Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Naïveté and Self-Advocacy

I've learned an important lesson during the past few weeks. It turns out that I started graduate school
with a severe misconception of what it would be like. And no, I'm not talking about the general aura
that was promoted by numerous people, as well as society in general - "Graduate school will be great!
You'll love every course! Because no gen-eds!" - false, false, false, SO false.

I started graduate school assuming (gasp!) that every program would have its act together, that there
would be zero room for flexibility or individuality in terms of courses and experience, and that I could
just sit back and get my degree after giving four semesters of my time.

A little over a month ago, it became very clear that A) this assumption was false (surprise, surprise)
and B) I was likely to get screwed over by my program if I kept believing this assumption and did not
speak up for myself. In response to this, I got my act together and made a list of people to consult with
in order from low to high. I was not going to sit idly by and get looked over and forgotten by the
administrators of my program. It was time to make myself known.

Did I complain? Not really. I voiced my concerns and my disapproval of the situation. I explained that
I have high expectations for myself and I intend to hold my program to the same standards of excellence.
I hounded and followed-up and, a week ago, things were finally taken care of.

In the meantime, I have been considering what direction I want to take for my electives. For example,
there was the possibility of pursuing an emphasis on school social work and possibly earning an additional
certification. OR, there was the possibility of pursuing an emphasis on clinical issues that would be
relevant to the college student population. There was also the possibility of taking winter and summer
courses. OR, there was the possibility of only taking courses within the year so that they would be paid
for by my job. There was also the possibility of taking winter and summer courses to lighten my load during
the next year. OR, there was the possibility of taking winter and summer courses in order to make room
for additional courses during the next year.

I decided that, while I do want as many learning experiences during graduate school as possible, I also
want these learning experiences to not be paid for out of my own pocket. And that's not to mention the
frustrating possibility that additional courses do not always provide additional learning experiences (the
reason I hate institutionalized learning).

So, what have I learned?

While graduate school is simply a series of hoops to jump through, this does not mean that these hoops
are concretely established in a cookie cutter fashion. I am glad for this because I believe that education
should be able to be individualized as much as possible. However, I was surprised because graduate
school accreditation (in my case, the CSWE) is portrayed as an all-powerful outside source that dictates
what courses I can and must take, so I expected that all autonomy would be stripped from me. And this
is a really dumb assumption to have made, especially considering that my program preaches autonomy
and self-determination all day, every day. Perhaps that is why I was especially frustrated: because I felt
I was being treated in conflict with the values of my program.

What else have I learned? My program is not in conflict with the values of autonomy and self-determination,
but it is up to me to advocate for myself in order to secure opportunities to express both of these values
within my own education.

Blah blah blah. I hope that made sense.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grad School

So, grad school is weird. Not really. Kind of. Let's back up and start with something I know.

I moved on July 31st. The most time-consuming part of moving in was getting my furniture in a
configuration that I was happy with. Now that classes have started, I realize that I am unaccustomed
to not having my desk next to my bed and I have considered rearranging things to make that possible,
but I'm going to test this out for a few more weeks before I decide for sure.

My first room is L-shaped. The bottom of the L is the living/desk section with my couch, two tables,
desk, two desk chairs, and set of filing drawers. The top of the L is the storage/exercise section with
a giant bookshelf, and an extra wardrobe. Here lives my bike and yoga mat, as well as piano books
and extra school supplies. In the nook of the L is my bathroom. I am in love with my shower head.
It's the little things.

My second room is through a doorway halfway up the top of the L. The top half of this room is my
kitchen with full refrigerator, stove/oven, sink, and my own microwave and toaster oven. There's
also another table which is home to my crock pot and various dry food items. Next to my refrigerator
in the far corner of the room is a door which connects to my building's office. The bottom half of this
room is my bedroom with a wardrobe, chair, bed, and two bookshelves.

Training for my assistantship as the Resident Director for Davis Apartments started on August 1st.
There isn't much to say about that, other than the amount of time spent in training was far greater than
the amount of work I felt had been completed. Then all of the Resident Advisors arrived and it was
more of the same, other than social activity being more organized and mandated.

Move-in was surprisingly smooth, most likely because all of my staff (one ARD and five RAs) are all
returners and know what they're doing. I like them a lot.

Student Affairs and the Department of Housing and Residence Life are interesting. So far, I like it.
I can't say for sure, but I think I am more fit for the job of RD than I would have been for the job of
RA, so it's probably a good thing that I was never an RA during college, as that may have tainted my
opinion of Res Life and made me not apply for this job.

And then suddenly, after feeling like classes were ages in the future and feeling like that feeling was
a very recent feeling, classes started.

Classes started last Monday, August 27. I have a seminar and two classes on Monday, a class on Tuesday,
and field experience on Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to eight weekly staff meetings and an
online course. I don't feel too busy yet, but that may be because I had no classes today and because most
of those staff meetings won't start until tomorrow. Anyways, so far, so good, I guess. Motivation has been
extremely difficult to find, but I think that's because I've been in my own head too much lately.

For example, I was thinking about how it would have been nice to get my BSW and then only have one
additional year (...well, a summer and a year) for my MSW instead of two. But that means I would not
have been able to go to college where I did, which means I would not have met the people I did, which
means I would not have made the friends that I did, and so on.

Also, grad school is weird. Yeah, it is. Don't get me wrong, I like my classes well enough, but I think I miss
general education courses. And that feels weird. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that I miss having
a variety of Sociology, Psychology, and Social Work courses. That makes more sense.

I like feeding myself, though. A lot. I love cooking eggs and making yogurt and fresh fruit parfaits and
toast! I like my toaster oven. And pasta. And I used my crock pot last week and it was awesome.

So, aside from feeling braindead and having trouble remembering everything, having trouble finding and
maintaining motivation, and being sad in general from having to cope with such a large transition (and also
focusing on the wrong things), things are alright.

Except for the fact that doing a load of laundry will cost $3.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Not even earth can hold us
Not even life controls us
Not even the ground can keep us down
The memories in my head
Are just as real the time we spent
You always be close to me
My friend
This is not the end

(The Bravery - This is Not the End)

I'm biking. My ride today made me realize that I have an excruciatingly long way to go before I can
honestly consider myself a biker, but I'm biking. I biked a bit last summer and started again on May 23.
I started on my hand-me-down Huffy mountain bike that was far too small for me and moved on to my
mom's probably-Huffy mountain bike that was a somewhat better fit. Since July 18, I now have my
custom/hand-built road bike. Surly frame and white-taped drop handlebars. That's about all I know.
Clearly I am not a biker. Regardless, she is beautiful and I am very much in love. Tomorrow, I will get
a saddle pouch to carry my phone so that I can track my rides/climbs/speeds on Strava. Since May 23,
I've lost twenty pounds and, although still disappointingly low, my cardio endurance has dramatically

I'm back where I belong, at least temporarily. On Tuesday, I complete my move to my semi-permanent
home in Tennessee. Pretty much my entire life is in my car right now, save my computer, my bike, my
phone, and basic necessities to last me for two and a half days.

What I really need is to know my new mailing address. I can't order textbooks without it.

Yesterday was my last day (foreva'!) at the part-time job I'd had since September 2008. The part-time
job. Already is it no longer mine. One of my customers bought me a lottery ticket as a going-away present.
My customers. Still they are mine.

