Sunday, May 24, 2015

First Amendment Wins Second Time Around

Three years ago, in 2012, a video was posted on YouTube. Unlike the other hundreds of videos posted on YouTube daily, this one brought up extreme amounts of controversy. It was entitled, "Innocence of Muslims" and negatively portrayed the Islamic faith by portraying the Prophet Muhammad as a "bloodthirsty thug".

After this video was posted, a huge uproar was created around the world. Hundreds of people started protesting. The protests began in Cairo and eventually spread to Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia as well as many other countries. The protests caused many people to be injured and even over fifty people to die and the YouTube video was forced to be taken down.

YouTube did not see the point of removing this video, for they saw the video as a video against Islam and not Islam people. Therefore, this video is not a hate-crime. The First Amendment states that, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." According to YouTube, the people who posted the video had the right to say everything they said because of their freedom of speech.

However, on May 18, a federal appeals court revisited the case and ruled that YouTube should not have had to remove the video off the site, for it was a breach to the freedom of speech by taking it down. While I understand everyone is entitled to have their own opinions, I believe the court got the case right the first time. In class, we learned about how there are certain instances that the First Amendment does not cover, such as yelling "Fire!" when there is not one. These instances are often illegal because they could cause danger to people's lives. This video did exactly that with the protests, for over fifty people died as a result of this video. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should be able to express their opinion, but when it turns to danger, it may be time to put limitations on it and take down the video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blackish vs. The Bachelorette

Tonight, I was watching the premiere of the Bachelorette and watching the commercials when I saw one that stood out from the others. After just meeting the newest contestants on the season of the Bachelorette, who were almost entirely white, there was a commercial for a show called Blackish.

The Blackish commercial completely contrasted the Bachelorette in terms of race and appearance. While I have never seen the show Blackish, nor do I know what it is about, I could infer the show existed for a reason and the commercial existed during the Bachelorette for a reason - to prove that ABC could be seen as "diverse". Additionally, the commercial was the first commercial to appear during the commercial break. In our class, we discuss the importance of first position and just as in writing, this commercial was placed first to show its importance and show a clear contrast from extreme whiteness of the Bachelorette.

(click on this link for an enlarged image!)

By looking at the cast photo for the Bachelorette above, it looks completely white. If you did not take a moment to analyze the cast photo, you would not even notice the four African American men in the picture. These men have skin so light that they could even pass for white in this picture; however, despite how light their skin is, ABC still wants their viewers to make sure they notice the "tokens". Two of the African American men are placed in the front row (one fourth from the left and one third from the right) and the other two are placed in the center of the back row. The two in the front row are visible because no one is in front of them and the two in the back row catch your eye because they are standing together in the center, which is where your eye naturally goes. The other 21 men are all white, which once again illustrates the idea that the Bachelor franchise is a majority white franchise with little diversity. Usually, the diversity is shown off in a way like in this picture, to "prove" the tokens exist in a pool of Caucasians.

However, after being subjected to such a white show, a commercial for Blackish comes on. Unlike the Bachelorette, every single person in the commercial was African American. While the Bachelorette has a few tokens to be "diverse", many people still see the show as very homogeneous. The Bachelorette can throw in tokens into their cast on the first night, but more often than not, these tokens get sent home early on in the competition leaving behind an all-white cast. To off-set this, ABC proudly advertises the show Blackish, a show full of token minorities, to prove to Americans that their network is diverse. Having this commercial appear just seconds after watching the interactions of many white contestants makes it stick out - which is exactly what ABC wants. They want you to remember that they have this minority show. From doing our numerous parallels and contrasts for The Great Gatsby, we learn that authors put in parallels and contrasts for a reason: for the audience to notice a specific part and see it as important. ABC is using this exact same tactic for these contrasting shows. The contrast as a whole displays how much attention Americans place on race in society today, not only in the real world but on screen as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Diploma Discrepancies?

In the halls of New Trier in May, you can hear all the seniors anxiously discussing their last weeks of school and upcoming graduation. Graduation is almost a guarantee at New Trier... I have never heard of a student not receiving a diploma at New Trier and if someone did not, they would most likely be looked down upon by their upper class peers.
All this talk of graduation going on in our school right now got me thinking as to what graduation looks like for members of the lower class. Before doing some research, I thought that lower class students would be no where near the graduation rate of members of the middle and upper class; however, I was pleasantly surprised that this is not the case in some states.

