Week 10: Educational Reform

Ken Robinson argues in these videos that our education system needs to be seriously reformed because our current system squanders kids’ creativity. Robinson defines creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Robinson recognizes that we have no idea what’s going to happen in terms of the future, so kids need to be prepared so that they can handle whatever the future brings. Their education is going to take them into this future that we can’t grasp, so Robinson argues that our educational system should treat creativity with as much importance as literacy. By transforming our educational system in a way to foster creativity, Robinson believes that we will be better prepared for the future.

I like Robinson’s argument. I feel that our education system today does harm the creative ideas of today’s youth. I look at my own education in this way; the arts are not a significant part of my life anymore because I have always been told that I could not make a living painting or being a musician. I feel that if we can find a way to support the creative ideas of today’s youth, we will have a better future.

Week 9: Political Satire and Postmodern Irony

This article is called “Political Satire and Postmodern Irony in the Age of Stephen Colbert and Jon Steward” and was written by Lisa Colletta. In her article, Colletta explains that traditional irony was used to expose the difference between “what is real and what is appearance” as a form of art that reveals inconsistencies in the subject at hand. In contrast, the irony of postmodernity is “characterized by pastiche” and is satirical. This postmodernity denies the difference between real and appearance and “even embraces incoherence and lack of meaning”. In this way, reality is fabricated rather than understood.

I didn’t enjoy this article as much as I have past articles. I felt that it was rather dry and did not catch my interest (I know others are far more interested in these topics than I am however). The one thing that really stuck with me about this article was the amount of television a person watches (it averages out to be somewhere around two months out of the year)! I feel that the people watching this much television could be doing something a lot more productive with their time. On the topic of satire: I really enjoy satire. It is entertaining and informative at the same time. There is a problem however; I feel that those who agree with the opinion of the person creating the satire will understand and those who disagree with the author will not understand or appreciate it and may even find it offensive. In this way, people like Stephen Colbert and Jon Steward have to be very careful in how they approach their shows.

Week 8: The End Of The World

Okay, so the cartoon pretty much sums it up for me: we probably aren’t going to die, folks (sorry to disappoint). In all reality, I actually assumed that all of the Mayans believed that the world was going to end in the annihilation of the human race. After reading this article, I can say I had some misconceptions of the Mayan people. The author of this article interviewed numerous Mayans and most of them feel that the world isn’t going to end; it’s just a new beginning. These people are actually planning on celebrating the next cycle in Earth’s history. I am ashamed to say that I thought all of the Mayans were a little crazy in their thinking. It seems that only the radical thinkers are getting attention. In a way, America works like this too. For example, are Americans for or against abortion? There are some who believe that it is never right to have an abortion and there are those who feel that people should always have the right to an abortion. What about everyone else? The truth is that most people are somewhere in between on the issue: people want to see the number of abortions decrease, but feel that people should have the right to exercise some amount of free will and choice in this instance. So why don’t we ever hear the voice of the moderates? I think in the case of the Mayans, it’s because their beliefs are not as interesting. Think of all of the great movies that wouldn’t be in existence (I’m thinking of 2012 specifically– great movie)! There are also numerous books and news articles on the topic as well. Bottom line: an interesting story is a story that sells. The author even noted in the article that the Mayan people are having problems having their voice heard; they are now turning to the internet as a way to publish their ideas. A case such as this should provide a great lesson: the next time we hear a radical story, we should think twice about what to believe.


Week Seven: Finnish Reform and Thailand’s Condoms

The first article was about Mr. Mechai Viravaidya, a front-runner in the areas of public health, education, and community development in Thailand. Viravaidya started a family planning initiative (through use of contraceptives) in an attempt to curve poverty and sexually transmitted diseases. The majority of this article was about how condoms are now commonly found and used in Thailand, and the significant results from this reform movement. Family structure has drastically changed over the past 40 years. On average, families in Thailand used to have seven kids; today, most families have one or two. Viravaidya believes that “those who are at the core of the problem have to be the solution”. Because Thailand only had 9 doctors for every million citizens, normal people helped spread awareness, leading to the overall success of their reforms.

