Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More Than Beautiful

     We have talked in class before about how the media helps to shape our society. In magazines, many models are seen to women and girls as the ideal human being, and many of the magazine readers strive to be like those they see. However, a girl named Madeline Stuart is changing the way our society defines "beautiful". Madeline is an 18 year old girl with down syndrome. Despite societies views on people with disabilities, Madeline is pursuing her dream of becoming a model. Madeline's goal is to change the way people view those with down syndrome, saying that "exposure will help to create acceptance". There is no doubt that there are many stereotypes regarding people with disabilities, and Madeline is working to break that barrier. Madeline has put her mind to her cause; she has made herself healthier in order to prove to people that she can be just as good as anyone. She has already gotten a few modeling gigs, and is currently looking for an agent.
    Madeline said, "It's time people realize that people with Down Syndrome can be beautiful and should be celebrated". What Madeline is doing is very courageous and is a big step forward in breaking stereotypes. It takes strength for anyone to stand up for what they believe in, but Madeline is not letting anyone stop her. Along with getting the message out that people with a disability can do anything, Madeline is also trying to inspire others to stand up and do something similar.  
     A similar event happened over at New York Fashion Week when Jamie Brewer became the first woman with down syndrome to walk the runway. Like Madeline Stuart, she stepped out of societies boundaries and made a change. Brewer was described as "an absolute star", not only for being present at the event but also because she is an activist for people with disabilities. I believe that these two women, coming out like this, will really have an impact on our society. While the typical models in a magazine may be known as beautiful, the women like Brewer and Stuart are more than beautiful because they are making a change.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hero or Traitor?

     We are all familiar with Edward Snowden, the man who released confidential NSA files to the public. He has been hiding out in Russia, however it is possible that victories could arise for him in the near future. The question still exists of whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor. While he opened the eyes of the public, he at the same time went against the government.
     One of the biggest controversies that came out of his releasing the documents was the access of the government to phone records. Many Americans were appalled by this breaching of their security, as we saw in the Perilous Times presentations. However, two weeks ago the Federal Court declared that collecting phone records without warrants was illegal. After this, companies such as Apple and Google aslo began to make their systems more difficult for the government to access. There is a very good chance that this would not have been done without Snowden releasing the files. This could be the first step to declaring other acts and actions illegal as well.
     On the other hand, while some of the releases related to Americans directly, some of the documents were said to be hurtful to the nation as a whole because they allowed other countries to see possible flaws. Some believe that ISIS could be at more of an advantage because of what Snowden leaked. Because of this, Snowden faces the possibility of arrest anywhere he goes. If this were to happen, he would return to America for a trial; one he would most likely lose.
     Even though Snowden is supposedly hiding in Russia, he has repeatedly given talks to schools internationally over camera. By doing this, he continues to open the eyes of now only American citizens but also those around the world. The director of the law program at Princeton said that the fact that Snowden's talks attract large crowds of people, "indicated that [he] has done something very important". It will be interesting to see what more come out of Snowden's actions. Will the benefits ever outweigh the consequences?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What to Name a Monkey

  Just recently, Princess Charlotte was born in England. While this was big news, a story about a baby monkey was popular too. This monkey was also named Charlotte, sharing the name with the new born princess. However, many people were upset that the monkey and the baby had the same name, and the Japanese zoo apologized for their "terrible" mistake. The zoo was told that Charlotte is a name fit for a princess, but certainly not a monkey. In the end, the royal family allowed the monkey to keep her name, and the stress died down. 
     However, it is very interesting to see that the issue of what to name a monkey took international news. It would seem that this issue is not very important, but apparently it was. I found it interesting that with all the violence with ISIS, and the struggling of the people Nepal, the story was still widely broadcasted. The zoo in Japan was described as being in "crisis mode". I find this description very surprising, because if the zoo was in crisis, then what was the state of Nepal? While the zoo was stressing over how to please its viewers, Nepal was mourning over the many people they have lost. 
    Why do "issues" like naming a monkey have so much priority in the news? It is somewhat frivolous for everyone to be so involved in news stories that have little impact on people's daily lives. Focusing on Nepal or ISIS on the other hand, is much more important. Of course this issue has now passed, so focus can return to the more pressing issues, however this is not the first and will not be the last. There are much more important matters that should always take priority. 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Illinois is Falling Behind

     It may seem obvious that schools in impoverished areas should get more support than schools in affluent communities. While many states have this sort of system in place, there are many others that don't; Illinois being one of those. During my Junior Theme research I found a source that went into depth on the rankings of each state in a few different categories. Our state is ranked 16th for the amount of funding used per student (11,330), but when it comes to funding distribution Illinois barely escapes last place, coming in 43rd. Because we attend New Trier, we don't have to worry about our education being underfunded, and this makes it harder to imagine the struggles schools undergo just 30 minutes away. Below is a portion of a table detailing the funding distribution of Illinois.

