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Letter to the Editor

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In December of 2015, I wrote an opinion article for the Quindecim entitled “In the wake of the Paris attacks, Islam must be held accountable.” In the aftermath of the tragedy, I leaned into the narrative that these terrorist attacks were fundamentally linked with religious doctrine. I was willfully ignorant by citing false information and statistics cherry-picked in order to support my argument. In doing so, I helped spread a hateful, racist ideology that has caused pain and destruction to so many people. This ideology can be summed up as a Western superiority complex. It reasons that our (white) ideas are the best and the others (people of color) must assimilate. This distinction between “us” and “them” is a critical component to the plague of white nationalism. Looking back on the words I wrote, I’m filled with deep shame and profound regret. I wish that instead of reading alt-right thinkpieces, I had listened to the words of Muslim students and faculty in our community. I want to offer my most sincere apologies to anyone who read that article or was affected by it in any way. I promise to use my privilege and voice to help support people whose faiths and cultural backgrounds are persecuted in our white supremacist society.

 

By Cameron Yudelson

Marijuana in The South

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Photo Credits: WBUR.org

Marijuana is the new hot topic in the United States. Whether it’s medicinal or recreational, states all over the country are legalizing cannabis. But there is a clear line on the map where cannabis hasn’t been able to enter the scene. Some call it the Bible Belt, some say it’s the Mason-Dixon line, but no matter what you call it: there’s no legal cannabis the South. The conservative rural south will always exist, but what makes these southern, hard-working people opposed to cannabis legislation? Is religion playing a part in people’s distaste for cannabis? Has a deep fear been ingrained into Southerners’ heads? Or is it that Southerners just don’t want to smoke weed?

Smoking cannabis first became popular in America in 1910. It was introduced to Americans by Mexican refugees who were trying to escape from the Mexican revolution. Its popularity wasn’t only with Mexican immigrants but also in the African American community (Mcnearny). With racism still in full swing and Prohibition repealed, white lawmakers targeted marijuana and criminalized “the production, sale, possession, and consumption of the drug” (Warf, Reefer Madness). According to an article by Alison McNearny, “twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana by 1931, and in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, essentially making the plant illegal in the United States.”

Marijuana propaganda began showing up everywhere. There were informational signs, movies, and pamphlets made that showed different ways of cannabis ruining lives. This scared the white working-class American people and instilled a deep fear into society. Reefer Madness was one movie made to strike fear in Americans. This 1936 film depicts characters using marijuana and, subsequently, going insane. These false depictions of marijuana and its effects permeated society creating urgency and fear in the hearts of the American citizen.    

Though lawmakers have been opposed to marijuana for a long time, there has always been a push from other parties to prove that marijuana isn’t the “devil’s harvest” (Propaganda Ad). Medical personnel have consistently found marijuana not to be as bad as lawmakers make it out to be. One person who consistently ignored the medical field was Harry Anslinger: the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), and its head for the next three decades. Anslinger repeatedly rejected clinical analyses that concluded marijuana did not induce violent behavior or lead to the use of more addictive drugs (Warf). If he had listened to the doctors, maybe more patients in pain could be healed.

Take the case of Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was just three months old when she had her first seizure. Her parents Matt and Paige were terrified. She was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors found nothing wrong. Despite the doctor’s prognosis, Charlotte continued to have seizures. After five years of pain, seizures, medical bills, and treatment, the hospital could not do more. Charlotte’s father Matt decided to leave the army so he and Paige could take care of their girl. They began to research cannabis. This process wasn’t easy. They were repeatedly denied by doctors who weren’t sure about the effects on children or were concerned about the legality. They finally found a doctor who would work with them. They acquired marijuana that contained high levels of cannabidiol (or CBD, the non-psychoactive part of marijuana) and extracted the oils from the flower. Results were seen immediately after one dose. Charlotte went from having three to four seizures an hour to not having one for seven days. Charlotte is now doing well and the Figi family remained intact. Luckily for the Charlotte and her family, they lived in Colorado where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 2000 (Young). If they had lived in the South, Charlotte may not have had the chance to live.

Though other states are moving past it, fear and misguided knowledge has not left the South. According to DISA, a website created to inform people of their workplace rights, 10 states (20% of the country) have made cannabis fully legal, and medicinal marijuana is legal in 34 states (68% of the country). Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and both Carolinas are a few of the states where marijuana is fully illegal.

This group of states could be called “the South” or states below the Mason-Dixon line, but Bible Belt states is more accurate. The propaganda produced in the anti-marijuana age often depicted the devil with marijuana or had headlines that said “the smoke of hell! Devil’s harvest” (Propaganda Ad). In a census done by Pew Research center, it was concluded that 76% of the South identified as Christian. The propaganda created a sense of fear that smoking marijuana will send you to Hell. These Christian Southerners had a good reason to stay away from marijuana; who wants to be eternally damned? After a little research, it was clear to see that these fears are unprecedented. “The plant called hemp is proper for Christians to use for food, medicine, and enjoyment (Gen. 1:12)” (House). There are recurring themes in the Bible that state that God is ok with the use of everything that is created. That isn’t to say it should all be used without caution, but it surely doesn’t mean one puff of marijuana is equivalent to eternal damnation.

