Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Jubilant Slice of June!

As a wonderful introduction to summer, I thought that I would post a piece that reflects the lifestyle revived when this warm air and encompassing spirit of nature begin to reside within our lives once more. This specific slice is actually the beginning of a novel that I have after meticulous thought given up on. Or have I....?
PS: This site was under construction. Do you like how it looks now?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Zamperini on "The Edge of Glory"

Photograph Courtesy of Mother Monster
Several days ago, @ladygaga tweeted "The revolution is ours to fight for love, justice+equality. Rejoice NY, and propose. We did it!!!" with a link to the picture shown to the right. I truly reason that this is all I must say to acknowledge you of what this post will be about-everybody knows that Ms. Gaga is simply the queen of all things twitterful.
     Another thing that everybody knows is how there is a great sum of people in America who are not immensely thrilled about this bill, exclaiming in consternation that marriage is a sacred phenomenon between only a man and a woman. Some would be surprised to hear that I once thought this myself and was hesitant to support a bill for homosexual marriage. However, as with many, the course of my thoughts changed when I looked at the portrait in its entirety instead of just one square inch. Believe it or not, those same people who marched with signs of protest at NYC's rainbow parade are also the ones who caused the legislation to exist.
Mutsuhiro Watanabe
      Let's start with a simple fact-an individual's attitude about his surroundings and himself is in part forged by other people; these people can influence the nature of the individual's surroundings and, through their treatment of him, the individual's sense of self. Nothing shows this more than the adventures of Louis Zamperini at the Japanese POW camps Omori and Naoetsu (and yes, after pathetically reading the thing since March, I finally finished Unbroken). After travelling for over forty days on a disintegrating raft, Louie and his brave fellow, Russell Allen Phillips, have survived only to fall into enemy hands. The Japanese see mammoth stores of useful information in these ravaged Americans and therefore heavily interrogate them before Louie ventures to Omori and eventually Naoetsu. Phillips is eventually transported to several other POW camps where he endures a grueling existence a bit similar to Louie's. However, the unbearibility of Louie's imprisonment surpasses that of his fellow serviceman, for it is at Omori, a camp located just outside Tokyo, that a person who will almost totally make his life a living hell waits for the former Olympian. That person is the fit, ferocious, and mentally frazzled Mutsuhiro Watanabe. Malicious Mutsuhiro decides to make the personal breaking of Louis Zamperini his business, and he quite mercilessly carries out this business by randomly clubbing  Zamp as wel as assigning him horrid occupations such as working with pig fesces, just to name a few examples. Other guards don't help as they steal Red-Cross Rations intended for the POWs and maintain living quarters that are infested with pests. Overall, this causes Louie to think of his world  as one of the utmost desperation and hopelessness, one where Watanabe (nicknamed "The Bird" by POWs) haunts his every breath, one where the indifference to the American's needs makes him less than human. And that right there is all the proof necessitated. The fact that the Japanese guards refuse to maintain the camp to a livable condition causes the POWs to feel that their setting was one of absolute horror, while the fact that those same guards treated the POWs in a less-than-human manner causes those same POWs to feel that they are in fact less than human.
        Now, with no offense intended, picture the entire homosexual population as those POWs and all opposed to homosexuality the guards. The "guards" of this camp have forged an environment that is is not comfortable with the "prisoners" presence, therefore causing this environment to also view the prisoners as a population worthy of pity. The homosexuals therefore possess a desire that drives them to expunge their worthiness of pity since pity is a sign of inferiority and, of course, humans despise any nonsensical inferiority within themselves. Among the actions executed by the guards is also treating of homosexuals in an unfair manner, specifically by way of not permitting civil unions to hold the same features as marriages. The condition of homosexuals then becomes utterly personal since every "prisoner" living in the camp is affected. They each see themselves as a proud member of the homosexual population who is being discriminated against by a great number of individuals in society. And this is the pivotal reason why the piece of legislation was passed. Ponder over the phenomenon for a moment...would there really be a need for gay marriage rights if homosexual couples  freshly out of civil union possessed the same opportunities (such as a legal kinship between you and your spouse that is recognized nationwide-civil union legislation is state-specific) had the same rights that newlyweds did? That there is the reason why I began to support the gay-marriage bill. 
