Do Something Congress

Freshmen Facebook

 

For the one hundred and thirteenth time last week the United States swore in a new congress in the nation’s capital. With this new congress comes an immense and harrowing workload left by its predecessor that is no doubt in the forefront of most Americans minds. All of the words have been said and debated on this point and there is little to nothing more I could add to the conversation that would be of much use. Therefore, for this blog post I will not be discussing the “what, where, why, and how” of congress, but rather, the “who”. People often times refer to congress (as I am doing so myself at this moment) as a thing rather a group of individuals who are still just as human as the rest of us. The 113th congress provides a unique opportunity to reflect upon the United States Congress as it is now the most diverse legislature in American history. And as with all things there is the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

 

The good, as was stated previously, is that this congress is the most diverse in American history in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion. This means that laws passed and the members who create them will increasingly be representing the American population rather than the certain individuals who voted. Now, even within a single party, many different viewpoints can be presented (as was the framers intentions) which reduces the possibility of a single interest pushing through legislation in congress. The great ideas that have advanced this county have come from diverse backgrounds and fresh perspectives and there is no reason to think the same cannot happen in the nation’s capital. This ray of hope for progress however is dampened when one considers the fact that this sea of new faces was almost completely confined to the ranks of the Democratic Party.

 

The bad of this story comes from the majority in the House and minority in the Senate chambers. It seems impossible and yet, while the 113th congress has become the most diverse in history, the percentage of non-white males in the Republican caucus actually decreased from the 2010 election. 90% of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is made up of white males. This represents a growing trend I have noticed within the GOP since my introduction into the political world. Republican lawmakers (or potential ones) have valid and sensible ideas on a variety of issues. The problem comes when they tailor these messages to a specific group rather than the general populace. Quite frankly, many republican lawmakers simple do not have a grasp of the social graces and do not know when to simply shut up. This problem persists within the Democratic Party as well, however not to such a crippling effect as has occurred in the GOP ranks. Take for instance Representative Michele Bachman. During her presidential bid she made comments that HPV vaccinations cause mental retardation. What did this have to do with the election? Absolutely nothing, but because she was in her mind addressing only a select group of Americans, it seemed valid. The message and policies are there, they just come out of a single white male voice.

 

The ugly comes not from the freshman lawmakers who created this new diversity and subsequent blog. No the ugly comes from the sea of 456 old faces that came to take the oath of office. No doubt everyone is aware of the debacle known as the 112th congress and. It had the lowest approval rating of any congress in history and passed three times fewer laws than the “Do Nothing Congress” of the late 1940’s. I have heard nothing but complaints about that congress for two years and seen arguments, debates, and downright brawls over its failures. But remember that this is a REPRESENTATIVE government in which lawmakers are simply mirroring the public who put them in office. If the 112th congress was hated so passionately, why did we reelect 90% of them who ran for the 113th congress? This new congress is the most diverse and yet the most unchanged. I cannot understand. Should I be cheering or crying?

Washington Times

Policymic

Museum City

 

Over one hundred years after enacting the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, people are starting to realize that it is about time our capital city came out of the 19th century. Current laws restrict the height of buildings in Washington D.C. to 160 feet which translates to about a twelve story building. However, these laws were designed for a capital and a nation that existed in the 1890’s and have no validity for a 21st century America. This article discusses the push to relax these laws and the argument to keep them in place. As a prospective engineering student I am in full support of effort to alter building restrictions, but feel that the entire law itself should be thrown to the wolves. Those pushing for fewer restrictions should be fighting for full repeal of this outdated law. Doing so would allow this beautiful city to live up to its fullest potential and show that acceptance of change can benefit this nation.

 

The current tallest structure in Washington D.C. (the Washington Monument) is 555 feet tall while the tallest building in Los Angeles, the earthquake city, stands at 1018 feet. Any arguments over safety concerns are therefore thrown out of the window as there is little evidence that the relatively quiet city would be hit by major natural disasters. So what then is the argument for keeping these century old height restrictions in the city? Proponents of the law say that it is in place to preserve the architectural and historical legacy of the city and to not allow new buildings to obstruct the views of national monuments. The history of Washington D.C. is one of constant change in buildings and monuments. The Washington Monument itself was only around a few decades before this law was passed and by the current argument it should not have been built because it obstructs the view of several city monuments. Some worry that relaxing the height restrictions will obstruct views of national monuments, but repealing these laws provides the opportunity to create new ones that our nation can be even more proud of.

