Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

My Value of Education: What I’ve Learned

So we have come to the end of the semester, where we reflect on what we have learned and falsify a glowing report for our professor Jesse Martin. So in honor of our wonderful professor Jesse Martin, I plan to the newly discovered KISS Principal or “Keep It Simple Stupid!” Principal.

In regards to the class, I have come across and researched many different psychological effects and principals (many I have written on). This includes desirable difficulties, SAFMEDS method, Zeigarnik effect, Ikea effect, the Jones MUSIC model, Carol Dweck’s Mindset theories, how we live our label, how learning styles hurt learners, and of course the KISS principle. Not only have I expanded my knowledge of various psychological principals and effects that occur within learning and education, but I have also discovered insight into the system of education and learning.

As a society, we are screwed when it comes to learning and education, so much so that Post-secondary education is the biggest Ponzi scheme, where students are on the bottom.pyramid-of-capitalist-feudal-system

Where education is striving to become a successful business, where it seems that more money is put into marketing and appearances than schooling, learning, and the students who are the foundation of education and keep the Ponzi scheme going. The students are the customers, and the degrees are the products that we are purchasing for tens of thousands of dollars. The result of this expensive purchase is that students are not able to think critically.  Where their primary focus is on the grades, which are only for accountability will never reflect what the student has learned, leaving the education system at a standstill in progress. So until someone steps up to challenge the set system, change, and actual learning will never occur.

I now reflect on the metacognition that had occurred after talking with Jesse Martin (before and after every class). When I inquired about topics and information about learning and education, I found myself focusing too much on the system, realizing that I cant change something that doesn’t want to be changed, leading to the conclusion that the entire system of education is resistant to change because students and teachers are comfortable in their bubble. For a shift to occur within education, a drastic action must occur, i.e., sue education for Malpractice.

In conclusion, I have developed a realistic perspective on how bad our education system is, which has forced me to become an independent agent for change. I conform less, question authority (more than before), question the reasons for why society and education do things in a particular manner, inspiring more confidence in my actions towards, enabling me to do things my way, regardless of the system in place. So much so that I am one of the first undergrad students to work with the teaching center, and take control over my learning regardless of other’s opinion, thoughts, or previous actions.

Moreover, I end this post, concluding that teaching is an art, and learning is a science and should begin to be thought of and applied as such.

For this week’s featured image, I put up Jesse Martin, the professor who inspired the newly found confidence, knowledge & independent agent of change… Cool! I am now a superhero.  change-agents1-1920x800

 

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Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Desirable Difficulties

This post is the beginning of a set of blogs that focus on one topic, analyzing effortful learning. It will be divided into three sections; this first post will examine the components of desirable difficulty.

Traditional and most today’s education is composed of teacher-centered methods focusing on mechanical or habitual learning and memorization, and then is applied to standardized testing resulting in grades. Because of this teacher-centered method, teachers stand in front of a class, with a well-organized slideshow, and lecture by reading off the slides, while the students listen, with the hopes of learning. After several lectures, students cram for multiple choice exams, receiving passable grades (ranging from a D to an A). This educational system, works for both most faculty and students, where students get a degree at the end, but how much of the information that they cram, do they learn, and remember a few semesters, months or even years later? Probably not! And what about those few select students who want to do more than passing a class and get a degree, they want to remember, learn, and gain knowledge that will last them for more than a semester, month or a year.

Because “learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences,” it requires time and effort, and cannot be done effortlessly. To alleviate this problem of effortless learning, and give those select student’s methods to learn and recall it at any time, desirable difficulties is introduced.

Desirable difficulties is a learning task that requires a large amount of effort and desire for more effective learning, resulting in long-term knowledge. The purpose is to make the individual struggle and have difficulty with learning novel or complex information, resulting in more attention and memory being involved, causing longer retention of that information. Both the desire and difficulty are executed by 6 components: differentiated instruction, disfluency effect, organizational effect, testing effect, spacing effect, and delayed feedback.

