Thursday, June 21, 2012

Week 6

This weeks reading by Brian Clegg, Armageddon Science, really demonstrates how interconnected the world of science and the social studies are. The book discusses possible causes of the end of the world including man made causes and natural causes. What interests me most is natural causes and climate change. Natural disasters and climate change have already shown their effects and are something the government and society are intricately involved in. For example, Hurricane Katrina was widely discussed as being severely mismanaged by government organizations. Not only was the city not prepared for such a large scale disaster, but relief efforts were not as efficient as they could have been. Then take the earthquake in Haiti. Another terrible tragedy caused by a natural disaster that no one was prepared for. My opinion is that climate change is the scenario that we need to be most concerned about. We have already seen the devastation that these disasters can cause, destroying entire cities and even countries. A tsunami has already even damaged a nuclear disaster in Japan showing that one of these natural disasters even has the ability to release a man made disaster on top of that. I believe students should understand the role the government has in collaborating in an attempt to reduce pollution and human causes of weather change. They should also understand how their own habits can effect weather change.

Discussion Question #2:
Based on the concept of "mutually assured destruction", do you believe if all countries had a nuclear weapon and were equally armed, there would be safety and security? Think about areas where everyone can carry a gun, you never want to cause problems because you don't know who is armed.

I do think that this scenario would allow for some safety. If every country had an equal quantity of nuclear weaponry, any nation who used their weapons would face retaliation and cause a nuclear world war... maybe Armageddon. It is less likely that a nation would take that risk however I find many problems with this scenario. First, most nation will not simply settle on having an equal amount of nuclear weapons. Power is an integral part of humanity and politics. The graph shown in the Prezi reveals just how important having more nuclear weapons than other nations is. Second, all it takes is one wrong decision for something disastrous to happen. The United States has no control over the governments of other nations. If all nations have nuclear arms we are basically trusting that the rulers of every nation will not make the decision to use their weapons. Finally, I believe that even though the technicalities of the situation may logically make the situation safer, there would be a culture of fear throughout the world knowing that all of our enemies have access to technology that can literally destroy the world. The average citizen may begin to live in fear whenever there was some conflict. It would be an unhealthy (mentally and emotionally) culture.

It is obvious that these topics of science should definitely be discussed in a social studies class. This topic lends itself perfectly to collaboration between a social studies and science class.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week 5

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity gave very interesting insights into how today's media is affecting American society and changing values. What stands out to me most in this book is the idea of the celebrity residual. Celebrity residual is a star's undeserved fame. The public cares about a star's personal life and the everyday aspects of their life. We are obsessed with what they are doing, what they are eating, what they are wearing, where they are going, rather than with their talents and abilities. It seems like popularity can be a talent all in its own. Take reality television as an example. People like the Kardashians, the Jersey Shore cast, and the Teen Mom cast exhibit no extraordinary talents. However, society still looks at them as stars, and follows their every move. These people are stars using nothing but celebrity residual. What worries me about this phenomenon is the effect on today's youth. Stars are role models for children and adolescents. When people can become stars without having made any accomplishments, what does that say to children? I think it relays the message that you don't need to contribute to society or have any accomplishments in order to be successful or important. Using the example of Teen Mom, there were high school girls across the country who became pregnant in an attempt to be more like the cast of this reality show. While it may seem silly to an adult to want to be like someone on Teen Mom or Jersey Shore, it is not silly to adolescents to look up to these stars. I believe these shows are sending the wrong messages to youth and that we as teachers need to be aware of the celebrities that our students idolize. Who these students idolize can tell us a lot about our class, their values, and aspirations.

Discussion Questions #8:
People enjoy sharing cultural experiences. It enables us to have commonalities with others, make friends, establish taste, and build social networks.Discussing celebrity is one thing that people have as a common 'cultural experience'. Celebrity permeates society and it generates billions of dollars a year. However, many people look at celebrity as frivolous and celebrity has not been examined seriously or judged to be a significant part of society. Do you agree with Currid-Halkett that celebrity should be taken seriously as a part of modern culture and be studied in depth, or do you believe it is frivolous?  

