College campuses around the country are diverse in ethnicity, educational experience and cultures. This atmosphere is one where new ideas can be developed, but where arguments arise and are addressed. At the center of these discussions is the one thing responsible for most conflicts: opinion. Everyone has one, and everyone is entitled to one, regardless of their background, knowledge of the subject or any other factor that may influence their eventual view on a subject.
Every opinion should, initially, be of equal value because every human is of equal value, a concept upon which the United States was ideally conceived. Those rights should include the right to an opinion and the right to not have that opinion be used against us as a judgment of character or intelligence. Having an opinion is different from acting on that opinion. For example, it is possible for someone to have an opinion rooted in hatred, but if that opinion doesn’t manifest itself in their actions, they should not be judged for simply thinking a certain way. In fact, it is this choice not to act on that opinion that is worth noting.
There are ways to express dissent with an opinion without making character judgments about the person with whom there is disagreement. With all of the movements about accepting who people are and the choices they make without judgment, there should be a movement to accept people regardless of their opinions. Again, I say, there is a distinct difference between having an opinion and acting on that opinion. Just as there is a difference between wanting and imagining that you are punching someone and actually punching them.
It is imperative that opinions be stated and heard in a certain way, to have a non-judgmental conversation. When listening to an opinion of another, it is important to listen completely with no interruption. I admit that, at times, anger and outrage are completely justified and the desire to react becomes all-consuming. When hearing an opinion that goes against your core beliefs, it is only natural to want to express anger. I am not advocating silence in the face of oppression or injustice. I am advocating an attempt at understanding, not the viewpoint, but the human voicing it. Just as you may be outraged at their opinion, they may be equally as outraged at yours. Both individuals are equally justified in feeling anger, and both are equally responsible for channeling that anger into a constructive conversation where neither party is judged for their thoughts. These conversations should be based on respect, not for the person as an individual or their opinions, but for the shared state of humanity.
While I have not had the same struggle of being judged that many people have been subjected to in their lives, and I cannot possibly understand how this may feel, I remember feeling an anger so deep that it would be a part of me forever because someone stated an opinion that I thought was unjustified and unbelievable. Weeks after this person had stated this opinion, and I cut off all contact with him, I realized that while he may have believed every word that he said, I never once saw him act upon that opinion in his behavior. I thought he was the most reprehensible human alive, yet he never said anything derogatory to anyone, nor did his actions indicate his opinion in any way. In fact, had the discussion not come up in an academic setting and his opinion been directly solicited, I would not have known he thought that way.
The deliberate process of acting upon an opinion should be the basis upon which judgment should be made. It is just like sending a student to the Honor Council because he thinks it is okay to cheat on an exam, even though he never actually cheated on anything in his life. While he might think it is acceptable to cheat, he never did anything wrong. It is on that choice that a judgment of character should be made.
Everyone is a combination of their life experiences and circumstances. It is impossible to control who raised you, where they did it and what life circumstances into which you were born. When someone expresses a view that is the polar opposite of your own or an opinion that is thought to be completely wrong, it is their right to have that opinion. It is not their right to try to force that opinion on others through their actions or words. It is not their right to act upon that opinion to the detriment of others, just as it is not your right to attempt to suppress their opinion simply because you don’t agree.
Simply put, no one can control their background and the beliefs with which they were surrounded by during their youth. What people can control is their response to these thoughts that pop up in their head. We should judge, not on thought, but on action. Everyone has an equal opportunity to act, not everyone has an equal opportunity to become aware of the plethora of opinions and issues in this world.
— Alli Buettner is a College sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri.
You, reader, are surely very intelligent and hardworking, and you must be quite busy with your many activities. Perhaps you are stressed and harried and barely have two minutes to greet a friend. You probably use your phone excessively to manage your activities, social life and even academics. All of this is completely understandable — you are paving your path to a great future. But I think you and I both may be spending too much time looking down with our ears plugged while not spending enough time looking up and around.
A typical newborn baby is curious and looks around the world, eager to learn more. Soon the baby will be on its feet, toddling around and getting into lots of trouble while in its adventurous state of mind. Retention of that sense of adventure and curiosity can take us to the most amazing places, be it literary creation or scientific discovery. Nowadays, we are so consumed with our electronic devices that we forget to ponder, we forget to explore, and we forget about life.
A few key things recently have catalyzed a chain reaction of thoughts in my mind, and I’ve started wondering about how technology affects our thinking. One catalyst was the Sept. 7 article, “Driving Against Time” by staff writer and College junior Erik Alexander, who did an excellent job exploring our tendency to be consumed by texting. Secondly, I’ve realized how vexing it is to see everyone with their heads down, focused on their phones and nothing else. It seems to happen with half of the people present in any setting — while eating, while in class or even when walking around. I suppose it’s not really any of my business, but it still drives me crazy.