 

London, Beijing, Moscow. All of these capital cities and centuries older than Washington D.C. and yet today are thriving metropolises which have had the realization that one can balance preserving treasured history with growing a modern city. Allowing Washington D.C. to build taller will enhance the draw of the city as brides the gap between our future and our past. George Clerk, chairman of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, said that he seen a visitor who said “Where are the tall buildings?” When I visited Washington D.C. back in 2008 this was the very first question I asked my tour guide. We are dealing with the capital city of a thriving nation, not a giant museum that must be kept under the exact conditions for all time. The capital city of a sovereign nation is said nations beating heart and it is about time we gave it new life for the 21st century. “A unique nation deserves a unique and special capital city” writes one proponent of the height restrictions. Unique and special does not mean being tied down to the past. A unique nation deserves a unique capital that reflects the great vibrancy and change which we have come to associate with the United States of America.

 

LA Times: Some want D.C. to grow up a little

How May I Help You Today?

 

All of my readers are no doubt aware of the November 6th election that recently took place across the nation. Hopefully, everyone who was legally eligible to vote did so provisionally, vote by mail, or at the polls. Unfortunately my age prevented me from participating in the election as a voter; however I was still able to fulfill my civic duty by becoming an election official. This opportunity allowed me not only to gain some insight into the voter experience, but more importantly to be involved behind the scenes. There much work that has to be done before, during, and after the thirteen hours when the polls are open. Voters, as with any public service in their lives, expect everything to magically be done and to be perfect for them and them alone. Were it not for the thousands of student and adult volunteers who give up their time to become poll workers, the democratic process would come to a screeching halt. I in no way however wish I had not worked during Election Day. It was an excellent experience and something I encourage all my readers, adults or students, to participate in. Working on Election Day gave me a new appreciation for all public servants and indeed our very democratic way of life.

 

Being an election official means that you are not only an agent of the people, but the United States Government as well. And whenever the government is involved it entails constant paperwork, loyalty oaths, and proper protocols when interacting with voters and their ballots. Voting is taken very seriously in our country and the rules surrounding them are expected to be followed to the letter. I found the most interesting rules to be those surrounding the practice of electioneering, a term I had not even known existed until going through my training. Electioneering, or campaigning, is strictly prohibited within 100 feet of a polling center. Before the polls open we must place “No electioneering” signs around the polling center exactly 100 feet away from the door and to do so we are actually supplied with 100 feet of string. One mythical rule I want to bring to my readers attention is this whole debate over voter ID. In the state of California you are only required to show ID if you are a new voter. And in my precinct that was only 3 out of 1800. Hundreds of voters came into my precinct with ID in hand and not only were they surprised that they did not have to show it, but that they were asked to please put it away as quickly as possible once it had been spotted. If a voter sees another voter in line showing an ID to an election official, they may think it is required and leave the center because they do not have any. No registered voter shall have his or her right to vote be denied for any reason.

 

Due to a labor shortage I actually took on three separate jobs at once. I was the ballot box clerk, provisional voter clerk, and voter assistance clerk. This meant that I was interacting with every single voter who came into the polling center. Many public workers will in private insult and berate the public they interact with for being ungrateful and so on, however, out of the almost 800 voters who came into my polling center I had only one unruly voter. It was a great pleasure interacting with voters and helping them make the process as enjoyable as possible. I was stationed at a middle school so many parents with little children came and asked me to give a short lesson on the process to their kids. It was when voters remembered I was a normal citizen like them and not like the machine they placed their ballots into that I had the most fun.

 

The absolute highlights of my day were when I had new or recent voters come to my polling center. New voters were either those who had just turned 18 or had recently immigrated to the US. Their excitement to be voting was very contagious and it made the whole polling center applaud whenever a new voter cast his or her first ballot. Parents with video cameras, embarrassing their children and wives, taking pictures as their husbands place ballots into the ballot box; it made me appreciate the privilege we have to actually choose who we want to represent us. To see a man in his 60s or a woman in her 30s vote for the first time brought Election Day into a larger perspective for me. We groan about long lines and not enough polling centers, but at least we have polling centers to begin with. Lines mean that people do not live in fear of violence for voting as it is in many other countries. I highly encourage all my readers, student or adult, to become a poll worker at some point their life. Freedom is not free, and working for a day to sustain that freedom is not easy.