I think celebrity, as far as celebrity residual, should be frivolous. However, I know that it is a major part of American culture. No matter where you go you are bombarded by celebrity. On the internet, on the television, at line in the grocery store. I find even myself sometimes thinking when making a purchase, "Oh, that's the one with Beyonce in the commercial, it must be good." People look up to celebrities and want to be like them, it is important that we as a society understand the effect celebrity has on us and how it changes the way we interact with each other and make important decisions. I see an extension of the "keeping up with the Jones" mentality, except now the Jones's are movie stars.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Week 4

This week's reading, You Are Not a Gadget, seemed very cynical to me. Though I did not do the actual reading, the research I did and the conversation we had on Big Blue Button lead me to understand that Jaron Lanier's book was somewhat of a rant on the negative effects of technology in today's culture. Personally, I never like to look at just the negative side of everything. For example, Lanier believes that technology leads to a lack of creativity in today's youth. I disagree with this. Those who have access to and understand how to use technology have so many more outlets for creativity. A child interested in writing poetry or in journalism can create blogs or websites where they can show their work to true audiences. Students interested in film, photography, art, music all can use technology to their advantage. Perhaps it is the lack of access to technology that inhibits creativity, but by no means is technology itself to blame. Lanier also mentions "collectivism" referring websites such as Wikipedia, where information can be edited by anyone and is accepted as fact. I think it is a benefit that any person who can connect to the internet can have access to knowledge and information from people all over the world. Rather than simply point out how technology is ruining society, we should be thinking of ways to engage the positive aspects of technology. Students should be learning how to verify online sources and be sure they are credible. There are far more sources available online, than in a student's local library.

Discussion Question # 8
Despite all of the negativity surrounding technology, do you think that it's actually a testament to our society's creativity and advancement progression?

I completely agree that technology is a testament to human creativity and progress. Not less than 10 years it would have been impossible to whip out an iphone and video chat with your friend who lives across the ocean on another continent. While Lanier believe technology takes away individualism and makes relationships less "human" I believe technology has the ability to do the opposite. Sure, maybe I don't actually talk to most of my Facebook "friends" but when a close friend moves to another country, or when I make connections while traveling, I have the ability to remain in close contact with these people. I'm not the most technologically savvy person, however I do know that technology has brought huge progress to civilization worldwide and allowed a globalized society that could not exist without modern technology. Everything comes with pros and cons, but as far as I'm concerned, the pros of technology far outweigh the cons. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Week 3

While researching this weeks reading, Garland's Peculiar Institution, what I found most interesting was not the topic of capital punishment itself, but the approach to understanding and drawing conclusions about capital punishment. Garland takes a very scientific approach to the topic. He looks at the history of capital punishment, makes cross-cultural comparisons, analyzes statistics, and attempts to understand the reason why capital punishment exists the way it does today without ever truly drawing an opinion on whether capital punishment is morally right or morally wrong. For example, Garland brings up the fact that the United States is the only Western nation that still practices capital punishment. He also presents statistics showing that capital punishment is not effective at retribution or deterrence, which are its two major purposes. Garland also presents the sociological and cultural factors surrounding capital punishment. Garland only criticizes the institution after bringing all of this information together. He never makes a moral decision on the topic, only an intellectual decision.  

Being able to be impartial and critical of any controversial topic is a quality that I would like to bring into a classroom. Before drawing conclusions and making judgments students should learn to look at all of the facts and attempt to understand as much background information about an issue as possible. I would hope that Garland's approach would be a great example for students to model their own research and inquiries on. I hope to also be able to model this approach for my students so that they understand the intellectual side of an issue before making moral judgments.

Discussion Question #6 states:
The book notes that the death penalty has only been successfully justified based on a "will of the people" argument - that is, the people want it, and the courts must respect that. Do you agree with this or disagree, and why?