The other catalyst was the effect of my recent conscious decision to wean myself off my music. I had let my love of music become too distracting for me in the recent past, to the point where it hindered my focus on school. All day, I would walk around listening to music, even if it were just a walk from the library to White Hall. Soon, I felt that needed music so much, I would try to listen to it even when it clearly disturbed me. I felt I was getting “addicted” to music. So I put the music away. And I feel more attentive and alert as a result.
An addiction to music is apparently quite possible. Music may be analogous to cocaine when it comes to the way it affects our brains and makes us feel. Using the same reward system that cocaine uses, listening to “pleasurable music” releases dopamine in the brain. The release of dopamine is what causes our feelings of pleasure and encourages us to again engage in that behavior — in this case, listening to music.
I had to wonder if other features of our electronic devices could have similar addictive effects, such as Facebook notifications, text messages and other social media notifications. If so, technology could pose another serious problem for us. If it gets extreme enough, could there be such as thing as technology abuse, and could it turn out to be similar to the public health issue of drug abuse?
What are we missing when we use our devices too much? Conversation, solidarity, concentration, the list goes on. Even when spending time with some of our more scarce friends, you might find that much of the time, we’ll be on our phones, checking Facebook or texting other people instead of actually talking to each other. We do this at the dinner table, while we walk somewhere, while we’re just hanging out together. Later, we’ll tell the other that we never see each other; of course you won’t see me, because half the time I’m with you, you’re looking at your phone. Nowadays, we don’t even excuse ourselves when we get on our phones — we just do it. But this shows a lack of common courtesy, and it shows that we are not paying attention to our present company. Don’t say you can still pay attention! That’s what all the texters-and-drivers say, and are avoidable accidents still accidents?
Of course this generation has concentration issues. To echo Alexander’s succinct words, multi-tasking is not efficient — it is a sign of inefficiency and an “inability to manage time.” As I consider this, I realize my mom has said something similar. My mom says, for example, not to read or do homework while I eat, to do one thing at a time, because I am neither enjoying my food properly, nor am I focusing on the work entirely. As much as I think I can do homework while eating or watching TV, I cannot, and it probably takes thrice as long anyways. And as almost always, my mom is right (but don’t tell her I said that).
Please consider looking up a little more often. Make the effort to greet someone face-to-face rather than text-to-text. You don’t always need Facebook. People around you have completely functional faces you can use to interact with them. I’ve really felt that looking at my phone a little less has made me more lucid and aware of the world. The effect was sort of a clairvoyance — not in a “new age” kind of way. It feels like I’m participating more actively in life just by being on my phone a little less. I smell the crisper breezes that autumn brings, feel the sunlight and shadows on my skin and see the radiant hues of the sky (one night it was an amazing purplish mauve). I experience my thoughts with more clarity, and I feel more prone to creativity. Realizations come to me more easily, whether it be a few lines of poetry or a sudden comprehension of a difficult organic chemistry concept. These kinds of insights and active experiences don’t happen when you’re distracted and on your phone.
Disconnect from e-things and reconnect with life. Have you noticed how, around this time of year, the sun lights up the green leaves of the trees so radiantly? The leaves are a brilliant spring green and are lined, as if with gold. I think it is most vibrant at 10 a.m. (especially on the quad) and at 6 p.m.. Watch it one time before all the leaves drift away.
— Aarti Dureja is a College junior from Westminster, Colorado.
Kim Jong Un is the infamous leader of North Korea, a country nicknamed by many news outlets as “the hermit kingdom” for its isolationist policies towards the rest of the world. However, Un has recently been thrust into the spotlight for a completely different reason. According to various sources, Un has been afflicted with an “uncomfortable” illness. Un’s latest public appearance was Sept. 3, 2014, where he was seen with a visible limp.
Since then, experts have speculated that the illness may be gout. According to news.com.au, “Gout is often caused by obesity, a high calorie diet, drinking and a lack of exercise. Genetic factors also play a big role.” Michael Madden, an expert on leadership in North Korea, stated: “Based on his gait, it appears he has gout — something due to diet and genetic predisposition that has affected other members of the Kim family.” International Business Times editorialist Jeff Stone wrote in an article commenting on Un’s health that his illness most likely stems from being overweight, caused by what Stone states as a lifestyle of “cheese-eating and smoking.”
Gout also has a variety of other names, ranging from “the disease of kings” to “rich man’s disease.” Historically, this disease has been linked to upper-class men and women such as Pope Gregory I, Louis XIV of France and many other indulgent rulers, since only they could afford gout-causing luxuries such as cheese and alcohol. Although the disparity between classes in western cultures has gradually decreased, allowing gout to be a common ailment for anyone, this is not the case for North Korea. In North Korea, Un is the sole member of the upper class with a net-worth of five billion dollars, whereas the average North Korean citizen makes $1,800 a year. Approximately 12 million people live in extreme poverty.
