The videos -- featuring puppets, animation and live actors and songs -- are designed to help form the foundation of a pro-life sensibility. Its creator sees "Philo and Sophie" as an alternative to Disney.
Camille Pauley and her young children were in the local library in Seattle one day, and she was struck by the high number of objectionable books that she found – in the children’s section.
“Literally, every tenth book on the shelf was something you wouldn’t want your kids to read, as a Catholic parent. There’s everything from children’s books on abortion, homosexuality, gender transitioning, divorce, atheism, witchcraft, pantheism. It was just awful. Pretty soon I couldn’t take them to the library anymore,” said Pauley, whose family now lives in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Pauley is president of an organization called Healing the Culture. That visit to the library about six years ago was just one more reminder of Western culture’s ongoing need for healing.
She co-founded Healing the Culture in 2003, along with Jesuit Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S. J., former president of Gonzaga University. The organization bases much of its work on Fr. Spitzer’s writings, including a 2000 book called Healing the Culture. In response to her being appalled by what she saw in the children’s library, someone at the local Catholic diocese suggested transforming Fr. Spitzer’s curriculum into something for elementary school kids.
“I was on an airplane one day trying to figure out how to do that – Spitzer for Kids – and came up with the idea of a Sesame Street-style teaching method,” Pauley said in a recent interview. “And we came up with puppets and animation and live actors and songs, and from there the door opened and we got really creative and we went from there.”
The result is Philo and Sophie, a video-based education program that uses lighthearted puppetry, live actors, animation, and memorable songs to help little ones grasp important concepts such as what true happiness is, what success means, and what defines a human person.
The program features two main puppet characters: a penguin named Philo (pronounced FEE-lo) and Sophie, his mermaid friend. The characters appear in teacher lesson plans, activities, handouts, and tools for parents.
Building virtuous character
Healing the Culture works to help people become “deeply, authentically and permanently pro-life,” the organization’s website says. But Philo and Sophie never uses the words abortion or euthanasia. “Instead, it builds up the intellectual understanding and virtuous character that children will need later in life to immediately recognize abortion and euthanasia as contrary to reason and destructive of true happiness,” said Pauley, who serves as president of HTC and wrote much of the content for the program.
The curriculum accompanying the videos is made up of three units geared toward students as young as kindergarten. The first unit teaches children about the four levels of happiness and how to make good choices. The second unit focuses on what makes human beings valuable and important and explains why vulnerable people deserve special dignity and respect. The third explores contradictions and shows how it isn’t possible for someone to be a person and “not a person” at the same time.
Fr. Spitzer is also founder of the Magis Center, an organization dedicated to education on the relationship among physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. Pauley explained that his book Healing the Culture takes what the Jesuit priest calls the four levels of happiness and explains how a people and a culture who are living for levels one and two – materialism, physical pleasure and ego gratification – “are going to end up absorbing and accepting all of the lies the culture is teaching on what freedom means and what success and quality of life is all about and what is required of you to be happy that all leads to a pro-abortion position.
“Fr. Spitzer attempts to get people to see the purpose of those lower levels but then move people into the higher levels of happiness: level three, which is doing the good beyond yourself for the good of the other, and level four, which is surrender to God,” she continued.
“We encouraged him to write another book, and he wrote Ten Universal Principles, which takes those four levels of happiness and develops 10 key principles that have been developed through the years – mostly by Catholic thinkers, philosophers, theologians and statesmen – and articulates these principles of justice and logic and ethics and then shows how every one of these key principles that uphold civilization are destroyed and dismantled by abortion and assisted suicide,” Pauley said.
HTC developed a curriculum for college students based on those books that helps them understand the why behind being pro-life. A curriculum for high school kids based on the college curriculum followed.
“It worked really well. We have it in over 1,000 Catholic high school and parish settings in the US and Canada, and from there it was a leap of faith and a jump to create something for kindergartners,” Pauley said.
“Philo and Sophie” is adaptable for various classroom and other settings, including religious education and preparation for first Communion. Parents, grandparents and babysitters would also find it useful.
“We’ve found that a lot of the adults registering for our parent units are actually grandparents who are looking for things to do with their grandkids on weekends or after school and they want something better than Disney or what you get on PBS,” Pauley said.
The mouse in the TV room
Pauley considers “Philo and Sophie” an alternative to the kinds of programming that Disney and others are producing, especially now, in the wake of revelations earlier this year that Disney creative staff were boasting of ways they were mainstreaming homosexuality and gender ideology in kids’ shows.
Pauley called such efforts not surprising but heartbreaking. “Nature abhors a vacuum, and when you lose God and you lose faith and you go the secular route – we’re religious by nature; we need something to fill that void – and we will start idolizing the self,” she said. “That’s exactly what Disney has done and is training children to do. They’re simply filling the void with a different religion of their own making, with a god of their own making. … They’re being led by a god who is going to disappoint them and crush them in the end.”
Philo and Sophie is available at no cost to teachers and parents by creating a free account at https://philoandsophie.org/.