In Kentucky and Texas, these lower class students have relatively the same high school graduation rate as privileged students. Kentucky has almost the same graduation rate between classes, for there is only a discrepancy of 1.4 percent between lower class and wealthy students. In Texas, the rate differentiates by 5.5 percent, which is still a relatively equal amount. 

While these states' statistics are promising, our nation still has a little ways to go before the high school graduation rates are equal for all classes. Minnesota, a state I used to live in, has a ridiculously high discrepancy between upper and lower class with a difference of 24.1 percent. In our nation, the average graduation rate for upper/middle class is about 88 percent, but for the lower class, it is around 73 percent. These two rates have a difference of 15 percent, which still shows a large discrepancy between the education different classes receive.

Race can be directly linked to this discrepancy, for the graduation rate for African American students in 2013 was 71 percent compared to 87 percent for whites. These two statistics are almost identical to the class statistics. Because of this, one can make the assumption that African Americans correspond to the lower class and whites correspond to the middle and upper class. The almost identical nature of these statistics shows that race often goes hand in hand with the class system in America today.

The United States is on track to having equal high school graduation rates between different classes, and the day this happens cannot come soon enough. Alma Powell, the chairwoman of America's Promise Alliance, says, "In America, education has always been seen as the pathway out of poverty... We have to do everything possible - inside and outside of our schools - to make the promise of America real for every child." Lower class citizens are currently lagging behind in terms of graduating high school, and this education is necessary for them to become middle class and generate more wealth. In my opinion, education is the key to lowering the amount of impoverished Americans, for educating them will give them opportunities in employment that will provide them with more money to live comfortably. Because of this, raising the graduation rates to make them equal is crucial and beneficial to many Americans.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Only the Wealthy Say "I Do"

Today in America, the percentage of people who get married is on the decline. Wendy Wang, a researcher of American families, says that almost half of the people between the ages 24 and 35 have never been married. The percentage of children who live in single-parent homes has "nearly doubled since 1960" according to data from the 2010 Census.
This graph shows that since 1960, the percentage of Americans over 18 who are married has decreased by 20 percent, while the percentage who have never been married or who are divorced has increased significantly.

Many people have been trying to hypothesize why the marital rate is on the decline. One possible reason for this is the idea that only the wealthy get married, as we discussed in class.

According to Allison Linn, "people with a college degree have become more likely to get - and stay - married than their less educated counterparts, and those who stay married also tend to be much wealthier than unmarried adults." People who attend college are usually members of the upper class, for only two out of five Americans of working age have a college degree. This statistics shows most Americans do not have a college degree, and this is perhaps as a result of the high tuition costs. With limited financial aid available, most people who attend college are upper class, and according to Linn, these are the people who are most likely to get married.

Society has a definition of someone who is "marriage material". Susan Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University and co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, defines someone who is "marriage material" as someone who has "already met certain financial milestones, such as going to college or having a good, stable job." This definition, in many ways, is simply code for someone who is a member of the middle or upper class. Someone who has "met financial milestones" is someone who is well-off money wise and can live comfortably, both of which are characteristics of these two classes. Someone who is struggling with money and part of the lower class is simply not seen as "marriage material" according to society's definition.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Childhood Bias?

Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post about the lack of women in the fields of computer science and engineering and how often times, these two college majors are seen as being "gendered." This post focussed primarily on how people are trying to balance out the discrepancy - but how is this discrepancy created? I came across a recent article that provides a reasonable explanation of this unfortunate issue.

The author, Claire Cain Miller, explains how she believes the discrepancy begins during one's childhood. Childhood toys that teach children about engineering are often times geared toward boys. Young girls are generally drawn towards pretty pink toys, and if engineering toys are dark colors and appear "boyish", girls are unlikely to pick them up; therefore, boys get exposure to engineering-like activities at a young age while girls do not.

A picture of a toy with the purpose of teaching children engineering-like skills... but do the colors scare away girls?

Another reason that girls are lacking in these fields comes from elementary school teachers' bias towards boys in regards to math and science. A study was done with a group of Israeli students in which students were given a test that was graded by their own teacher and another adult who was unfamiliar with the students. The students' own teacher gave all the boys in the class higher grades on the math and science portion of the test, while the impartial adult graded the tests accurately and the girls outscored the boys. With other subjects, the impartial grader and the teacher graded the same.

What do you think? Does this gendered field stem from childhood experiences? Are teachers biased toward boys in regards to math and science?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Picture Says 1000 Words

Thus far, I have analyzed many statistics about the trends of school segregation and read many examples of schools that are still very segregated today; however, I have not yet analyzed photographs, which I think can sometimes say even more than a statistic, a story, or a report.

I came across the photo above during my research. It was taken in 1953, which was during the time of Jim Crow laws and prior to the Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education. Schools during this time were completely segregated, as demonstrated by this photo. All the students in the photo are African American. Some have lighter skin than others, but nevertheless, they are still enrolled in this school because they have traces of the African American race in them. Even the teacher in the room is African American, which shows a lack of diversity in the teaching staff as well. The teacher has a book in her hand, but none of the students except for one have supplies on their desks. Perhaps this is because of the lack of resources African American schools were provided with due to the Jim Crow laws. Isabelle Tashima, a classmate who researched the acheivement gap between African Americans and whites, said that at the time of Jim Crow laws, "Black children were required to attend schools in deteriorated buildings and use out of date books, taught by teachers who are paid significantly less than their white peers and had no educational opportunities." The teacher, who is not white, is most likely paid only a fraction of the salaray of a white teacher. Additionally, only one student in the class out of everyone has a book, so resouces are scarce. The photo is a clear representation of America during the time period in which it was taken - segregated and unequal.

However, this photo was taken 54 years later and looks almost identical to the first photo taken in 1953. If the 1953 photo so clearly representated that time period, does this photo represent 2007 and modern America?

Similar to the first photo, every single student in this classroom is African American. Unlike the first picture, these students all have books and supplies, which could possibily be as a result of the shift in emphasis from integrating schools to equal funding. However, if you look in the back of the classroom, all the computers look extremely out of date. In my school at the time this photo was taken, we had multiple computer labs full of the newest, Apple computers. Unlike this school, my school was majority white. We were given superior resources compared to this school, which is almost identical to the 1950s.

Unlike the previous two photos, this photo illustrates an all-white classroom. Another major difference is that this classroom is from a private school, while the other two pictures were from public schools. In order to get this photo, I simply searched "private school classroom" into Google Images. I did not need to write "white private school classroom", for every image that came up mirrored this image. All of the pictures were of white students who appeared to look extremely wealthy. From this, one could make the connection that private schools today are for the "white" and the "wealthy" and exhibit little to no diversity.

These students are wearing uniforms that are fairly formal and consist of multiple items - shirts, ties, sweaters, and pants. The all-black classroom's students wore uniforms too, but they were simply a red shirt. The white private school clearly places more emphasis on this and the uniforms represent the quality of education students receive. The students in this photo all look engaged, for many hands are raised. While we cannot see the teacher in this photo, one can infer the teacher is highly experienced for the students are very engaged in their learning and seem to prioritize their academics.

In what ways do you see segregation in your lives today? To what extent is it still apparent in our society?

Friday, April 24, 2015

An Invisible Fence

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post acknowledging the rise in school "segregation" in America today and last week, I wrote about different types of schools that are experiencing it. One of the primary reasons schools are still segregated in America today is because of the housing segregation in America.

The vast majority of high school students attend public high schools. In 2014, 14.7 million high school students attended a public school, while only five million students attended private schools. Public schools are determined by the location of one's home, so if there is housing segregation in America, then the schools will most likely be segregated as well. The number of public school students is so high, so many of them are exposed to segregation which makes it a huge American problem.

The primary reason to the residential segregation is the discrepancy in income between minorities and whites.

This picture illustrates a rise in the amount of income inequality from 1980-2010. While the percentage of lower income households has remained the same, the number of upper income families has increased by five percent within the past 30 years. The decrease in middle income families shows a decrease in diverse neighborhoods and schools, for these are usually inhabited by middle income families. The Gini index, which is a measure of inequality, has increased dramatically from 0.404 in 1980 to 0.469 in 2011.

The income inequality plays a dramatic role in the rise of housing segregation in America today because people from upper income households generally can afford houses in wealthy neighborhoods, which are segregated and separated from the poorer neighborhoods that the lower income families reside in. 

In addition to income, many people live in neighborhoods where they feel "comfortable", which often times means with people of the same race. Kyle Crowder, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, said, "Blacks tend to originate in neighborhoods with very high concentrations of blacks and, when they move, they tend to move to other places that have very high concentrations of blacks. Their typical destination is not a multiethnic neighborhood. The same is even more true for whites."

People live in towns with people similar to them, which only promotes further segregation of not only neighborhoods, but public schools as well. African Americans possibly only feel comfortable in minority neighborhoods because of America's negative portrayal of them in the past. The discrepancy of income and the desire to be with similar people create a large amount of residential segregation, which ultimately contributes to a large amount of public school segregation.