It’s time for Southern policy makers to legalize marijuana and enjoy the economic benefits. Since the legalization of cannabis, California has made over $2.75 billion in sales (DePietro). When states legalize marijuana, a boom in economy follows. Business Insider’s “Every US State Economy Ranked Worst to Best” list has seven Southern states in the top ten worst economies. Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee have not legalized marijuana and all of them are ranked poorly. With a change in policy and information on cannabis, these states could benefit from legalizing marijuana. Not only would the economy boom and jobs be created, patients would be able to get their much-needed medicine and people could recreationally enjoy marijuana.  

As more research is conducted, it seems illogical to remain in a society that isn’t allowing patients to get the medicine they need. If not legalized recreationally, the Southern states at the very least need to update policy and allow these people who are in pain to get access to marijuana. By not reforming the current cannabis policies, lawmakers in the Southern states are blatantly disregarding their citizens health and well-being.  

It’s time for Southern states to journey out of their comfort zone and begin to rewrite policy on marijuana. Cannabis is not something that should be feared, but something that can be used to relax and to heal. Citizens all over will be grateful the South has caught up to the rest of the country.

 

BY ELIJA HALLER

The Problem of College Alcoholism

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Photo Credit: NPR

The general view today of college is a place of heavy drinking culture and partying all night. Many students now go to college to binge drink and party. These students and athletes are turned into a nameless face in a sea of people constantly drunk, which creates problems such as court cases, dropouts, and sometimes death. As a college student now, I have seen many instances of alcohol consumption that changed students who I’ve met so far and persuaded me to no longer consider some people I once called a friend. This has been tough emotionally to have to decide that a friend has turned into someone that I don’t want to see or be around. Even though alcohol is emblematic as the reaching of adulthood in college, many seem to climb that tower a little too early than they are meant to. Tragically, this can cause some to come crashing down and few to reach realization of their trouble before it is too late. But there are a few that see that this as just immaturity and students will grow out of it.

As I look around now, I see that I am not at a school with a strong influence of alcohol, even though it is still present. I have seen students make decisions that they regret for weeks or even months on end, while some feel, as they lay awake in a hospital bed, that they should never drink again. A year ago, a couple of my friends were partying in a room, but some kids were having a little too much, three of whom ended up in the hospital. One had to stay for two days and the other two needed to have their stomachs pumped. Many students do not see the problems of binge drinking until the next day. Students who partake in underage drinking at college just want to feel as if they are now adults and be among a higher social group. This leads them to start drinking every day, every week, becoming the ‘party animal’ that they see in movies or hear about in stories about the average ‘college experience.’ Many students who start and continue in underage drinking have a high “risk of serious social, medial, and legal problems” (O’Malley).  Many of these problems not only affect the student, but also the school that they attend. If there is a court case for drunk and disorderly conduct, it can also look bad on the institution that the student attends. This can cause scholarship losses and people losing their chances of doing something important in life.

Risks of legal and social problems are not the only problems students face. Problems also occur on campus and in classes. Constant drinking can lead to “impaired performance at school or work; interpersonal problems with friends, family members, teachers, and supervisors” (O’Malley). I have seen many students struggle in class or drop out of a class because they couldn’t function properly as a result of a party the night before. Early this year in my history class, I could tell who had been drinking the night before. This person would not be able to keep up with what was going on in class. Later, I would no longer see this person in class. After a month I had found out that the student had dropped out of school and went back home. This is really unfortunate, because the parents of this person had clearly hoped that college would be a place for their child to learn, grow, and enhance the option of future employment. Some students actually do not work and just sleep in class trying to fight being hungover from over drinking the night before. Sadly, they think that coming into class with a hat pulled down on their face with sunglasses on, trying to fight the headaches, the spinning, and the nausea that haunted them all day will not be noticed. This caused some great students to fall to the bottom of the social ladder in classes, and potentially face the possibility of dropping out of school and having to go home empty handed, not rising to their potential.

Studies have taken place all over the world trying to understand what kind of influence alcohol has on students and people. A study at the University of York shows that the police and the parole board “estimate half of all premeditated crime is alcohol related” (McDonnell). This goes to show that most of crime and uncivil accidents have been caused by the influence of alcohol on the mind of students. Most of the court cases and honor boards that happen at universities are in response to alcohol related incidents, such as vandalism, rape, assault, breaking and entering, and theft. Many universities know that this type of abuse of alcohol is happening on campus, but can’t seem to do much about it because it will happen no matter what. For example, there was an incident with a student and her boyfriend at Oxford involving alcohol and a court case. She became angry and stabbed him in the leg when “he realized she had been drinking” (BBC). While incidents like this one happen on college campuses, the girl in this case was forced to spend ten months in jail after the court case. The sad reality is that a case like this rarely deters college students, and these events do happen and most of the times involve alcohol. People who aren’t able to see how alcohol affects them are at more of a disadvantage of preventing accidents and criminal activity.

Many consider alcohol harmless and a pleasure to have while at college. Often student feel that booze allows them to let loose after a hard week or day at classes. While I can agree with the stress factors, many just put that up as an excuse to hide or avoid confrontations of serious accidents. Blame is then directed at the students for not knowing how to drink responsibly. This is a valid argument, but they don’t see what the true danger of drinking or even binge drinking has on a campus. At the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers have discovered that on an average day “4 college students die in accidents involving alcohol. An additional 1,370 suffer injuries tied to drinking, the study says, and an estimated 192 are raped by their dates or sexually assaulted after drinking” (Schemo). This shows how drinking can stir trouble or even be the cause of people doing things that they never would do in a sober state of mind. Many students would blame their guilt upon the alcohol and then the schools would sweep their problem under the rug.