The next two articles were about educational reform in Finland. In contrast to the United States, Finland heavily emphasizes small class size, laboratory instruction, longer recess, a more significant role in the arts, and (arguably most importantly), limited standardized testing. The United States uses standardized testing regularly to compare schools in different parts of the nation and—possibly in the near future—to set salaries for teachers. Finnish teachers are shocked by this, most likely because their system is structured around a sense of trust; teachers in Finland go through a rigorous academic program to become teachers and are seen as highly respectable “professionals” in their workplace. Finnish educators also receive a higher salary for their work. When comparing the PISA scores of both the United States and Finland, it seems that the United States should consider some educational reform.

Okay so I read two articles on Finnish educational reform and one on condoms; what’s the connection? My guess is that the United States could be taking lessons from other countries to better itself on a global scale. The three articles had to do with successful reforms in other nations, so maybe that’s our cue to do the same. How should we go about this? According to the articles I say we need to do two things: 1. Follow the successful example of other nations, and 2. Be the solution to our own problems. The United States needs to swallow its over-glorified sense of nationalism and look around: great things are happening in other countries, too; we aren’t the only ones who can influence the world in a positive manner. I feel that the United States needs to look at the reforms of Thailand and Finland and make a change if it’s for the better. The best countries are those that see their problems and address them accordingly.

Week Six: Sexual Consent

This short video was on sexual consent. It was very humorous and started with a guy that pulled out a legal agreement for the girl to sign before they decided to do anything sexual. The girl brought in a lawyer to look through the document. Then the boy’s lawyer started negotiating for “her client”. After the lawyers came to an agreement, another girl walks in and asks if she should get her lawyer too.

This was a really funny and clever way to bring up a more serious point: how should couples bring up sexual consent? Asking one what the other is okay doing sexually may be very awkward for some people, and in real life we can’t bring lawyers to the table to negotiate for us. It was very responsible of both the boy and girl to talk about what they were comfortable doing with each other. However, in real life third parties don’t usually get involved. So what’s the right thing for couples to do then? I feel like this video is a fun way to get people questioning their own methods of discussion when dealing with sexual consent.

Week Five: Creativity

This interview was about how kids are losing creativity in the current school systems. The author makes some very good points: kids starting school around now won’t retire for another 60 years; we have no clue what the future is going to look like, so creativity is very important for them to learn how to solve the future’s diverse problems. Because of this, the speaker believes that creativity is as important as any subject taught in the schools.

The speaker defines creativity as, “the process of having original ideas that have value”. He believes that everything else that we do has happened because of this power to imagine and create. He says that it is, “absolutely at the heart of what it is to be a human being”. He also cautions that it is not just about the arts either; creativity can be found in any subject.

Those that aren’t ready to be wrong will never come up with anything original. Kids are not frightened of being wrong, but by the time they reach adulthood they have lost much of this feeling. They are afraid to be wrong because others might judge them.  And our educational system is working in the same way; we are taught not to make mistakes, so people are taught out of their creativity. We need to redefine learning and teach in ways where there isn’t just one right answer.

I really liked this selection. The dialogue was a nice change in pace, and the speaker had some really interesting ideas. I feel that creativity is also important in the real world and schools need to start acting like it. I like how he supported this idea with the business people who wanted creative employees. But this isn’t the only place where creativity is needed; in my opinion, just about every job should have some creativity in it. Creativity is more than just a way to express oneself; it’s about generating new ideas and solutions that have the potential to change the future.

Week Four: The Insanity Plea

This week’s readings all had to do with the insanity plea, which is a defendant’s plea in a court of law stating that they are not guilty of a crime because they are insane. Here are 2 phrases I felt needed to be defined for the discussion on October 1st:

-The McNaughton Rule: named after an English case in 1843, this rule states that a man is not guilty if he could not tell the difference between right and wrong concerning his actions.

