Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoreau, Appiah, Snyder, Iyer, Coppola, Penn: Lost in the Global World

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

--Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Chapter 2

The quote above perfectly synthesizes with the movie Into the Wild. I have to say; this was one of the movies that has probably gotten me thinking the most out of any production I have seen. Sure, it’s easy to feel inspired by a movie, think about it for a while, and go back to living your life the exact same way you left it before you sat on your couch for a few hours. Watching Chris McCandless leave everything behind to escape the reality he dreaded and search for happiness, however, was more, I feel, than inspiration for a brief moment.

Being at the stages of our lives we find ourselves in right now, we feel both pressured to follow certain paths and continuously told to do what we love, what makes us happy. Even though the time to make the final decisions regarding one of those paths has not arrived yet, that question never leaves my mind. Am I willing to give up comfort, family, friends, habits to search for what I want? Sure, maybe my “Alaska” is not so extreme as to actually leave everything and hitchhike to Alaska; truth is I still am pretty clueless about what my Alaska is. This relates to the movie Lost In Translation as well; having always lived in Curitiba, Brazil, I do not know whether I am comfortable living around the world, exploring new places and meeting all kinds or different people, something I so often dream about now. Both Bob Harris and Charlotte learnt to enjoy their environment at one point with each other, and appreciate the different culture and different surrounding they found themselves in. As much as I love to travel, I have only been at a different country for no longer than two weeks, and I must admit, I probably don’t get off the tourist track very often either, if at all. Cosmopolitanism, as suggested by Appiah, portrays the possibility that citizens from all corners of the world are able to connect with each other, no matter what they believe in or grew up doing. Relating to that, Planetary Culture makes a fascinating point on how by the term “planetary culture” the author means that “a natural society is one that follows the way, imperfectly but authentically” and how that is directly related to the global aspect of Buddhism.

This brief video explains the general gist of Cosmopolitanism, and how it requires acceptance, and not general consensus on everything. 

Interacting with different cultures is probably one of the things I look most forward to in college. I think it’s fascinating how people from all cultures and backgrounds are able to come together in times of chaos, desperation or joy and love, due to the fact of adaption and acceptance.

“Most Americans are against gay marriage, conflicted about abortion, and amazed (and appalled) that a Saudi woman can’t get a driver’s license. But my guess is that they’re not as opposed to gay marriage as they were twenty years ago.” (Appiah)

As we are all familiar with, technology seems to be presenting itself a continuously growing tool, which helps communication with people all over the globe, promoting a Cosmopolitan world. As I was reading The Global Soul, however, something caught my eye, “We may find that we have more and more ‘connections’ in the telephone, on airplanes, senses, and fewer and fewer in the classic human sense”; Is technology actually detracting from genuine human interaction? I thought this was an interesting perspective and was able to find this intriguing take on the subject:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Genocides - The Ongoing Bystander Effect

Through the discussions that took place in class, the idea that students, myself included, believe genocide will inevitably occur again was made clear. Upon doing research, I discovered an appalling number of places with supposedly on the verge of or with ongoing genocides, as well as plenty of others who fall into one of the 7 steps towards genocide, according to a report. The reason why this was so shocking to me was because these events, despite being mass murders, are unmentioned and  vaguely known events with little to no media attention, causing the great majority of the Earth's population to be unaware of this. Also based on the thoughts shared in class, most students state that they, if genocide "were to happen again" would attempt to do something about it, such as donate to an organization; however, being now aware that genocides have never ceased to happen, I realize that we are not doing anything about it, like we love to tell ourselves we would. More extreme measures, of course, could be (somewhat hypothetically) taken by us, such as hopping on a plane and attempting to stop the genocide in a more direct and extremist way - a neither clever nor effective idea.