 

Election Official Name Tag

Era of Editors

 

Although I have never been a fan of most art forms, photography has always been an exception. Paintings, sculptures, and “traditional” art seek to find beauty and meaning through the lens of the imagination. Photography on the other hand shows us that reality and the world around us is art in its own right. To me, art is anything that elicits and emotional response from the person experiencing it. These photographs taken by Doug Rickard certainly fall under that criterion as they conjure up, simultaneously, feelings of appreciation and yet horror at what they depict.

 

In his interview, Doug Rickard makes it a point that many of the photographs he takes are of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr. I had never seen a street named after the late reverend Martin Luther King Jr. until this interview and I am amazed at the cruel irony that surrounds those who live there. I am sure my readers are in agreement with me that the thought of a Martin Luther King Street has always been synonymous with African American poverty. How and why can this be? During his lifetime Dr. King preached for nothing less than equal opportunity and prosperity for all colored people. Yet the streets named after him are now the epitome of the exact opposite; of how African-Americans are marginalized with little hope given their current environment.

 

The use of Google Street View was a completely unheard of medium for art before seeing this interview. It is the perfect way to capture poverty in America today because of the fact that it is indeed a “Street View”, not a positioned picture. It is exactly how we would see these communities were we driving through them, at no doubt an accelerated speed. No people, only blurred faces and vague impressions of buildings as one would pass by. But if one takes a look back as these photos force the viewer to do, they show that the before shadow is now a man and the impression of a building a decaying warehouse. These are not old photographs taken by Dorothea Lang at the time of the Great Depression, no, these are images of atrocities that are occurring in our own back yard. I am so accustomed to HD and perfect images; however it is true that the pixilation in these photos is almost poetic as it conveys the anonymity of the people who live in these conditions. But who is to be credited with give this art life, if it be art at all?

 

Doug Rickard has received many comments on his work, both positive and negative, which means that I too must be drawn into the fray as having viewed these images and learned their history. It is true what Rickard said, that we live in an “Era of Editors” rather than photographers because most images have been taken and their stories told. Originality is hard to come by in almost any art form today so one must have understanding before outright calling someone an imitator. However, I agree with the critics of his work that he should not be labeled an artist or photographer because simply taking an image already photographed and adding some different coloring. He is just editing what Google has taken with their cameras. His work, although brilliant, seems no more than a more sophisticated way of Instagraming. Dorothea Lang is credited as the best photographer during the Great Depression because she actually went out into the fields with the farmers and the Hoovervilles to capture their story. The work presented in this interview was created by taking pictures of a computer screen. Doug Rickard virtually walked the streets of poverty which is almost the same as his photos, just driving by, seeing anonymous faces. Google Street View is a giant art gallery in its own right, and as such the credit rests with those blurred and distorted shadows.

PBS News Hour

Endeavor to Improve

 

Over two weeks since the arrival of the space shuttle Endeavor in Los Angeles, it has come to its final resting place at the Los Angeles Science Center. I was present during the last leg of her journey as she passed the University the Southern California which inspired me to express my thoughts surrounding Endeavor, NASA, and the politics intertwined.

 

First off, as prospective aerospace engineer upon entering the workforce, I must say that the space shuttle Endeavor and the vessel which brought her home are beautiful creations. Seeing Endeavor piggy-backed on the hull of a Boeing-747 could give one the impression that she is weak and meager, but in person she still towers over all around her. Endeavor is so massive that it took two weeks to get her from Los Angeles International Airport to the Science Center, a distance no more than 10 miles away. What has instilled such a great respect and love for this spacecraft (and indeed all space shuttles) is the history it conveys and the future it promises.  One of the greatest examples of this is the fact that, unlike what one would expect from a futuristic ship, the space shuttles are left with their scares intact from leaving and entering the atmosphere. The visible damage on the hull makes one realize just how far she has gone and what she accomplished during while in service.

 

But even science and national pride must give way to the politics and economics of the time. The shuttle program, although a great scientific and engineering achievement, has left people wondering “So…….what?” Indeed exactly what has 196 billion dollars since its inception given to us? Very few people (myself included) know exactly what the shuttle program did during its three decade long existence. It went up into space and did……..? To my knowledge, the only things which I know the space shuttles did were to build and service the International Space Station and to perform maintenance on the Hubble Space Telescope. But other than that, I cannot see what the shuttle missions did for the average person besides be a source of national pride. National Pride should not be so costly. Unless the US shuttle fleet could be used for beyond earth orbit missions, it was right to end the program and to shift NASA’s efforts to more practical ends.