It is shocking that our state only gives 81% to schools at the 30% poverty level, and that is just an average; there are other schools that receive even lower than that despite being deep in poverty. This is partially because the core source of funding for Illinois' schools is through local funds, most often property taxes. In the North Shore, property taxes are high allowing for much higher funds for school. On the other hand, communities in nearby Chicago have property taxes much lower than ours, therefore less

school funding is available. Above is the pie chart showing the average amount of State, Federal and Local funds that go into funding our schools. While there is about a quarter of state funds, local funding clearly overpowers. This causes a problem, because if the state were ever to withdraw some of its funding, Areas with low property taxes would surely suffer. I think it is interesting how different our community is from other communities, solely based on the amount a house costs.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep

     While I was reading the book Savage Inequalities for my Junior Theme paper, I came across a section where a school teacher is reading nursery rhymes to her class of kindergartners. This class composed mostly of African-American children. The author, Jonathan Kozol, describes how each of the nursery rhymes is racist, and this is shockingly true. Take "Baa Baa Black Sheep", for example. A black sheep is being asked how much wool he has produced, to which he responds, "Yes Sir", he has a bag for his master. This parallels to slavery. As a child of course, the connection isn't made as easily, but learning this now is actually surprising. 
     This connection made me curious to see what other nursery rhymes had racist roots. I found that some nursery rhymes have had their words changed to get rid of these racist connection. Apparently some schools are teaching their children to say "Baa baa rainbow sheep" as opposed to "black" sheep. For another example, we all know the rhyme, "Ennie Meenie Miney Mo, Catch a Tiger by its Toe....". However, the original version had the "n" word instead of the word "tiger". This rhyme uses a very pointed term to make fun of an African American, showing racism. This example is obviously clearer than the Black Sheep, using pointed terms to make fun of the subject of the rhyme, an African American. These examples made me realize that racism is present in many more ways than we think.
     Of course, not all nursery rhymes are like this. However, my book also detailed how many rhymes only portray white people or subjects. Kozol uses a few examples such as "Mary had a Little Lamb", "Old Mother Hubbard" (Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her dog a bone), and "Jack and Jill". Kozol goes on to say "Mary is white. Old Mother Hubbard is white. Jack is white. Jill is white. Only Old Mother Hubbard's dog is black"(Kozol 45). I never realized how true this was until reading this book. In these rhymes, African Americans are portrayed as either animalistic, or the center of ridicule. However, while some of these rhymes show strong racism, how they have evolved also shows how our society has tried to diminish racism. These rhymes were created in a time where African Americans were seen as inferior, therefore it makes sense that children at that time would have heard them. However, even though children today cannot understand the rhymes, teachers and parents have tried to change them in order to make them less racist. This could show that the state of racism in our society has indeed improved. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

More for the Less Needy, Less for the Needier

     After day one of the Junior Theme process, I had a few topic ideas written down on my list. After going over the different aspects of each, I was able to rule all but one out: unequal education. Not too long ago, Mr. Bolos gave a presentation on the differences between Kelvin Park High School, and our own school. There was one slide that caught my eye, and gave me the idea to do this topic. This slide said that New Trier Spends, per student, roughly $21,000. This number is huge by itself, but when compared to another school, Kelvin Park, it is even bigger. Kelvin Park spends roughly $13,000 for each of its students. So why does New Trier have so much more money...and do we really need it? Not only are these numbers very far apart, but Kelvin Park is actually on the higher end of the spectrum compared to other schools. For another example, students who attend school in Evanston have approximately 290 million more dollars spent on them than students who attend some schools in Chicago. These numbers are astonishing. These findings lead me to my ultimate "why" question: Why is school funding unequal between high and low-income areas?
This graph shows the amount spent per student at schools across country. Clearly, most of the schools spend in the 5,000 dollar range. Our school would fall in the very last category, the $15,000 and over range. From all my findings, it is clear that there is unequal funding throughout the United States.
     I started my research by looking at the Illinois State Constitution. I found the state's "goal" is for all students to have an education, and for that education to be "high quality". From what I have researched so far, I have found that the state is lacking in both of these areas. There are some areas in our state where education cannot be afforded. Along with that, in areas where schools receive low funding, the education cannot be the high quality education is is supposed to be. I am eager to keep researching and uncovering the facts and make more progress to answer this question.

Monday, March 23, 2015


     This past week, Starbucks was encouraging employees to write "Race Together"on their cups. The stated goal was to encourage customers engage in discussion about race. The CEO, Howard Shultz claimed that resolving racial issues requires "risk-taking and tough-minded action". He wanted to bring his company out from the bi-stander lines and take action. However, while this goal was very prominent, it is possible that Shultz had another goal in mind. Regardless of if the campaign succeeded or not, the company would get a large amount of publicity. Sultz, being a businessman, knows that publicity is key in gaining customers. Therefore this goal could have been in the back of his mind as well. Before enacting this practice, Shultz was warned that it wouldn't succeed. Unfortunately those people were right, because just after a week, the practice ended. 
     The attempt was a good one, but the campaign received a large amount of criticism. The idea of turning a coffee shop into a place to have discussions over race, a very large topic, was disliked by many, including some of the staff. The staff played the biggest role in the #racetogether. They were encouraged to put stickers or write on every customers cup, something that took time especially during busy shifts. They were also supposed to engage in discussion with customers. This caused many to feel uncomfortable discussing their personal opinions with strangers. It is unnatural for a barista to engage in conversation other than asking how a customers day is or what coffee they want, so being instructed to do this would make them feel out of place.
     Another critique was that the plan was blown out of proportion, and not thought through well enough. In order to carry out this task, a huge amount of willful participation would have been needed, and unfortunately Shultz did not have this. Race, being such a heavy issue in our country right now, is not something that can be easily woven into peoples' everyday lives as they get their coffee. 
     Although the idea may not have gone far, I believe it was a good start. Shultz is right, many people and companies stand on the sidelines and watch the racial tension increase, but apart from protests, not much is done about it. Starbucks is a big company and taking a step like this could spark other large companies and competitors to do the same. If and when this happens, a change could be made.
Do you think Shultz's plan was worth trying? Also, what do you believe the main goal in Shultz's mind; to better of America, or to better business?