Differentiated instruction (AKA Differentiated learning) is where variety is provided within learning and teaching. Variety can be achieved using different methods. Varying the content being taught, how the information is presented, the product or result, or the environment of where the information is being presented to reflect more flexibility; all of which promote alertness, and interactivity and increase learning. An example of differentiated instruction is the notion of classrooms:

 

The lecture hall is a fixed environment that promotes passive learning and listening, while the flexible environment of roundtables invites discussion, interaction and active learning.

The second component: disfluency effect (AKA cognitive disfluency) is purposely making information and material more difficult to comprehend. Typically with familiar and easy to read information, attention is lower, resulting in passive learning.  When information is unfamiliar or difficult to read, more attention provided, resulting in active cognitive processes. Some examples of disfluency could be as simple as making the text a more difficult to read font, as complex as the perception of people towards the familiar or unfamiliar material, resulting in biased and influenced response. One study by Adam Alter involved the perception of names. When names were familiar and simple to the participants, they responded more positively to the people with names like Tom, Jim, Alice. While with names that were unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce, participants responded negatively to names like Latifah, Itzel, and Chadwick.  Often what occurs is that with either fluency or disfluency of material can change the cognitive processes that are typically used on the target, in other words, if it is a difficult task, then a type of meta cognition signal occurs, and more attention occurs. An example of this is the typography style of this paragraph. 

The third component is the organizational effect. This effect (as discussed in a previous blog) is described as organizing, summarizing, and bullet pointing their own material and research; rather than just memorization or relying on the professor to structure the material or lecture. The student as they organize and structure their own material while in the process struggle with difficulty to put a large amount of unorganized material into a clear and readable structure. Resulting in more familiarity with the material, and allowing it to be better ingrained in your Long Term Memory (LTM) for later recall.  An example of this organizational effect is this Chinese Proverb:

Teach Them To Fish Quote Creative Participatory Employment Plans That Work

This proverb (I believe) applies to learn and teaching as well, rather than having the teacher do all the work while the student learns passively for a semester, have the student do all the work so that he can remember the material for a lifetime.

The fourth component, the testing effect is the idea that recalling and self-testing and relating novel information to previously gained knowledge strengthen recall, and resulting in better retrieval, rather than just rereading over reviewing the material. The testing effect is mostly associated with memory processes, relating to the overheard phrase of “practice makes perfect”. To remember something, it must be recalled and strengthened the testing effect, much like memory is often associated with the idea of a file cabinet, where once the information is encoded, it can be accessed at any time. This is not true; it is more like a muscle. Only through practice, and repetition can the muscle (memory or testing effect) be strengthened, and it must be recalled over time, to keep its strength, if not, it slowly gets weaker. To strength the material, students first must struggle with the material causing active learning and long-term retention.

 

Our brain (memory) is not like a filing cabinet, it is like a muscle.

The fifth component is the spacing effect (AKA spaced repetition). This effect occurs when information is retrieved at spaced intervals before or now that is it forgotten, rather than one time, typically right before the information is needed. By doing so, the information is retrieved more regularly, becoming more familiar. This like the previously mentioned components can be difficult to do, but when it is difficult, the information becomes strengthened and can be actively retrieved easier. An analogy of this spacing effect is a yoyo:81jS21RCVRL._SY355_

Like a yoyo, when a novice starts out, it is difficult to throw the yoyo to the end of the string and to catch it successfully, but with practice, and persistence, the novice can throw the yoyo to the end of the string and catch it successfully. With even more practice, the novice becomes an expert and can perform tricks where the yoyo remains at the end of the string in a sleeper position. Information is the same way, with more recall or practice the information can retain its position and strength over time.

The final component is delayed feedback. We all know that feedback is critical to learning, improvement, as well as learning from failures and relishing in success. But like testing and spacing effect, delayed feedback is where a student refrains from immediately reviewing answers, to partially forget them, only to review the feedback at a delayed time. This results in (like the spacing effect) the wrong answers or feedback in more encoded and strengthened over time, because of retrieval.

As you can see with all the different components of desirable difficulty, they are better and more effective when used collectively, rather than individually.