I'm no longer a pot-stirrer. I think. Maybe. I'm not quite sure yet. I began to suspect that I had out-grown
this characteristic when, in spite of having a personal opinion in regards to Chick-fil-a vs. Boston, I had no
desire to make it semi-public information (via Facebook). Well, I had some desire, but I had no desire to
endure/respond to any responses it would inspire. So it went unsaid by me. Maybe I only want to be a
silent pot-stirrer. I guess that's what I've always like most about pot-stirring, anyways. Watching.

I'm working on crying less. It's an experiment.

I'll be in charge of lots of students starting shortly. It sounds like the residence hall that I will be overseeing
houses most of the summer students, so my responsibilities may start earlier than they will in other halls.
Someone once told me that housing buildings at colleges are residence halls, not dorms, because dorms
are housing buildings at jails and prisons. They're still dorms to me. Sorry not sorry.

I may or may not be becoming more and more of an anarchist. I attended an Exploring Liberty seminar
about a month ago and quickly realized that I was probably much more radical than most of the other
students. I'm not going to go into details at this point in time, but I am not (yet?) a full-time anarchist. Rather,
the idea of political implosion and temporary anarchy is becoming more and more appealing.

I'm very much in love.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bonnaroo 2012

Bonnaroo was amazing.

I left on Monday, June 4 and spent two nights in Virginia before leaving with a group of four friends to drive
to Manchester, Tennessee. After much traffic and many jokes about The South, we arrived in Bonnaroo
traffic and entered the festival grounds without (much) hassle. We set up camp alongside forty other people
in our "groop," toured some of the grounds with our veteran leader, and waited for the music to begin.

On Thursday, nine of us set out to venture into Centeroo, where we got lunch and soon got separated. Some
of us took a nap. I'm not sure what others did. After some independent exploring, I went to see EMA. After
EMA, I went to see Mariachi El Bronx. The members of this band had a previous band, The Bronx, before
they decided to start a mariachi band "as a joke." Their mariachi band is now more popular than the original.
Next, I went to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., stuck around for a bit of White Denim, and then went to see
Marina Orchestra. Marina Orchestra was probably my favorite set of Thursday. They're within the "world"
genre, but I don't know what that means, so I would classify them as folk+dance+fun and say they're a bit
similar to Sixpence None the Richer, as far as style/sound. I then saw a bit of Phantogram and stuck around
for MiMosa - an EDM/dubstep group with a good light show, but not much else.

On Friday, the same group of nine made a more distinct effort to have a meeting plan throughout the day.
I went off on my own early in the day because I wanted to see Katie Herzig (look up her song, Hologram),
who did a performance/interview on the tiny little Solar Stage within Planet Roo. After that, I went to catch
the end of Tune-Yards and stuck around for Two Door Cinema Club, which was one of the bands I was
most excited to see. I then headed to the main stage to meet back up with the group and see The Avett
Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A, and Radiohead. In doing so, I missed seeing Key and Peele,
as well as Ludacris, but being close to the front for these three acts was well worth it. The Avett Brothers
were good, but a little rough, probably because they were most likely hung over from the CMAs in
Nashville that had taken place a day or two earlier. Rodrigo y Gabriela were AMAZING. And Radiohead
was so much more mind-blowing than I ever could have expected. Afterwards, most of us headed to see
Major Lazer and Flying Lotus, but I ended up going back early to go to sleep.

On Saturday, I headed out to see Das Racist, who were not very good live. After, instead of going to see
Blind Pilot, I stuck around to see Battles, which was a terrific decision. Battles is tied with Radiohead as my
favorite set of Bonnaroo 2012. Afterwards, I explored a bit until going to see half of Childish Gambino's
set, before going to see all of Mogwai's set. During this time, a older hippie gentleman noticed my pins on
my camera case strap and gave me one from his box of buttons to add to my collection. On it, it says:
"The United States of Bonnaroo." Mogwai announced that they would be doing signings after their
performance, so I stuck around for that. Two boys and I were the first people to find guitarist, Stuart
Braithwaite, and I provided my sharpie for Stuart's signings. After he signed my bandanna, I followed him
to see if he would be joined by his band members (and because he still had my sharpie). After waiting for
a bit, I decided I wanted to head to Red Hot Chili Peppers, so I got his attention and told him that he could
keep my sharpie if I could get a picture with him. He agreed to the picture, but told me that he did not want
my pen to do signings. I was hesitant, but left. Two seconds later, he caught up with me and admitted that
he did need my sharpie because he was getting mobbed and no one had a pen. As I handed it to him, I said
I told him so and he gave me a hug in thanks. On the way to RHCC, I saw a bit of Dispatch. I got close
enough to RHCC to take a few pictures, but was exhausted, so I walked through the crowd to find a place
to sit. I sat next to a hippie woman, who also noticed my pins and asked if we could trade one. She had
many Mumford & Sons pins and gave me her favorite. I told her about Frankie Muniz and gave her my
Kingsfoil pin. We also talked about the older hippie gentleman with the box of pins, who she had met last
year. After getting trampled on too much during RHCC, I found a safe place to sit and passed out until I was
woken by the sounds of 80,000 people stampeding out of the main stage area after RHCC's set. Later, I
met up with what was left of the group. We tried to see Superjam, but could not get close enough for it to
be worth it, especially once Skrillex started. I watched a bit of Skrillex's set, but was too far away and
amongst not enough people to truly appreciate it, so I walked back to our campsite and went to sleep to the
soothing sounds of dubstep after I spent ten minutes killing the colony of ants that decided to enter my tent.

On Sunday, I woke up in puddles. Annoyed, I spread out a plastic tablecloth under one of our canopies,
dragged out my mostly-dry sleeping bag, and tried to sleep more. On Sunday, I took it easy because I knew
I wanted to be awake enough to appreciate Phish in their fullest. The first set I saw was Stooges Brass Band,
followed by half of War on Drug's set and half of The Antlers' set. On my way to see one of Kenny Rogers'
songs, I cut through Planet Roo and passed the Solar Stage, where I ran into one of my good friends and
watched a bit of Blind Pilot with him. After being unsuccessful at meeting up with him all weekend, it was a
delightful surprise. I then stopped by to see Kenny Rogers and walked by Ben Folds Five on my way to get
a good spot for Bon Iver and Phish. Bon Iver was incredible and Justin Vernon repeatedly mentioned how
in awe he was of having the opportunity to open for Phish. Phish was also great, although their set was slightly
heavy for my tastes, especially in comparison to the lighter set of fun songs they performed in Hershey.
My favorite part of Phish was how clear it was that Trey Anastasio was having a great deal of fun and that
he was amazed how passionately the Bonnaroo crowd cheered for them. After Phish, I exited Centeroo
through the main entrance so that I could walk under the Bonnaroo arch for the first time. Back at the
campsite, four of us reflected upon all of this great music and spent some quality time together. I then went
to sleep in one of our cars, as my slightly damp sleeping bag had since turned into my very saturated sleeping

On Monday, we packed up the rest of our campsite, did a bit of sanctioned looting, and headed back to
Virginia. In Chattanooga, we stopped at Bojangle's for lunch and made even more jokes about The South.
At Bojangle's, I ran into another friend from back home in Pennsylvania, which was likewise astounding.
Although it seemed like we were making good time at first, it ended up taking us FOREVER to get back to
Virginia, where I was greeted by being yelled at to immediately take a shower.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Growing Enthusiasm for Music and Culture

On the way home from Bonnaroo in the midst of a discussion of 90s pop music, I tried to figure out when
I got into music. I missed a lot of pop music during my childhood (N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, Brittney
Spears, etc) because I wasn't a part of that scene. I was busy listening to unknown Christian artists like
RAZE or more popular ones like Steven Curtis Chapman. So where was the turning point? How did I
get from RAZE to Battles, Mogwai, Phish, Two Door Cinema Club, Elbow, Radohead, Styx, Supertramp,
The Bravery, SWEET, Bon Iver, S. Carey, and countless others?

