Sunday, May 31, 2015

Money Over Mankind?

Is it an American theme to desire money over everything?
I would argue that it is especially after reading an article on this past week. Just in the last few days Senate passed legislation to bar the United States from taking part in a trade deal with countries that engage in slavery.
Sounds good right?
Wrong. The White House wants to and even plans on continuing trade with Malaysia despite the fact that they are a hub of human trafficking. Although they take part in this inhumane and despicable treatment, the country's location makes it extremely desirable to trade with. Lying close to the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping route for global trade, Malaysia will continue to trade with the United States while our leaders turn a blind eye.
In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue, a series of photos were just released that expose abandoned human trafficking camps in Malaysia. I think they were released to appeal to the emotions of American's so that people will take action and rally to end the corrupt trade. Below are some of the pictures:
Bones have been commonly found in Malaysia near the sites of human trafficking camps. Authorities have dug through two camps and have found nearly 140 bodies. As you can see directly under the red arrow lie the teeth of a slave, indicating abuse and mistreatment. 
This is a picture of a Malaysian policeman watching over an abandoned human trafficking camp. In the top left corner there is an object that looks like a crate. It is made out of bamboo and barbed wire, it is said to have held migrants captive.

I think that all trade with Malaysia needs to be halted for the time being. Maybe by discontinuing our trade with them they will stop the poor treatment of their population and improve conditions so that they can once again trade with our country. In continuing to trade with them despite the clear images of slavery, Malaysia's actions are perpetuated and the completely wrong message is sent by our government. After years of fighting to end slavery in America, why are we perpetuating it overseas? Is money the motive? I would argue that we continue to have this relationship with Malaysia because our society places a high value on making money. It is human life versus the accumulation of money, and once again money wins.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Power of Posing

Can your body language and movement effect how powerful you are as a person?
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist from Harvard, argues that body language shapes who you are. After watching her Ted Talk this weekend I am a believer that the way you stand and interact can effect how confident you are. She uses a term called "power posing" which basically means standing in a posture of confidence. According to a study done by Amy Cuddy, "Power posing" can effect the testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, making people feel more sure of themselves and this stance might have an impact on their chances for future success.
This Ted Talk was reminiscent to me of the great Jay Gatsby. In an activity we did in class a few weeks ago we were tasked with the job of examining how characters move, and what we could infer about their values, their beliefs, their class, and their relative power. Through the examination of 42 quotes we decided that throughout different scenes, the character who does not move but instead other's move towards has the most power. We concluded that the person who was doing the least amount of moving was the most powerful because people were coming to them.
I think this is a nice parallel to the power pose because it goes further to say that you can infer a lot about someone's power just solely based on their gestures. Also it shows that to a certain extent you can teach yourself how to seem powerful and upper class even if you are not. Gatsby seemed to always be putting on a facade like this to try to fit in with the high class society that he did not originally belong to. I wonder if you can teach yourself the gestures high class people do in an attempt to seem like you are one of them, or if the only way to learn is by experience?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DQ Stops the Pop

Just this week the popular fast food chain Dairy Queen has made the allegedly health conscious decision to discontinue the option of soda with their kids' menu. This will be effective September 1st of this year. The company made the announcement in a letter addressed to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The company did this in an effort to promote healthy eating habit amongst America's youth. This is a great thing at face value but I do not think that this was a completely selfless act. The company might have done this because their competition such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's have also made the decision to discontinue the serving of soda and other sugary beverages from their kids menu's. It seems to me like this is almost an act of lateral classism amongst corporate companies. They might not really be looking out for the consumer but instead the are trying to make decisions in an attempt to be in competition with other big chains.

Regardless, I think that this is a great change and a step in the right direction in preventing childhood obesity which is currently at a high 17% for adolescents in the United States (2-19 years old).

Do you think other fast food chains will elect to follow this same path? 

Let Them Be Kids!

Parents these days are feeling more pressure than ever to raise the "perfect child". Technology may be to blame for this increased pressure. Especially in an an age of social media like facebook and instagram, parents are constantly posting about the accomplishments of their kids, putting up the best pictures of them succeeding in various fields. This excessive posting is a great example of lateral classism amongst neighbors and it is making for an uber competitive environment that did not exist years ago.

One mother named Jennifer Blakely decided she had had enough of this intense bragging on social media and wanted to shine a more real light on the nature of being a child. As a result, she began a photo campaign called "Let Them Be". This series illustrates children showing their real emotions and being goofy: "I created these images with the intent of showing kids being kids: free from pressure, free from judgment and just allowing them to express themselves in a safe environment," said Blakely in an interview with CNN. Some pictures from this series are shown below: 

It is refreshing to see someone who wants to capture kids being kids in their raw form. I think that this is a great movement. 