This week featured photo is of a difficult to read typography based mural. that is colorful and pack with detail and imagery that makes many people slow down during their busy days, to admire the graffiti.

References

Alter, A. (2017). DISFLUENCY | Edge.org. [online] Edge.org. Available at: https://www.edge.org/conversation/adam_alter-disfluency [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Caswell, J. and Tomlinson, C. (2003). A Differentiated Way to Think about Teaching. The English Journal, 92(4), p.93.

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Desirable difficulty. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desirable_difficulty [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Learning. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Traditional education. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_education#cite_note-3r-1 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

McGarry, K. (2017). Ikea’s Value of Learning.. [online] Cognitive mindset. Available at: https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/ikeas-value-of-learning/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Schmidt, R. and Bjork, R. (1992). New Conceptualizations of Practice: Common Principles in Three Paradigms Suggest New Concepts for Training. Psychological Science, 3(4), pp.207-218.

Tomlinson, C. (2017). Differentiated Instruction. In: C. Callahan and H. Hertberg-Davis, ed., Fundamentals of Gifted Education: Considering Multiple Perspectives. Routledge, pp.287-298.

 

Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

Are Learners Actually Learning?

It seems like the current state of education (especially post-secondary education) is coming to a crossroads. Teaching first can be traced back to the great Greek Teacher Confucius (561 BC). The teacher is seen as an authority figure, where they stand in front of an audience of students, telling them to “sit down, shut up, and listen”, while they read their lecture from PowerPoint slides, almost like a performance given by the teacher. There are over 50 billion webpages that has been indexed through Google yesterday! So, with such enormous amounts of information, I think we stand at crossroads in post-secondary education because teachers were used to access information, and expertise, but it seems like we don’t need teachers to access information, and do they really provide us expertise, or are they just a part of traditions and use social expectations? I believe so, because based on the science behind learning, it appears that with traditional teaching methods, is it possible that teachers are learning more than their students in the classroom? Yes, and here’s why.

Learning is defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught”. In the science of learning, one way that the student learns is through the organizational effect, but who organizes the material and puts it into a nice neat package with a bow on top, that is then presented to students, for them to passively learn or memorize… the teacher. Learning is better acquired through the spacing effect where studying is spread out over time, and who reviews material throughout the semester rather than just passively taking notes, which will be reviewed and crammed into a short amount of time… the teacher. Learning is increased when during the learning process, feedback and testing provides more learning because of the testing effect, and who received the most proper feedback through the method of questions and clarifications during lectures… the teacher. Finally, learner is negatively impacted by a psychological effect known as Digital Amnesia, or more commonly known as the google effect, where there is a tendency to forget information that can be instantly found on the internet, which can often result in a lack of learning and increases in memorization, and who uses the internet more to review and memorize information rather than understanding it and teaching it over a longer period… the students! With all it appears to me that teachers are learning more than the students. But how can we reverse this, so that students are learning more than the teachers… Reverse Mentoring is the solution.

mentoringReverse Mentoring occurs when the student becomes the teacher, and the teacher then becomes the student. This utopian concept is a unique way to approach learning and education, because when the student becomes the teacher, societal norms, labels and expectations are broken. This is because the student who is never considered to be the authority figure, adopts the authoritative role, which allows the student to teach the less informed, find their voice as an authoritative figure, and especially, reflect on what they know in terms of knowledge and understanding.

In addition to the authoritative role reversal, fluidity between the student and the teacher is kept, because not only can both parties understand the other’s point of view but they both develop on skills and gain tolerance for each other. Students typically sit passively in class, and teacher’s adept an authoritative position that can make them appear unreliable (which is the furthest thing from the truth, because teachers were once students).

iStock_000020048166_smallIn addition to personal and relationship development and growth, reverse mentoring causes a larger and desperately needed change… Active learning for the learners, not the teachers! This is because when the students become the teachers they organize the material, providing the information over a spaced period of time, is given feedback when the teacher doesn’t understand the material, and they students must know and understand the material in order to relay it to someone else.  For the students who lack learning and knowledge on a skill or topic, maybe the best way for them to learn, if for the students to become the teachers for the students to learn. Concluding that it is the student who is teaching is learning more as a teacher than as a student, not the student who is learning.