Somewhere along the line, I transitioned from the younger generation of Christian artists to more
mainstream artists like The Newsboys (thanks to my brother). Also around this time, my family and
I found a Wang Chung album (on cassette?!) at a library book sale during one of our vacations.

My first concert was sneaking into the end of Festival con Dios to see Newsboys. A year or two
after that (2005 or 2006), I started going to the Purple Door festival. In addition to seeing some
mainstream Christian artists, these festivals were also opportunities to discover lesser-known artists,
such as Joy Electric, Finechina, Brave Saint Saturn, Anathallo, and Seabird. There were also incredible
groups, like mewithoutyou. This exposure to a wider range of music can again be attributed to my
brother, as well as a few specific friends.

This transition period was also influenced by a growing interest in oldies and classic rock. Honestly,
I think my interest in oldies was revealed by Recess: The Movie, which features a number of classic
songs from the hippie era. This interest was synchronized with my resurrection as a pianist, which
was fed by Reader's Digest piano books, many of which consisted of songs from the 20s-50s.
Shortly after this, I was suddenly a hardcore fan of Styx. While I'm not sure how or why this fandom
occurred so abruptly and severely, this later led me to love The Who, Supertramp, Yes, and Genesis.
The musical expansion into oldies and classic rock was supported by one of my best friends and my dad.

Then things get blurry and I really don't know how I got from where I was after attending concerts of
Styx* and The Who; to where I have been recently with concerts of MacROCK 2011, Matt and Kim,
Iron and Wine*; to where I am now after Bonnaroo 2012.
*The Pretenders opened for Styx
*The Low Anthem opened for Iron and Wine
There were definitely a few friends during my time at Bridgewater College who fostered my growing
knowledge of music, but this was mostly through mutual sharing, which means that I was already well
into music before getting more into music with these friends.

So what happened?

While I'm not sure and while the blurry spot between oldies/classic rock and indie/alt will probably
always be blurry, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I tend to be adventurous, curious, longing
to discover, and continuously interested in culture.

While music is definitely about the music, to me, it is also about the culture. Sometimes, the interest in
culture surpasses the interest in music (or performance). For example, on June 2, I drove through
tornadoes and tsunamis to Baltimore to attend a spoken word concert. My mom asked if it was a
multicultural event and I replied yes, because I was there. Now, in retrospect, this sounds far more
ethnocentric than I intended. What I meant was that, even though I went to this event for the poetry,
I ended up enjoying it even more because of the cultural experience. There is culture in the audience.
There is culture in the words of the performer. There is culture in the music of the performance. There
is culture in the thoughts behind the words and the music. There is culture behind the performer.

There is culture behind that culture.

And this makes sense and starts to sharpen the blur.

At some point in time, I was interested in the culture of Rock Horror Picture Show, so I watched it and
"discovered" the music of Meatloaf. There was a car commercial that utilized the song, Ballroom Blitz,
which my brother and I looked up and I have been a fan of SWEET (as well as the culture surrounding
this band) ever since. One time, when my brother and I we exploring Vermont, we stumbled upon a
radio station and our minds were blown by the deepness of Flobot's Handlebars. This led me to explore
Flobots more and, thanks to another friend, led me to an entire field of politically-outspoken artists and
rappers. My brother was really into Beck's Guero album at one point in time and, once he outgrew that
obsession, I took it over for him and continued it by exploring Beck's older albums (Mellowgold,
Odelay, and Sea Change, thanks to another friend) and later his newer work (The Information). This
exploration allowed me to see how Beck's newer work incorporated culture from his older and more
recent albums.

And so, this interest in culture, along with sharing music with friends (albeit sometimes with undertones
of "I know more bands than you"), has led me to where I am today.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Group Work: Friend or Foe (published in Veritas 5/4)

_____Say the words, “group project,” and most students will groan. However, some students – the slackers – will rejoice because a group project is often an opportunity for them to kick back, relax, and earn the (hopefully) good grade of the group while putting in little to no work of their own. What is the motivation behind assigning group projects? Well, according to kidshealth.org, group projects prepare you for real life when your job will require you to work with others. However, many professors believe that this is an outdated philosophy. I do not mean that group skills are not important in real life or that appropriate social skills are unnecessary to collaborate effectively. I simply think that group work is overrated when it comes to teaching these skills. _____There are a number of different types of group work, including group projects, partnered presentations, and small group discussions. Regardless of the type of work, the members, structure, purpose, and setting are key factors that determine efficacy and success. First, there is the issue of group members. We’ve all been there: being in a group with a slacker is wholly frustrating. Well, unless you’re the slacker, but I would bet those students are not reading this. There are few ways to remedy this problem. In educational settings, the best method is most likely utilizing peer evaluations, where each member submits a score for each peer, based on his or her contribution. In job settings, this is likely not possible because the boss is only concerned with the product and does not have to assign individual grades based on peer evaluations. In both settings, where group work is asserted as being conducive to collaboration, such experiences can result in a great deal of fractionalization, whether because of frustration with the slacker or burnout from doing a disproportionate amount of work. _____Second, there is the issue of structure. How are leaders determined? How is work divided and delegated? On the very low-structured end of the continuum, every aspect of how the assignment is completed is determined by the group itself. Internally, a leader is determined in one of three ways: a natural leader is comfortable with this role and volunteers, the most interactive and vocal member is seen as a leader and is pressured into this role by the other members, or the person who cares the most about performance takes responsibility for it. In educational settings, natural leaders are most likely the most successful, although this does not eliminate all problems. In job settings, leadership tends to be competitive – more like the third option – in that the leader will most likely receive the most credit (or the most critique). As far as division of labor, this is primarily determined by the efficacy of the leader, although even the best delegation skills can be squandered by a surplus of slackers. _____In contrast, on the very high-structured end of the continuum (which I personally have never encountered), every aspect of how the assignment is completed is determined by the person who holds a formal title above the group members. In an educational setting, this would be the professor and, in a job setting, this would be the boss who is assigning the project. In regards to group projects specifically, this would be less like a group project and more like individual work completed on the same topic or issue. While it would still require communication between the members in order to coordinate their efforts, it could reduce the possibility of unnoticed slackers and frustrating fractionalization. _____Third, there is the issue of purpose. What is the goal of the group work? Common goals in include discussion and partializing certain amounts of work. In both educational and job settings, it seems that discussion would be more easily attained and effective. Being in a group is appropriate for reviewing learned material, discussing new theories, and brainstorming new ideas because it increases the number of perspectives and adds new ways of thinking. Otherwise, group work is typically assigned so that one person does not have to do everything. This seems somewhat silly for small amounts of work, but can potentially be helpful for large amounts of work, which means that it is important to consider if it would be feasible and more effective for one person to complete the assignment. This also leads back into the question of how work is divided and delegated because projects with a large amount of work create an opportunity for slackers, which can lead to burnout among the other, overworked members. _____Fourth, there is the issue of setting. Setting is important because it is related to motivation. For example, if group members are not invested in the project, it is unlikely they will be very motivated because these tasks tend to be seen as just more hoops to jump through. This is probably most common in general education courses and jobs that lack sufficient incentives. In contrast, if members are similarly motivated and share the goals of doing well and learning much, they are more likely to collaborate effectively. This is probably most common in core major and elective courses and jobs with a strong employee community. Another facet of setting is how well the members know each other, which determines decision-making if people are allowed to pick their fellow members. Although students tend to organize by convenience for class discussions and short-term work, most students prefer to be able to choose their fellow members for long-term projects. However, such choice is helpful only if the students know each other well enough. _____So, what can we learn from this? I, personally, have learned that group dynamics is a topic that does and will continue to interest me, albeit a frustrating one (see: http://carpathiabenatar.blogspot.com/2011/04/group-projects.html). Beyond this, perhaps we will decide that group work is a bit overemphasized in the world, whether within educational or professional settings. I find this especially odd in light of the strong value of individualism that is prominent in the U.S. While group work could be a method of determining skill through competition, I do not think it is effective. Further, long-term and intensive group projects are most likely not the best way to teach skills of cooperation and collaboration, although they may be helpful for completing a large workload. _____Lastly, the most important lesson is that goals, methods, and outcomes must be as congruent as possible. If the goal is collaboration skills, similar assignments about the same topic within a small group can provide opportunities for sharing information. If the goal is delegation and leadership skills, assign one person to be the leader who delegates and holds others accountable. If the goal is simply to get a great deal of work done, make sure that each member has a generally equal workload. As far as dealing with slackers, they will be found throughout the world and in a wide variety of settings. Coping with them is beyond the scope of this article, so perhaps I will tackle this topic in a future blog post. For now, non-slackers and over-achievers alike… stick together, cooperate, collaborate, and add something of worth to the world.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Veritas Article: 3/30