Alcohol has caused many problems and terrible accidents across campuses all around the world. I have seen these effects first hand. I would like to point out the common issue that causes these problems. I believe that banning alcohol on campuses would not solve the problem at hand; rather, I believe better alcohol education is the key. I share all of this to remind my fellow students to be responsible and careful with how you use the alcohol that you drink. I hope that we can come to a better understanding of the dangers of alcohol and use it more responsibly.

 

BY ZACHARY WENNIK

Gophers and Elephants: A Mastodon-supported Goucher Community?

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Photo Credit: NewDinasours.com

Social networking is a natural and important part of the Goucher community and culture. Goucher reaches out to students, faculty, and family members through traditional networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Students, faculty, and staff have access to the GopherApp for iOS and Android to post information, exchange messages, and get feedback. Goucher clearly intends to make use of social technologies to further connect with people with little to no obstruction. However, traditional networks’ own political agenda can interfere with Goucher’s plans in posting their own content, as centralized networks and their parent companies own users’ data. While the GopherApp relinquishes control of their data, the app also comes with its own issues and doesn’t completely solve the problem.

In my sophomore year of high school, I researched the disadvantages of using Instagram to share photos from a legal perspective and a photographer’s perspective. I discovered that Instagram’s data is centralized –– Instagram takes away the rights to my photos. Data centralization can prove detrimental to institutions that own photos or videos, as they are forced to relinquish this data to another company. In an interview with April Glaser and Will Oremus for Slate magazine, Eugen Rochko, the developer behind a social network called Mastodon, makes the issues with centralization very clear: “Centralization is not just centralization of power, but […] data as well […] the more data a platform like Facebook collects—it’s all in one place. It’s easy to access and to analyze.” Despite having some advantages in content control and review, data centralization shifts the controls from the user to the company.

In an attempt to restore control to users, Rockho is working on a new network called Mastodon. It’s a decentralized social network that makes up for the disadvantages of centralized social networks. In the aforementioned interview, he also mentions how Mastodon works in this regard: “With Mastodon, the data is separated. Every server stores only the data of its local signed-up users and the data that they subscribe to from their friends.” Eugen doesn’t own all of Mastodon; rather, he just owns his particular server (aka an ‘instance’). These instances talk to each other to make a network rather than being hosted in one place: this is known as federation. You can think of it like the federation in the Star Trek series: there are many planets and species, but they all come together to form a single federation without being a giant entity.

Adopting Mastodon would give Goucher an opportunity to host its own instance that interacts with others. However, Mastodon’s federation can also lead to access to unwanted servers that could potentially be harmful for the Goucher community or that can violate laws. Thankfully, Rochko has also thought of this. In the same interview, he states that owners of an instance can block other instances from the timeline, images, or the whole instance altogether. Although some consider this as censorship of Mastodon data, this also provides Goucher with the ability to allow students to interact with other Mastodon users from other instances.

Decentralized social networks like Mastodon have an advantage on interoperability. Many developers have been making networks that can work with others; examples include Instagram-alternative PixelFed and YouTube-alternative PeerTube. The interoperability between said networks is possible because of an underlying technology: ActivityPub. ActivityPub works a lot like email and allows cross-network interaction. As such, any services that use ActivityPub can interact with other instances. If Goucher hosts Mastodon, PixelFed, and PeerTube, for example, they can make these services interact with each other quite easily while allowing public access. In contrast, using traditional networks require a third-party cross-posting service like HootSuite or If This Then That (IFTTT) to work between social networks.

Alas, as with any social network, a concern for privacy arises. Naturally, we believe that social networks force us to think before we post. Professor Judith Donath from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society describes this behavior in her book, The Social Machine: “[…] people are free to act as they will, and there is little social pressure on them to conform. Privacy supports diversity; where people have protected private space, they have the freedom to be different from the public mainstream ideal” (Donath 304). This rings true for any social network, including Mastodon. It is also true that, because of this, we tend to think more about what we post. In the Psychnology Journal, Florencio Cabello, Marta Franco, and Alex Haché in 2013 discusses the restriction: “The uncertainty about what we post online also involves serious consequences for fundamental freedoms such as free speech and the right to information” (Cabello, Franco, and Hache 49). Thankfully, Rochko considered this idea; in Mastodon, users can change the visibility level of their content so that it can be targeted towards a certain audience or to the public. Goucher can make use of this to send content on Mastodon only to its users or to the public. This ability to control who sees the content can come handy for sharing information about an upcoming club meeting privately but sharing the next Common Hour publicly.