However, no North Korean has ever complained about this egregious difference in income. The reason is that North Korea has a history of “brainwashing” its citizens in order to maintain complete control as well as instill a state of fear among the people. Some North Korean refugees have reported that their academic curriculum was centered around skewed information based on “the Great Leaders” Kim Jong Il and his son Un. According to North Korean refugee Ki Joo II, who had served eight years in the North Korean army, 30 percent of his studies in grade school had been about the Kim dynasty. He was taught in elementary school that those with money and land were enemies, and when he witnessed his first public execution, Ki Joo II reports that his first thought was: “He committed this crime, he threatened our paradise, he should be punished.”
The North Korean government heavily monitors social media and uses it as a means to instill a cult of personality. Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean refugee, spoke at a TED Talk in February 2013 about her experience in the mysterious country. As a child, Lee’s family was lucky enough to have enough money for food and shelter. She was taught that North Korea was the greatest nation on the planet and that Japan, South Korea and America were all enemies.
At the age of 11, Lee witnessed her first public execution, just one of the many tactics used by North Korean authorities to scare its citizens to abide by the state laws. However, in 1995, during North Korea’s infamous great famine, Lee’s life changed irreversibly. Her mother had brought home a shocking letter from a coworker’s sister reading: “When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven’t eaten for the past two weeks. We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so weak we are ready to die.”
Having had a sheltered and biased education at the time, Lee was in disbelief since she had no idea anyone in North Korea was suffering. A second incident, however, would soon change Lee’s perception of her country. On her way to a train station, Lee witnessed the corpse of a woman on the ground, with a child in her arms “just staring helplessly at his mother’s face.” This incident, Lee stated, is something that “can’t be erased from my memory.”
In spite of her turbulent childhood, Lee and her family managed to flee North Korea across the border. Lee is “confident that [America] will see more and more North Koreans succeeding all over the world, including the TED stage.” Lee is incredibly lucky to have been able to flee safely. However, millions of other North Korean refugees have not been so lucky.
It is quite a dramatic difference when the citizens of a country are suffering from malnutrition while the leader of that very same country is suffering from a disease caused by over-indulgence. The difference is that if a North Korean citizen were to die, it would have little to no impact on the political and social situation of the country. On the other hand, although a disease such as gout is not fatal, if combined with other physical ailments, Un’s condition may prove more serious as he ages. What is the possibility that Un may die prematurely due to his health?
If this scenario were to occur, it could possibly bring about a complete overhaul of the North Korean government, as Un does not have a heir. In addition, Un does not have any close subjects who he can knowingly trust with some of his responsibilities, since those who are in power are frequently switched. According to The Inquisitor, “Un has replaced his defense minister five times in his three year reign, same with his various chiefs of the general staff.” The world can only speculate what North Korea’s next steps would be in the case of the end of the Kim dynasty.
If something were to seriously disrupt Un’s rule, such as a sudden medical emergency, it could lead to a massive power struggle and anarchy within the North Korean political system. Since the majority of the country’s decisions have been made by a single ruler’s opinion, that power would be given to those who served under the Kim dynasty. However, with differing opinions and no hierarchy, the country would be left in a weakened state, setting the stage for a possible overhaul by South Korean military. In the case of North Korea’s collapse, the end result would “almost certainly leave the country controlled by the South Korean government in Seoul. Should North Korea collapse, the South Korean government would almost certainly ask those American troops to stay, and maybe even to move up to the Chinese border.” In the end, should such a drastic event play out, the repercussions seem positive to say the least.
— Jesse Wang is a College freshman from Audubon, Pennsylvania.
My family and I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California two years ago to enjoy beautiful views of the bay and explore the diverse array of sea creatures on display there. The aquarium also doubles as a marine research institute, which releases public information on environmental issues affecting marine life, such as the harmful effects of plastic bag use. While there, I decided to buy myself a small souvenir: a little magnet half the size of my palm. It was here that I encountered a plastic bag ban for the first time. Now that I think about it, why would I have even needed a plastic bag to carry something I could have easily slipped into my pocket?
California became the first state to pass legislation banning the use of single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags last month, bringing the state in line with roughly 100 small towns and large cities in the state that have enacted a municipal ban, including Monterey and more recently, my hometown of Los Altos. For many Americans, however, news of the plastic bag ban in the nation’s most populous state may come as a shock. After all, these thin, lightweight pieces of plastic have been ubiquitous staples of American life for decades. But that may change soon.
The worldwide trend has been gradually shifting away from plastic shopping bags ever since the infamous North Pacific Gyre was discovered in 1997, and with its discovery came a massive collection of floating debris. While other things might biodegrade, in water, plastics will only decompose into smaller and smaller pieces until it enters the marine food chain. So when we eat seafood, we are also often eating plastic materials. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country to institute a nationwide ban after plastic bags clogged the nation’s drainpipes, causing massive flooding. China followed suit in 2008, just months before the Beijing Olympics. Additionally, many European countries levy a fee on each plastic bag used, incentivizing consumers to carry their purchases home by hand or with reusable cloth bags. All told, nearly 25 percent of the world’s population now live in a jurisdiction with a plastic bag ban or tax.