-GBMI: Guilty but mentally ill; defendant is found guilty but gets mental help before serving out the rest of their term

I found it interesting that only one percent of defendants plea insanity and of that one percent, only a fraction of them ever get the acquittals. I thought that more people would go for this kind of plea because they felt they had no other options (given they knew they were guilty of a crime in the first place).

I do not believe the Batman shooter is insane. One article also suggests this when it says that he had his home booby-trapped. This means he clearly knew what he was doing was wrong. Insanity is not in question here. I believe he deserves to be tried as a sane person, and even possibly get the death sentence or life in prison for his actions. As a general rule, I do not really like that so many states give the option of an insanity plea; I believe that even though a person does something wrong, they deserve equal punishment regardless of their mental state. Isn’t equality something that America had always striven for?

Week Three: Studying Abroad

This reading, entitled “Turning Our Back On the World” is about study abroad programs in colleges. The author, Riall Nolan of Purdue University, asks three big questions: 1. Why is studying abroad important, 2. Why don’t more students participate, and 3. How can Americans change the number of participants. Nolan reasons that Americans today are living in a diverse new world; everything around us is different, and it’s here to stay. Having “global competence” is a great way to prepare students for the real world. Students who lack the knowledge of cultural diversity will not work effectively, even if they have extensive knowledge of their field. While “out in the swamp,” workers need to be able to deal with more than just concepts and theories of what they do; they deal with people of great diversity, and study abroad programs can help students develop a better understanding of cultural differences.

Faculty and students alike choose to not participate in study abroad programs because they feel that they don’t have the time or the money. The author suggests that these attitudes come from the professors themselves, probably because they would feel uncomfortable putting themselves in a situation with students where they were not the masters of the subject; a foreign country is still foreign to a professor after all. With these attitudes, only 2% of Americans study abroad. The author also addresses why studying abroad is expensive: Off campus providers of study abroad programs are sometimes a lot more expensive so students pay too much just so that administration doesn’t have to go into the detailing of creating their own program.

Great schools in other nations are looking for the best and most intelligent students. The United States needs to add these study abroad programs, or fall behind international schools. While change is happening, it’s not fast enough. In order to see changes in the rates of study abroad programs, 4 things need to happen. These include structural changes (i.e.: internationalizing the curriculum), people who will strongly advocate the cause, a diverse and broad group of supporters, and a steady long-term campaign for change.

I liked this reading a lot (probably because I love traveling). I feel that every student should get the opportunity to study abroad at some point in their college career. While cost is seen as an issue to some, the author provided solutions to this (see above). I also feel that schools should make scholarships available to students who wish to study in other countries. I’m not sure how I feel about schools making this mandatory however. If some students wish to stay in their comfort zone, I feel that is there choice. Making a study abroad program a requirement might be taking it a little too far, but I feel that colleges should take a greater step in making such opportunities available to all students if they want to.

Week Two: The True Meaning of Christmas

This week’s reading was about Christmas and its meaning. Some people today complain that Christmas has lost the pure spirituality it once had; the author (Bruce Forbes) disagrees. In “Christmas Was Not Always Like This: A Brief History,” Forbes explains that the birth of Jesus Christ was not always celebrated by Christians (the main focus was on his death and resurrection). It was not until later that the Western Church decided to add December 25th to the spiritual calendar (possibly for matters of convenience over anything else). Later in history, Christmas was even banned. When Christmas was finally accepted in America, it was not from the widespread efforts of the Church; instead it was a cultural phenomenon that was actually inspired by leading business groups. While many people believe that we give gifts to parallel the actions of the wisemen that gave presents to Jesus, this may not be the case. When Christmas celebrations first started, gifts weren’t involved at all. The gift-giving came from a story of a Turkish Bishop who saved 3 girls from bad lives by secretly giving them bags of gold. It slowly became tradition for some parents to give their children small gifts. Businesses in the industrial era recognized this opportunity for sales and sold the idea that Christmas is the time of year to buy gifts for those you love. Forbes concludes that people need to stop saying Christmas is starting to lose its spiritual meaning because in all reality, it didn’t have much spirituality to begin with.