 

I fully and wholeheartedly support federal funding for the sciences when it has a clear and practical application for mankind. Experimentation in space may be interesting and cool, but until such time that the HIV virus is found to be killed in a low gravity environment, I will support my case. Let us fix the problems of our immediate world before we venture out to understand space. In a time of such austerity in the federal government we must focus our attention within our own boarders. The universe will (presumably) continue to be there for future generations to explore and marvel at while we deal with our worldly affairs. In this video we see Endeavor flying over the landmarks of Los Angeles and while it is a spectacle to behold one must also think of what else she flew over. In her final tribute she flew over the poor, desolate neighborhoods and not so good aspects of humanity that still exist. We must build from the ground up and eventually have solid foundation to eventually reach the stars.

 

Space Shuttle Flyover

Viral

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Viral Videos. They have allowed unknown musical artists to thrive (Justin Bieber) and spur political movements (Kony Day). It is by simple chance that we become exposed to a video which may be of great importance or relevance which otherwise would have silently died away in the depths of the internet domain. In my life I have greatly ignored “YouTube sensations” or other viral videos which seem to pop up out of nowhere, then disappear just as mysteriously into the void. What prompted me to break from my usual habit of ignorance, I know not. But it was a profound choice. People post videos on social media sites like Facebook on a regular basis and I have been so inundated by mindless noise that this video has once again given me hope for the power of the global network.

 

I first came by the video through a friend whom I have never known to personally ask something unless it is of great importance. Before viewing the video I was puzzled at why, when prompted to do so, my friend could give no more detail other than “I can’t explain why, you MUST see this video”. I had scolded him at the time yet now when I ask my friends and colleagues to view the video I can say no more than he. Although made for a predominantly gay friendly audience, this video and the story it tells does not solely within the LGBT community. The beginning line does not say “Only gays will understand this story”, it simply said “What if tragedy struck the one you loved?” I myself thought it to be simply a general romantic video until it explicitly took a turn towards advocacy.

 

This video touched me in a way that no internet video, television show, or movie has done so in the past or may well do so in the future. No man or woman should have to go through anything remotely similar to this man’s story. I have known that such situations have transpired, but this particular story was so effective because it conveyed such as sense of reality that one really thinks, “This can really happen to me.” From my perspective, the order by which one can convey the greatest sense of reality to the audience and illicit an emotional response is numbers, written language, spoken word, pictures, video, and experiencing it for oneself. The use of home videos and pictures effectively portrays the narrator and his life as no different from any of the viewers. So “real” and convincing was the video that it has actually prompted me to write my own personal will that, although not an official legal document, somewhat puts my mind to ease that I could avoid this situation from ever happening to or to those whom I care for.

 

I am a peaceful man, but the one subject who can anger me to such a high degree is that of uncaring and unsupportive parents. I hold no pity in my heart for a mother who lost a son for whom she held in such disapproving contempt. People have unfortunate accidents all the time and while heartbreaking and painful, it was the actions and words of the son’s parents which made the situation into the utter disaster depicted in this video. I simply cannot comprehend how a father could threaten a lover with violence for attending the funeral of a man he intended to be his husband. To disapprove is one thing, but to convey such a sense of hatred towards one’s own child is deplorable. As a teenager, to see love met equally with hate conjures feelings I cannot begin to describe. So I ask my readers, the adults of the world, do not permit the circumstances which led to this video continue either socially or legally. For if it could happen to him; it could happen to you.

Rise

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I created my blog last year after the 10 year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and was therefore unable to make a blog post related to them. But this year provides me a unique opportunity to really explore the key premise of all my blog posts; to show my readers “an adult’s world through a teenager’s eye”. Seeing how this is the last year that I will legally be a child, I see no better time to provide my viewpoints surrounding the history since these events. I have the unique perspective of being alive at the time yet not remembering a thing. This means I have the writing and communication abilities necessary for this topic while still maintaining that innocence of the younger generation who increasingly see 9/11 as just another part in a history book.