     Included within Louie's abhorrent adventures in Japan are some guards that are in fact kind to the POWs, some who simply refuse to reach the level of cruelty that their fellows fulfill. The kind guards in my metaphor are those who are not large fans of homosexuality, or even just gay marriage, but do not contribute to the population's formation of a negative environment and sense of self. And they are probably the most numerous population of all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finals, Hurrah!

So in light of the fact that these wonderful examinations have been occupying most every teenage life recently, I thought that I would post almost a commentary on the American education system. Unlike a good amount of teenagers (and apparently some adults as well), I do believe that school is imperative and that it should absolutely exist, but that does not cause one centimeter of my mind to belief in the phenomenon's perfection. Venture on into the following depths of literature only if you dare...
           I had always wondered why mature congressmen acted like fervent Kardashians on that hallmark night. One side of the room clapping immediately caused the other to remain astutely in their seats and stare at their opponents with distasteful smirks. The night when I saw this precedent proved utterly wrong was also a night plagued by hours of studying; my wonderful science teacher refused to actually teach that week, so I was left to apprehend the material independently. Yet this studying was put on hold when George Stephanopoulos, studious and grinning as ever, appeared on our television to begin the night’s political festivities. It was my civic duty to know what was occurring throughout the United States, so I took a seat on the couch as Mr. Obama spoke. A few immensely hallmark points were stated, some of which spawned mostly positive responses from both parties in the politically-mixed audience…and then came a circus.
With "Innovation", he's the man with the magic touch
            “The first step to winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”
            Pandemonium. Ecstatic applause. Smiles on the faces of individuals across the spectrum-left, right, and somewhere in between. The two nations within America united for at least one moment before breaking into civil war again the proceeding day.
Yes, it is absolutely an excellent idea and all that jazz…but the real question is how we put this notion into action. Obama’s plan included encouraging the nation to “reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones”, establishing the “Race to the Top” program to encourage independent reforms within schools, and implementing a new “tuition tax credit” to help more students attain higher education. Yet the president’s focus here is improving the means for an exhausted education system, not changing how students are actually educated. That, in my opinion, is the true key to igniting American innovation. And we can improve the methods by which students are taught through the integration of one simple word into our education system -“discussion.”
Discussion can be used as a learning tool anywhere
from preschool to summer camp..
            Instead of teachers simply telling students that concepts are unquestionably true, students should actually discover that the validity of these concepts by way of talking about them with other classmates. Science tells us that only 10% of our mind’s knowledge is learned in a conscious manner- by way of reading, writing, watching videos, others repeating concepts to us, or us repeating concepts to ourselves. These techniques that contribute to conscious learning are utilized in most schools nationwide. Chances are, my mind will not ultimately retain those biology facts that I verbally drilled into my head. The other 90% of knowledge  is taught to us unconsciously-through any interaction with others or sensual interaction with the world around us. One of my kindergarten science experiments included leaving a cup of apple juice near a window to see if it would eventually disappear.  The fact that some apple juice indeed disappeared acted as proof of evaporation in my mind, and I still belief in evaporation to this day. My remembering of the actual experiment shows just how pungent the action of proving concepts true (or “interactive learning”) is in the human mind. However, students need to see proof of the concepts they are taught in more classes then science if they are to better remember these concepts and readily apply them in adulthood. The way to accomplish this is discussion. One person bringing up a real situation that disproves a concept spurs on other students in the classroom to verbally discern how the concept actually is present in the suggested incident. All students in the classroom can also try to ultimately prove the concept wrong. In the latter case, the teacher would have students complete an interactive project that proves the invalidity of the concept, a project that would be later entered in some sort of contest so that students gain a sense of pride in their work. Both of these scenarios require sufficient knowledge of those concepts that would normally be present on today’s examinations; students would either understand the concepts enough to prove them wrong, or possess the memory of how they were proved right in a session of interactive learning. Additionally, all of the aforementioned discussions require a questioning spirit that is simultaneously needed for innovation to transpire. Are you hearing this, Mr. Obama?