The hard truth is that consumers worldwide use an estimated two million plastic bags every minute before discarding them, on average, only 12 minutes later. From that moment, the bags begin a thousand-year long tour to the farthest reaches of the world before they should theoretically decompose. They have been found in the stomachs of beached whales, blowing in the winds of Mount Everest and dirtying up beaches all over the world. In 2009, the United Nations Environmental Programme declared that there “is simply zero justification for manufacturing [thin, single-use plastic bags] anymore, anywhere.”
Plastic bag manufacturers’ response to these concerns is to encourage consumers to recycle them. Oregon’s legislature was poised to consider a bill two years ago that would have banned plastic bags in the state. In response, the bag manufacturers lobbied state politicians by perpetuating the myth that plastic bags can be recycled. They even promised to build a new plastic recycling facility in the state. But plastic bags are made with such ultra-thin material — thinner than a strand of human hair — that plastic recycling machines are unable to process them. According to Far West Fibers, the largest plastic recycling company in Oregon, an astounding 25 percent of their total labor costs are directed towards removing the 300,000 plastic bags a day that become stuck in their machines. In the end, fewer than nine percent of plastic bags are recycled.
I understand that my purchase at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was just a small magnet, and the vast majority of plastic bag consumption comes from larger purchases at retail and grocery stores. We are so accustomed to these lightweight miracle bags that can carry several pounds worth of stuff 30 yards from the checkout counter to our cars that doing away with them all of a sudden can feel like a scary prospect. But it really isn’t. I would know.
When Los Altos, along with much of the San Francisco Bay Area, enacted its own plastic bag ban last year, I initially had difficulty getting into the habit of bringing reusable bags with me when I go shopping. But then I thought about how every plastic bag that I don’t use means one less plastic bag drifting in the ocean, and I now remember to bring my canvas bag along on every grocery trip, even when I am at Emory and don’t have to.
I’ve had a handful of friends who have graduated from Emory and ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area within the past year. Not a single one has complained about having to remember to bring their canvas bags, because it really is that simple to switch! Even though Atlanta does not have a municipal plastic bag ban, you can do your part to reduce plastic bag consumption by remembering to bring your reusable canvas bag to the grocery store every week. And for those of you who take the Emory shuttle to Kroger for your groceries, one good canvas bag can carry the worth of three to four plastic bags, making your life easier on the crowded bus!
Taking these small steps can have instant, positive ramifications on our environment. Before my switch to reusable bags, I could use up to four or five plastic bags on each trip to the grocery store. Over the course of a year, that could be over 200 plastic bags that I contributed to some ecological disaster like the North Pacific Gyre. Now, that number is zero. Adjusting this small habit was so easy and painless that it is hard to believe how much better off the environment is because of it. I encourage you to try bringing a canvas bag to the grocery store next time, and think about all of the bags you saved from ending up where they could cause so much harm.
— Edmund Xu is a College senior from Los Altos, California.
A few weeks ago, I read an article titled, “What the Best Education Systems are Doing Right.” As I was reading, I couldn’t help but notice what the key messages of the article were. In short, South Korea and Finland have created systems of education that we should all consider as examples for the future. Before I go any further, I want people to know why I am interested in the American education system. My family immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when I was seven years old. Leaving their country, my parents decide to come to the United States. Why? For better educational opportunities for me and my sisters. Because education has been very important to my parents, and it’s been important to me as well.
Going back to the article, what are Finland and South Korea doing right? Essentially, the Korean model focuses on hard work. Students are in school year-round, and the educational culture promotes diligence, leaving no room for failure. Finland has a different model that believes in intrinsic motivation and activities outside the classroom. The culture is one of low stress, and learning from a wide variety of experiences outside the classroom is encouraged. Two different models that promote different ways of learning are both succeeding. What’s the secret? Finland and South Korea share one key educational ideology: “a deep respect for both the teacher and the student’s academic accomplishments.” Not everyone can become a teacher in Finland. One in 10 applicants is accepted to teaching programs. In South Korea, a teacher is respected and viewed with high-esteem. We are also fortunate to have dedicated teachers who prepare students to become engaged citizens of the world. These individuals should be held with the highest esteem in our society.
The American education system has many values that students should be proud of. Students learn to live in a pluralistic society and have coined the term diversity as one of the most talked about qualities of the American educational system. Most students have engaged in dialogue with peers who come from different countries, ethnicities and racial backgrounds. Education is compulsory in all states and free for all students. The government funds public education and promotes literacy for everyone. Why, then, is this not considered one of the best education systems in the world?