The Downfalls of Standardized Testing, published in Veritas on 3/30

I recently took my senior comprehensive exam for my Sociology major. Although this test no longer has any weight in determining graduation or Latin honors eligibility, it is still used by the department to estimate effectiveness of the faculty in teaching core and common courses. This is done by comparing scores across many colleges and universities, but only those that use the same measure from ETS can be included. Even this comparison is difficult because each college and university has a unique set of faculty, courses, and curriculum. This is concerning because such standardized tests have the propensity to lead to a standardized curriculum and it is my opinion that a standardized curriculum does not encourage true learning.

There are many different tests that serve as standards of learning. Typically, one of two types is used: achievement or aptitude. All students are familiar with both. Achievement tests measure “the skill or knowledge attained by an individual in one or more fields of study.” Achievement tests include the SOL in Virginia, the PSSA in Pennsylvania, the MSA and HSA in Maryland, and the NJASK in New Jersey, as well as my senior comprehensive exam. Aptitude tests “predict an individual’s ability to learn certain skills.” These include the SAT, the GRE, the LSAT, and the PRAXIS. There are also intelligence tests, used “to determine the relative mental capacity of a person to learn,” but we won’t worry about those right now. (Definitions taken from merriam-webster.com)

So what are the downfalls of standardized testing, such as achievement tests? First, as mentioned above, standardized achievement tests encourage the development of a standardized curriculum. Such a curriculum will most likely focus on the memorization of facts, because this is more conducive to multiple-choice tests. This is not genuine learning. Sure, rote memorization might help you win some games of at-home jeopardy or learn simple job skills, but critical thinking and other abstract skills provide far more opportunities. Related to this is the second downfall: achievement tests cannot measure such abstract skills. This means that reward emphasis is placed on rote memorization and students that excel in abstract areas over fact knowledge may be overlooked or underestimated.

Third, achievement tests determine funding eligibility and job security, which means that standardization is valued more than creativity and unique thought. Fourth, achievement tests encourage teachers to teach to the test so that their students will perform better in order to meet funding eligibility and job security requirements. Again, this leads to rote memorization and generally disengaged students. Even though curriculum currently includes subject matter that is not included on the achievement test, teachers tend to divide material into what will and will not be included in the test. Additionally, teachers tend to devote a great deal of time to review, which leads to the fifth downfall: measuring crammed knowledge does not measure truly retained knowledge and such tests may favor students who are more inclined to such study methods. And sixth, such pressure to perform well in order to secure funding and teaching jobs may encourage students to cheat.

Seventh, achievement tests create a disadvantage for a variety of students, such as those who are not good test takers or strong readers or those who are more active and do not want to sit still all day. And eighth, standardization through achievement tests tends to encourage tracking and labeling. Personally, I see tracking as a way of creating pigeonholes and boxes that students must fit into. I was homeschooled, so I do not have personal experience with this phenomenon, but as a student who was average in math and excelled in other areas, I can imagine how tracking would not have served me well. Had my curriculum been based on my math knowledge, I would have been bored in other subjects. Had my curriculum been based on my writing and reading abilities, I would have been frustrated with higher-level math. Achievement tests are likely to lead to students being reduced to a single number, whether a test score or a performance level, and this serves as a way of stereotyping students and ignoring individual differences in learning style, talent, and interest. These stereotypes can also serve as labels. For example, if a student is placed in the “turtle” group and if this student comes to believe that he or she is a slow student, he or she will probably never strive to excel and may never reach his or her full potential.

Many of the above downfalls similarly apply to aptitude tests, the effectiveness of which is quite controversial. Essentially, aptitude tests such as the SAT are designed to predict a student’s ability to learn and succeed. In a sense, they can be thought of as a measure of a student’s effectiveness at being a student. But how accurate are such measures? Probably not very. For example, I have a friend whose SAT score could have secured him a full scholarship at any school. He chose not to attend college and is now living on his own and making music because this is what he wanted to do with his talents and interests. However, many view him as a poor student because of this decision, even though he is still extremely intelligent. Further, the high pressure on students to do well on the SAT in order to secure admission to and scholarships for college can lead to a great deal of stress and concern. For example, I took my SAT three times in order to increase my eligibility for scholarships and, to this day, I despise scantrons.

So what should we do? Reducing the emphasis on standardization does not need to eliminate standards altogether. But let us take a lesson from alternative methods of education. My mother certainly never taught to the test, but I scored extremely well on achievement tests, which are required in Pennsylvania for all students in third, fifth, and eighth grades. There may have been some detailed facts that I could not recite, but I knew enough and could think well enough to excel in these measures. Similarly, such an emphasis on standardization can actually decrease the standards and expectations we hold of our students. We are indoctrinating them with the belief that it is more important to memorize and recite than to think and reason and we will soon experience an extreme shortage of creative thinkers because of this. Now, before it is too late, we must encourage these creative thinkers to remain outside of the box, empower others to do the same, and alter society’s view of education being all about the test score.

Veritas Article: 3/23

The Positivity of Negative Rights, published in Veritas on 3/23

A few weeks ago, I attended the Fifth Annual International Students for Liberty Conference, which was held at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., from February 17-19. It was an incredible experience, primarily because there were over one thousand students, alumni, staff, speakers, and presenters, all of whom shared a common bond: an interest in liberty and a desire to remedy the broken political system of the U.S. Even though the details of our political philosophies varied, we were not divided by dogma because we were united through common action.

Aside from this spirit of community, another highlight of ISFLC was the various breakout sessions that students could attend. These sessions were hosted by a variety of organizations, such as the Atlas Network, the CATO Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education, GOProud, the Institute for Humane Studies, Students for Liberty, and Young Americans for Liberty. I attended a number of sessions, including What is Austrian Economics?, Behind Canada: America’s Decline in Economic Freedom, Government Schooling for a Free Society?, Liberaltarians: Examining Liberty Through the Gender/Race/Class Lens, Law Enforcement Socialism, and The Militarization of Main Street.