 

It seems the prevailing idea of most adults over the past decade or so has been the notion that everything is falling. From the Twin Towers, to governments, to morality and the world economy, everything is falling. Even hope itself is said to be descending with increasing rapidity. But I am here to tell the story of something that through all this has been silently rising without many of us noticing. I think it is about time we talked about something rising in our nation; One World Trade Center, New York City. I am positive that many of my fellow classmates would initially be shocked by this statement and indeed even I was ignorant of this until a year ago. I had always assumed the site where the World Trade Center once stood had and would remain an empty lot for possibly decades. This however could not be farther from the truth, for from the ashes and deformed steel, something is rising to reclaim the sky once lost.

 

The new World Trade Center is a collection of newly erected skyscrapers and at its centerpiece stands Freedom Tower. The One World Trade Center overlooks the scars left behind by the Twin Towers and after its completion in 2013 will be the third tallest building in the world. This is no small feat and to see something rising once again in New York City shows how we are here to stay and will not see our nation fall. This video, showing in construction up until this point, is a hopeful reminder that what once fell we can rebuild. From ground zero to towering high at 1,776 feet (not a coincidence), from the brink of global economic collapse, we will rise. So I ask now, do not think of all the things that have fallen in our lifetimes, but think of all the things yet to rise in our future. This as teenagers optimism that I wish to share with you, that no matter how much we fall either as a nation or an individual, WE WILL RISE.

World Trade Center Commemorative Time-Lapse

Respectable Politics

First off, I would like to say welcome back my readers. This short hiatus has seen many changes throughout the world, so I will dispense with the pleasantries and dive right into things.

I assume that (hopefully) all of my readers are by now aware of Paul Ryan being chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate for Mitt Romney. Now since that announcement, and even well before, many conservative voices have been criticizing President Obama on his economic, fiscal, and foreign policies. I would like to take this time to reiterate that I consider myself to be an apolitical person. However I have lately become desensitized and at times disgusted by the constant “complaining” that is occurring amongst the ranks of the GOP. Ambiguous and heated criticisms followed by even more ambiguous defenses have become the norm in politics and has made it impossible for an undecided voter such as myself (although not eligible to vote in 2012) to form a logical opinion of either candidate. This changed this week, however, and came from a most unlikely source; Newsweek.

My family has had a subscription to the Newsweek magazine for well over three decades, of which, only about the previous three have been read by me. I had come to form the opinion that Newsweek was predominantly biased towards a more liberal view of world news. My perception was shattered by the latest issue where the cover article quite bluntly put it “Hit the Road, Barack: why we need a new president.” I was almost certain this would be just another conservative rant and had no intention to read it, but I consider the writers of Newsweek to be an educated and informed group who would adhere to that most basic of middle school principals; claim and proof. I encourage my readers who receive Newsweek to read this article if they have not or for others to subscribe because this article was welcome example of what a respectable and measured political article should be.

The author, Niall Ferguson, admits that President Obama is an excellent orator, campaigner, and visionary while presenting his argument for his removal in a detailed and concise way. Ferguson provides statistical data, quotes, and good persuasive skills to move me to the conclusion that, should the election be held tomorrow, I would cast my ballot for the Romney/Ryan ticket. The three main issues that I agreed with were centered on Entitlements, Bureaucracy, and Foreign Policy. Too many times has my mom come home from the hospital where she works and described the constant scene of patients on disability benefits that do are not impaired in any way or Medicaid patients who are then seen driving out of the parking lot in a BMW or Mercedes. The system of entitlements is broken and this article makes a good case for the reforms that Representative Paul Ryan has put forth. From school district policy to the tax code, bureaucracy has always escaped me. Saying you cannot put lead in children’s toys is one thing, but to require a permit for a lemonade stand is beyond pushing it. The larger a bureaucracy grows, the slower things get done. I cannot think of an example where this would not be the case. Now finally to foreign policy, Ferguson is right when he says that were it President Bush who was constantly sending assassination drones on a daily basis, the uproar would be immense. Half of Mali is in control of Al-Qaeda, Syria is in more of a bloody civil war than Libya ever was, and Palestine is a country weather you like it or not. Can someone please explain the logic behind the inaction on these issues?