For this week’s featured image, I present the only person that I would switch perspective with… my sister Nicole. She is 6 years younger than me, in nursing school, and acts like she is the older sister, that has her life all figured out. I would love her to gain my perspective, and vice versa.

References

Chaudhuri, S. and Ghosh, R. (2011). Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed. Human Resource Development Review, 11(1), pp.55-76.

Chen, Y. (2013). Effect of Reverse Mentoring on Traditional Mentoring Functions. Leadership and Management in Engineering, 13(3), pp.199-208.

de Kunder, M. (2017). WorldWideWebSize.com | The size of the World Wide Web (The Internet). [online] Worldwidewebsize.com. Available at: http://www.worldwidewebsize.com [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Google effect. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_effect [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Testing effect. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testing_effect [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].

Hirsch, S. (2017). History of Teaching As a Profession | Synonym. [online] Classroom.synonym.com. Available at: http://classroom.synonym.com/history-teaching-profession-6458025.html [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

McGarry, K. (2017). Ikea’s Value of Learning.. [online] Cognitive mindset. Available at: https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/ikeas-value-of-learning/ [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].

Merriam-webster.com. (2017). Definition of LEARNING. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

Morris, L. (2017). Reverse Mentoring: Untapped Resource in the Academy?. Innovative Higher Education, 42(4), pp.285-287.

Pesavento, T. (2017). When Students Become teachers. [Blog] Go Guardian. Available at: http://blog.goguardian.com/students-become-teachers [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

 

 

Posted in Photography, Psychology

Ikea’s Value of Learning.

For my first post on learning and education, I will discuss effects that examine the value and effort of learning. Have you ever have a professor lay out the material and research in a nice organized fashion: power point slides, bullet points, summaries? What do you remember from that class… probably not a whole lot? Laying out the material for students is like laying out clothes for a child when they have an opportunity to dress themselves… they don’t have a clue and end up putting on a bunch of random clothes, like Julian from Big Daddy.

tumblr_ktwi0rGm3I1qzmuypo1_500 Julian “Frankenstein” from Big Daddy, had the opportunity to dress himself; choosing to wear underwear on the outside of swim trunks, oversized cowboy boots, and a towel as a cape.  The same can be said for learning, hence the organization effect.

The Organization effect is “outlining, integrating, and synthesizing information produces better learning than rereading materials or other more passive strategies” (Hu, 2017), so by organizing materials for others, you inhibit their learning. Part of effective learning is organizing information, in a way that you have associated it with the knowledge that you already know. By organizing, summarizing, and bullet pointing your own material and research; rather than just memorization. You become more familiar with the material, allowing it to be better ingrained in your Long Term memory (LTM) for later recall.

Beyond this acquisition of knowledge through LTM, learning is more effective when students can understand the purpose of learning such material. By organizing their own material, it can help to answer the question of how and why is this information relevant — adding value to their learning.

This line of questioning leads to the larger realm of inquiry: what happens to knowledge and learning when students put in the effort to learn the material rather than the material being presented in a neat and tidy bow in the form of slideshows and bullet points? They remember it better and care about it more– hence the Ikea effect.

The Ikea effect is described as adding a higher automatic value to something because of the effort they put in to create it— a labor of love. I believe this can relate to learning. By using the organization effect to organize our own material, we not only remember it more effectively in our LTM, but we value the knowledge and learning more but because we have put in the effort to organize and understand it. By using the organization effect, students can establish the Ikea effect towards their learning and education.

A real life example of adding effort to learning from students that result in the added value of their knowledge and education is seen in this Ted Talk: “What if students controlled their own learning?”. Students design, and control their learning and education. The result? Students are passionate about their studies and intrinsically motivated to achieve, which is not fueled by grades or physical measures, but by their motivation and passion for learning and knowledge obtainment on topics of interest.

 

 

This real life example shows that by having students be active in their learning, by making mistakes, and putting in the effort to earn, it adds higher value to education and learning, thus implementing motivation, and passion. WIth this being said, can we add a higher value to learning and education as a whole beyond the degree and grades? I believe so.