One of my favorite sessions was titled, Can We Kill the Children from Salem? This session was sponsored by the Institute of Humane Studies and featured James Stacey Taylor, a professor of philosophy at The College of New Jersey. Taylor spoke about negative and positive rights: what they accomplish, how they interact, and how they are different. He started with a historical overview of moral and legal rights. First, Immanuel Kant said that we should believe in natural rights because we need certain goods to have a flourishing life, such as property, autonomy, expression, interaction, and so on. He also believed that all people are morally equivalent, therefore allowing acquired goods to be legitimately protected from force by force and requiring all people to recognize the equal rights of others. Second, Thomas Hobbes thought that natural rights may not exist, but that this was irrelevant because all people are mutually vulnerable. This view leads to rights based upon reciprocity, in that all people must respect others in a way that they want to be respected. Later, John Stuart Mills combined these philosophies in his harm principle, saying that acting as if all people have natural rights is the best way to ensure natural rights and promote flourishing lives.

Taylor then went on to compare negative and positive rights. Simply stated, negative rights are freedoms from, whereas positive rights are freedoms to. For example, under negative rights, you have the right to be free from interference by others (interference in healthcare, property, income, etc.) and others have a duty to refrain from interfering with those things. On the other hand, under positive rights, you have the right to have free access to such things and others have a duty to provide such things to you. After giving this overview, Taylor used two audience members to illustrate how positive rights encroach upon negative rights.

Phil has money and his negative right says that others have the duty to refrain from taking his money. Justin has no money and his positive rights say that others have the duty to provide money to him. This is accomplished by taking Phil's money, thus violating Phil’s negative rights in order to provide for Justin’s positive rights. This means that negative and positive rights cannot exist at the same time and that we must choose to support one or the other. Personally, along with Taylor and most other conference attendees, I am a supporter of negative rights because they seem more basic and fundamental and therefore more natural and legitimate.

However, the U.S. is a land of regulation and welfare that is based primarily on positive rights and results in extremely limited negative rights. The positive right to regulated food that has been deemed as safe violates my negative right from interference in my desire to purchase raw milk or sell homemade lemonade. The positive right to relatively equal access to money violates my negative right from interference in my earned income. The positive right to protection from violent crime violates my negative right from interference in my self-protection through gun ownership.

Even so, I will not say that positive rights are all bad, because they probably are not. Additionally, certain rights can be either negative or positive: the right from interference in speaking freely and the right to free speech. The difference is that the basis of negative rights is freedom from interference, whereas the basis of positive rights is freedom to providence. Providence implies privilege and privileges are granted, not inherent. Thus, when the provided positive rights of one person violate the basic, fundamental negative rights of another person, we will know that the positive rights have gone too far.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Recent Publications

Although I have not been blogging, I have been writing.

An updated version of my previous post (complete with a much stronger conclusion)
was published recently in my school's paper.


Most recently, my article about Negative and Positive Rights was published, although
that is not yet posted online.

Next week, my article about The Downfalls of Standardized Education will be published.

For the following week, I hope to write something a bit more positive and optimistic,
since my three articles thus far has been primarily fairly strong criticisms.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gen-Ed Courses

I am so incredibly frustrated with this.

General Education Courses

At my college, students must take a total of twenty-one courses (sixty credits, plus
two to six additional credits of lab work) to fulfill their general education
requirements. A major consists of thirty to forty-eight credits. This is especially
difficult for education majors because of extensive state licensure requirements.
According to the president of my college, this number of general education credits
is unusually high when compared to other liberal arts colleges. The president also
is in favor of decreasing the volume of general education requirements in exchange
for an increase in freedom. He recognizes that some students, - whether uninterested,
under-achieving, or devoted to something else (sports, for example) - will flaunt
this freedom and not take full advantage of the various course opportunities. He says,
however, that the freedom of all should not be restrained for the irresponsibility of
the few. It sounds like he's a Libertarian at heart.

I agree. Mostly.

However, I think that a reduction of requirements (and a simultaneous increase of
freedoms) would need to be coupled with a change in mindset.

There are lots of reasons why students complain about gen-eds, but I think that none
of them get at the heart of the real issue.

Is it because gen-eds are outside of the student's major field of study? Maybe.

Is it because they are unrelated and therefore not applicable? Maybe.

Is it because gen-eds are unfamiliar and therefore more difficult? Maybe.

But probably not.

These complaints are surface symptoms of a deeper issue. Well, two deeper issues.

In short, gen-eds are too gen-ed-y.

First, it is not that they are outside of the major, unrelated/not applicable, or
unfamiliar/difficult. Gen-eds are frustrating because they are viewed as and
treated like gen-eds by the faculty and students, which results in these three
surface symptoms. This mindset influences the way faculty approaches a gen-ed to
teach and the way a student approaches a gen-ed to learn.

Gen-eds are - simply put - seen as gen-eds. They are viewed as being outside of the
major, and therefore no effort is made to relate the gen-ed material to various
other majors, which results in the increased unfamiliarity and disproportionate
difficulty of gen-ed courses.

This is a mindset issue. But yes, I do wonder how practical it would be for faculty
to draw connections between a gen-ed course and as many as thirty-seven other fields.

In the meantime, perhaps this can be overcome with a small increase in personal
effort. In order to counteract the gen-ed-i-ness of gen-eds, maybe students can
seek to draw their own connections between their field and another, seemingly
unrelated field. Maybe. One potential problem is that most gen-ed requirements are
completed during a student's first year, when major courses generally are not taken
and when many students have not yet chosen a major field of study. Additionally, the
mindset that surrounds gen-eds does not create an environment conducive to increased
personal effort, which leads us to the second deeper issue.

Second, gen-eds do not inspire personal effort because most are surrounded by a spirit
of expectation that tells students, "It's a gen-ed, it's an easy course, no sweat."
This is worrisome for a few reasons.

This mindset does not inspire personal effort, which means that students generally
are not motivated to study because they assume that they will do well in such an
easy course. Or they are not motivated to study because of the mindset that such a
gen-ed is not inherently important. There is clear evidence of this academic apathy
in that assignment and course grades in gen-eds tend to be bi-modal. This means that
grades are not normally-distributed (bell curve), but instead have two data points
that are most frequent. For example, in a bi-modal grade distribution, most students
have A's or B's AND D's and F's, while very few students have C's. I think this has
less to do with course difficulty and student knowledge and more to do with the fact
that all of the students are apathetic and approximately half of them are apathetic
about their apathy and the other approximate half are conscientious enough to look
over their notes once or twice before a test.

Even so, sometimes it is a nice break to have an easy course. However, gen-eds are
easy courses with hidden dangers. In addition to academic apathy, there is another
potential problem with easy courses.

Sometimes, easy courses are too easy and are therefore incredibly frustrating because
they are too easy to the point of being a genuine waste of time. This results in the
a phenomenon where the only motivation for going to class is to acquire attendance
and/or participation points and where the only motivation for completing homework
is to gain ten points. Such a waste of time is frustrating because the time devoted
to the course and sacrificed in going to class and completing assignments is far too
great when compared to the educational outcome.

There is too much time and not enough learning.

And, finally, this lack of academic investment leads us right back to the first
deeper issue of the mindset that gen-eds are not applicable or important to a student's
major field of study.

"I want to fix the world, but I can't."


Friday, February 24, 2012

Word Nerd Semantics

Contrary to my previous plan, I will not be publishing my ISFLC notes as soon as
expected. I want them to be in a more coherent form.