Ongoing Genocide in Darfur
Upon doing research on the topic, I came across a blog dedicated to spreading awareness about current genocides, as well as some attempts to take action against them.Throughout numerous conversations about our life goals, I am aware that many people in my class one day wish to be able to dedicate themselves to a cause, focusing on giving back to others or offer assistance. When questioned about this topic in class though, we are not willing to leave everything - family, comfort, friends, education - behind for the sake of other people. I feel hypocritical saying that I will take an action, even if it small, because I know that I most likely won't. Apart from what it may seem, I am not trying to convey the idea that I am a bad person that does not wish to end genocide, but more to the side of "I don't believe anything I do will be able to change such a dramatic and massive situation." Despite sounding like an excuse, I honestly do not understand what signing a "pledge against genocide" will actually do. Once again, as I was pondering on this subject, I came across a quote from the blog mentioned earlier,

"Genocides progress when people who know it is happening don't speak up. Spreading the word about current genocides that are occurring can help make these crimes know. Then, pressure can be put on politicians and governments to intervene and stop these unnecessary murders."
- Anonymous 

Once again, I must say that, despite understanding the point of small actions such as pledges and how they could have a further and more meaningful impact, I also think that is very unrealistic and not effective. Then again, it is not an excuse to complain about what others are trying to do and not attempt to take any actions at all myself. The bystander effect will continue to exist eternally in both small and large scale problems; humanity will never be able to be 100% altruistic, for we will always have to take ourselves and our well being in consideration. Despite feeling (but not necessarily being) powerless about the subject of taking action against genocide, I do wish to be able to, some da,  gain influence and power, in order to effectively make a difference in such drastic events that require more attention.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"What If?"

"What if money was no object?" We started our career session with this inspirational video, which attempted to show us that we do not need to think of our future careers as "what makes more money?", but, instead, "what is my passion and what do I really want to pursue in life?". As I was pondering on the subject with my family, I encountered an altercation with this concept; money is an object. In no way am I saying materialistic means are more important than self-content or happiness (which in most cases is not directly related to money), but we do, in fact, need it to survive. Coming from the privileged families that we do, we are told we should not have to worry about money anyways, since we will always have the basics provided for us. I, however, am also in conflict with this concept, as personally, I would one day like to be able to depend solely on myself, building the foundation for an independent lifestyle. Possibly being self-contradictory, I also believe that there is nothing more important than following your passion and fighting for the goals you want to achieve.

This makes me more confused in relation to what I really want to do with my life once I actually have to take charge of it. Leaning more to the arts department (such as film) when it comes to career choices, I am in constant doubt and conflict with myself, wondering if it actually is the right choice for me. Still confused about whether money is important or not, I searched for YouTube videos on the topic; this was the result:

The video above, with a simple anecdote was able to make me better understand how, if you really love what you are doing enough to not want to stop - which, if I had to pick, would be my concept for finding my dream career - you will not worry about the amount of money you have, your personal fulfillment will be enough. I have, despite my confusion, come to understand that this indecisiveness is completely normal, being that I am only a sophomore in high school, and have a lot of ground to cover before I am faced with that decision. I am, however, truly excited (but still nervous) to chose my IB courses, being that I am uncertain about that too, unsurprisingly. 

When I think about my future, I picture myself traveling, producing movies and having the time of my life doing it. There is no way of telling, however, if that is what I am going to be doing in 4 years; who knows? I might be a physics major? I have clearly always been obsessed over the fact I do not know what I want to do yet, which is why I was extremely excited to take the Holland Codes and Myers-Brigg vocational test results and integrate them to find out careers that would theoretically be appropriate for me; these were my results: 

I was thrilled to find that a lot of the careers were actually very related to what I am interested in now (actor, editor, producer or director). Of course, I am not sure this is what I will do for the rest of my life, but it is interesting to have an idea of the careers that my ideals and concepts match with. Overall, I think that what I have learned during the past few weeks has really helped me realize what to really care about and what is important to me. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seattle Teachers Boycott Standardized Test

Garfield High School teachers have recently received a lot of attention due to the unexpected support received after the boycott of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) standardized test. The teachers argue that the test does not accurately portray their students’ progress, for it is not aligned to the school’s curriculum. The students, aware that they are not receiving a “ valid grade” simply focus on racing through the test, while the ones who are being judged for their performance – the teachers – are not given a fair assessment of their work. Contrary to what some may believe, the educators do not claim to be against all tests, but are very much against a test not aligned specifically to their curriculum and that may have been adopted for reasons other than the best interest of the students; the test was adopted for four million dollars.