For this week’s feature photo is of my cousin Allyssiah and her son Felix. Felix was a labor of love, that has motivated Allyssiah to go back to school and get her degree so she can provide a great life for Felix. The motivation, passion, and the love doesn’t end as soon as he walks, talks, grows up, graduates, gets married and has kids. The love, passion, and motivation of Felix will always be there for Allyssiah. This is how learning should be. it should stop as soon as the task is done, or the grade is achieved, it should continue throughout the rest of your life, using acquired knowledge to help perpetuate growth and learning. Learning; like Felix; should be valued, promoting motivation, drive, and development.

References

Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2001). How people learn. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Donovan, M., Pellegrino, J., & Bransford, J. (1999). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. Committee On Learning Research And Educational Practice, 88. http://dx.doi.org/0-309-51946-2

Hu, X. (2017). Organization Effects – L.T.T.A @ the UoMHome.umltta.org. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from http://home.umltta.org/home/theories/25p/organization-effects

Martin, J. (2017). The Science of Learning: Organization Effect. ACADEMY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP OF LEARNING. Retrieved from https://learningscholarship.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/the-science-of-learning-organization-effect/

Metcalfe, J., & Shimamura, A. (1996). Metacognition: Knowing about Knowing. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Norton, M., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2011). The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1777100

Ted Talk X. (2017). What if students controlled their own learning? | Peter Hutton | TEDxMelbourneYouTube. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMxqEkg3wQ0&t=339s

Posted in Photography, Psychology, Writing

Has Religion Lost its Way?

During these trying times of politics, terrorism, and Trump, the world has become a scary and unpredictable place. The religions and belief systems typically used to promote peace, community, and the betterment of the individual are now being used as a form of social control. Using religion to promote fear, ignorance, and exclusion is based on rule books or bibles written thousands of years ago. While the stories and techniques may differ, I believe that all religions are virtually the same in their end goal —the betterment of the individual and their life.

Christianity, the most practiced religion, has Jesus Christ as the central figure. The son of God, sent to die for us and save our sins, is symbolized by a cross. In Christianity, people who follow the religion exist to worship God and Jesus Christ and must guide their life by the Holy Bible and the Ten Commandments. When acts, thoughts, or deeds go against the lessons and orders given in the Bible and Ten Commandments are not followed, it is considered a violation or sin. To get into heaven after death instead of hell, people must live by the teachings of the Holy Bible. Forgiveness is at the core of Christianity.

Anabaptism includes traditional Christian religions such as the Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite among others known for their simple lifestyles void of modern technologies or conveniences. The Amish are the most extreme. They refuse to use cars, power lines, or power tools to assist in their farming and daily living. Mennonite and Hutterite, however, are more accepting of modern conveniences. They use some modern technology such as phones and cars but must still live a simple life.

To maintain the simple lifestyle associated with Anabaptism, strict rules and harsh consequences are doled out. Shunning, for example, forces a member (and sometimes their whole family) to have no contact with their community or extended family. They can no longer attend any community events, family functions, or their church. So, by not following rules that are hundreds of years old, dissenters live in complete isolation and are essentially mentally tortured in an effort to maintain social control and order.

Islam, the second largest religion, is concentrated in the Middle East including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt. Followers of the Islamic religion, called Muslims, believe in one god known as Allah. Like Christianity, Muslims believe in Jesus Christ and live by the laws outlined in two holy books: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Like Jesus Christ, Islam’s founder and the prophet is Muhammad who was sent from God. Allah (God) is a powerful and strict judge who will be merciful toward followers depending on the sufficiency of their life’s good works and religious devotion. The teaching of the Islamic religion says that giving up one’s life for Allah is a sure way of entering heaven. And when one goes against Allah, they should be punished.

Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion in the Southern Asia including India and Nepal. Unlike Islam and Christianity, Hinduism has no single founder, no single scripture, and no commonly agreed set of teachings. There are many gods that take different forms, which is why they believe in reincarnation. Hindus have different beliefs or laws. One law is Karma, which says the actions and the way you live your life will be returned to you in your current life or in a future one. Dharma is another law that helps to maintain society. It encourages people to be more moral or gives them the opportunity to act virtuously.  So, a Hindu’s goal is to become free from the law of Karma by using Dharma.

Buddhism is a spiritual religion that is mostly located in Southeast and Western Asia including Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Buddhists don’t believe in figure heads or deities. They believe that nothing is fixed or permanent, and that change is always possible. The goal of Buddhism is to reach a state of enlightenment or nirvana through the development of morality, meditation, and wisdom. The founder and teacher of Buddhism is the Gautama Buddha, who achieved a long state of happiness or enlightenment. Just like Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, Buddhism is a collection of guided disciplines, values, and directives that a person may want to live by.

New Age is a wide variety of different beliefs, practices, and therapies found in North America, but mainly in the USA. The goal of New Age beliefs and practices is to develop an altered consciousness and one’s own divinity while trying to reach a higher consciousness within themselves. Popular elements of New Age include alchemy, alternative psychotherapy techniques, aromatherapy, astrology, channeling, crystal work, divination, color healing, magic, mediums, psychic powers of every kind, reincarnation, and past life regression, Tarot card readings, Yoga, and many other unique movements and zany practices. To society, these techniques are better known as self-help methods and alternative therapies. But like the already mentioned religions, New Age promotes a sense of betterment within the individual.

So why am I describing these different religions? To make a point that, no matter what the figure head or founder is, these religions are striving towards a similar goal of betterment and prescribing to a higher (sometimes unknown) power. I believe that religions are just coping strategies that people use in times of difficulty, death, hardship, and when struggling with a lack of guidance. By putting all religion on equal footing, it allows commonalities to come to light.

Religion allows people to deal with the issues of life, society, death, and struggle. When people are in desperate need, they seek answers through religion. A good example of this is when people are facing death or a loved one are attempting to deal with their loss. They end up praying to a higher power even if they aren’t religious. Religion and spiritual beliefs also provide people with an escape from reality to establish comfort and relief. This is seen with prison inmates, who claim to have found Jesus. Inhumane living conditions can negatively impact one’s mind and body, so religion offers a mental escape just like reading, learning, or inane tasks.

Religion and spiritual beliefs have also been used as a method of control or locus of external control. By believing a higher power has control over your actions, destiny and eternal life have become a scapegoat for actions that result in negative actions. This is seen when people claim to act as God’s messenger.

What often results from trying to live religiously is that instead of trying to live to your best potential, religious groups try to oppress and establish some type of social control. This appears to be a common issue when groups of Christian terrorists, extremists, or believers, kill and protest because it says to do so in the bible and they want to please God. This often results in the oppression of immigrants, women, and LGBTQ.

I am not claiming that all violence is due to religious ideals, but these views of religion, places of worship, and leaders tend to skew peoples’ views of our current society by opposing change that needs to occur. If you look at protesters, there seems to be a common thread: people against LGTBQ, immigration, abortion and any sort of discrimination frequently have religious tendencies advertised on their protest signage.

“Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”. Quoted by Karl Marx, who is known as the father of Communism, Marx believes that during trying times of depression, religion can serve as a distraction. This quote, I believe, is still quite relevant, but religion has become less about love, forgiveness, reaching enlightenment, and living to be your true self. Today, it is more about following traditions, orders, and laws, even if that is through oppression and discrimination.

One example of such discrimination is with the conflicts in the Middle East. There has been much controversy over the Muslims and Islamic religion. Uttering words like “ISIS” or “Muslims” seems to be the equivalent of saying the Dark Lord’s name from Harry Potter (Voldemort). These words promote fear, and with that, paranoia. Associating all Muslims are terrorists is a joke.

Stereotyping all Muslims and people who wear hijabs or turbans, and denying Syrian refugees and immigrants from having an opportunity to live a normal life, is disgraceful. This can also be said for LGBTQ community, where protesting against love and acceptance of LGBTQ members, one the perception of being sinful is horrible, and should not be tolerated. If religions like Christianity are all about love and forgiveness, then why are same sex couples, who want to be married, live a normal life and have a family, considered sinful? This is where I believe religion comes into play. Through all this hatred, it appears that religious groups have lost their way as they try to establish social control.

This dictatorship of social control by religious groups needs to stop. I hope that, by putting all religions, spiritual beliefs, and belief systems on equal grounds, it can lessen stereotypes, fear, and religious social control, while promoting a sense of equality and an openness to different ideas and people. Whether they are Muslim, LGBTQ, black, white, or those with purple polka dots, acceptance and openness is key for the survival during these difficult times.

For this weeks featured photo, I have posted a photo of unique donuts. Each donut has its own special characteristics (whether it be sugared, glazed or feature different flavors like bubblegum). The bottom line is that they are all the same — they are donuts. This I believe is a metaphor for religion, that when it comes down to it, they are all the same — each religion has similar goals — self-improvement, guidance, and enlightenment.

Posted in Photography, Psychology

Is Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Bisexual?

In society, sex and gender are controversial and confusing. Traditionally, sex and gender were binary (male or female), but today they are a spectrum. Bill Nye explains the spectrum of human sexuality” by using an abacus break it into four different categories: sex, gender, attraction, and expression.

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Bill Nye Saves the World S1, E9. Abacus of Sex.

Sex is defined as biological features that are often split into male or female. It’s the sum of the structural and functional differences by which the male and female are distinguished. Or, it’s the phenomena or behavior dependent on these differences. Sex varies because of the varying of sex hormones, chromosomes, and organs.

Gender is like sex in that it is on a spectrum. Gender is the physical appearance of male/female binary classification and is based on the individual’s personal awareness or identity. People think that sex and gender must match, but this isn’t the case. On one end of the gender spectrum, there are individuals who were born one sex and identify as that sex. On the opposite end, you have individuals who were born as one sex but identify as the opposite sex. They are referred to as transgendered. Jazz Jennings is an excellent example of this.

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Jazz was born as a male, but at an early age, she identified as a female. She began transitioning to a female by taking hormones. Because Jazz is transitioning from male to female, she has received many threats, where people call her a “freak”, “transvestite”, or telling her that what she is doing is unnatural/ a sin.

In the middle of the gender spectrum, there are individuals who neither identify as a male or female — gender fluidity. One example of a gender fluid individual is Ruby Rose.

An actress who considers herself gender fluid, Rose sometimes dresses more masculine. Other times, she dresses in ways that better fit feminine societal roles. (She has the bone structure to pull off either one).

Attraction, like sexuality and gender, is also on a spectrum in regards to who you are sexually attracted to. Much of the population are attracted to the opposite gender making them heterosexual. On the opposite side of the spectrum are individuals who are attracted to the same gender or sex — homosexual. Those attracted to both males or females are referred to as bisexual. Those attracted individuals regardless of sex or gender are referred to pansexual, while people not attracted to either male or female sex are a-sexual.

In the past, expression was binary. Females wore clothes like dresses, pink colors, and makeup socially defined as feminine, while males wore more masculine clothing like darker colors, suits, and ties. But, this is all changing. Here are a few examples showing the diversity of expression for men and women:So_Lashy_BlastPRO_Mascara_by_COVERGIRL_LashEquality_16

James Charles is the first male model for CoverGirl cosmetics, showing that men, like women, can wear make-up.

These are just three examples in the fashion world of how certain pieces are for one type of gender. Ellen DeGeneres is known for her more masculine clothing, even though she identifies as a female and is attracted to other females. Jennifer Morrison is a heterosexual female who can rock a suit and tie. The final fashion choice is from a runway show where male models showed off more feminine pieces like a dress and fur boots. One of my favorite examples of expression that defy binary rules is RuPaul Charles.

Ru Paul is a homosexual male who can rock drag attire and a suit and tie. On an interview with Oprah, Rupaul commented by saying that dressing in drag was his job, but he still enjoys colorful suits that reflect feminine patterns and colors like pink polka dots. In fact, RuPaul’s explains the spectrum of expression best when he says “We are born naked, and the rest is drag”. After reflecting on the “Abacus of sex” and the “spectrum of human sexuality”, I believe that gender is socially constructed.

In society, we try to place a label on something to better understand it, and we apply these labels with the help of attraction and expression. But, what happens when we can no longer rely on expression to define gender? When trying to determine someone’s sexuality or gender, we use fashion, mannerisms, and emotional responses to deduce whether someone is male or female. We try to label or define someone by only their appearance, which needs to stop. One advocate for this type of labeling and how to approach it is IO Tillett Wright.
IO_Tillett_Wright

Io was born as a female, but identified as a male and is homosexual. When IO interacts with people who are transgender, queer, or homosexual, IO asked their preferred pronoun — he, she, or it. Notice how I did not use a pronoun when talking about IO, I used IO’s name? This is how we should talk when discussing people instead of using the pronoun of he, she or it. Instead of labeling a person’s sex, gender, or expression and putting them into binary boxes, we should consider a more tasteful and humane approach like ice cream flavors.

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During the sexual spectrum episode of Bill Nye, he introduced a cartoon clip of different flavors of ice cream cones in a conversion therapy group. The storyline of this clip is that vanilla tries to convince the other flavors to be more vanilla because it is the most natural of the flavors. This clip is a good representation of how we shouldn’t try to change ourselves so that we can fit in with the norm. Each person or flavor is made of similar ingredients (internal body parts and organs), but the flavor is how we define ourselves vanilla (heterosexual), pistachio (homosexual), and mint chocolate (bisexual). Be true to your flavor.

Instead of labeling people by their expression, sex or gender, love them for who they are, and embrace your own flavor. In the words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else”.

This week’s featured photograph is of a boy standing in a fountain. The idea behind this photo is that a child doesn’t have near a number of social biases, as compared to adults. They express themselves freely without concern for others judgments.

Here is the link for the Cartoon Ice cream clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46h-LfNWPn8

 

 

 

Posted in Photography, Psychology, Writing

Could Brain Damage Cause Brilliance?

The New York Times features an article about using cognitive brain manipulation to explore mental disabilities such as autism. This article leads to future possibilities that could have a huge impact on how mental disorders are studied. This article begins by the author discovering new skills, such as impressive drawing, through the application of electrodes of certain brain regions. The electrode experiment led to further investigation into the ability to manipulate human cognition past their mental capacity and provide insight into how the human brain functions. One example of this type of manipulation of brain areas is the research into autism.

Allen Snyder developed a theory while studying autism called the Savant theory. Snyder theorizes that a small number of people with autism can perform super specialized mental acts. These acts can include learning new languages without any formal training or impressive drawing skill.

The unlimited mental capacity within people with autism leads to the larger question of the neurological impairment that causes autism. Could neurological impairment be the cause of such genius-like abilities? With this line of questioning, I wonder if higher brain capacity is caused by lack of brainpower.

An analogy that I think relays this thinking is having all your eggs in one basket. By having more brain area impairment, more time and neurons are applied to fewer brain areas as compared to multiple brain regions. The experiment to investigate this savant theory was tested by the manipulation of electrodes to shut down parts of the brain. This type of testing can also give people with normal functioning brains gives a glimpse into the reality that people with mental disabilities deal with daily.

By manipulating certain brain areas, changing the way people perform and think can provide more intense and scientific research into what causes mental disabilities.  It could also change the way we think in unexpected ways

Not only can we determine the underlying cause of mental disorders, it but can also assist in the treatment of mental disorders. This treatment and cause for mental disorders can be achieved by stimulating other areas of the brain to dispel syndromes and side effects of mental disorders by using a normal functioning brain to create autistic syndromes.

In summary, not only can brain manipulation help with treatment and prevention, it can also assist with therapy. This technique could be used as a therapy where people can learn what is it like to have a mental disability. By gaining a new perspective and appreciation for people who deal with daily mental difficulties.

This week’s featured photo is of graduation shoes, which is symbolic of this blog post, by allowing people to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. whether this is through shoes or brain manipulation.