important.

Watch Professor Ken Calhoun define interactive media:

Watch Professor Ken Calhoun describe aspects of interactive media:

Author Frank Turek Uses Science to Explain the Existence of God

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

On Thursday April 16 at 7:30 p.m., author Frank Turek explained how he knows that God exists.  Turek is known for co-authoring the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” and founding The Cross Examined web site.  His argument used scientific and logical evidence in an attempt to compel the crowd to believe in God.

Frank Turek speaks to the crowd, explaining his evidence that truth and God absolutely exist.

Frank Turek speaks to the crowd, explaining his evidence that truth and God absolutely exist.

“Is life just a glorified monopoly game?” Turek said, “Or do we have a purpose?”

The speech focused on two of the points that he makes in his book: does truth exist, and does God exist.

Turek’s discussion of truth emphasized that it is the correspondence between reality, how the way things are, and belief, the way we understand things to be. The law of non-contradiction helps us to discover what is true because opposite ideas cannot be true at the same time.

Turek gave a few examples of how people try to prove that there is no truth, and the arguments that refute them using the law of non-contradiction.  For example, if someone says “there is no such thing as truth,” all you have to do is ask “is that true?”

Turek also emphasized that all truths are absolute; what is true for one person is true for “all people at all times in all places.”

Turek then used scientific data to prove that God exists.  His main argument centered on the Big Bang theory.  Using the acronym SURGE, Turek’s scientific evidence was the second law of thermodynamics, the fact that the universe is expanding, the radiation afterglow that can be seen, galaxy seeds and Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Turek’s main point was that there have to be supernatural forces at work to start the universe, because is no one was there to create anything, why does everything exist? The Big Bang was so precise that there has to be an intelligent design behind it.galaxy

Turek said he “doesn’t have enough faith to believe there is not intelligent design.”

In addition, he said that morality itself is an argument for the existence of God.  Turek quoted C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity, saying that evil shows there must be evidence of God. DNA and society alone cannot count for all of our morality.

Turek’s speech drew criticism from members of the crowd during the question and answer session.  Some still wanted answers to deeper questions, saying that if God created the universe, something had to have created Him.

Turek said he plans to come back to Elon in the fall for part two of his “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist presentation,” covering the rest of the points he had originally wanted to make.

Watch Frank Turek speak about truth:

Anderson Cooper Speaks About the Need to Bear Witness

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Today at 4 p.m. at Elon University, Anderson Cooper of CNN spoke to students about his experience in world events. He recounted being a foreign correspondent in places such as Somalia.  Cooper told students that people from war-torn countries want to share their story.  As a reporter, Cooper values the importance of “bearing witness to what’s going on” in the world.

Anderson Cooper speaks to those gathered for a press conference.

Anderson Cooper speaks to those gathered for a press conference.

Cooper’s mother always told him “follow your bliss.”

After graduation, Cooper, who had studied political science focusing on the Soviet Union, had no idea what to do.  “When the Berlin Wall fell I was totally screwed,” Cooper said.  Instead, he decided to become a journalist although he had never done it before.

Cooper decided that his interests lay in the field of foreign correspondence, particularly in war zones.  He had to work very hard to get to that point, as the job he worked made him sit at a desk rather than be out in the field.  Cooper finally took matters into his own hands when he and a friend make fake press passes and went to Somalia.

“Since no one gave me a chance, I would have to take a chance,” Cooper said.

His time spent in Africa opened his eyes to the world outside the United States.  “It was the first time I had a gun pointed at me,” Cooper said.

While in Somalia, Cooper saw starvation and poverty up close.  It was here that he learned to bear witness to the struggles of others to survive.

Finding the Light

“In war you expect to find darkness, but you find light as well,” Cooper said.  He constantly found himself surprised by the attitudes of the people who live in war-torn countries.acoop

Later, Cooper traveled to Rwanda when the genocide occurred.  He remembers the stark contrast between the victory of the recent elections and the killing that happened days later.  Cooper called it “personal killing:” neighbors killed neighbors face-to-face with machetes, rather than strangers killed by guns or bombs.

‘Look into the things that scare us the most’

As a full correspondent, Cooper reports on a wide variety of stories.  Despite the dangers, he still goes to conflict zones because of his feeling of duty to bear witness.

When covering the war in Iraq, Cooper realized how differently news correspondents were treated.  In Iraq, reporters can’t be spontaneous; “you find yourself trapped in a security bubble,” he said, protected all the time by bullet-proof vests and convoys of soldiers that can distort reality.

Cooper said that it’s critical as a reporter to go out alone and see the different viewpoints.  “It’s a cost fewer and fewer media people want to pay,” he said.