However, you may be asking the question: “Don’t we already have something like this with the GopherApp?” We do have the GopherApp as a means of communicating with each other in a social way for posting information inside of Goucher. However, from a software developer’s and user’s standpoint, the GopherApp doesn’t necessarily have the same advantages as something like Mastodon. The GopherApp doesn’t have a network that can be accessed via a web client or desktop app; if anyone wants to view the latest updates in the GopherApp, he/she must open the app on his/her phone to do it. Another issue arises from the app: GopherApp users can’t post the same kind of content as one can via Mastodon. Mastodon makes use of sharing links, uploading videos and images, and emoji, as well as providing spoiler tags to censor content to a degree; the GopherApp lacks some of this functionality, forcing its users to view a specific type of content. Furthermore, some additional features, such as club page edits, require the developers to make changes upon request. Another way to look at the GopherApp versus Mastodon is this: Mastodon can do what the GopherApp does and then some. We can further modify the web version of the Mastodon client to include Goucher links and branding, if we really wanted to. Besides using the stock web client Mastodon provides, Goucher can take advantage of some of the other clients designed for Mastodon in mind; there are already a few decent mobile apps for Mastodon that anyone can use to connect with their own accounts, and the rise of desktop clients like Tootle, Pinafore, and my recently-developed Hyperspace make Mastodon really accessible.

Besides the technical and social advantages of using Mastodon, becoming a part of the bigger fediverse has its long-term advantages. In a blog post I wrote last year, “Why I believe the fediverse is the future,” I briefly state some of my previous arguments. However, I also make an important observation about how decentralized social networks can help sustain cultures: “It feels more likely that federated, decentralized social networks put the emphasis on fostering relationships rather than control and censorship of data, which, in turn, helps sustain cultures.” Because of my aforementioned arguments, Goucher, should it move to Mastodon, would retain the ability to focus on its community and culture rather than the concerns of censorship, globalization, and/or centralization.

News outlets are already making us aware of these issues, too. Many have published articles about Facebook’s recent privacy issues, including the scandal regarding their enterprise Facebook Research app that Apple pulled off their store. Examples include Recode in their article titled “Apple says it’s banning Facebook’s research app that collects users’ personal information,” CNN with “Apple says Facebook’s controversial market research app violated its policies,” and even The Verge with “The fallout from Facebook’s controversial research app.” Given these circumstances, it’s easy to see how some are making the migration over to Mastodon and the fediverse.

I’d like to make myself clear on my stance on use of networks like Mastodon at Goucher: I am not saying that we should completely abandon networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. in favor of Mastodon. Most of the world still relies on those networks to connect with family and friends and will probably not migrate right away. Rather, I am proposing that we take a step in supporting an open community that isn’t entirely governed by a single company by hosting instances of Mastodon, PeerTube, PixelFed, etc. Though we cannot guarantee that everyone will migrate to this universe, or fediverse, in this case, we can at least show our support for projects like this. Mastodon currently has over a million users from different instances all over the globe, so it already has established itself in the social network space. However, it is up to us to decide whether we want to have social networks that work for us by us instead of the other way around.

BY MARQUIS KURT

Supreme Color Theory

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Now one may ask, “Is there truly a ‘supreme color theory?’” The short answer is yes, but before on understands the truth behind the “supreme color theory,” one must understand what a color theory is.

For starters, color theory, according to my own definition, is an idea rooted in psychology to use the color of one’s attire to pursue one’s ambitions. The concept of a color theory is to use the color of what you wear to your advantage. What your advantage is can be decided by the color theorist, for each person has their own ambitions and goals and different colors work towards differing goals. However, while this interpretation of color theory is not necessarily scientifically provable as of yet, it has derived from real life experiences. One last disclaimer before the theory is presented: this theory is from my own perspective and my own life experiences this is in no way attempting to be scientific –– just an account of my personal observations. This theory also applies best to conferences where you are meeting many new people at once and need to stand out yourself. Now onto the theory.

For a multi-day conference, one to four days, I recommend the following approaches. On the first day, wear a nice blue or darker color suit or other equally formal attire. Have a bring pink or green tie, or ideally bow tie, to contract the darker colored suit. Ensure the suit/other is well tailored and fits you well. No one looks good in baggy or small clothes no matter the colors you are wearing. The darker colored main part of your attire shows you mean business and are taking the situation seriously; the brighter colored accessories show your character and personality. They will make you stand out and especially at a big conference, like Model UN or Model Senate, standing out is essential. Later on in the succeeding days, you will want to moderate the colors to be more welcoming and not necessarily stand out as the conference progresses. The middle days are for building connections and getting to know people more; if you adhered to the first method and made a good impression, you now have some options open and it is time to explore them. The finally requires a dark suit and a red tie. Bow ties are always more ideal because of their uniqueness; the red tie at the end displays to everyone that you emerged with strength and your final deals and compromises are from positions of strength. Do not fall for the trap of wearing a red tie on the first day; you will just look like Donald Trump. No matter your personal opinion of the President, make your own style ride you own path be your own person.

For single day conferences, one must adhere to the above but snipe specific styles for the type of conference. If everyone is well acquainted prior to the conference, then a bright bow tie may be unnecessary and a softer color would be more effective. On the contrary, if you are unfamiliar with many of the potential attendees, then the brighter colored accessories would be more useful; avoid the plain red tie at all costs for single day conferences. Get more creative and add more personality than just bright red. It is a power move, that will come off as too confident and cocky. Be more creative.

This color theory is more suited to formal occasions, which some clubs would see more use in this than others. Nevertheless, one can apply these colors to less formal meetings. If you are going out on a date, for example, the same color schemes would apply, maybe just not in a suit and tie but shirt and shoes. Creativity is the key; be observant of what attracts and what repels people. Personal confidence in your clothes is, however, the single most effective way to pursue your ambitions, regardless of the formality of the situation. With that, the theory is concluded and I encourage those who may agree or dissent to write or discuss in person with me your opinions on my “supreme color theory” or color theory at large.

