Posted in learning, Psychology

The Reality of the Student-Teacher Relationship

Today (October 5th) is National Teachers Day, so in honor of this, I was planning on doing a blog post about student-teacher relationships and how it impacts learning, but after talking with my professor (you know who you are), I have a very different image. So, this blog will still examine the student-teacher relationship, but it will also give way to the recently discovered insight that I gained, by talking with my own professor.

For many students, especially in post-secondary education, they tend to only go and talk to a professor about grades. They will make an appointment typically, before, or after an exam or assignment is due and a good portion of the students won’t even make the effort to talk to their professor. This type of interaction or lack of interaction seems quite logical, because in primary school. The traditional relationship between students and teachers is established by authority. Teachers are worshiped and everything they say is golden. Moreover, seeing or interacting with a teacher outside the school is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs (it’s just unnatural). Resulting in a lack of student-teacher communication, which impacts student learning.

One study that shines a light on this impact of learning through student-teacher relationship is explored by examining the core dimensions: control, trust and intimacy.

The idea of control, leads back to the position of authority that teachers hold, where students have no power in what they learn, or how they learn it, portraying the image of passive learning. But students don’t realize that they hold more power than they think, because if it wasn’t for students, there would be no need for teachers. By giving students control over their learning, you can empower them, and increase their motivation towards more active learning. This empowerment is established by giving the students the responsibility over their learning, rather than putting it in the hands of teachers.

By giving students this power, it creates a trust between the student and the teacher. The teacher is trusting the students to learn on their own, with passion and motivation. The students learn to trust the teacher more because the student feels like the teacher trust them, because they allowed the students to control their own learning. SO, with this established trust, it allows for more communication to flourish, thus creating a better student teacher relationship.

intimacy is defined as feelings of closeness and connection, so in regards to the student-teacher relationship. So, when there is shared control between the student and the teacher, both trust and intimacy (in term of closeness or a connection) will begin to bloom, thus increasing the students learning and motivation towards learning.

With this feedback, it seems that if teachers give students control over their learning, a better relationship and more communication will form, and with an open dialogue, students may be more willing to critic the teacher’s material and lectures. It sounds like an easy solution to a difficult problem, right? Wrong! even if students were given this control, there would still be a lot of students who will refuse to have an open dialogue with their teacher or professor, because some professors can be unapproachable, and portray the perspective of not caring for their students. One of the big issues with this solution, is that even if feedback were given, it probably wouldn’t change the way teachers or professors instruct.

With this idea of feedback, students would think that by giving feedback to their teachers of professors that it would result in a change in their teaching or the material, but with further research no feedback is used in this way.  At the University of Lethbridge, the faculty has a handbook that contains a large amount of useful information. A handbook such as this is typically for faculty eyes only. But with investigation I found something probably unknown to many students. In article 12 under the heading of “Teaching Effectiveness”, I can across a very interesting detail about student assessment. It states ” Effectiveness as a teacher may be assessed by a variety of means, including evaluation by fellow Faculty Members and through student appraisals though no assessment will be based mainly on student appraisals”. In other words, student evaluations and appraisals aren’t taken into consideration when evaluating a teacher. This quote shocked me, because shouldn’t a professor be graded by the students they are teaching? After reading this, it appears to me that this detail about teacher assessments are a way to safeguard the teachers, departments and the university. Leading to the conclusion although the university takes our money; professors, departments and the University don’t trust us to make the right decision in our own education.

On this note, I lead into the insight I have received from talking with my own professor regarding this topic, and education in general.

It seems like there is no point in writing about trying to improve the student teacher dialogue or relationship because it would not make any difference. I say this because teachers are so fixed on the context of their lectures and assignments that they don’t focus on the delivery of the material or how we are understanding the material. Even if teachers and professors were given an opportunity to change how they teach, if even it means less work for them, they would refuse. to which I repeat, teachers are only focused on going through and lecturing on as much material as possible, putting quantity of information over the quality of learning. With this reflection, it seems like the direction of education is going nowhere, so why try to change the system of education, if it can’t or doesn’t want to be changed. Not only is the system of education and the teachers to blame, I think the students are partly to blame as well. As students, we complain about a lack of change, and a lack of learning and quality education, but when students are faced with an opportunity to change or do something different, we fear it. For example, at my university I have this class that features no lectures and no exams, instead the students teach by doing talks, and we write a weekly blog. when students registered in the class, see this new way of learning, students are lost and even some drop out. Based on this, it seems like students are happy and content to be in this bubble where they think they are getting an education, and a degree to hang on the wall. Me personally, I am not content living in a bubble, especially when I know different. To put this in perspective, because of technology, we have access to every piece of information in the world. Decades ago, teachers and professors were the only form of access to information, to which it is now replaced by Wikipedia, and google scholar. So, it seems to me that, not only does teaching count for nothing, but maybe teaching is no longer needed.