            Now, I am aware that those students who are immensely quiet in school could gain absolutely nothing from the reformed education system. This population can be separated into two parties based on one principle: if fear or complete indifference to educational matters is the cause of their muteness. The first group can be easily dealt with by a reformed grading system. Instead of assessing what students know through examinations, teachers would discover the extent of their knowledge by seeing if the students use that knowledge in class discussions. Homework would exist for the sole purpose of introducing students to the concepts that will be used in class, but its completion would not heavily contribute to the student’s final grade. This is because the completion of homework would be a mandatory prerequisite to participate in class discussion each day, and since teachers grade students based on their participation in class discussions, incomplete homework would still contribute to a failing grade. Quiet students that care about school would ultimately be forced to “come out of their shells” and therefore become much better equipped for life in the real world.
Quiet slackers, on the other hand, would be sent to an alternative school in which they learn required material in astonishing depth at the hands of private tutors. Each student would spend the entire school day with a tutor who does not permit him to speak, question, or abstractly interact with the information. The required content would just be presented and explained to each slacker by adults with the emotional ranges of machinery.  A quiz on the content covered the day before would be given at the beginning of each educational session, and the school day would only end when the student has both received a perfect score on his quiz and learned all concepts scheduled for that particular day. Monthly finals that test the content students learned throughout all prior months of school would be given too.  The school year for each respective student would be however long it takes for that student to receive perfect scores on both his monthly finals and a cumulative examination. The aforementioned method of teaching would, of course, render the alternative students unable to remember the concepts and facts necessary for success in the real world. Spawning from this inability would be the same decreased amount of overall success these students would attain as a result of the modern education system. Enthusiasm will always be the keys to the kingdom of achievement.  To embed this ideal into their minds, all of these alternative students would be forced to spend one week every other month in the regular schools so that any progress they make can be rewarded. If a student performs well and applies himself to regular classes, he would be permitted to participate in the customary schooling system; all others who still slack would return to the uncreative hell. The horrors of the alternative schooling system would additionally encourage slackers to apply themselves so that they can participate in regular schooling, a much more enjoyable option.
Students enrolled in regular schools would also not be permitted to participate in the alternative education system since being interactively educated is most advantageous to them. I know of many extremely gifted individuals who do not perform to their highest capabilities because of sheer laziness-I was on the bus once and heard a fellow of mine explaining how he was “really smart, but just [didn’t] care.” In this system, all who can succeed would be forced to do so, making the combined potential of American peoples as a whole be realized. They would have no have a choice to but to “care”, and educational powerhouses worldwide would fall at the hands of pure, American drive.  Jobs in education would also be preserved since private tutors in alternative school and discussion-moderators in regular schools create an exorbitant amount of available positions. .
Much government funding is palpably necessitated to make the reformed education system work, but Washington will simply have to grow a pair and deal with it if they desire so much “innovation”. My World History teacher has told me how Florence, Italy was one of the most artistically active cities of the Renaissance. Why was this the case, you might ask? The fact that the house of Medici, Florence’s ruling family, affluently supported excellent artists such as Michelangelo did not hurt.  Fareed Zakaria says that “the fastest-growing economies are all busy using government policies to establish commanding leads in one industry after another.” Well, education is an industry that constructs the American future.

*NOTE The following sources were used for this essay:
Obama, Barack H. "2011 State of the Union Address." Speech. 2011 State of the Union Address. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500, Washington, DC. 16 June 2011. Huffpost Politics. The Huffington Post, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 June 2011.
Stephanie. "THE MEDICI FAMILY." Yukon Education Student Network. Yukon Education Student Network. Web. 16 June 2011.
Zakaria, Fareed. "Innovate Better." TIME 13 June 2011: 30-32. Print.