Tag Archives: society

Strangers

by Bob Vonderau

I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.

The other day I read this quote by Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors, and I could not get over how powerful these words are, “They may ignore you. Or you may marry them.” Isn’t it interesting how much people seek acceptance and avoid ridicule? With regards to saying hi to a stranger, it’s so easy to say that we’ll never see that stranger again anyways, so why not try? The concept is very simple and if you take into account the potential to gain a lifelong relationship, romantic or otherwise, doesn’t it seem worth it? So why do we not try? Why is fear so strong that it can freeze us? Fear of a large animal is an animal instinct; but where does fear of social rejection come from?

When I think about how many times I didn’t try something because I was afraid of failure or rejection, it’s a pretty extensive list. I will probably never know how much I had to gain, but I can certainly name more than one instance where I know fear was my only obstacle from embracing the possibility. Then I think of all the things I did try and ended up loving… This list is also extensive, but much more transparent.

I think the biggest social fears revolve around the fear of rejection. This past year, I’ve taken a number of initiatives to grow as a leader and thus as a person. My first big initiative was to overcome my fear of speaking in front of groups of people. I overcame this in the most direct method possible: I applied for a job looking for people with public speaking skill, and I got it. Having no proper experience in any sort speech communication, I was thoroughly shocked and terrified when I saw the job offer in my email almost eight months ago. Apparently I really made up for my lack of experience during my interview, where I presented a five-minute speech on ‘how to engage an audience.’ I must have looked like I knew what I was doing.

Alas, this Sunday will be my last day of work. I cannot even comprehend how so much time has passed. On the other hand, if there is One thing I do understand it’s that I have grown in both experience and skill. Do i still get nervous when I approach a crowd to speak? Definitely. The fear hasn’t disappeared, but I don’t think that was the point of taking on this job. Fear will always be there in every aspect of my life. The important thing is to learn how to deal with that fear and turn it into motivation to reach a better result.

After all, when you ride a rollercoaster, it’s the fear of anticipation while ascending that steep climb that makes the descent truly exhilarating.

Just how much does fear control your life?

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“I’m smart. You’re not.” — What’s wrong with our educational system?

Children learn very early in their schooling how to determine intelligence: grades. But is intelligence really this black and white?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with three good friends from my highschool. As we were having dinner, we started to talk about the relationship between the general beliefs society, how the media affects those beliefs, and the crucial lesson that is almost completely lost in the educational system: how to think critically.

Society’s beliefs are made up of so many factors, but the general consensus is apparent to everyone in the population: bad grades = stupid

With regards to schooling, this consensus has driven us to severely undermine the potential of students based on their performance in school. We are told at a young age that if we work hard, we will get a good education, which will then lead us to a good job. This is something many youth don’t believe, and they have reason not to. Post-secondary degrees no longer guarantee jobs, but students aren’t being presented with appealing alternatives. This is to say that young adults that don’t get a post-secondary education, be it by choice or because of poor grades, are being viewed as “failures” by society.

I think this view is mostly because of the interpretation of good grades as intelligence. This is so false a notion I cannot even fathom how much I hate this mode of thinking. BLARGH. There are seven types of intelligences:

Your grades do NOT measure your intelligence! The only intelligence that gets measured in the common classroom is logical-mathematical. Every other intelligence gets shunned within classroom walls or is only implicitly acknowledged. Classes that are available to students which focus on the other intelligences tend to be undermined. Our society doesn’t value “skills that aren’t in the standard curriculum” (frenchfirecracker) and this is stunting the potential of many students. As a result, intelligent people are thinking that they are not intelligent because their strength lies in intelligences that aren’t reflected in their school grades.

When I was going through highschool, university was the most realistic option. My parents were (are) both working and I had good grades. I had not even considered any alternatives to a university education. I wasn’t aware there were any alternatives—like apprenticeship and vocational studies—as I completed my application forms to McMaster University and the University of Waterloo. In highschool, there was this constant unspoken pressure that if you wished to pursue a career that wasn’t in science, math, or business, you would have a hard time getting a job.

I knew many students who weren’t getting good grades but were so, so good at things outside of the classroom. These students were often the ones that grew up hating school and learning.

Education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. – John Dewey

The youth of today are being saturated by so many mediums of knowledge: television, the internet, books, video games, etc. There is just so much access to new things to learn from, be the information vocational (career-related) or not. It’s no wonder students get bored in school. Why would anyone be interested in knowing the various mechanisms a benzene ring can undergo under acidic conditions when they can instead be learning about something that truly interests them from random websites on the internet? Our students are not getting “dumber” nor is ADHD an epidemic  among them. It’s just that the things they are learning in school and the way in which it is presented to them is just so  boring when compared to things they can learn about on their own, that they would choose to learn about.

What can be done about this lack of interest amidst an oversaturated life of knowledge? I’m not really sure. One thing I do know is that encouraging students to think outside of the box is the best way to prepare them for any sort of future. The educational system doesn’t stress critical and creative thinking enough, at least not for my taste.