There are a few faults in our system that can be changed. The first and most important is the way teachers are viewed in society. I am disheartened when I hear the phrase “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Why create such a culture where the ones who impart knowledge are the ones whom you don’t value? The profession of teaching should not be looked down upon. It is teachers who play a large role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. It is the teacher who models hard work, creativity, caring and perseverance. It is the teacher who thinks about teaching and takes on the task of making sure all of his/her students succeed. While I agree that many have encountered bad teachers, I would encourage you to think about the majority of the teachers, who have actually empowered you.
Another fault in the system is the idea of labeling and tracking. Labeling students begins at a very young age. Students are tested and immediately classified as gifted, slower learners, smart, lazy or unmotivated. While this can be beneficial to those who are labeled as bright students, it is a disadvantage to those who are labeled as slower learners or learners who are below average. “Gifted” students are sent to”special classes” to help them move up the ladder quickly. On the other hand, many “slower learners” are not given attention because of larger class sizes or less adequate resources.
Often, adults presume that young students don’t comprehend the meaning of these labels because they are children. Director of Educational Equity and Scholarship at the Ford Foundation Jeannie Oakes shows in her work “Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality” that children who are assigned the low track courses have lower self-esteem in general. Also, the notion that students learn better with those most similar to them is detrimental to the children’s needs. While this might help those who are gifted and talented, it hinders the performances of those at lower levels. The low-tracked students have unequal opportunities and generally are racially stratified. Schools limit the opportunities of students in low track levels. High and low track teachers are allocated different resources and curriculum.
Oakes also shows that low tracked students are not given the same opportunities outside of class with activities such as field trips and tournaments. Students on the low track level are presented with the path towards vocational training. The goals of vocational education are so it increases the economic opportunities for the poor and minority groups by providing them with specific, marketable occupational skills.
Tracking students for the benefit of society is one of the most detrimental problems of the system. This is a capitalistic society and essentially structured like a pyramid in which there needs to be a bottom, middle and top. Therefore, tracking is essential for society to have people to take on vocational jobs in the future. Where is the upward mobility then? The answer is there is no upward mobility, with a few exceptions. While tracking cannot be taken away completely, because the assumption is that different students do require different pathways to learn, the assumptions people make can be turned around. The assumption that we need to create classrooms with homogeneity so that it will be helpful for both the teachers and students is not true. Rather, it hinders the opportunities available for both of them.
The question then becomes what is the other option? Our system has diverse students that Finland and South Korea do not have to respond to. However, I think we can change the culture of education in the United States. All students should be taught how society functions, the issues that we face in this world as well as given a chance to use their skills to succeed. We should make schools the center of each community. Teachers should be given the upmost respect in American society with resources and time. This could be made into one of the most sought out professions but only if the culture allows it. Phrases such as “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” should not be a part of this culture. The culture creates the system, and we can create the new system together.
I have studied in the United States for most of my life. The education that I received here will always be valued in my heart. But as a student, there were a few faults that I observed while growing up. I was put in the high track while my sister was not. We had a different education path. However, she was blessed with committed teachers that kept her going to prepare her for the real world.
As a student at this University, I urge you to value your teachers, a few of which have played a part in getting you to Emory University or have shaped your career path. We, as a student body, can change the culture at Emory and challenge others to value their educators too. This will lead to a change in our children’s minds and may lead to a change in American society overall.
Falak Mawani is a College senior from Memphis, Tennessee.
Eleven hundred people have been deported from the United States today. Hundreds of immigrant families, who have made their lives in this country, have been broken up today. Hundreds of people seeking asylum have been sent back to dangerous situations today — places they fled because of persecution they faced due to their political stance, sexual orientation or gender identity. A minimum of 34,000 immigrants are being detained by Immigration and Customs Exchange (ICE) today because of a congressional quota system that requires them to do so. This is just a snapshot of how our broken immigration system is failing millions.
A 2011 report by the Department of Homeland Security estimates that there are 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. These immigrants do not have a clear path to citizenship. This is due to the fact that the last immigration reform that took place addressing undocumented people in the U.S. was in 1986 when former President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 into law. Immigration law has not kept up with the times and changing situations. There is a myth of non-enforcement of laws that politicians spout out all of the time that has been etched in the public imagination — the myth being that we don’t need to reform our current immigration laws, but rather that we just need more enforcement of them through increased border and interior security.
It astonishes me that this myth is cited so many times by politicians when asked why immigration reform hasn’t passed Congress. In fact, the U.S. is spending $20 billion annually on enforcement, while the rate of prosecution of immigration-related offenses are at the highest point in U.S. history — up by more than 200 percent since 2003. This is one of the many reasons we have to reform this system immediately. There is no reason that the U.S. should be spending this much money on a system that desperately needs modernization.
Secure Communities is a federally-run program launched in 2008 that allows ICE to find and pick up immigrants from local authorities and eventually deport them. This is over-criminalizing the immigrant community and puts too much authority in the hands of untrained law enforcement agents. It encourages racial profiling and forces a need for local law enforcement to always be suspicious of people for being undocumented. In fact, many law enforcement agencies have spoken out against this policy stating that it is way outside the scope of police agencies.
We need broad, affirmative relief for undocumented and detained immigrants. We need Secure Communities and the ICE detention quota system to be repealed. President Barack Obama can and should act executively to provide these much needed actions. The Executive Branch needs to play a vital role because the Republican-led House has refused to act on this issue. More than one year ago the Senate passed a bipartisan bill — The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” that fixes many of the issues of our current system. Yet the House has decided to ignore it and fail millions of immigrants who are waiting for these issues to be addressed.
In June 2012, Obama signed a memo calling for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which delayed deportation procedures and gave work authorization for two years for undocumented youth who have pursued military service or education. Through March 2014, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 550,000 DACA applications, which has helped youth get jobs, internships and apply to colleges. DACA can be used as a framework to extend relief to many more immigrants. Since the House has failed to act, immigration advocacy groups have started focusing on Obama to act executively and on Congress to support these executive orders.
Obama promised action on immigration by the end of the summer, and we must hold him accountable to that statement. Earlier this year, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent Obama a list of legal actions that he can take. The President has wide executive authority to provide protection to undocumented people from deportation. Earlier in September, backtracking on what he said earlier, Obama announced that he is going to wait until after the midterm election to take executive action on immigration. This is clearly putting politics above the safety and wellbeing of the immigrant community.
A immigrant youth lead organization United We Dream has been pushing the Obama administration to act by doing community education and organizing direct actions such as protests and sit-ins. We must join them as they fearlessly advocate for themselves and our communities.
President Obama, we cannot wait any longer. We need you to take broad, affirmative action so that our families can stay together, so that people are protected from dangerous situations and political persecution.
— Nowmee Shehab is a College junior from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Across Europe, far-right politicians have been lining up to voice their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent months. These leaders come from parties that have grown to prominence in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Euro Crisis that has held Europe in political catastrophe and economic sclerosis for the better part of a decade.
While the specific parties vary in the details of their platforms from country to country, they are united by core tenets: nationalism, social conservatism, Euroscepticism and a dislike of immigrants — especially immigrants who are non-white and non-Christian. While these far-right parties do not currently pose a significant challenge in the general elections to the established, less-extreme parties, they have nonetheless become significant players in the politics of Europe. The far-right’s fledgling friendship with Putin bodes ominously for Europe’s liberal democracy.
Far-right leaders have voiced their support and friendship for Putin in a variety of ways: Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), went so far as to say that Putin is the world leader that he admires most.
A spokesman for the National Front in France, Ludovic de Danne, said, “You can see that the National Front is viewed very favorably in Russia. We are more than tolerated, we are seen as a friend.”
Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, a far-right party in the Netherlands, voiced support for the Russian version of the events in the Ukraine, calling the Western-aligned Kiev government “National-Socialists, Jew-haters and other anti-democrats.” Ironically enough, Wilders himself has been accused of anti-Semitism by a Jewish watchdog group, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, for supporting openly anti-Semitic parties in other countries, such as the National Front in France.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, from the far-right Fidesz party, has been one of Europe’s most powerful leaders to voice his support for Putin (as I discussed in my previous article). In a July speech, Orban called on Hungary to emulate Putin’s illiberal state in Russia as a model of governance.
Lately, the far-right has risen to be a powerful force in European politics in reaction to two main factors: the ever increasing integration of the European Union and the influx of non-European immigrants in recent years (refugees have flowed in large numbers as the states close to Europe across the Mediterranean, such as Libya and Syria, face horrible domestic strife). A central doctrine of the European Union has been that the Union should continuously integrate its economies and societies, as stated in the Maastricht Treaty, the founding document of the European Union. With this integration has come open borders across much of the European continent and economic interdependence. The far-right parties associate this integration with the economic recession and political conflict that has consumed Europe since the financial crisis six years ago. Instead, the far-right parties would like to return to national economic independence, as Europe had before the start of the European integration project in the wake of World War II.
In recent years, the European Union has also allowed an influx of immigrants from non-European countries to enter its borders, including many conflict-torn African and Asian countries, such as Libya and Afghanistan. The European far-right parties have firmly protested these policies. UKIP, for example, wants the United Kingdom to stop allowing immigrants to settle in Britain for five years “while immigration policy is sorted out.”
Many far-right parties justify their anti-immigration views by using them as scapegoats for domestic policy failures, such as crime and economic stagnation. More broadly, the far-right parties have accused the new immigrants of destroying national cultures. In defense of these national cultures, far-right leaders have turned to their own nations’ Christian religion as a source of “authentic” national culture to use as a counterpoint to the immigrants’ “heretical” theologies. For example, Orban has claimed Christianity as the “religious cornerstone” of the Hungarian state.