Word Nerd Semantics

As some of you know, in addition to being a self-proclaimed word nerd, I am also
extremely picky about connotation. That being said, I do not believe in synonyms and
I really appreciate well-crafted semantics. Contrary to the opinion of one of my
classmates, I believe that a seemingly simple change in semantics can make a big

1) Course Title

Maybe it's because of my homeschooling background, where the semantics of a course
title was extremely important to my yearly objectives and portfolio. Such titles
were even more important for my high school transcript so that the local school
district could understand my outside-the-box learning in their inside-the-box terms.
Cooking? Life skills. Fundraising? Business math. Local field trips? History.
Is this cheating? No. It is true and engaging learning.

In my Public Mental Health class this week, we discussed the social issue of divorce
as far as it is related to community mental health. My professor mentioned proposed
local legislation that would offer (and potentially) require high school students to
take a marriage skills course. Really? First of all, more regulation and requirements
would not be conducive to learning. Second of all, are marriage skills really what
we want to require of high school students?

Why not something that would be immediately applicable? Why not something that would
be applicable to a variety of relationship situations? What about a relationship
skills course? What about a conflict transformation course? What about an interpersonal
communication course? What about a group process course? What about a teamwork and
problem-solving course?

Is this just a change in semantics? Not really, it's also a change in mindset. This
mindset change would be evident among the students and faculty and I think it's an
important one. How many times have you decided against taking a course based primarily
on its course title? How many times have you been unexcited about a required course
based primarily on its course title? See? Semantics matter.

2) Individualism and Communalism or Individuality and Community?

In my Community course, we have been discussing various theorists within the field
of community studies who have tried to reconcile the tensions between individualism
and communalism. All of these theorists were extremely pessimistic that these two
perspectives cannot exist together. I disagree.

For my first focus paper, I wrote about the key features of community in light of
how they are exemplified by the strongest community I know: HOBY.

For the conclusion of this paper, I explained how the key features as show by HOBY
can solve the individualism vs. communalism debate. This solution involves a change
in semantics. One of the features of a strong community is that of similarity.
However, HOBY is an especially strong community because it allows for variety, which
means that individuality and a sense of self is not overtaken by extreme communalism.
While individualism and communalism may not be able to exist together, individuality
can exist within a strong community because these forms of singlehood and cohesion
are not excessive.

3) Politicians?

As I was reflecting upon my first test for Comparative Politics that I took this
afternoon, I decided that I do not believe in the term, "politicians." Why?

Because having a separate term for those in positions of political leadership sets
them above the citizenry when they shouldn't be.

Politicians? No. They are citizens and should be held to the same standards as all
other citizens and be similarly expected to uphold the negative rights of others.

Politicians? No. They are citizens in a political office. They have the same political
rights as all other citizens and all other citizens should have an equally loud
voice in the political realm. Politicians? No. They should not have such a pedestal.

I think I'm really starting to not believe in a representative political regime.

Also, for your personal edification...

State = a system that administers laws and policies in a territory
Nation = a self-aware group with a shared identity that has or seeks control of the state
Regime = political system
_____--> Liberal Democracy, Communism, Fascism, Modernizing Authoritarian, Theocracy, and Semi-Authoritarian
Government = transient set of ruling people (incorrectly referred to as administration in the U.S.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reflection: #ISFLC12

First of all, twitterspeak is pretty obnoxious, but I kind of dig the hashtag trend.

Second of all, I am not entirely sure how I am going to tackle this blog post topic.
I have seventeen pages of handwritten notes from the conference and I need to figure
out a way to make them coherent enough for the general public to read without adding
too much additional personal commentary or exploration. I was originally planning to
publish all of these notes in a single post, but it soon became clear that the sheer
volume of these notes makes that impossible. I will, however, maintain chronological
order throughout the publishment of these notes. In addition to the notes, I will
include the speaker biography and session summary from the conference program.

But for now, to begin, my reflection of ISFLC12.

(side note: my blog would be far more professional if I eliminated internal dialogue)


The 2012 International Students for Liberty Conference was incredible. I am beyond
glad that I went. I met a great deal of incredible people, attended a variety of
inspiring and provocative sessions, partied, and experienced some ISFLC spirit. This
ISFLC spirit is similar to the HOBY spirit in that it is based on the fact that the
attendees have a deep bond because of one particular similarity. At HOBY, this is
probably leadership and HOBY itself. At ISFLC, it was Libertarianism, activism, and
other politically-related topics. In a recent paper I wrote for Community about HOBY,
I discussed how HOBY creates an extremely strong community because we are similar,
yet a great deal of variety exists. At HOBY, there is a variety of political beliefs,
backgrounds, and general life philosophies. But these things do not tear us apart
because our community is based upon such a resounding similarity. Likewise, at ISFLC,
there was a variety of hometowns, majors, interests, and general philosophies. But
these things did not impair the ISFLC spirit because the community was based upon an
extremely deep bond of similarity. These spirits have been reflected in many of my
friendships, especially in regards to politics. Essentially, my politically-active
friends and I are friends because we are politically-active. Even though the details
of our political philosophies certainly vary, we are not divided by dogma because we
are connected through common action. Even though our action may be headed in different
directions, we are acting together against the same broken system.

This is what unites us.

Plans for the Immediate Future

I may or may not write two blog posts tonight. Maybe more than that.

What I want to start with is the fact that I outlined multiple blogs during one of my
classes today. Below is the transcription of those notes...


1) Publish ISFLC notes + ISFLC reflection (feels so good to be in a like-minded world,
like HOBY. similarly bonded with variety. individuality + community)

2) Reconciling social work and libertarianism
_____- public mental health: teen pregnancy, increase regulation, marriage skills
_____course, option to opt out, literacy test prior to pregnancy
_____- social work: paperwork, documents, progress notes, bureaucracy
_____(will be an ongoing experiment in reconciliation)

3) Why students hate gen ed courses
_____not because they are outside the major field
__________not because they are unfamiliar/difficult
__________not because they are unrelated/not applicable
_____not because... (more?)
_____because = they seem too gen ed-y
__________- not integrated/applied with/to other majors
_______________~ can be overcome with personal effort, maybe?
__________- are obviously watered-down and simplistic
_______________~ can be good to have an easy course?
_______________~ can be frustrating: too easy/not challenging
_____________________________________too much time/not enough learning

4) Semantics and word nerds
- proposed legislation to offer/require a marriage skills course in HS
_____~ why not a relationship skills course? conflict transformation? interpersonal
_____communication? etc?
- individualism vs. communalism - cannot exist together?
_____~ how about individuality and community?

5) Topics in regards to education
- line segments and school type
_____~ what is most conducive to encouraging outside-the-box thinking?
- elementary schools directed toward girls?
_____~ find current article(s)

1) foreshadow semantics
2) foreshadow semantics
4) semantics
3) gen ed courses
5) more about education

So, that's what you can look forward to over the next few updates... We shall see
how well all of this planning will work out. In other news, I've decided that my
gen ed courses are ruining my life. Too much work, too few points, and not enough
learning. My two gen ed courses are cutting into valuable time that I would rather
spend becoming immersed in my two really good courses. My fifth course is a wash.

Next on the agenda: Start blog post 1!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pseudo-Journal (and School Update)

Feb 8, 2012 12:13am
I want to journal, but do not want to handwrite, so…

I’ve been feeling bored, overwhelmed, apathetic, and stressed all at the same time. I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that my attention span has diminished severely. I find it impossible to focus on one thing, with the exception of while I am in class. I’ve been listening to music constantly and have created the most perfect Pandora radio station. Rather, a shuffle of three stations: dance club, fast dance, and dubstep. I also found a site called top rave songs. I will make my own rave. This past weekend, at least twice, I stopped myself from being ridiculously over-tasked. But I sincerely wanted to listen to music, read, and watch a movie all at the same time. How did I expect to be able to do that? Perhaps I desire to keep myself occupied. And this desire to be over-tasked and distracted only further compounds my struggles with my attention span. This past weekend, I was working on some reading, only to keep interrupting myself every ten or so minutes by checking Facebook or using Stumbleupon or so on.

I feel entirely overwhelmed looking at my calendar and so many of my moments are booked full. One of my friends requested that I ask for help in some way and I said all I really need is more moments in the day so that I can go see my counselor. Monday was fairly full, although I still made time for a two-hour nap. Wednesday will likewise be packed. Work 8-10a, TB results 10a, breakfast, class 11-11:50a, class 12-12:50p, lunch?, volunteer orientation in Harrisonburg 4p, tutoring 5:30p. Oh boy. But that’s okay. During Monday, I realized that maybe what I need is to be kept busy. Maybe that’s what my over-tasking was trying to achieve. Alone in the apartment all weekend, I tried to keep myself busy with the internet, but it didn’t quite work. I didn’t fully enjoy it and I did not keep myself busy with anything particularly productive. Although I did go to an excellent basketball game and a good super bowl party. This brings me to my next two concerns.

I don’t fully enjoy things. I painted tonight and I think I realized part of the reason why I don’t fully enjoy things. Most obviously, most of what I do is school. Therefore, most of what I no longer enjoy is school. This is particularly worrisome and stressful for me because I am such a conscientious student and have always fully-enjoyed school, even if it is a series of hoops. But school, conscientious schooling, involves a fairly high degree of meticulousness. I don’t exactly fully-enjoy piano, but that is nothing new, since I have never liked to play piano when I am even minimally upset. Outside activities (i.e., pretty much anything that gets me out of the apartment and around other people) are probably the most enjoyed. Again, probably because it is a form of distraction. I painted tonight. It was a fairly meticulous painting and, all the while I was painting it, I felt anxious and frustrated. It was too meticulous for my current mood, current life position, and current understanding of the world. I feel messy. I don’t fully enjoy things that require conscientiousness. This stirs anxiety because I need to be conscientious about school. So far, so good, I believe. That will come later.

I don’t feel particularly productive. I have forgotten what I wanted to say about this. I’m getting my work done and, so far, it’s been getting done well. As far as daily assignments (regular reading, mostly), I’ve been staying about a day ahead. As far as additional small assignments, I am further ahead. And larger assignments? I have been brainstorming.

So, after all of that, I have two main worries. I’m not sure how much I actually want to say about these. First, that of money. this is my last undergraduate semester and I want to fully enjoy (lol) it with some semblance of sanity. Sheesh. This means that I want to go out for my birthday and I want to go to local dubstep and other live shows. Attainable. I am going to the International Students for Liberty Conference next weekend. Attained. The only obstacle left is budgeting enough for gas money. Second, I need to be resilient enough so that I am functioning well enough by the time I leave for graduate school. Graduate school is largely tied to my monetary concerns. I will most likely be looking into on-campus graduate housing. And yes, I looked at those graduate school scholarships and marked them as important for the near future. The deadlines are far enough away as of yet.

The other main worry that I now understand is that it is less about my depression or my questionable mental stability and more about the fact that the trauma has severely impaired my coping skills. What this means is that any minor drama or conflict feels like way too much for me to handle. I have two recent examples and one current example of this. Confidentiality. Similarly, reading the emotionally-charged book, 9 Highland Road, for class is too much for me to feel. What must be done, must be done. It’s a really good book, it just makes me cry and/or induces a panic attack.

Along this same line is the fact that there is no way I could handle a costly crisis if it were to arise in the immediate future.

Lastly, my memory has also been severely impaired, although it seems to come and go in waves. Maybe when too much of my brain is struggling with trying to cope with ridiculousness, it gets worse? On Sunday I made a note card for the whole week and a note card for each day. Tonight, I added to today’s note card just so that I could accomplish some tasks between dinner and sleep.


As far as school goes?

I’ve stopped reading for this course because everything that I had read was thoroughly discussed by the professor through his PowerPoint presentation and there was no reason for me to get the same information so many times. When I had been reading, I would mostly doze in class. Now I don’t read and pay attention in class. Perfect. We’ve had some reading quizzes. No big deal. We had a written assignment to redesign a poor study of the Atkins diet. I threw around terms like standard deviation. No big deal. We had an assignment to practice making a concept map to answer the question, “Who am I?” The minimum was ten concepts. I didn’t count mine, but just my genealogy was twenty-three. So, way more than twenty-three. When the professor returned this assignment to us on Monday, he told me that he was going to keep mine for another day so that he could photocopy it as an example of an excellent concept map. Holla. What? The assignment that is due Friday (which I may or may not have completed already) was to listen to an hour long radio segment about bioengineering and write a reaction-reflection paper in response to it. My favorite line that I wrote said something like, “Why do we need to create new species when we cannot even keep the ones we already have from going extinct?” Cheeky.

Biology Lab
Eh. Too much time, not enough credit. What else is new. We’ve eaten popsicles and are currently growing bacteria to test next week. We have to do a semester research project, for which I am partners with a Psychology major, so we are doing a study of a Psychology topic that relates to Biology. The hardest part for me will be keeping it simple.

Comparative Politics
I’ve come to love the non-structure of this course. The readings are minimal, so that’s nice. Theoretically, I wouldn’t have to read for this course, but the professor is just a tiny bit too scatter-brained for me to feel comfortable relying on his PowerPoint presentations and lectures. Our first assignment was to design a brand new state. The values I emphasized were collectivism/interdependence, harm-reduction, and stewardship. For collectivism/interdependence, I want a regime that would make decisions only through consensus, which would require compromise until every citizen was willing to submit to the decision in question. For harm-reduction, I want laws like Amsterdam that are only concerned with the prevention of harm to self and to others. For stewardship, I want a local food network, so that food would not have to be transported or ripened artificially. Our second assignment was to outline the formation, strength, and performance of a particular state, using our textbook, the failed states index, and the human development index. My assigned country was China. We will present this information on Wednesday and turn in the written portion on Wednesday or Friday. Guess when I am turning in my written portion.

Public Mental Health
This is probably my most stressful course, not in regards to workload, but in regards to course content. There’s not really much else to say about this course, as we’ve only had one miniscule graded assignment. On a weekly basis, we must submit a chapter outline and five multiple choice questions written for the chapter in order to evaluate our having completed the textbook reading. These are due on the Friday of each week. I have had mine done by Monday so that I can bring a printed copy to class and take notes on that. The précis/integration exercise model of reading notes and in-class note-taking is the best. Thanks, other professor.

This course is with that (précis) professor. The capstone course for Sociology majors, I love it. For the three self-guided papers we have to write, I will be discussing community in regards to 1) spontaneous community vis-à-vis HOBY, 2) spatial proximity vis-à-vis dorm vs. apartment vs. house, and 3) community transition vis-à-vis moving from high school to college. For my final project, I will most likely be constructing a scrapbook of my three years at Bridgewater, which will be integrated with a content analysis of this scrapbook.

Interventive Methods and Social Work Practice
Not much to say about this course. My reading quiz answers today were pretty much fluff. They made sense to me, although I did not use the textbook terminology, so we shall see. For this course, I will be completing twenty hours of volunteer/shadowing work at a nearby age-integrated day care center.

Library Work
Same old, same old.

Tutoring Work
Same old, same old.

Piano and Jazz Band
Same old, same old.

I’m hungry. Time for bed. 12:59am.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thought-Book 01

I'm going to start a thought-book. Inspiration has been hitting me a lot lately and I
fear the possibility that these instances will result in a jumble of scribbled notes.
I'd like it to be physical, but it won't be. Instead, I will keep scribbled notes and
periodically post them here so that they are collected.

I wish I were smart in the way that I could be unorganized, but know exactly where
everything is. That would be so cool.

Today's inspiration was the fact that I want to write a politically-dystopic story.

Although I do find my politics class fairly annoying, it has provided this inspiration
and some necessary information for it to be realistic/believable.

In class today, I started this thought-book entry...

Proportionate election --> corrupt party leaders working together
Consensus government --> corrupt moderators? --> an AI to be the objective moderator
Eliminating racism --> (spoiler removed!) --> new shade clans
Bartering economy --> people horde storehouses of "currency" --> new banks, loans
Balance and moderation values --> apathy, the extreme are shunned
Globalization --> ?
Job distribution system? --> Huxley-like color system? (predetermined)
Polity? --> ?

Narrative manuscript found later by an anthropologist (too cliche?)
Written by descendent of founders
"We can't do this. We failed."
(ending spoiler removed!)
(ending spoiler removed!)
" Stories exist. The details are sketchy and inconsistent. Non of them have been confirmed."

You guys, everything is in my head and I need to get it out sufficiently before I forget it!

I continue to be aware of my mental instability.

Monday, January 30, 2012

School Update?

I'm bored. It's 8:42am. And I'm bored. Also, I feel heavy. Not sure why, but that is
the best word. Somewhat fatigued, exhausted, but mostly heavy. I slept nine hours,
maybe that's why.

Not much school has occurred for me to make an update.

I forgot how boring weekends are. I like college because of the high likelihood of
seeing people and getting happily distracted, but pretty much no one is here on
weekends. I may or may not miss living in a dorm. And by may or may not, I mean I do.

This post is just turning into grumpytown, isn't it? Apologies.

I've been learning how to do finger waves. I may experiment with that this weekend.
There was a time when I was able to get my hair to do something similar on its own,
with no product whatsoever, but I don't quite remember how or why. I need someone
to show me how to do pincurls because the written instructions do not make sense.
And it's pretty unclear what I'm supposed to do with the back of my hair after making
finger waves on the sides. It'd be nice to have long hair, but I just can't do it.
My shower has water pressure equivalent to rain, which makes hairwashing quite

Grumpytown, grumpytown, grumpytown.

Anyway. In spite of not much school having occurred... (ew, grammar is weird)

Biology 100 aka baby bio
I pretty much know this stuff or have come in contact with it previously through
Envirothon, Human Biology at PSY, other academic experiences, and paying attention
to the outside world. So far, we've "learned" about what science is, the scientific
method, concept-mapping, and chemsitry (to the extent of types of bonds, carbohydrates,
lipids, proteins, and nucleic acid). Our homework for Wednesday was redesigning a
poor test of the Atkins diet and I threw around some terms like standard deviation.
This professor needs to know that not all of his students are Freshmen. So, Biology
is okay, aside from the fact that it will most likely take up more time than it is
worth with reading, homework, pre-labs, and labs. Similar workload to Geology, but
potentially less capitivating because it is not novel information. Lab starts today.
Our topic is the scientific method.

Comparative Politics
This course has the potential to be enjoyable, but it is currently uncomfortable
because it is the first time the professor has taught an honors section of this
particular course and he is thus fairly unorganized. i.e., the grading section of
the syllabus includes essays and tests, but the calendar section only includes
scheduled readings. Oh, dear, coattails course. There are eight students total in
the course - two art majors, two business majors, a history/polisci major, a physics
major, a biology major, and me. But seriously, knowing what is expected of me, but
not when it is expected of me is pretty uncomfortable.

Public Mental Health
In spite of not having attended this course as of yet, I already like it. Good
professor, good material, good assignments and organization therof, and some good
classmates (that I know of; I'm sure I'll discover more when I actually go to class
tomorrow morning). We have a book report due on March 1 and for that I am reading
9 Highland Road, which is a casual analysis of a group home in New York. The prof
said it would be a good idea to start reading while there is time at the beginning
of the semester and I am already halfway done. This course will also be interesting
in that it is making me constantly aware of my own possibility of mental instability.
Don't overreact, readers, I'm fine, it's just weird.

Yay! Sociology capstone course with all of my Methods classmates, what could be
better? The only thing I am worried about with this course is the possibility of
people not keeping up with the readings, which will be detrimental to discussions.
The paper assignments are also fairly daunting because there are no prompts of any
kind. But it could be pretty cool to have all that freedom.

Interventive Methods of Social Work Practice
I am calling this course SW Methods because its real title is far too long. I am
enjoying this course as far as the assigned reading material (although I do need
to compare my previous edition to the assigned edition to make sure chapters and
exercises are compatible), but the professor is fairly unorganized and does not
give off an aura of knowing what is going on. So that'll bother me. Another component
of the course is to complete twenty hours of volunteer/shadowing work. I may look
into working at John Wayland again, although I would like to do more hands-on work
than I did there before.

Piano Lesson
Seriously, anything with Dr. Taylor is awesome.

Jazz Band
As usual, I have to get used to sight-reading and playing jazz style again, but I
am looking forward to it. Our pieces include Take Five, Cotton Tail, and Power Surge.
Take Five is in 5/4, which is the best. I was just reminiscing about the two pieces
we did during 2009-2010 that had odd time signatures and how I would like to do them
again. Tada! Cotton Tail is one of those pieces that looks easy, but isn't. Thanks,
Duke Ellington, for having a really weird piano-playing style that doesn't quite fit
in with the rest of the band in predictable ways. And Power Surge is going to take
a lot of time to be broken down and learned because it is just so darn fast. Really.
Eighth note, sixteenth rest, sixteenth note is weird to play at quarter note = 160.
We have another piece, but I don't remember what it is.

Sorry if all of this sounded super grumpy. I didn't intend it to.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Last First Day of College

And what am I most stressed about? Picking my seats for the entirety of the semester.
Well, not really, but let's stick with that. Haha.

8-10am LIBRARY
11-11:50am Biology of the Natural World
12-12:50pm Comparative Politics, Honors
(1-3pm Biology Lab, Mondays only)

8-9:15am Public Mental Health
11am-12:15pm Community
12:30-1:45pm Introduction to Methods of Social Work
3:30-4:30pm JAZZ BAND

And I have to schedule piano lessons, also. I'm hoping for maybe Mondays at 10am,
so that Mondays can be my bad day? Or Wednesdays at 1pm, but I'd rather not have
piano lesson on my first day. Heh.

So, expectations?
Biology: Yay, Freshmen and busy work. Phhbbbt, not.
Comparative Politics: No expectations.
Public Mental Health: Yay, good professor!
Social Work: Based on previous Social Work courses? Bleh.
Jazz Band: Who knows!
Piano: Who knows!

Although, I do know that I've played piano about five times in the past month. Oops.

Yawn. I am looking for a nap already. I exchanged no fun and an early bedtime for
a lot of fun and a somewhat early bedtime. Completely worth it. Nap time in 3.5 hours.
First, breakfast, some errands, class, and class. Maybe lunch. Then unpacking and
organizing and satisfying my OCD tendencies. And nap! Nap nap nap!!