I do agree with statement because there is no evidence to prove the effectiveness of capital punishment. However, I don't believe that the "will of the people" argument is invalid. Unless the Supreme Court rules that capital punishment is unconstitutional and a violation of our human rights or rights as American citizens, the decision should be left up to the people. A judgment call should not be left to the political elite. In a government made for, by, and of the people, the people should be able to influence policy makers one way or the other.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 2

This week's topic, the financial crisis, was probably one of the most difficult concepts I've tried to learn about and understand. From what I've researched, it seems as though All the Devils are Here is one of the most concise and easy to follow books that explains and discusses the financial crisis. If I were to use this book in the classroom it would likely be merely to get background information for myself and to help me understand the issue and feel more confident about teaching and discussing the issue with my students. The part of the reading that I find most interesting is the explanation of the events leading up to the financial crisis and the authors' idea of the changing culture of America. We discussed the idea in class and one of the authors, Bethany McLean also mentions in her questions and answer session with C-SPAN. What McLean believes is that the concept of the American Dream has shifted. Many American's dream of owning a home. However, is it possible that the dream went from the belief that we must work hard to reach that goal to the belief that we are entitled to home ownership amongst other things. This idea presented in the book I believe would make a great discussion in a classroom.

Honestly, I had trouble trying to learn about All the Devils are Here and the financial crisis. I'm not sure I would ever feel comfortable teaching a classroom in depth about the issue and I'm not sure many students would be able to handle the concept in very much depth. I would most likely bring in an expert to help me with this topic if I were to teach it.

Discussion questions 7 states: 
"This book holds sacred the view that desire for increased home ownership spurred the growth of mortgage-backed-securities and subsequent other financial investments. It was with this mindset that banks and other financial institutions moved away from traditional 30-year mortgages and expanded into shady areas such as sub-prime mortgages and other predatory tactics such as hidden fees, fraudulent appraisals of homes, and robo-signing loan documents. Does the American Dream place too much emphasis on homeownership or to what extent should homeownership be encouraged on a national policy level?"

What I find most disturbing about this is not necessarily the emphasis on home ownership itself, but the way people go about achieving home ownership. In my opinion, there is an apparent culture of immediate satisfaction in America today. This leads to feelings of entitlement as Bethany McLean mentioned in her interview. While this may allow financial institutions to use predatory tactics, I think there needs to be a change in consumerism culture. Citizens should be aware of the decisions they are making and what long term effects those decisions will have. Encouraging home ownership when one does not have the means should not be practiced by any government or financial institution. Perhaps the government should promote awareness about the economy and finances so that American citizens have a better understanding of the financial decisions they are making. The media would also need to play a huge role in this shift. We cannot place blame on any one player.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 1

Of this weeks readings, I found Kelly's article to be most interesting. Kelly gave a clear argument for why a teacher should state his/her positions on controversial topics using the committed impartiality perspective. One of the factors of committed impartiality according to Kelly is mutuality. Kelly states, "Mutuality involves teachers' belief that students can make useful contributions to the learning process. Teachers show genuine respect for students' knowledge and interests, manifested in a nonimpositional, nonpatronizing style of interaction". This quote stood out to me because I believe this is one of the most important parts of teaching and the only way to have successful discussions about controversial topics in a classroom.
 I found myself agreeing with most of Kelly's reasoning throughout the article although I haven't yet been able to put the committed impartiality perspective into action in my own teaching. Kelly brings up research that says that students learn from a model, and that a teacher should be a model of how to discuss controversial topics openly, and build an educated opinion while still respected the opinion of others. It is important that students learn these skills to participate in many aspects of life and of citizenship. I also agree that by sharing their position as part of the discussion, and accepting criticism puts students at a more equal level with the teacher and makes them feel like their contribution is truly valuable. I would like to share my position with students but I always find myself feeling hesitant. I think being able to successfully take the committed impartiality perspective in the classroom is one of the major skills that I will focus on building throughout my career.