In no way am I trying to sully the good name of President Obama. He is a well-intentioned man who would do better good as the Secretary General of the United Nations rather than a two term president. In my study of history I have found that Democrats are good world leaders while Republicans tend to be better domestic leaders. My assessment of these two candidates for this post completely excluded all social and related issues and was based solely on economics. In this day and age however, voters have to take both into account and this assessment is therefore theoretical in nature. But it provides a good starting point for the issues that should matter more than religion, marriage, etc. I do not envy the choice the voters of 2012 face. Good luck my friends and I hope you try to see the larger picture of what a President must accomplish.

 

Newsweek

Final Reflection

 

This will be my final blog post until the end of summer. I would like to take this time to reflect upon my time in my 11th grade English class; my experiences and my thoughts. This year has seen great change in some areas and absolute stagnation in others. Although reading, writing, blogging and so on are all included within an English course, my experiences with each of these aspects has varied substantially.

 

When I first came to this class I had (to the no doubt utter amazement of my instructor) never read a book outside of a school/educational environment. Some students say this for dramatic effect while not actually being true; however, in all honesty I never once took up reading a book just for the sake of enjoyment. When I say I have “read” the complete Harry Potter series and A Series of Unfortunate Events what I mean is that I have had them read aloud to me. I did not actually read page by page like any avid reader. I had no intention of changing my posture on reading when entering class until my teacher made it a requirement to read at least two books per semester and to then give a presentation. One could easily have gotten around this assignment by simply reading any number of online summaries, but her vigilance in keeping everyone on task prompted me to take up her offer. Since I had never read for pleasure I was at a disadvantage in that I had no idea of what type of book to read. I had always thought that the types of books one reads was some great mystery that took years of trial and error to get right. I was doomed to fail before I even began. But I took a leap of faith and walked over to her bookshelf, which at the time seemed as vast and confusing as the Library of Congress. An outstanding revelation came to me as I perused through the rows of novels; why did the genre of book I like have to be any different from my other interests in life? Such a simple concept that would start to change my thinking of how I read for the rest of the year. It now became almost too easy for me to choose a book which I would have interest in. I am Buddhist so I read Siddhartha, I speak French so I read Le Grand Meaulnes, I am interested in science-fiction/alternate futures so I read The Handmaids Tale, and I am now in the process of reading The Zimmermann Telegram because of my interest in military history. Everything must have a beginning and this is but the start of my true reading life. I still would not choose to read for the sake of reading, but I can at least now choose a book which I will thoroughly enjoy within a day of being asked to do so. I hope this transformation will continue as I will have the same English teacher my senior year.

 

Whereas my reading skills have started their growth, my writing skills have not progressed whatsoever. It is hard for writing skills to improve when I have only written 2 essays over the duration of the school year, neither of which was returned with any feedback. Weekly vocabulary quizzes have given me a somewhat wider vocabulary range, but I still am as slow a writer as ever, taking hours to do even this blog post. I doubt I will ever truly learn how to make my hands keep up with my every pulsating mind. The teenager in me has absolutely no problem with this lack of writing practice, but the realist in me knows that my grades in college will be dependent upon my writing skills and although I produce good papers, it will take me at least 4 times as long as a typical student. Perhaps that is simply just my process and should not be tampered with.

 

Although I am rather good at it, English has never been my favorite class to go to on any given school day. Thankfully my teacher hates the concept of giving grades in English as much as I do and does not assign “busy work”. When she has assigned work it has been for a meaningful purpose that actually is necessary to further comprehend a literary work. Although I did not enjoy the books done in class (The Great Gatsby, The Secret Life of Bees, Cannery Row), the methods used for teaching them made English somewhat bearable and even enjoyable at times. Open class discussion. So many teachers rely on writing assignment after assignment which only shows what we know and does not spur critical thinking. But when we have extended class discussion time it allows us to bounce off the ideas of one another and see things that otherwise would have remained unclear. Students know how other students think and can communicate concepts and ideas that a teacher may not have the ability to do.

 

Some of my readers may be familiar with TED talks, or Technology Education & Design. My teacher is absolutely fascinated and enthusiastic about TED talks and believes that they can be incorporated into an English class. She has made it a habit of showing TED talks at least once a week and then having us write a response as part of our daily journal. I loathe days when we must watch TED talks. They can be quite interesting to watch, but they are so confusing and somewhat irrelevant that it is almost impossible for me to “respond”. Inspirational though they may be, the ambiguous talks lead to even more ambiguous discussions in class trying to comprehend them.

