Technology in the Classroom:
Article by Sodi Kroehler
In April of 1635, Boston Latin School became the first public school in America. Since then, through the efforts of many, and even greater fortunes, our grade school education now encompasses some 98,817 schools, costing the US some 625 billion dollars a year. It is a central part of both our economy, social structure, and national culture. Rightly so, for that matter, since education is our main preparation for the future.
But in a stark contrast to the time and money that we dump into it, our education system is surprisingly underdeveloped. We still follow outdated and sometimes illogical methods and ideals, in the heedless pursuit of the protection of tradition. We rely on a schedule based on the agricultural community and a bell structure pulled straight from the industrial age. We retain these vestiges not because we believe that they are effective, but more because changing to something else incites fear. Indeed there are times when this illiberal approach creates structure, facilitating the learning and peace of those involved. But this does not extend to all facets of the system. In fact, there are some serious, even underlying elements of our education system that need serious addressing.
And yes, a principle motive of me writing this piece was to get school shut down tomorrow so I can finish my overdue English assignment.
Put simply, the issue is this: In the world that we live in today, we are nearly inseparable from technology. Beyond the finstas and snapscores that we could probably live without comes a host of other functions that have become customary in society today. But nevertheless, we retain the idea that this tech life cannot carry over pure academics with any positive result! Sure, we tape it across like a neon band-aid – with video integration and “dropboxes” to submit papers, but we keep the two ideas divorced.
But technology, when applied properly, has revolutionized so many of our other fields of life. The automation of manufacturing, for example, did not just reduce costs – it shaped the culture of America, and indirectly the whole world! Sports have been redefined, with statistics and comparisons that seem almost second nature to us, but were almost unheard of a century prior. Through individuals and companies noticing a problem and creating something to remedy that, we saw a tremendous increase in so many different fields.
But we have yet to see this spread into the world of education. Perhaps this is because of the lack of the private sector in the field, along with the currents of supply and demand that that entails. Yet, maybe, and much more likely, it is because the problems that can be dealt with by technology are not regarded as grand enough to warrant the effort.
But there are most certainly problems, and not insignificant ones at that. Teachers are overloaded and underpaid, earning 19 percent less than similarly educated peers in other fields. Violence, although addressed often and in much detail, continues to haunt our halls. There are improvements that need to be made, and yet far too often we turn to the same paths that have already been used, unsuccessfully I might add, to try to remedy them.
But with the right tools, technology could revolutionize our idea of what is normal. Imagine a system where real and virtual met in a seamless bond. Where children, with the use of virtual reality, could receive their lesson from anywhere on the globe, as well as interact with their fellow students, all on a “virtual school” platform. A child would be required to “log into” his classes at predetermined times quite similar to the classes of the physical school today, where he would be able to see the rest of the people in his class, ask questions, and receive feedback from the teacher, albeit facilitated by a virtual framework. Each child could then receive a customized lesson for every subject, based on their learning style and their current comprehension of the subject as determined from testing in multiple methods. Not only is greater learning achieved, but problem solving and a sense of independence is instilled in every child, and since the relationships between children are for the most part carried out over a virtual medium, violence is considerably more difficult.
Skeptics are sure to bring up the point that a system like this one would be cold and devoid of human affection or otherwise robotic in nature – likely unable to accommodate the student or the more difficult questions he may ask. This is where our understanding of the area is unformed. The cyber courses of today are often just that and could easily deter any efforts in this respect if we do not look past them. This is not the question of whether a machine can teach us or not. Machines have greater computing power than us, but do not reason, at least in this point in time, beyond the simplest of levels. This is a question of whether the 21st century mandates a change in framework. We now have an ability to set up a system wherein a teacher’s efforts and skill are maximized to the greatest extent possible, and greater learning is distributed to a greater number of children.
To those who find this preposterous – look at the children of today. Technology has been melded together into every part of their social life. Relationships are carried over from “real life” to social media, to facetimes and live streams and back again like nothing happened. If we could simply extend this to incorporate education, we could introduce not replacements to the teacher, but rather aids that create a well-rounded student. Not only that, but each student could learn at a rate that is both challenging and attainable.
But how would this affect our lives here and now? We aren’t currently in a place where we can convert all our training to online only, and many schools are nowhere close to having the funds to provide an electronic device for each child on which such a system could be installed. In contrast however, this is a mentality – a vision for the future that if embraced will benefit no matter how it is implemented. It is a call to encourage both teacher and student alike to embrace the faulty attempts at cyber classes, fraught with difficulty as they are. They will improve – technology always has. It is our job to insure that technology continues to grow and mature to the point that it can be the mother to our own children’s inventions, and we can do this job but constantly seeking to improve that which we already have.
Perhaps it is indeed preposterous to assume that the idea of “virtual school” would actually be both effective and socially fulfilling. Even if there was a professional opinion on the matter, our future is fluid and unpredictable. Regardless, technology can greatly help us, if we are willing to embrace its challenges and give it enough time to grow into our needs.
The Electoral College of the United States of America-
An Unfair System of Patriotism Imbued in Bigotry
Article by Henry Smith
Illustration by Madison Reck
To be forthright, it would be admittedly easy for me, as the author of this article, to use my writing platform to clobber the Electoral College as an upset liberal holding a grudge. I could easily whine that Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton should have won the 2016 Presidential Nomination, blaming the Electoral College for Clinton’s loss despite her advantage of nearly three million votes over her opponent Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump. Yes, I surely could make this argument, but I will not. To do so would effect no change, hold no weight--like it or not, Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States. What I will do, however, is argue the incapability of the United States Electoral College in gauging the intentions of the American electorate--the founding objective of the system itself--by providing both historical and statistical evidence. As a reader, I hope that you can do the same as I have done, placing your biases aside to read the article for what it is--an appeal to what is just, what is logical.
When weighing whether the American electorate should alone be able to determine the future leader of the United States through a popular vote, founding father James Madison cautioned against “Negroes” posing a “difficulty... of a serious nature.” Madison and his colleagues, disputing this conjecture at the 1787 Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, had trouble deciding how much power should be placed in the hands of the everyday American. For the slave-owning Virginian who would become known as the prided “Father of the Constitution” did not waver in revealing the intentions of his proposed creation--the Electoral College-- in his speech, citing it as a remedy of the South’s “...no influence in the election on the scores of Negroes.” Despite Madison’s glaringly obvious intentions, some would still be quick to credit Madison for his advocating on behalf of the black slaves who populated the South. Such an assertion, however, could be immediately overturned, as Madison did not treat these slaves as beings, as people, but rather as votes--in fact, 3/5ths of a vote; and to throw more gasoline on the fire, Madison’s plan did exactly as it was intended, ensuring that his home state of Virginia would become colonial America’s electoral powerhouse.
Today, well over 200 years since Madison’s racist political manipulation, I am overwhelmingly proud and appreciative, as most others are, to live in a country which our black neighbors are not slaving on plantations, but thriving on the forefront of society, pushing boundaries and not looking back. Why should we, as a country, allow this irrefutably racist vestige of slavery to continue to exert its control over the American electorate? Why are we electing our most powerful national officials through a system that had counted some of those around us as only 3/5ths of a person?
The Electoral College, to be blunt, is an institution that remains largely mysterious to a vast sector of the American public. In fact, a 2009 study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) found that 43% of Americans did not know that the Electoral College serves in electing the President of the United States. Taking into consideration this haunting reality, it is important to note some key background information regarding the institution. To start off, each state receives a minimum of three electoral votes, as the number of electoral votes in a state is simply equal to the number sum of the state’s two senators and representatives, which varies depending upon the population in the given state. Thus, there are 538 total electoral votes, equal to the number of total United States congressmen (including the District of Columbia's three electoral votes), and 270 of these electoral votes must be obtained by a presidential candidate to clinch the presidency. In every state except for Maine and Nebraska, the “winner take all” fashion of the Electoral College allots all of the state’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the respective state.
With this description in mind, you are likely wondering how the electoral college can possibly be unfair; after all, a sizable proportion of the total electoral votes are solely based around the United States population (around 81%). You may even be wondering why California’s hefty 55 electoral votes should have such a large bearing on the election, while small states such as North Dakota and Vermont are left with a measly three votes apiece. Frankly, such a view is ignorant in the fashion that it fails to take into consideration the fact that California’s population is more than 28 times larger than the population of these two states combined. However, California receives only a bit over nine times the electoral votes of the votes of these small states--why is this so? For the institution of the Electoral College is so often falsely painted as incentivizing the larger states, but, in fact, it does just the opposite: it satisfies the smaller ones. Why should a vote in Wyoming be worth more than three times a vote in California, Florida, Texas, or New York? It should not, plain and simple.
As I recall, we, as Americans, have tried to hold the right to vote over the heads of those of darker skin colors and those of the female gender--why are we now most clearly allowing our Electoral College to discriminate based upon geographic location, as it has so done for more than 200 years?
Confession (Part 2):
To be practical, the Electoral College is not an institution that will be unanimously thrown out overnight, but rather one that will take hard work and steadfast dedication to wipe from our American slate. “But is such an exhausting fight even worth the outcome,” you likely ask. To me, as long as there are people in the United States of America whose votes do not count as much as others, the battle is worth waging. A young American citizen myself, I hope to grow up in a society in which our differences are viewed as some of our greatest strengths; and I firmly believe that the first step in adopting this ideology is to abolish the disgraceful American Electoral College.
How much is your vote worth? The above chart indicates how many eligible voters a single elector in each given U.S. state represents. Below each of these values is the number of electors assigned to each state.