Overall though, parents need to be putting down their phones and focussing on their children. It is so much more important to live in the moment and I think that is becoming something that is harder and harder to do with the increased involvement of technology in our daily lives. Families should be able to focus on family fun and not have it always turn into a photo shoot to show off. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Social Class Stations Observations

The last couple days in class we have been examining what elements in towns indicate social class. Using the power of observation, we have been making assumptions of towns based on what we see (or what we fail to see). 

We did this in a couple ways but one way was by looking at train stations and their surroundings. We watched a video of a train ride from Wheaton to Oak Park that showed us 11 different west suburban communities. We wrote down observations for each and were asked to guess which town was the most like Winnetka, where we live. 

I came to the conclusion that Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, and River Forest were the most like Winnetka. I chose these three communities for various different reasons. When the communities had fast food chains, they were always higher end companies like Starbucks that only people who had financial flexibility would be able to visit regularly. For the majority of these three towns, there was a lack of telephone poles. This is a more expensive proccess but it is aesthetically pleasing to not have phone poles so it indicates higher class (Winnetka also does this). There were also no billboards that we could see in these towns which means that they had more money because the billboards mess with the aesthetics of the town, and these communities don't need to rely on advertisements as a source of income. Lastly, all three of these communities were aesthetically pleasing with lots of greenery and flowers which means that the towns place a high value on how they look because they have the money to spend on greenery and manicured lawns. 

After placing my guesses, I went to check them against the websites below: 

My guesses were pretty close, as the towns that most matched up to Winnetka based on income, median age, and consumer spending were Wheaton and River Forest. Wheaton matched up with Winnetka because it had an average income of $89,000 (compared to Winnetka at 122,100). Additionally the mean age of person living in Wheaton is 42 which was closest to Winnetka. It is important to address though that the population in Wheaton is about 11000 people bigger. River Forest though was also very close to Winnetka in the respect of population and income and household spending. The population in River Forest is about 8000 people less than Winnetka and has an average income of $85,000. The household spending is almost identical to Winnetka, coming in at $83,994 (compared to Winnetka at $86005). 

Overall, it is incredibly interesting that you can guess so much about a towns class just solely based on your view of the town (not knowing any facts). So many elements in a community are linked to social class.

Which communities did you think were most like Winnetka? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Disappearance of Democratic Merit?

    Do we as Americans value individual competition above all else? I would argue yes.
     I am in the middle of reading The Tyranny of the Meritocracy by Lani Guinier. Within the introduction of I found myself asking the question previously mentioned. Guinier argues that college admissions place a very high value on testocratic merit which is: “The assumption that test scores are the best evidence of applicants’ worth” (5). I could not agree more and I would further expand the argument adding that communities with demographics similar to New Trier perpetuate the popularity surrounding testocratic merit. We do this by signing up for countless ACT and SAT prep courses and constantly comparing ourselves to our peers based on a number given to us by a computer.

     From my understanding of what school is used for in our country, we participate and value education allegedly to prepare ourselves to participate and contribute to society in a productive way while collaborating with others.
    I have high hopes that one day our country will reconsider the status quo and readjust what we value as a society because I think it is incredibly unhealthy and dis-concerning that we place such a high value on defining students’ merit through grades and standardized test scores. This should not be used to define the worth of an individual because it is one minuscule part of who we are as people.

What do you think we as Americans value more: testocratic merit or democratic merit? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Uncertainties of College Admissions

            For my Junior Theme I was interested in doing something within the realms of looking into how the college admissions process has transformed so drastically over past few years.
            I read through the article "The Thin Envelope" by Louis Menand which was featured in the New Yorker in 2003. Although this may seem outdated I think it had a lot of relevant information and ideas. 
            The article basically talks about how unpredictable the admissions process has become in the past few years and highlights many of the aspects that go into the decision of accepting and denying students at top schools. 
            I found it particularly shocking how much the numbers have changed over time: "In 1932, 1,330 people applied for admission to Yale. Seventy-two percent-nine hundred and fifty-nine-were accepted. Eight hundred and eighty-four students enrolled;twenty-seven percent of them were the sons of Yale graduates"(Menand 3). This quote shows how the college admissions process used to work in the early 1900's. You only applied to top schools like Yale if you were wealthy enough. Most students who attended schools like the Ivies were rich and as a result of their college education they would go on to get good jobs and continue to be wealthy. This creates a cycle of the same demographic of people who are applying to college and that is why we see such a high percentage of Yale students admitted in 1932 that had their fathers also attend Yale. 
            In 2003 Yale had 15,466 applicants and accepted 2,009 and of this number 16% were legacies. It is very interesting to me to see that there is still a high percentage of legacies that are accepted and enrolling into the same top colleges. This further proves the idea I stated earlier that there is a cycle that is repeating itself year after year. This causes me to wonder if the wealthier are truly given a leg up in the college admissions process.