Standardized tests are clearly flawed representations of students’ progress, for it does not clearly portray that he or she has fully understood and interpreted the content that is actually being taught in the classroom. The conflict with standardized tests has been occurring for years, but it has just recently been acted upon; while other teachers and various school districts might share this feeling, they might not be willing to take a stand onto what they truly believe is the correct thing to do. While critics of the boycott state that teachers at Garfield High are simply afraid of accountability for their students’ performance upon what they have learned in the classroom, teachers state just the opposite:

None of us is against accountability or rigor, we just want assessments that reflect what we teach in the classroom and that mold our students into successful participants in our various communities.” 
                                                                 – Jesse Hagopian, spokesperson for the boycott.

Teachers are demanding nothing more than what they should be awarded; assessments in the classroom that are properly adapted to the curriculum, thus accurately interpreting students’ progress.

When talking about possible solutions, some suggest getting rid of tests in general, and instead keeping a regular portfolio where the students would gather year-round work, keeping track of their constant development. I, however, believe tests are necessary for the benefit of the students, for it is the only viable way to fully check if a taught subject is fully understood or if it needs more review. It is both the students’ and the teachers’ job to ensure a concrete understanding of what is taught in the classroom, and Garfield’s High School called-for boycott is doing nothing but demanding circumstances that will make those conditions ideal. In a time where individuality is slowly being taken away from us, we need to remember that not everyone is the same – whether it be in or out of the classroom – and begin to build around that. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


College is a subject I have spend a lot of time thinking about; which college will I attend? What will I end up majoring on?  What will my experience will be like? I am only in my sophomore year of high school, but these are all definitely questions I revisit in my mind daily. Given all the time and hard work that is put into the college application process over all – including efforts prior to actually submitting your application – it definitely builds our expectations on what those initial four years of our lives are going to be like. Despite being fluent in English and having studied in an International School for eight years, knowing I wanted to go to college in the United States for a considerably long period of time – taking in consideration my age – being an International Student is definitely on my list of concerns. This is not only because of the language, but the overall “cultural shock” that I might experience; unlike many of my classmates that I have had over these eight years, I have only lived in one country and one city all my life, leading me to believe that, although I will definitely be able to adapt to my new lifestyle, it might also be harder and take longer for me to do so. Going back to my daily college-related thoughts, my main concern is definitely centered on what I want to study. For me, this question might be way too nerve raking for being about five years early, but it is no doubt something that everyone in my age group thinks about – I hope. As my teachers have continuously told me, it is not something to loose sleep over, especially not when you’re sixteen. 

This brings me to one of the main reasons why I do want to attend college in the United States. I do not have to go into college having my mind set on what I want to study, but I have the opportunity to take various courses over two years, being then able to find something that I am truly passionate about. Being an Academic Leader will give us a head start on many things throughout our lives, including college applications; by knowing what college recruiters are interested to know about you, and things that they are looking for in prospective students will help filter all of the information that you have to offer. Being aware and know what you want and are looking for in the college of your choice will cause a good impression that you have looked into the institution and what they have to offer you. Being Academic Leaders will help us be able to correctly transmit our thoughts in an elaborate manner, allowing colleges to receive the information that we want them to have about us. As seen, college is something that, despite not being in our immediate future, is on our minds constantly, driving us to strive for our best while building and preparing for the college experience.