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.