 

Photo Credits: HGTV.com

Unionization of Goucher Student Workers

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Photo Credit: https://insights.dice.com/

To be a student worker at Goucher can mean many things. Job hours range drastically from two hours a week to twenty. Many students’ long hours of work results in their social life, clubs, and, most importantly, education being sidelined. With the addition of long work comes increased stress levels. Mental health cannot be ignored and doing such can create more hardship. It is not uncommon for Goucher students to feel overwhelmed when pressure and stress comes from multiple directions. School work plus additional jobs added to social or emotional issues can really take a toll on students. When students need to work on campus just to afford to attend, it is understandable when students feel forced to put education behind their job. While time management is an important lesson of life, it can be a very real challenge to make ends meet with so many responsibilities. There needs to be more support for student workers; too many feel overburdened by the challenges they are being dealt. If an issue arises with their job, it could very easily be the stressful tipping point for them, and confronting that problem alone can feel overwhelming.

For such reasons student workers should be allowed to form workers unions, or a type of collective. This is not to say that student workers are being mistreated by their supervisors per se. This is a statement that must be understood from the perspective of students who share many common struggles. It can be hard as a worker to approach your supervisor, no matter how comfortable you are with them, and make your voice heard. A union of student workers will provide students with the opportunity to come together as equals and discuss their work and how to support each other. Support for students need to come from peers, not only “adults.”

A collective or a union would be instrumental in allowing student workers to consolidate their opinions together and form a common group to lobby and make their voices heard in a more effective way than simply complaining to their supervisors independently. If students were to meet regularly and reach agreements on issue pertaining to their work, such as pay, hours, responsibilities, and more job-specific issues, it will allow for better work cohesion and the understanding that no student is isolated. Students workers would be able to communicate their needs and wants better as a group in an official manner. This could be used by supervisors to help make adjustments based off of a organized majority opinion.

Ibrahim Juhass, a senior physics and economics double major, has been an RA for three years and has worked in IT for four years. His thoughts were as follows:

“I think it is a great idea to have a collective or union student group to support each other. I believe it can only work for some jobs, specifically First-Year Mentors, RAs Librarians, and Ambassadors. It could be helpful if there were new policy changes were being implemented with the input of a student group or union. Students should have the right to know what changes are happening and voice their opinions about them. Additionally, it is important to make sure there is no abuse from students asking for unreasonable complaints.”

Yuchen Ding, a first-year Ambassador who works about eight hours a week as an Ambassador, had this to say when asked:

“I think it makes a lot of sense for us. The power of who decides the work schedule is only with two students and sometimes they mess things up. A union would also help communication between workers and could be used to ask for better pay or benefits.”  

Connor Harrington is a sophomore communications major working as a Technical Assistant who works about eight hours a week making minimum wage. When asked he said, “Union to me would mean protection, rights, and solidarity. I do think students should have a right to organize within the school…potentially even with outside organizations if appropriate.”

There is clearly a need for such student-run institutions at Goucher. Such organizations would not inherently be in opposition to the established work policies, but can and should work in conjunction with the already in place student employment infrastructure. The right to meet and come to common agreements on issues that pertain to them all should be expressed here at Goucher even if there is no established precedent for them yet. Such outlined proposals would produce a larger and more stable student workforce at Goucher, and would have indirect benefits to the campus community at large.

What the post-Goucher world taught me about my dad’s old advice

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When I was a student at Goucher, my dad would encourage me to try to learn a “hard skill” before I graduated. The workplace was a practical beast, he cautioned, and I needed a way to make myself stand out. Programming. Web design. Something.

I silently laughed whenever he told me this. Dad, I’d think, surely you misunderstand how today’s world works.

Like many of my fellow Goucher students, in those days I believed that the modern workplace was friendlier to graduates of the liberal arts than it had once been. Gone were the days when employers narrow-mindedly insisted on graduates with degrees in the hard sciences. Bosses today wanted critical thinking skills and creativity and flexibility and passion for learning. My dad was speaking not of the actual world but an antiquated one, a world of assembly lines and analog watches and giant desktop computers that couldn’t be used unless you had a degree in computer maintenance.

Then, in 2014, I graduated and entered the workplace. English degree in hand, I migrated from place to place — teaching English in Beijing and creative writing in Hong Kong, a stint of unemployment back home in Chicago — before landing a three-month unpaid internship with the literary organization PEN America in New York City. By this point I’d grown weary of not slotting into a more permanent job and lifestyle, and now, nearly two years after graduating, I was determined to stay put. But no matter how certain I was that I could excel in virtually any of the hundreds of thousands of entry-level roles across the New York City area, I couldn’t find work. I’d applied for some 100 jobs in perhaps four of the five boroughs of New York City by the time my three-month internship was up, including a position as a janitor at Brooklyn College. I didn’t so much as get an interview.

These days I think my dad was mostly right. The modern workplace continues to recognize and reward “hard skills,” just like the old one did. The types of jobs available may have changed — you really don’t need a degree of any kind to use a computer these days, and attributes such as creativity are more important than they used to be — but most good jobs still require solid qualifications, the sort that you can put on a CV or identify in the space of a few words.

In its 2017 report, “The Future of Jobs”, the World Economic Forum sought to predict how technology would change the workforce. Some of its findings echoed the kind of new age liberal arts optimism I once took as gospel. For instance, surveys of top executives said that, of the top 10 most desirable skills, critical thinking skills ranked second and that many of the other desired skills had to do with communication.

