November 20, 2007

Invention Varies Across Disciplines

Differences in Style Exist, But Don’t Forget About Differences in Invention.
Even If You Can’t Recognize It, Writing and Invention Within That Writing Exist.

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November 13, 2007

The Power of an Archivist

How an archivist can alter people’s perceptions of an archive. When and how you view an archive are key.

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September 28, 2007

Virtual=Reality

Proof that today’s youth are not the apathetic lot that old people say we are.

The unregulated virtual world gives you the true, unregulated picture of the University that they may not want you to know about.

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September 21, 2007

Society’s Simulated Sovereignty of Speech

Society allows stereotypes to dictate how people of a certain appearance should act and then forces people to alter their outward expression to match what they want their societal standing to be.

Why society robbed you of a freedom you of a freedom you thought you had.

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September 14, 2007

College Causes Conformity

In her work My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, Rebekah Nathan focuses on the writing or symbols on the doors of her peers. Nathan concludes that some of the pictures are calculated to say “I’m a unique and eccentric individual” (27). Why then, are the pictures she observes easily categorized into a few distinct categories? In reality, the vast majority of college students seek to assert their membership in a crowd.

Not all students have the exact same interests, some students blast rap while others prefer classic rock, but I have yet to hear anyone brazenly declaring their affinity for show tunes by letting that thump through their speakers. Even the supposedly “antiestablishment” themed door is considered an “acceptable alternative image” (24). Going against the supposed norm puts you in a sizable group and makes you no less beholden to the prevailing ideals of what is “acceptable.” To go against what’s considered “normal” you must still be aware of what normal is, therefore the societal norm influences everyone and all “writing” put up in the dorm by students declares their allegiance to some group.

A walking survey of my floor revealed no door decorations except nametags and white boards, which Nathan herself pronounces “served as a symbol- of friendliness and perhaps, when filled with messages, one’s popularity” (30). People are eager to post something recognized as a measure of “popularity” but avoid anything potentially controversial. I’m willing to bet that the insides of these rooms are not nearly as bare and boring as the doors. There are many potential reasons students could neglect to decorate their door, from laziness to the prohibition on risqué material our RA claims to enforce. Laziness would work if the insides of all the rooms were as spartan (pun intended) as the doors, but I know of rooms with posters and other decorations inside, but not outside. As to the ban on inappropriate material, by not posting it students conform to the rules, and throw away the potential to make an individual statement to ally themselves with the larger, conformist group.

This same response appears elsewhere in student life. While at a home football game I witnessed an almost entirely silent student section, despite the football team leading 21-0 before the skies opened up, and not coincidentally, so did the bleachers. Contrast this to my high school where we had a student section in the hundreds of students, even for road games, who would stand and chant the entire game. Maybe every student at my high school loved football, but I suspect that some of them weren’t entirely sure when we had an ineligible man downfield, and that the students here know enough about football to cheer when the scoreboard changes to reflect more points Case. The difference is identifying with a group. Once you get enough committed students to start a student section, others can join in free from scorn, and eventually the section will become large enough that everyone feels pressured to join. This phenomena also manifests itself in the dining hall. Students on my floor, myself included, attempt to persuade everyone in the common room to go to the dining hall simply to avoid eating alone.

College is supposed to be about freedom, and in some respects it offers students more freedom. They no longer have parents controlling them or a legally enforced curfew, but they cannot escape the same societal pressures to belong they faced before. This urge to is a powerful one, and manifests itself in throughout student life, but most notably in writing, or on Norton’s third floor, the absence of it.

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August 31, 2007

Society’s Subtle Submission

From the plagiarism scandal that rocked the New York Times to tainted records in athletics, cheating has become as much a part of Americana as baseball and apple pie. While condemning our youth seems a simple solution, the reality finds our society liable. Schools without grades, youth baseball games without scores and inventive spellings are the rule rather than the exception. This fantasy world ends abruptly in high school. Suddenly those pesky numbers on the standardized test do matter and Johnny learns that his 870 on the SAT rules out Harvard. The pressure inherent in facing failure for the first time tempts students to cheat.
All high school students face pressure to succeed. Students at rich high schools view high-ranked colleges as a necessity and a birthright. Students from poorer backgrounds see a degree as an escape, a means to a better life. Students readily acknowledge their academic success is based almost entirely on the numbers on tests and the letters on papers. Alice Newhall, a student in Virginia, proclaims “The better grades you have, the better school you get into, the better you're going to do in life. And if you learn to cut corners to do that, you're going to be saving yourself time and energy. In the real world, that's what's going to be going on. The better you do, that's what shows” (www.cnn.com). Newhall’s phrase “cut corners” shows an attempt to validate cheating as efficiency. Her statement shows that students find their academic achievement inexorably linked to success in life by our increasingly results-driven society.
Students learn this early on. We live in a society that glorifies Paris Hilton, because of her wealth, over brilliant thinkers and humanitarians. Entertainment glorifies cheating in movies like The Perfect Score. Corporate greed is celebrated when profits crest $10 billion a quarter. In sports, Floyd Landis cheated to win the Tour de France, and baseball players Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco admitted steroid use. The fact remains, the youth of America discover that cheating can earn you money, our society’s chief value.
That explains the climate in which students cheat, and like anyone breaking the rules, they push the envelope to see where consequences begin. Just think, if the police only caught a handful of speeders out of 100 and the punishment was a two dollar fine, how many people would observe speed limits? Just as in that hypothetical, before long cheaters find safety in numbers, knowing that if 75% of their class cheats, all cannot be caught. 75% represents the percentage of students engaging in “serious cheating” according to a Rutgers University study (www.cnn.com). Inevitably, people slip through the cracks, but a shocking 95% say they got away scot free according to a survey of successful students (www.glass-castle.com).
Those same surveys report that, disturbingly, over 50% of those students did not feel cheating was wrong (www.glass-castle.com, www.cnn.com). This could easily be blamed on the eroding morals of our youth. But, other indicators suggest the youth of America are not falling into a moral abyss, with one study concluding “today's teenagers are not more criminally prone than past generations. Youth felony arrest rates declined by 40%” while “felony arrest rates for over age 30 adults increased” (www.cjcj.org). If the morals of our generation were slipping, crime rates would rise, not fall.
Don’t confuse my message. I’m not excusing cheaters. It’s always wrong. Cheaters deserve punishment. Also, I acknowledge that there are “bad apples” in every bunch and people make mistakes. Generally, 75% of people don’t make the same mistake. However, they do in this case because our society sends mixed signals. We create an environment of entitlement and then suddenly in high school, not everyone can win. We celebrate the results of cheating, even turning a blind eye to it (see Barry Bonds). These factors, plus our hesitance to condemn anything as an absolute wrong, allow students to rationalize cheating, leading to its proliferation.
That’s my take, but now that I think about it, I probably could have just bought this paper online.

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August 27, 2007

Test message

Testing, Testing, One, two