Citations of Sources (APA):
1. Amar, A. R. (2016, November 08). Election 2016: The Real Reason the Electoral College Exists. Retrieved January 08, 2018, from http://time.com/4558510/electoral-college-history-slavery/
2. Cowan, S. K., Doyle, S., & Heffron, D. (2008, November 01). Op-Chart: How Much Is Your Vote Worth? Op-Chart. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/11/02/opinion/20081102_OPCHART.html
3. Distribution of Electoral Votes. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/allocation.html
4. Kelkar, K. (2016, November 06). Electoral College is 'vestige' of slavery, say some Constitutional scholars. Retrieved January 08, 2018, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/electoral-college-slavery-constitution
5. Soni, J. (2012, November 06). What Is The Electoral College? How It Works And Why It Matters. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/06/what-is-the-electoral-college_n_2078970.html
6. Study: Americans Don't Know Much About History. (2009, January 26). Retrieved January 25, 2018, from https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Study-Americans-Dont-Know-About-Much-About-History.html
Obama vs. Trump
Article by Henry Smith
Illustration by Madison Reck
It is well known that our country has, and still continues to undergo profound change; change due to a peaceful transition of power that is the essence of United States democracy itself. But besides the acclaimed memes of President Obama and Vice President Biden or the overused saying “thanks, Obama,” do we really know what differences a Trump presidency will usher into our country? While some may be able to ignorantly retort that Trump is a Republican and wants to “build the wall” or “make America great again,” a deeper understanding is necessary to fathom the enormity of the impact that President Trump and his administration will have on the United States for the upcoming four years of his term. Included below are a few major United States policies and brief descriptions of each indicating how policy will change under President Trump.
Protecting the Environment: Full Flip
President Obama and President Trump are indisputably on opposite poles regarding the necessity for environmental regulations; while President Obama asserts that “climate change is a fact,” President Trump conversely contends that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese.” During his Presidency, Obama established innumerable policies regarding safeguarding the nation’s environment, whether it was providing upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, establishing a “Pollinator Health Task Force” to restore the health of endangered honeybees by 2025, or protecting thousands of miles of wilderness in nine states. Furthermore, perhaps President Obama’s effort that gained the most attention from the media was the Paris Agreement through which 195 different countries agreed to reduce carbon emissions. Will these policies regarding the continued preservation of the environment be maintained under President Trump? Highly unlikely. President Trump, rather than fostering the expansion of the renewable energy industry, has called himself the “last shot for the miners.” In addition, President Trump has nominated Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Pruitt, a skeptic of global warming, has called the debate regarding the legitimacy of climate change “far from settled.”
Gun rights: Not Even Close
During the contentious general election campaign between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the National Rifle Association (NRA) backed Trump as its champion of the second amendment. However, the NRA had a different view of President Obama during his presidency, viciously maintaining that President Obama’s “contempt for the Second Amendment” had turned lawful gun-owning citizens into “scapegoats.” Under President Obama’s administration, virtually all efforts to expand background checks, place greater restrictions on online gun sales, and provide greater funding for mental health treatment were swiftly struck down by Congress; regardless, President Obama stood firm on his efforts to place tougher restrictions on obtaining guns, comparing his push for gun control to “keeping children from opening bottles of aspirin.” President Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t see these gun safety measures as common sense, noting that “gun and magazine bans... are a total failure.” Further, President Trump has been quick to call out President Obama’s “overreaching, executive actions” on guns, and made sure to assure Americans that “thankfully, we now have the opportunity to reverse course.”
Women’s Rights: Blatant Opposites
“We are better off when women are treated fairly and equally,” President Obama maintained during his eight years in office, rivaling Trump’s notoriously vulgar comments regarding women. During his administration, President Obama allotted more than $500 million a year to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides mammograms, birth control, STI testing, and numerous other services to Americans, especially women; President Obama also did not waver on the controversial Roe v. Wade case that guarantees women the right to an abortion despite disapproval from congressional Republicans. On the other hand, President Trump has had quite a record of bad relations with women, calling women “pigs,” “slobs,” and “disgusting animals,” in addition to being accused of rape on numerous occasions. Nonetheless, President Trump said during his campaign that the overturning of Roe v. Wade “will happen, automatically,” and seems poised to defund Planned Parenthood in coordination with congressional Republicans.
1. Nelson, A. (2016, October 10). 15 things Obama has done for the environment. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/things-obama-has-done-environment
2. Barack Obama on Gun Control. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Barack_Obama_Gun_Control.htm
3. Obama Administration Moves To Protect Planned Parenthood's Federal Funding. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/14/505595090/obama-administration-moves-to-protect-planned-parenthoods-federal-funding
4. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://presidential-candidates.insidegov.com/compare/1-70/Barack-Obama-vs-Donald-Trump