While such surveys could be used to paint an optimistic portrait of the future for liberal arts graduates, they shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the future of jobs is increasingly in science and technology — where employers really would require you to, say, check a box saying you have skills X and Y. According to recent projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job category predicted to experience the greatest growth over the period 2016-2026 (after healthcare-related work), is “Community and social service.” That’s a good fit for liberal arts grads, but the median annual wage in that sector in 2017 was $43,840. That’s barely half the $84,560 in median wages that will be earned in “Computer and mathematical occupations,” which will grow at nearly the same rate. Then there’s this year’s “Future of Jobs” report, which says the top two “emerging” jobs will be “Data analysts and scientists,” and “AI and machine learning specialists.”

This isn’t to say that you need a degree in computer science or engineering. But it is a useful reminder that some of the most valuable jobs in the future, as in the recent past, will be in fields for which no amount of creativity or communications prowess will substitute for a hard qualification. Outside of a limited number of professions, this is broadly true for many of the most desirable fields of work: business, law, medicine and nursing, architecture, and so on. The kinds of generalist thinking skills nurtured by liberal arts degrees — creativity, critical thinking skills, awareness of social and historical context — will always be valuable, but in most cases only on top of more fundamental qualifications.

My internship with PEN America wasn’t the ticket to New York City employment I imagined it would be. But it did help me realize I wanted to be a journalist, my dad’s old job and one that I had experimented with for some time. After a brief second stint of unemployment back home, I drove across the country to write for a local newspaper in rural California. It was this job, at last, that provided me with some way to “fit” in the world of work and, happily, some sense of direction. After California, I went to graduate school in London and then landed a journalism job here. I believe I was able to do it because at last I had a hard skill — reporting — to talk about during the job interview.

The workplace hasn’t really changed. Perhaps one day the world will be a more just place, and students who don’t choose to prioritize a job-oriented education — the ones who tend to gravitate towards the humanities, like English, modern languages, or philosophy — will be rewarded in the workplace just as much as students who make landing a job their chief focus. For now, however, this remains the case.

Photo Source: Google Images

Being Boxed In

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These past few years have seen such an unprecedented growth of anti-semitism across the world. To say that Pittsburg was the start is to ignore the hate that has been manifesting itself since the election of our current president. Anti-semitism has always been present in American culture. General (and later President) Grant, during the civil war, attempted to expel all Jews from Tennessee, but the order was revoked by Lincoln. The 20th century had explicit prohibition of Jews from moving to certain neighborhoods, strict quotas of Jews allowed in universities, bans on Jews joining gyms or clubs, and barring them from resorts. Jews were accused of both being global capitalists out to control the world’s banking, and global communists out to spread Marx’s revolution. However, the past few decades oversaw what many were hoping for as full integration of Jews in American life. Restrictions were eventually dismantled, and many Jews are actively involved in public life from entertainment to politics. However, I fear that now the nation is descending further into anti-semitism.

According to the Anti Defamation League, there has been a fifty seven percent rise in anti-semitism last year alone. A recently announced CNN poll found that twenty eight percent of Europeans say “Jews have too much influence over finance around the world.” The same poll found that one third of Europeans “never heard of the Holocaust or know just a little about it.” That trend looks to only increase with the recent incident at Columbia University, when a professor’s office was vandalized with Swastikas. It is painful to write that Goucher College is added to that unfortunate statistic with the truly evil, cowardly racist graffiti next to a swastika. Other recent news in Baltimore saw the performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a story about the last few years of a Russian-Jewish community, including a pogrom or race riot and their forced exile, be interrupted by a man chanting “Heil Hitler, and Heil Trump” according to the Baltimore Sun.

At first such stories came from afar, incidents happening far away from the bubble of Goucher. It can be easy to write off and ignore such things, being in the North East and having the luxury of never personally experiencing anti-semitism. It only became apparent when such cowardly acts started spreading that we were never really safe. Now we can no longer ignore it, but we cannot really take a direct action.

Security cameras are not a solution; stopping every car that enters campus is not a solution; mandatory online classes are not a solution. The racists and bigots of the world are engaged in a culture war, in which they have built a false narrative of their victimhood to defend their actions. The more incidents that happen, the more bigots will be inspired to act. We must fight this war not with rules and restrictions from administrator but with peer education and leadership. It may be exceedingly overambitious to propose that we can stop the rise of anti-semitism around the world, but we cannot be apathetic to the increasingly dire situation. Anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry and racism must be combated, and we can make a difference at Goucher at least.

Student organizations must raise their voices. I applaud the powerful statements made at the rally in Mary Fisher a few weeks ago, unfortunately more needs to be done. Inviting a strong speaker to discuss and empower students is an option, alongside clubs and organizations having meetings and discussions about bigotry. But fundamentally the main struggle has to be fought between peers, not official organizations. Discussions among peers and stifling those who share bigoted feelings, not through patronizing them, but with thoughtful listening and explanation will be the most effective way. We as a community need to create a culture that does not tolerate anti semitism and bigotry, of any kind, Informal struggles, catching a racist comment here, or noticing and reporting swastika on a bathroom stall there. These things are not normal and we must not allow them to be normalized, especially in a time when they are becoming cripplingly routine.