This reading really surprised me. My family has always been a little more focused on the church-aspect of the Christmas season and not so much on the gifts, so reading that people believe the holiday is losing its purity surprised me somewhat. On the other hand, I have plenty of friends who love the holiday season because of all the presents they receive from friends and family. In a way, maybe I’m the one that’s not seeing Christmas for what it really is; it seems from this essay that the birth of Jesus was never really the biggest point. So what truly is the meaning of Christmas then? When reflecting on this question, I have come to the conclusion that it is a combination of three things: 1) the celebration of Christ Jesus (even if some do not believe it is the most important, it is still completely relevant; after all, there is no Christ-mas without the “Christ” ), 2) the giving of gifts, and 3) the recognition of a time to celebrate good company and companionship in a fun and lighthearted atmosphere. I feel that Christmas will have the most meaning if all three of these ideas can be balanced.

Week One: Men and Sports

This week, I read about men and sports. I read two different articles: “The Televised Sports Manhood Formula” and “What’s ‘manly,’ what’s not for athletes”. The first article described how boys watch a lot of sports on television and analyzed what messages are being sent to today’s youth. They found that sports on T.V. are usually all about men: the sports being shown are played mostly by men, broadcasted by white males, and are advertised by men as well. Women are rarely shown competing; instead, they are viewed as “prizes” and “sexy props” in this male dominated culture. Studies from “The Televised Sports Manhood Formula” show that televised sports encourage violence. It seems that only the aggressive men get ahead in the game and in life generally, and that it is the nature of males to act violently (the “boys will be boys attitude”). While competing, males should act bravely in the face of danger and continue even when it is not advised. The authors of this article summarized the above information into what they consider the “Televised Sports Manhood Formula” which communicates the ideas of true manhood to the rest of society.

The second article was shorter and was also about men and sports, but also focused a bit on why we don’t see more women announcing football games and about how some athletes are frowned upon for trying to be family men. An example used in this article: Sergio Romo took off an important time in his season to be with his wife and newborn child. Some men are a little uncomfortable with this idea because this may redefine what it means to be a man. For some it’s odd seeing athletic males choose family over sports because it’s not what most men do; we are used to seeing women take time off of work to have a child, not the men. The author of this article asks men to take a step back and really analyze what they think it means to be a man, and possibly change their own definition.

I really liked these two readings. It was never brought to my attention before that sports were dominated by males. In my opinion, it’s completely true. I cannot remember the last time I turned on Sports Center and saw more than a few clips on female athletes. However I think it’s important to remember that televised sporting events are shown to appeal to a certain audience: in this case, it is males and males probably prefer watching other males compete in athletic events. A lot of what some people may see as an injustice to women can also be seen as just good business; companies are not going to play a women’s golf tournament over Monday night football if no one is going to watch.  “The Televised Sports Manhood Formula” also covered the fact that commercials are directed at a target audience (men and boys). But this is no scandal; every major company does this. The Food Network advertises bleach and cleaning products. Why waste money advertising Covergirl’s new lipstick on ESPN? It would be illogical to waste money advertising to audiences that wouldn’t buy a product anyways.

These readings made me really stop and think—why? Why are the vast majority of sport viewers male? Do women not watch because televised athletics are all male dominated, or are televised athletics male dominated simply because women choose not to watch? I’m not sure how one could go about finding the solution to this question, nor do I know if there is a definite answer to it. I do know personally however that I’d watch televised sports more if more women were shown competing.

As for the second reading, I’d like to say that it is completely absurd for men to be mad at their favorite athletes for wanting to take time off for important family events, regardless of the time in a season. Taking paternity leave in some families is as important for males as it is for females, even if this goes against the idea of “manliness” that some males have. I think the author is right when he says that a redefinition of what it means to be a man is just what some people need.