School shouldn’t be all about getting the right answer. In the bigger picture of life, there isn’t always a correct answer. What should be more emphasized is the process of getting to that answer by thinking creatively and critically.

This post was inspired by this video by the RSA (an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges) on Changing Education Paradigms. Please take a look and let me know what you think! Is the way our schools are structured enough to prepare our youth for the future? What should change? What needs to change?

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Why women are choosey and men are flousy

By Danumurthi Mahendra

Take a look at any society in the world and you will see a trend among genders: when it comes to relationships, women are more likely to be the “picky ones,” whereas men are the ones that must impress. In human culture, the need to impress can go both ways but there is actually a biological root to the way our dating culture is designed.

In the majority of sexually reproducing animal species, the female invests more energy to produce offspring than males do. This is energy going to produce eggs, carrying young in the womb, and/or rearing the young after they’ve been introduced to the world. In the case of producing eggs, females have a limited supply of eggs. The average human female will release about 480 eggs in her lifetime, one per month. For some mammalian species, offspring are dependent on their mothers for years; having children is an expensive investment for a female.

Males, on the other hand, do not invest as much into the conception of offspring. In the mammalian kingdom, male parental care is relatively rare. Their prime investment comes from the deposit of sperm. The average human male will produce 66 million sperm per mL of ejaculate. Sperm is relatively cheap in terms of energy cost of production.

So… where does that leave us?

The fact of life is that every individual is biological driven to survive and reproduce. That is the most prime instinct in living beings: to pass on their genes to the next generation. As such, mating with an individual with good genes (genes that encode resistance to disease, strength, etc.) gives oneself the best odds of having healthy offspring to carry on one’s genes.

Females have more to lose during mating than males do; for females to maximize their reproductive success, they must choose the best mate with the best genes. 

Males don’t invest as much in the production of offspring; for males to maximize their reproductive success, they should mate with as many females as they can.

This raises some questions: if human males don’t invest as much in to offspring and are biologically driven to mate with as many females as possible, why does monogamy exist?

The answer is because of the reproductive advantages of parental care. Monogamy exists in a number of species, such as birds and fish. Dating is a result of the evolution of parental care in humans; if a male helps the female rear its young, the male benefits by having a guarantee that its genes are being passed on as healthy offspring. The female benefits by not having to invest as much energy into rearing offspring alone. Since parental care in mammals was traditionally a female role, the male will aid the female by providing food and protection for both its young and its mate. This is where the notion of men being the bread-winners has a biological root.

What does all this biology mumbo-jumbo say about how our societies should run? Well, nothing. This is because we have something that contradicts biological ‘roles’:  culture. Humans are unique in nature for having a drive to live beyond the scope of survival and reproduction. We have come to desire much more than our animalian relatives: knowledge. Any dolphin can desire pleasure or happiness, but only humans crave knowledge. I feel that this is what truly sets human apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

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“Don’t Say Gay”—Tennessee Law Prohibiting Talk of Homosexuality in Schools

UPDATE: The bill has been passed by the Tennessee Senate as of May 20, 2011 despite being delayed a number of times, and being quite heavily protested.

The bill prohibiting teachers from discussing homosexuality with students before grade nine is close to being passed. If the bill gets passed, it will be illegal for teachers to discuss homosexual matters with students in kindergarten up to grade eight. The bill is claimed to hold only the child’s safety in interest, by keeping the school curriculum “age appropriate.”

According to Time.com,

The bill supporters, including sponsor Sen. Stacey Campfield, a Republican from Knoxville who unsuccessfully pushed the same bill in the House for six years before being elected to the Senate, say the bill is “neutral” and simply leaves it up to families to decide when it is an appropriate time to talk to their kids about sexuality.

But in only restricting speech about homosexuality, not heterosexuality, the measure seems to have a more one-sided agenda than the sponsor purports. That point has led gay-rights activists to call the bill a form of discrimination, especially as it bars teachers from talking about gay issues or sexuality even with students who identify as gay or have gay parents.

People who are in favour of the bill feel that it will protect children from being exposed to sexual matters that are too complicated or mature for them to understand at such an age.

I hope this bill doesn’t get passed. I feel it’s unreasonable to enforce such a law that would serve no better purpose than to alienate children who are gay. What is a child to think if they try to ask a teacher about something they’ve seen or heard about gays, only to be told they can’t ask those kind of questions? Teachers would be implying that such a topic is taboo, which implies such a topic is inappropriate and bad. This only serves to teach the child that they are different if they are gay or have gay parents, and that different is wrong.

The reality is that sexual conversation between teacher and student isn’t likely to happen in general (of course this depends on what you define as ‘sexual conversation’). I think that making the matter illegal is a bit far.

It doesn’t make me feel any better that the Republican senator sponsoring this bill, Stacey Campfield, has previously proposed other controversial bills such as issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses and allowing guns on college campuses for self-defense against possible school shootings.


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