 

I have spent some length of time talking about my general dislike of the English language. But in no way am I saying this translates into a bad student. I do my work regardless of if I like the subject. I perceive myself not an excellent student for one main reason. An excellent student performs above and beyond what is being asked of him/her. I on the other hand do what is asked of me by the teacher and call it a day. So many students ask me (for all my subjects) what extra work, tutoring, etc. I do to get the grades I do. I tell them the simple fact that all one needs to do is what is asked of them and they will succeed. My teacher can trust me to do what is asked of me and I hope this trust carries over as I have her again next year. I have grown to be more assertive in my communication with others and to take a more active voice rather than a passive one. Some of this may be due to the constant arguments between students in class, but the result cannot be denied.

 

When one thinks of an English class images of books, paper, pens, and rather austere classrooms that have not changed in the last 50 years. This could not be further from the truth in my English class. The ultimate love of any teenager in the 21st century is technology and my teacher has taken note of that. A completely paperless class where I only bring my laptop has greatly increased my interest in the class and how technology can be incorporated into all school subjects. Technology such as emails, blogs, class websites and so on have allowed for greater access to our teacher and each other. Turning in and grading homework electronically allows for greater flexibility and a true transition to how work is done in the real world. The willingness of the teacher to use technology to its full potential in a classroom has been the best experience in any of the English classes I have taken in my lifetime.

 

Teenagers seem to have an innate predisposition to completely ignore anyone older than them. Even getting sophmores to listen to juniors is an arduous task.  That being said, if any future students are reading this I have one simple piece of advice. This advice may seem too simple and somewhat obvious but you would be surprised how many future students, regardless of this advice, will not follow it. Ms.Lahaise does not assign hard work, nor is it numerous. Just do what you are told and be open to adapt to a new learning environment and you will succeed in not only this class, but others as well. It is a student’s unwillingness to change from class to class, subject to subject, that I find most hinders them. Good Luck and God’s Speed. To you as well as me.

 

Inspirational Wallpaper

In Memoriam

Some of my readers may remember a previous blog post I did this past Veterans Day. Today we receive yet another day off from work and/or school for a different military holiday, Memorial Day. Now, one of the most common questions that one asks regarding these holidays is “What is the difference?” They seem as if it is just one holiday which repeats itself just to give us a little break. However the distinction between these two holidays is as large as the difference between life and death, quite literally. Veterans Day is a broader holiday that is meant to honor all men and women, both past and present, who have every served in the United States Armed Services. Memorial Day on the other hand specifically is meant to be a day to honor those soldiers who have died in the line of duty. There is one problem however in this modern day in that most of us have not even mourned at a funeral for a family member until adulthood, so how can we mourn for someone whom we have never met? Death is such an abstract concept to most Americans, especially children and teenagers.

 

I am not innocent in this. As much as people love to talk about the grand size of the military complex, only about 2% of the population actually serves in the military. We seem to be so numb and indifferent to death because death is something that is so remote and far away. We read in textbooks about the 600,000 who died in the Civil war, the 58,000 who died in Vietnam, or the 4,487 in Iraq. It is hard for one to feel such a deep respect and mourn for a number. A soldier actually dying is thought to be something that occurs only in movie theaters. Too few of us (thankfully) personally know someone who has died while serving in the military.

 

So the question is; how do we make Memorial Day more than just a three day weekend for Barbeques, vacations, and sales at retail stores?  In the past I was quite indifferent towards Memorial Day and thought of it as any other random holiday to make a three day weekend.  How I came about to feel so strongly about this holiday occurred four years ago when I and my classmates went to visit Washington D.C.. We had been warned about Arlington National Cemetery being a place where few people go without crying, but it seemed like a simple overreaction. I knew it was big but what I saw was overwhelming for my young eyes. The picture for this blog as actually taken by me at the cemetery and I feel captures the gravity of what I felt. Rows upon rows of white tombstones far as the eye can see with pink cherry blossom trees scattered throughout. And when I say as far as the eye can see a mean that quite literally, the graves continued beyond my field of vision. I was surrounded by nothing but graves with seemingly no end in sight. And then of course there is the new section for those from Iraq and Afghanistan. Seeing new graves being dug out and the families weeping by the tombstones made me realize that each one of these soldiers had a family, someone they left behind in their stead. It took over one million dead soldiers for me to have the life I have now, over one million. The least I or any of us can do is remember that.

 

Arlington National Cemetery