Are We Being Too Careful for Our Own Good?

This week, I finally got around to watching the movie “Whiplash.” Named after a Don Ellis classic, the movie was about the journey of Andrew, an aspiring 19 year old drummer at a music conservatory, and the teacher that pushed him to his limits. The main conflict of the movie was the fact that the teacher’s methods were somewhat aggressive and sometimes violent. Despite the fact that most people in the movie disapproved of the teacher, he stood by his belief that if he wanted to find the next great musician of the times, he should push every student as hard as possible because “the next Charlie Parker would never become discouraged.”

As someone who is used to playing at a high level in music and especially jazz, this aggressive teaching was something that I could relate to and gave me a different out look than others. Seeing how such tough love ended up being beneficial for Andrew in the movie, it got me thinking. Could our country’s tame outlook on education be hurting our top tier of students?

Of course most students, in all subjects, wouldn’t gain anything from being blindsided with high expectations and zero understanding for mistakes. But for some students, the ones who are the most encouraged and the ones driving towards success the hardest, being held to mediocrity could potentially be damaging. I remember at my high school and even here at UMD, whenever I tried to do something mildly ambitious with my course work, I was always told that wasn’t the suggested plan and could be too challenging. This is due to the tendency of the education system to lean towards the average student, trying to drag the lowest group up and never pushing the kids that are already too far ahead.

The current educational model is built to only bring students to a certain level and no higher. Students should always be encouraged to push themselves, no matter how far ahead they may be. This can never be done with the forgiving, understanding attitude of today’s educators.

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Snapchat Takes a Stand Against Childhood Ignorance

The other I received a notification on my phone that the app Snapchat had just been updated. I eagerly opened it hoping for a new filter or feature, but instead I found something much better.

The mobile app, Snapchat, recently added a new section entitled “Discover.” This section contains an array of logos of different media sources. When the user taps a logo, they can swipe through several short videos depicting current events and stories with the option to swipe down and read more thoroughly into an article about it.

I found the feat to be quite admirable. It is no secret that a majority of young adults and teens are more than underexposed to the news and until now, there hasn’t been a real outlet to current events besides watching the news for directly searching for it on the internet. As far as I know, this is first attempt by any social media to supply this type of service for our demographic.

Of course, the feature is still extremely new and the users’ response is still unknown. It is my hope that over time things like this could begin to give world events a  more prominent place in pop culture. I personally found it easy to use and have caught myself on multiple occasions checking it out when I was bored. In fact, I even used an article I found on the yahoo news section for this blog.

Up until this point, the media’s attempts to bring serious news to children have more or less failed, but with this new feature, there is still hope for a more educated and informed American youth.

Are Drones Taking Over? or Do Companies Know Their Limits?

As stated in the previously posted video from ABC News, an advertisement firm in the Las Angeles areas had been using drones to pinpoint peoples exact locations using their cell phones. Despite their claim that this was only an experiment, the public’s feelings are clear; they are frightened and outraged.

This situation raises the question, Are these people rightfully angry? In my opinion, the peoples’ hate for unmanned drones generally comes from fear. One of the people in the report was even asking what these drones would want to track next? In actuality, however, what this ad firm did was completely in the bounds of the law. It is the public’s responsibility to understand what privacy they are giving up whenever they use any electronics. Every mobile phone gives off a signal that can easily be used to find someone’s location. When you buy a phone and activate it, you are releasing that information and it is not up to you how that is used.

Along with this, this LA firm did not use the information for anything other than an experiment and were awaiting approval from the FAA before using it any other way. There is a fine line between what should stay private, and what information we unknowingly give up. The commercial sector will do anything to get as close to that line as possible and as they approach it, people become more and more uncomfortable. It is the responsibility of any consumer to understand what they are truly giving up with any purchase and therefor, they do not have the right to be upset about something just because they are fearful.

Data Inconsistency Raises Questions About Global Warming Validity

For those of you that didn’t read the article below by Paul Homewood, it’s pretty straight forward. According to NOAA, one of the largest pieces of evidence in the global warming debate was South America, more specifically some of its southern countries. Homewood went on to show that the temperatures given by NOAA that showed an increase in temperature were inconsistent with the readings taken by the local weather stations in that region. The true readings, as shown by the local stations, actually showed a slight decrease in temperature over the past few decades.

In the past, many accusation have been made against the validity of global warming and some weaker evidence has even been brought forward that was quickly ignored and thrown under the rug. However, this time its’ different. This evidence leaves very little room for argument and deserves to be acknowledged and explained.

Whether this latest development proves to make waves as so many others have tried, it still raises an alarming question. Could a story this large that influenced the public in such a big way actually be fake? How could this happen? The answer. The public’s dependence on the media. It’s no secret that most Americans might watch the news and if they do they usually blindly accept whatever is said.

So if the news lies, who is really at fault. In reality, it is both parties responsibility. On one hand, the media should always be held accountable for what they report, whether they know the truth or not. On the other hand, if someone wishes to be informed on an issue and have a strong or valid opinion, they have to do more than watch the news. It’s important to fact check and further research something before you take a side in a debate as bold as global warming.

In conclusion, the mainstream media is a great source for information and news but it should never be solely relied upon. It is the public’s responsibility as informed individuals to take the time to look deeper into anything they wish to believe so strongly in. If this were the case, perhaps more people would be discovering things as influential as Paul Homewood has.

Cuban Internet Could Provide an Early Look into the Future

After the first time I read the below article about the private underground network in Cuba, I didn’t see much significance. However, after scanning it again for some discussion topics, I realized the potential this situation had.

For as long as media has existed, the government has fought to sensor and control it. Let it be age restrictions, movie ratings or TV censorship, the intent to control American communication channels is there. To their dismay, our constitutional right to free speech and expression has limited this to an extent.

Turning an eye to Cuba, things are quite different. The strong arm of the Cuban government has kept technological communications to a minimum for decades. This extended government power not only shows an opposing counterpart to our more constitutional approach to control, but it most likely will give us some insight as to the future of our own country. The S-Net, as they call it, provides a completely isolated experiment on the effects of total censorship on a widely popular computer network.

With S-Net patrons unable to be distracted by things that the government deems inappropriate, the network could turn into an immensely more constructive environment. Humans have always prospered when faced with adversity, so whats to say that people guided online by a controlling force won’t come up with new ideas and innovative interfaces to share thoughts and ideas.

On the other hand, without the to ability to freely express ones self, the S-Net might just stay a place where young adults play games, share memes and look up soccer scores.

As long as no major changes are made either to the Cuban government or to the S-Net, this could become a full scale experiment that shows the implications of complete government control over communications and provides the world with a valuable lesson as to which direction we should be heading.