Here are some good examples of teachers: Mrs Frizzle from the Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Elizabeth Halsey from Bad Teacher.

But in honour of National Teachers Day, here is the perfect example of having control, trust, and intimacy with a teacher can result in open dialogue and the ideal student-teacher relationship. The featured photo is of one of the most influential teachers I have ever had: Mrs. Kathy Glasgo. She taught me not only academia, but life lessons, which I still carry to this day.


Dobransky, N. and Frymier, A. (2004). Developing teacher‐student relationships through out of class communication. Communication Quarterly, 52(3), pp.211-223.

Godsey, M. (2017). When the Internet Delivers Its Own Content, What’s Left for the Teacher?. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].

Jones, B. (2009). Motivating Students to Engage in Learning : The MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 21(2).

Martin, J. (2017). Academia: Can We Save Ourselves from Ourselves?. [online] Linkedin. Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2017].

Martin, J. (2017). Teaching and Education.

Posted in learning

A Glimmer of Hope in the Inexperienced​

Just outside the open house, looking into what different event that is happening on the track and in the gym, are hundreds of potential students with their parents or guardians. They look like they are eager little children ready for their first day of school. It’s probably the first time they are going to be adulating in the big bad real world. Around the event are brilliant marketing material: the blue and yellow balloons, Luxie the mascot, experienced volunteers wearing t-shirts that say “Shine”; from a business perspective, it’s brilliant, way to go ULeth for marketing to inexperienced high school students who have no idea that most of them are about to receive their very own piece of paper (degree) for an average cost of $50,000. As I look around there is not on a piece of advertising that mention how to shine or anything about critical thinking or learning. This is an example of post-secondary Eductaion— a successful BUSINESS.

I wonder if it is a good idea to have inexperienced students making a life decision like a career, and accepting the obligation of lifelong debt of around $50,000 (if not more), choosing their post-secondary school from a catalog (like you would when shopping for a new outfit), just after they finish puberty? This is our education system at work (or a lack of work), but at least the ULeth business is doing good. I just wish students knew more of what I know about post secondary campuses, learning, and education BEFORE they go into lifelong debt.

Posted in Psychology

Can Failure Lead to Success?

For this post, I’m going to start off with a relevant story, so here it goes. I a few years ago I took an art history class, studying European art. I was studying for an where I had to provide the name, and artist and date for a couple hundred pieces of art.  Before the exam, I had difficulty remembering a few different artwork, thus I got them wrong. so after the exam,  I reviewed my test and the artworks that I could wrong or unfished I could remember better than the answers I got right or finished; and to this day, a few years later (and going into a completely different discipline, I can still remember those couple artworks that I got wrong and are still unfinished in my mind.

This is one of the artworks that I got wrong. The greek statue Doryphoros was sculpted by Polykleitos (poly= polysporin). So why I can remember this and other artworks I got wrong or didn’t finish after all these years, but I can’t remember the artworks I answered correctly? This is because of the Zeigarnik effect.

The Zeigarnik effect was discovered by Bluma Zeigarnik (power to the females). Bluma was a Soviet Psychologist who discovered that better memory occurs for interrupted or unfished tasks, by an experience she had at a restaurant with a waiter. The effect is described as “people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks”. Bluma Zeigarnik states in her paper that by interrupting a task or having an unfinished task, we remember it better by 90% on average.


So why do we remember unfished tasks better than finished tasks?  There have been many theories as to why this happens. Two theories by Seifert and Patalano in 1991 hypothesized that there is more time spent on the unfished task than the finished task, hence why it is still unfinished. This theory is debunked because, in reality, we spend more time completing the task, which is why is it finished.  Seifert and Patalano’s second theory is that by having an unfinished task, it is easier to recall because of the smaller amount of information that needs to be recalled, in other words, chunking; where you can better remember information divided into manageable chunks of information.  This theory was tested and proven to be false as experimenters manipulate the size of each task and then there was no change; people remembered the unfinished task better than the finished one.

So with these false theories out of the way, why does this effect occur? The most explanatory theory is that as a society and a stubborn human race, we have an innate drive for perfection, leading to the observation that we fear failure. With this being said, having an unfinished task drives us crazy, resulting in a quasi-need (a need based on intent or purpose) for completion and perfectionism. Because of this need, we spend more time thinking about it or recalling it into our working memory, thus it is better encoded into our long-term memory.