Putin has repeatedly invoked the Orthodox Christian cause to justify Russia’s aggression and attempts to undermine the international system, just as the far-right of Europe invokes Christian language to justify their anti-immigration views. For example, Russia has vetoed many UN resolutions that would demand Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down from office because al-Assad had previously supported Christian groups within the country.
While the European far-right does not share Putin’s dream of a neo-Russian Empire or believe that Russia is persistently engaged in a clash of civilizations with Europe and the United States to the West, they share a disdain for European integration and modern European multiculturalism. Russia does not want a united Europe because only the continent together can stop Russia’s territorial ambitions in the near abroad. The European Union’s relatively weak reaction to Russian aggression in Ukraine has demonstrated that a fragmented European Union, even with its intermittent sanctions and damning rhetoric, cannot effectively stand up to Russia’s latest attempt at imperialism.
Should a critical mass of far-right powers rise to power within the European Union, as has already happened in Hungary, the liberal democratic peace that has underpinned European peace and stability since the end of World War II will face its most serious threat because they would regress the continent into a patchwork of rival states, as it was before the modern project of European integration began in the post-war era.
Since the far-right has become friends with Putin, its potential rise to office is even more dangerous, as a squabbling Europe that is unwilling or unable to stand up to Russia would allow Putin to pursue further aggression with impunity from Europe.
Putin justified the Russian annexation of Crimea by claiming it on historical and ethnic grounds. Many members of the European Union could make similar claims to territories held by other member states, such as Sweden to the substantial Swedish population in Finland or Hungary to the significant Hungarian-majority areas of Slovakia and Romania.
This newfound alliance between Putin and the European far-right poses a frightful challenge to the European Union that needs to be acknowledged for its significance. Should the far-right rise to power across Europe, there is no telling what they would allow Putin to get away with. Hopefully, the European far-right will be stopped before it can undermine the decades of European integration, possibly ending the peace and stability that has marked the post-war order.
— Ben Perlmutter is a College junior from Chappaqua, New York.
When incoming freshmen first arrived at Emory University this year, we were immediately involved in Creating Emory, a program designed to not only make students feel welcomed and included, but also to make students aware of what kind of culture Emory is concerned with building: a diverse culture, an open one, a safe one. We were placed into groups and discussed a variety of topics, but none with as much care, gravitas and concern as when we talked about sexual assault. Even before arriving, through the summer PACE course, we learned of Emory’s commitment to fostering a safe, responsible and caring community through two required modules, one being on alcohol, the other on sexual assault.
That Emory focuses so much on building an ideal community, on making students more aware of what they can do to keep their friends and peers safe, is something to be praised. That our school has focused on sexual assault, an issue so serious and so long overlooked, is commendable. I don’t claim that the actions taken by Emory to tackle sexual assault and create a compassionate community are not a step in the right direction. Yet, in this discussion of the actions our university has taken, it would be remiss not to discuss the motives behind them.
This dedication to increasing campus safety and raising awareness of the sexual assault problem surfaced soon after a surge in national attention to sexual assault, and more specifically, attention to how universities handle instances of sexual assault amongst their students. This summer, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 Title IX schools under investigation for their handling of sexual assault cases, and our very own Emory University was on the list.
Unfortunately, universities don’t have the best track record when it comes to how they respond to these cases. They don’t investigate adequately, and are often insensitive to the victim’s situation and their desires. Often, no clear conclusion is reached, and the disciplinary actions taken aren’t severe enough to match the harm the actions have caused. Furthermore, the treatment of victims is consistently insensitive. This causes many victims to not speak up when they are assaulted, or to not wish for an investigation to be launched.
The poor handling of these cases has resulted in a culture in many schools that turns a blind eye to rape, tacitly permitting the terrible crime to continue. The disciplinary actions taken usually resemble consequences of honor code violations rather than punishments for a terrible crime. Perpetrators may know to only expect a slap on the wrist and barely any punishment at all. If the victims feel their case isn’t being taken seriously or handled well enough, they lose incentive to speak up, in order to save themselves, understandably, from further stress and trauma.
This revelation puts your whole summer experience in a new light. Sure, everything Emory is doing is great. No one can say that taking steps to create a student body more sensitive to sexual assault and more proactive in preventing it is a negative. What’s negative, however, is the possible intentions for these reforms. For if, in spite of the reformed students and their more prudent efforts at preventing it from happening, sexual assault cases still occur, will the school continue to go on as it and so many other schools have? Mind you, sexual assault has already occurred on campus this year. What’s more, the sexual assault module freshmen had to complete was only introduced this year, only after all the attention given towards instances of sexual assault at colleges and universities.