Why Aren’t You Practicing?

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Photo credit: http://vishalmaliwal.com/blog/

Yoga: what is it? Why do people make such a big deal about it? Yoga is one of the oldest and most beneficial forms of movement in practice today. However, it isn’t just a movement form; it’s a way of life. Yoga helps the mind come back into the body, and can allow for deeper and prolonged concentration that otherwise would be hard to achieve without assistance.

Our society today is fast paced and causes stress for everyone, young or old. The more our society begins to depend on science and technology, the more we will want (and need) to fall back to a different form of meditation or relaxation. In his article Why is Yoga Becoming So Popular?, Sadhguru states, “As the activity of the intellect becomes stronger in the world, more people will shift to yoga over a period of time and it will become the most popular way of seeking wellbeing.” As we all work more and more on computers, or with technology, the more we will want to step back and take a breather away from it all.

Yoga originally started as a precursor to meditation. The practice of yoga has been in effect for several thousand years and is used mostly by people in India, where it originated. When shamans wanted to meditate, they performed the sun salutations or Surya Namaskara (opening sequence) to begin a longer asana (yoga) practice which ended in savasana (final rest) before meditating. Yoga was originally used to remove all of the excess energy that our bodies have so as to help achieve a deeper state of meditation. There are multiple types of yoga, spanning from vigorous to restorative/relaxing types of yoga. Ashtanga and Vinyasa are more vigorous, and Yin and Hatha are more restorative. Even though yoga is a new phenomenon in the United States and considered a ‘modern’ form of exercise, it is actually an ancient practice. Once yoga arrived in the United States, it took on the form of exercise and inserted itself as a modern work-out as an alternative to cardio or Pilates. While yoga is classified as form of exercise, yoga can calm the mind and renew energy in the body. From personal experience, I can testify that daily yoga practice can help streamline any process from writing a paper to giving a presentation and everything in between.

I discovered yoga while I was on an exchange program in Honolulu, Hawaii at the beginning of my junior year of high school. Four days a week, the school day started with some form of exercise, and I chose to have yoga as my form of exercise. I have never experienced the amount of clarity in school that I had after those yoga classes. I was more attentive in my classes, understood the material better, and didn’t feel as tired at the end of the day. When I went back to my own school, I lost that clarity of mind because I didn’t have yoga built into my schedule the same way and couldn’t practice before school. In Jim Paterson’s article “Positioning Yoga in Schools,” he states that “[y]oga can tune up students’ academic performance and specifically help with issues such as paying attention in class, test taking, inappropriate behavior, and conflict among students.” I, myself, have experienced clarity of mind and longer attention span while in Honolulu and here at Goucher, where I take a yoga class twice a week.

While yoga helps with the academics, it can also assist processing feelings or emotions that are unable to be dealt with otherwise. If a topic is too uncomfortable to talk about, trying to work through it via physical activity, such as practicing yoga or taking a walk, can help you come to terms with the topic or be ready to talk about it with someone else. Diamond confirms that “[y]oga has been shown to improve many health issues including anxiety and stress.” Personally, I have seen yoga benefit many people, myself included. For instance, when I originally started going to classes at home, my mom came with me just to spend time with me. As she began to practice yoga more and more, my mom began to have more energy and clarity of mind, along with not getting as many migraines as she did before. The improvement I saw in my mom was amazing, especially after the seeing her struggle through the previous difficult years. Another example was when I taught a yoga class last year to a group of peers, many of whom had never practiced the movement form. In the beginning, some struggled with the forms and being able to stretch in new poses. However, by the end of the class, everyone looked more restored and energized than when I had seen them in the previous weeks due to yoga.

Yoga can be a form of exercise, but it can also be a form of relaxation. Yin and Hatha are both more relaxing types of yoga. Personally, I enjoy relaxational yoga more than a vinyasa (exercise) class, but it’s just my preference. Most importantly, though, we need to have balance, both exercise and restorative yoga in your practice. For example, in order to practice yin yoga and to not throw my body off kilter and maintain a healthy balance, I also have to practice vinyasa. Just like a coach would tell their players to stretch before a game and cool down after one, having a balance between exercise and relaxation is important. Balance is a crucial part of life, and also of yoga. If the desire is to heal yourself, then achieving that balance is important. Meditation is also part of the tradition of yoga — to meditate after practicing yoga. Meditation was the main reason that yoga was invented. Just practicing a breathing exercise or taking a few moments to process what happened in your day would benefit you in the long run. Unwinding is one of the best ways to help keep your body healthy.  

While the benefits of yoga are well documented and widely believed, there are some who do not believe it is a good practice. Like most activities, or lack thereof, there can be negative repercussions. Alignment is very important in the body, which is why chiropractors exist. When our body is misaligned, it causes pain (and no one likes that). While misalignment in yoga may not cause immediate damage or pain, it can cause pain in the long run. In the article “Ten Reasons Yoga Might Be Bad For You,” Jonathan Fitzgordon states that exercising is crucial and that “if you are doing it incorrectly it will not be good for you.” Understanding what feels good or bad in your body while taking a yoga class will help prevent injuries down the line. An instructor doesn’t know a practitioner’s body like the practitioner does, so practicing what feels good, and not doing a posture that might aggravate a knee, for example, would be wise for a practitioner. Using common sense to take care of your body, and understanding that everyone’s body is different, will help eliminate the possibility of causing yourself pain. In the conclusion of his article, Fitzgordon further explains that “whether it be pursuing yoga for spirituality or exercise, students should spend most of their time getting to know themselves, inside and out, in the search for a healthy life.” Thus, listening to what feels good and what doesn’t will help with understanding what is right for your body.

Yoga is a form of exercise, mediation, and a way of life. It helps to hone the mind to the task at hand, energize and rejuvenate the body, and can lead to a more satisfying and fulfilling life. Yoga is an activity that benefits everyone. Practicing yoga could be your turning point of understanding what needs to happen in your life as a human being. Life requires balance and if you bring yoga into the mix, life will become more rewarding. So, why aren’t you practicing?

 

Works Cited

Diamond, Lisa. “The benefits of yoga in improving health: Lisa Diamond recommends the prescription of yoga to improve patients’ physical and mental wellbeing with little cost to the health service.” Primary Health Care, Mar. 2012, p. 16+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A283751581/AONE?u=goucher_main&sid=AONE&xid=cd212883. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

Fitzgordon, Jonathan. “Ten Reasons Yoga Might Be Bad For You” Core Walking for Pain Relief, 2018 https://corewalking.com/ten-reasons-yoga-might-be-bad-for-you/ Accessed 18 Oct. 2018

Paterson, Jim. “Positioning Yoga in Schools: Programs offer academic, physical, and mental benefits for students and teachers alike.” Principal Leadership, vol. 18, no 5, Jan. 2018. Gale Educators Reference Complete.  http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A534365499/PROF?u=goucher_main&sid=PROF&xid=d4e40c95. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

Sadhguru. “Why is Yoga Becoming So Popular?” Isha Yoga—A Guide to Yoga and Meditation https://isha.sadhguru.org/yoga/yoga_articles_yoga/yoga-becoming-popular/ Accessed 27 Oct. 2018

#ThisIsMyEducation

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Photo credit: http://affectautism.com/

Imagine the following scenario taking place in a middle school classroom. An 8th grade history teacher asks her class, “What were some of Abraham Lincoln’s beliefs?” One student raises their hand and says, “Lincoln believed that slavery was morally wrong.” The teacher provides the student a piece of candy as a reward. Another student raises their hand and notes, “Piggybacking off of that, Lincoln believed in a strong, united nation.” This student also receives a piece of candy. Next, the teacher calls on the student sitting in the back of the class.

The student proudly states, “Although Abraham Lincoln freed millions of slaves, he strongly believed that whites were superior to blacks.” The class grew quiet, and the teacher looked in surprise at the student. “Um, that’s an interesting viewpoint, but if Lincoln did have that belief, do you think he would have freed millions of slaves? Think about it.” With their comment being dismissed, the student ashamedly shook their head and sat quietly in their seat. The teacher carried on with the lesson.

In classrooms all across America, there are young maturing students who don’t “receive a piece of candy” for answering questions that go against what the teacher is teaching. But why? Why are we discouraged from seeing a topic in a contrary perspective to that of the ideas set within the curriculum? Open-mindedness allows students to see issues critically from an opposing view and to evaluate their preconceived assumptions. Who doesn’t agree with that? However, modern school systems are restricting this ability from us; resulting in us to learn in an environment that teaches us there is only one way to view the outside world. But is there really one way to view the world?

If it wasn’t for the Internet, teenagers today would still only believe Christopher Columbus was an amazing explorer that discovered the New World and had a massive feast with the Native Americans. Crazy, right? Teaching a classroom of students in a selective perspective only prohibits their growth, doesn’t it? School is only teaching us the preferred side of a story, the story that assimilates us with the rest of society. Wait, isn’t school supposed to create higher thinkers? But yet, the school system creates a curriculum that only highlights socially accepted views and topics; thus, narrowing our beliefs and assumptions.

Objectively, school is supposed to teach us the history of the United States and the world. Am I right? All throughout school, we have been informed again and again about the evils of slavery and how it was one of America’s worst eras. From depressing in-class documentaries to vivid at-home reads, slavery is a staple of American history. Strikingly, the school system failed to inform me that the act of slavery has been practiced long before it ever happened when America was “discovered”; meaning the practiced was normal. Now does that mean slavery is morally right? In contemporary terms, of course not; but why do we only emphasize African enslavement in America when discussing racism? Certainly, there have been other groups of people other than blacks that have been enslaved. Have you ever had a lesson each school year discussing the terrifying era of Native American enslavement?

This way of teaching only provides students with half true facts and limits their knowledge.

Growing up, I’ve always been fed information without being skeptical about it. I accepted what I learned, and it shaped my beliefs and assumptions about the world. But isn’t that what school is intended for? To provide us with “facts”? I’m not saying school teaches us complete lies, it just doesn’t teach us the full story. Providing students with “half” facts and sending them into the world is detrimental to their role as a citizen. We need to be taught, not from a socially accepted perspective, but from a morally accepted perspective; where we are given information from all viewpoints, disregarding norms and what is socially appropriate. The thought of this idea will certainly frighten many adults, but this is our education. We need to be provided with the tools to shape our mentality. We are the ones being taught the knowledge, so why shouldn’t we examine it? The student who didn’t receive a “piece of candy” shouldn’t be negatively viewed upon or completely dismissed. Instead, we should embark on their ability to view the world differently. Isn’t that what makes each of us special? Think about it.    

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