So now that we have explained how the Zeigarnik effect occurs, how can we harness it into learning? The Zeigarnik effect can be used in a couple different way. The first is that by having this innate drive for completion, it motivates us to complete a task with achievement; so with this effect in mind, we strive for completion and perfection in tasks. So later down the road, we remember the task better because we strived to complete the task and failed to, the encoding it into our long-term memory.

Another way to harness the power of the Zeigarnik effect is to use it as a memory aid in learning. This is seen in the Pomodoro Technique, where you study for a certain time say 25 minutes, then interrupt yourself with a break for a few minutes, and when you return to studying or learning, you have encoded the information better than if you were studying for 2 hours with no break in between.

WIth this being said, it seems like there is a link between the Zeigarnik effect and learning, in more ways that the Pomodoro technique. if we break down learning, it occurs through trial and error that occurs over a period of time. With trial and error, it is often the case that we fail, take a break and the reexamine the problem, to find a better solution (sound familiar?) This trial and error of learning seems to be a mirrored definition of the Zeigarnik effect. where we attempt, fail or not finish, take a break and then reattempt the task or problem, thus it is better remembered later. With this being said, it could be the case that the Zeigarnik effect is a huge motivator as well as a key part of why failure is a part of learning, to which learning is more remembered in the long run. One final thought to this female inspired and motivated blog post, can it be said that our failure is the key to success in learning? I think so. Thanks, Bluma.

Since I gave you the key to success with thanks the Zeigarnik effect, I decided that for this week’s featured photo, I would give you a keychain. Free of charge, so enjoy.


Atkinson, J. (1953). The achievement motive and recall of interrupted and completed tasks. Journal Of Experimental Psychology46(6), 381-390.

No Interruptions? How The Zeigarnik Effect Could Help You To Study Better. (2017). Retrieved 29 September 2017, from

Pomodoro Technique. (2017). Retrieved 29 September 2017, from

Seifert, C., & Patalano, A. (1991). Memory for Incomplete Tasks: A Re-examination of the Zeigarnik Effect. Thirteenth Annual Conference Of The Cognitive Science Society, 114-119.

Wikipedia. (2017). Zeigarnik Retrieved 29 September 2017, from




Posted in Psychology

Grades Now or Learning Later?

What is the purpose of grades? To increase motivation, to reflect what you have learned, or to provide a point of reference for future learning— all of the above are incorrect (you fail this exam). The true purpose of grades is accountability, for educational institutes to show how well students perform on assignments and tests. As humans, we have an innate, evolutionary impulse to categorize, to which education has become one of our victims.

William Farish invented the GPA system in 1792 at the University of Cambridge.  He created this system (inspired by factory workings “grading” the quality of the products that were being made) as a way to process more students and their work in a shorter amount of time while increasing his income, dubbing him the “world’s most famous lazy teacher” (Soh, 2011). When people heard this idea about how you could increase production within education, many schools adopted the same method— thus you have the grading system.

The result of this grading system is that not only does it extinguish the desire to learn, but students are afraid to take a risk of learning something because of the possible cost of not receiving an A or A+, so they constrain their learning (and the mistakes that come with it). I was helping out in a class, and when the teaching assistant explained a self-concept exercise (only worth a small percent), all the student questions were about formatting, references, and criteria in order to receive the highest grade possible; they completely missed the whole point of the assignment. To students, it is all about the performance and rewards, rather than the process and knowledge obtained.

To the students, grades all about the performance and rewards, rather than the learning and knowledge that can be obtained. We see this all the time, where report cards in primary school are of utter importance. Most children strive for gold stars and a report card with all A’s, while parents demand them so that they can judge their children’s performance in school. In contrast, what happens when parents ask the child what they learned in school today— and the child struggles to think of an answer.


We see this all the time, where report cards in primary school are of utter importance. Most children strive for gold stars and a report card with all A’s, while parents demand them so that they can judge their children’s performance in school. In contrast, what happens when parents ask the child what they learned in school today— and the child struggles to think of an answer. With this said, I can think of a few psychological explanations for why is there so much emphasis on grades, especially in higher education.

The Focusing Effect. This is a cognitive bias, where people put too much emphasis, focus, and importance on one aspect of the event, resulting in the inability to think about the value of future events, consider other possibilities, see the bigger picture, and think about how it could be useful in the future. As students, we focus on the grades, rather than the larger concept of how will this class and knowledge help me in the future. This bias can also relate to education; how it is more about performance than learning and knowledge. We focus more on the small details like grades, thinking that they are of utmost importance, but we lose sight of the purpose of education and learning, and only institute structure and change in the small details of lecture rooms and teaching, rather than consider how these changes and the system as a whole impact student learning. Grades do not dictate our success (as we think they do). For example, when you get out of school, it is highly unlikely that anybody will ask you your GPA, and use that as a factor to evaluate you. Nevertheless, we lose sight of this notion because of the focusing effect. In other words, we cannot see the forest through the trees.