Emory University has made it clear that sexual assault is not acceptable amongst its students. They’ve made it clear they want their students to do everything they can to care for their fellow students’ well-being, and do everything they can to prevent these occurrences from happening. What they haven’t made clear is whether or not the University will do everything they can, if and when a case like this occurs.
In its attempts to create an environment that condemns sexual assault, our institution would be wise to look not only towards the student body, but also inwards, towards itself.
Preventative measures are great, but if those fail, Emory needs to ensure its students they’ll do everything they can.
— Nathyia Watson is a College freshman from Norcross, Georgia.
In my Sept. 7 editorial “Driving Against Time,” I made the argument that campaigns targeting texting and driving are, even if successful, only half-measures. Even if cell phone use while driving the vehicle miraculously ended, we would still seek outlets to fulfill our urge to be distracted. Adjusting the radio, rubbernecking, talking to passengers and simply daydreaming are acts that have been performed behind the wheel long before the use of cell phones. Until the very nature of driving is overhauled, say, by the advent of the “driverless” car, highway safety will continue to be at the discretion of our ability to stay focused on the task of driving and driving alone.
Nonetheless, texting and driving is a deadly activity, one that was an area of focus in the business section of The New York Times earlier this month. Two articles, both written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matt Richtel, explore the efforts being made on the technological and individual level.
The first article, titled “Trying to Hit the Brake on Texting While Driving,” is about Scott Tibbitts, an entrepreneur who has spent five years and $450,000 of his own wealth coming up with a practical technological solution to this reckless habit. Tibbitts’ solution is, in a nutshell, a black box that plugs into the car’s OBD 2 port, a standard feature in cars built after 1996. This “telematics” device blocks cell phones from receiving calls, texts or emails while the car is being driven. Tibbitts has resolved to bring this technology into the consumer market. If he is successful, then the aforementioned miracle of halting cell phone use in the car might be realized. Thus far, Tibbitts has managed to get Sprint on board, at least initially. As of late, the project has been stalled indefinitely due to legal issues and fear of consumer disinterest, both of which threaten Sprint’s “big picture.” Sprint’s Vice President for Business and Product Development Wayne Ward does not want to jeopardize the “brand of a $35 billion company,” as he puts it.
The legal fear, Richtel explains, is that the technology might have a glitch, that a text message might slip through and that the person reading it might get into an accident. “What does that mean for our brand and our business?” says Ward. I do not have an answer to Ward’s question, nor should anybody, for it is pretty clear that this “fear” is yet again nothing but a mere excuse for a corporation to save its bottom line.
As far as consumer disinterest goes, the concern is legitimate. How can society be convinced of the necessity of this telematics device? “It’s like trying to make condoms cool,” Tibbitts said, making an appropriate comparison. Condoms are cool because they allow people to have sex without potential health risks. Tibbitts’ device, if accepted by society, would be seen as cool for a similar reason, that it prevents the risk of getting into an accident while texting and driving.
My previous editorial articulated the issue of human distractibility, but it did not answer the crucial question of why we are so prone to distraction. Richtel’s second article titled “A Texting Driver’s Education” gives us an answer. The article primarily details the trial and redemption of Reggie Shaw, who in 2006 killed two people as a result of texting while driving. As compelling as Shaw’s story is, what struck me most from the article was the “scientific journey” about distracted behavior that the prosecutors brought forth at his trial.
The journey starts with a hypothetical prehistoric man preparing a fire. The task requires great focus and thus relies on the most advanced part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Yet other more primitive parts of the brain are ready to alert prehistoric man, say, of an approaching beast of prey, so that he can flee to safety.
The journey fast-forwards to the digital age. Rampant technology use has caused balance between these two brain functions to become “seriously out of whack.” Modern man is driving a car when he receives a text message. It could be the driver’s mom with dire news about his dad’s health, or it could just be the driver’s friend asking, “Chipotle or Moe’s?” According to Richtel, “the fact that the information is of variable value actually increases its magnetism.” The uncertainty creates a lure called “intermittent reinforcement,” so powerful that it overrides the modern person’s essential task of driving.
We humans are imperfect. When it comes to driving, we are not just imperfect, but borderline incapable. As Richtel’s second article indicates, technology has taken a toll on our ability to stay focused while driving. Since technology is what led to the loss of the neurological balance between focus and alarm, technology ought to be used to mitigate the consequences of having lost that balance. Tibbitts found a way to do so, but only in one aspect. Once we fully come to terms with the fact that we are fundamentally imperfect drivers, we will delegate the task to a more perfect driver: the computer. I believe with conviction that this will be the future of transportation. Google has already designed a computer-driven car that contains no steering wheel, brake or gas pedal. In the coming decades, the computer-driven car will have rendered the human driver obsolete. With just the push of a button, we will become passengers in our own cars, free to do whatever we would like. And if the computer errs and causes a horrible car accident, we can blame the computer rather than ourselves.
– By Erik Alexander