Cooper said that it can be tempting to look the other way and “ignore the sadness.  But we must look into the things that scare us the most.”

Our nation is increasingly divided in two, Cooper said, and as a result people expect the news to follow the limited view and have a slant.  He said the slant in the news shouldn’t exist, and that there is too much opinion and not enough fact.

It’s important to walk in other people’s shoes and understand their opponent’s ideas, he emphasized.

“It is up to individuals to make a difference…even between life and death,” Cooper said.  “Individuals have to take responsibilities themselves.”

Anderson Cooper To Speak At Elon University On April 7

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Tomorrow at Elon University, Anderson Cooper, CNN news anchor and host of “Anderson Cooper 360°” will host a question-and-answer session and lecture. Cooper will discuss current world events, using his journalism background in covering major stories around the world.

Advisory Board Members Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief Speak About the Future of Communications

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Today, Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief, members of the School of Communications Advisory Board, spoke to students in the School of Communications at Elon University about the changes their respective media outlets have been making in response to the economy and the general changes in media. Wilson was the president and CEO of the Weather channel, and Woodlief is vice president of Media General, Inc.

Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief speak to communications students about the changes their companies are making to accomodate changes in communications.

Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief speak to communications students about the changes their companies are making to accomodate changes in communications.

Woodlief’s company is trying to lose their dependence on ads and consolidate the things they do. They’re also looking to do what students in Janna Anderson’s class do already: send one reporter into the field with a still camera and a video camera, with the expectation that they will cover many media platforms at once.

The Weather Channel, according to Wilson, is trying “to figure out what’s going on with customers and consumers.” The channel is making an effort to anticipate the consumers’ needs and put them into the production. In the workroom, the employees are given more responsibility to see how much they can handle.

Even more than ever, today companies appreciate “a spirit of enthusiasm and engagement,” Wilson said. According to Woodlief, people need to have the vision to move forward.

Both Wilson and Woodlief have seen an increased use in civilian reporting, and both reacted positively to it. “It’s exploding” Woodlief said. “We’re doing everything we can to use such content.” Wilson and Woodlief realize that user-generated content is something that consumers are interested in seeing these days.

Woodlief believes that print production will have a niche in the future, although it certainly will have changed. To remain successful, Wilson said that companies need to “make the right strategic decisions” and choose innovative products. “We must look at what’s happening in the marketplace and look at what customers are telling us,” Wilson said.

Madeleine Albright Speaks to Elon Students and Faculty About the Importance of an International Mindset

By Carolyn VanBrocklin

Yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m., former United States Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright spoke at Elon University’s Spring Convocation.

Madeleine Albright speaks at Elon University's Spring Convocation

Madeleine Albright speaks at Elon University's Spring Convocation

Albright was the keynote speaker at the event, and spoke mainly about the importance of having a global mindset outside one’s own small sphere of existence.

There were three main themes in Albright’s speech: the role of education in a changing world, the importance of international learning and the process of connecting what we know to what we do.

Albright discussed some of her college years, which were “some years ago, about half way between the invention of the hand-held BlackBerry and the discovery of fire,” she said, to provide a background against which to set the rest of her speech.

For Albright, this was a time of innocence when the world was simpler and easier to understand. There were distinctions between the “good” and the “bad” guys and people were taught to “have faith in the future,” Albright said.

We often tend to think of education as the remedy for every challenge, but the fact is that education, too, can be a mixed blessing,” Albright said. Education is about searching for the truth, but according to Albright there are many varieties of truth that make this difficult.

Albright said that the world is constantly changing, and education needs to reach beyond barriers that once existed. International learning such as this brings people together and makes them realize that there is a world that exists outside of set boundaries.

Albright spoke of the struggles that take place to understand world, saying that “our ability to prevail in these struggles must begin with a desire to learn.” Often, people in America do not appreciate the lives of people outside the country, but Albright thinks that must change and that Elon is on the right track to changing those ideas.

To successfully work in a global environment, we must challenge ourselves to “in the language of the playground, develop the ability to play well with others,” Albright said. She commended Elon for its desire to do so, through the international students and faculty involved with the university and the study abroad program.

Students, faculty, donors and other friends of the University attending Convocation

Students, faculty, donors and other friends of the University attending Convocation

Instead of exotic names on a lifeless map, [countries] become real places, filled with fascinating people whose anxieties and dreams are not so different after all,” Albright said.

Albright also discussed President Obama, and the need for leaders and educators who have had such experience outside the United States. Although Albright thinks that there is still much to learn to beat catastrophe with the right kind of international education, if Elon continues as it has there is hope.

“And as I look around this audience of excellent students and high achievers, I am convinced that we will win,” Albright said. “Not easily, not immediately, but slowly and surely, we will prevail.”