Delay of Gratification. This is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward; it is normally associated with resisting a smaller, immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. The effect is most famously demonstrated in the Marshmallow Experiment done by Stanford University in 1960’s. Children are in a room sitting at a table, with a fluffy marshmallow sitting in front of them; the experimenter tells them that if they can wait until they return (without eating the marshmallow) then they are rewarded with a second one.  As you would expect, most of the children cannot avoid temptation and eat it before the experimenter returns.

This is a somewhat predictable response for children because they tend to lack impulse-control, but can the same be said for adults and students in higher education? I believe so. Because as a society, we are consistently ambushed with instant gratification, the same can be said for our education and grades. We do not want to wait and plan for something that may or may not happen in the future, like applying our newly developed skills and knowledge to real-life situations; students want an instant gratification of a physical reward of their performance and effort now, not later. In addition to this, grades because they are physical and can be measured, serve extrinsic motivators to increase performance, but we shouldn’t be motivated by a letter or number that is completely subjective, we should be motivated intrinsically to gain knowledge and see what we can do with it.


Delay Discounting AKA hyperbolic Discounting. This is the psychological tendency for the subjective value of a reward to decrease as the delay to obtaining that reward increases, in other words, people tend to want small rewards now, than wanting to wait or attempt to try for larger rewards later. Although similar to delay of gratification, Delay Discounting is in reference to time. Nevertheless, how does delay discounting play into education and grades? Throughout our four or five years at a post-secondary institute, the application of learning after those four years, seems meaningless because it is so far into the future, so in the meantime between the present and future, it’s all about grades— tests, assignments, papers, GPA and making the Dean’s Honor list. It is easier to think about the “now” rather than the “later”, hence, we tend to discount future events and not care about them as much. Moreover, frankly, who has time to plan when we are so overwhelmed with acting tests and researching papers? With delay discounting, it can be very difficult to think about non-measurable events or stimuli that seem to occur so far in the future, and grades and learning are no acceptation.  How-to-beat-psychology-and-grow-wealth

After explaining why there is such an emphasis on grades, using three different psychological biases: focusing effect, delay of gratification, and delay discounting AKA hyperbolic discounting. It should be clear that grades are ineffective for learning. As grades are subjective (created by a lazy teacher), remove the ability to take risks, decrease motivation to learn, and do not reflect what have you learned; we need to ask ourselves is there a way that we can measure learning and what does learning actually measure.

For this week’s featured photo, I put one of my artworks up. It provides a good analogy of what we should focus on. Rather than looking at this serigraph as blue horizontal lines, green vertical lines and pick diagonal lines; view it as a cluster of bamboos in a body of blue water. In addition to the abstract concept that is bamboo, I produced this piece, out of pure passion for art making. I did not receive any grade or extrinsic incentive to produce this piece, and we should treat education and learning in the same fashion. Do it because you want to, not for the grade, because your grades will NEVER reflect what you have learned.


Bembenutty, H. (2008). Academic delay of gratification and expectancy–value. Personality And Individual Differences44(1), 193-202.

Bembenutty, H., & Karabenick, S. (2013). Self-Regulation, Culture, and Academic Delay of Gratification. Journal Of Cognitive Education And Psychology12(3), 323-337.

Bower, J. (2017). A Short History of Grading. For the Love of Learning. Retrieved from

Cayubit, R., Cadacio, C., Chua, M., Faeldon, V., Go, W., & Verdan, M. (2016). Academic delay of gratification, academic achievement, and need for affiliation of selected high school students. Educational Measurement And Evaluation Review (2016),7(2).

Cherubini, P., Mazzocco, K., & Rumiati, R. (2003). Rethinking the focusing effect in decision-making. Acta Psychologica113(1), 67-81.

Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2004). A Discounting Framework for Choice With Delayed and Probabilistic Rewards. Psychological Bulletin130(5), 769-792.

Kahneman, D. (2006). Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion. Science312(5782), 1908-1910.

Soh, K. (2011). Grade point average: what’s wrong and what’s the alternative?. Journal Of Higher Education Policy And Management33(1), 27-36.




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.


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.

Hu, X. (2017). Organization Effects – L.T.T.A @ the Retrieved 14 September 2017, from

Martin, J. (2017). The Science of Learning: Organization Effect. ACADEMY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP OF LEARNING. Retrieved from

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.

Ted Talk X. (2017). What if students controlled their own learning? | Peter Hutton | TEDxMelbourneYouTube. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from

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.

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.


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 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.


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: