Sunday, December 7, 2014

How We See the Police

Growing up, I have always been taught that police are there to protect us, and they are not "scary" people - they exist to keep American citizens safe. Starting from a young age, most Americans are taught this. In elementary school, a police officer would come in to talk to our class once a year, but the officer would change his or her name to "Officer Friendly" when they would come in to see us. America tries so hard to convey the idea that policemen are friendly men and women just here to protect us and keep us safe.

Most of the time, the police do exactly that. However, when you hear stories such as what happened in Ferguson and now New York about police killing innocent African American men, everything American's have learned about policemen not being intimidating shatters, especially for blacks.

I came across an interesting video (click on link to view video) that featured black students from Charleston High School discussing both the shooting of Michael Brown and the case of Eric Garner. Rather than focusing on the details of each case, the students all discussed their views of the police force in America as a whole.

Below are some quotes that stuck out to me from the students in the video (Nueseline Goncalves, Jeff Ramos, and Keisha Fertil) about their opinions on police:

"I don't like them at all."

"When I see them, I get mad."

"I get scared when I see them."

"[Police are] not people we can always rely on."

"They do have power, and they abuse it."

Their opinions on police juxtapose everything that I and many other Americans were taught to believe about police. We are not supposed to get scared and mad when we see them, but these African American students do feel scared and mad. We are supposed to rely on police, but these African American students do not feel as if they can rely on them. Police are supposed to use their power to keep us safe, but these African American students feel as if they abuse it.

Obviously, the majority of police are kindhearted people who devote their life to protecting American citizens. Many of these men are considered heroes; however, media tends to only convey the negative aspects of society, such as the Brown and Garner cases, rather than showing the good that many police do. Because of the horrible incidents that have been reported, many Americans, such as these students at Charleston High School, now see the police as people who are hurting society rather than helping it.

I wonder if these black students from Charleston High School have had similar experiences such as what I had growing up with "Officer Friendly" coming into school to talk to us. What would happen if Officer Friendly were to talk to African American students in areas such as Ferguson now? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Privilege, Pressure, & Perfectionism

On Friday, our class had the privilege of hearing former Yale professor, William Deresiewicz, speak about how Ivy schools have a detrimental effect on the students who attend them. He focused mainly on college students. However, he briefly addressed upon the idea that high-achieving students in affluent neighborhoods tend to have more cases of depression than lower-class neighborhoods. Living in Winnetka, an affluent neighborhood, this thought stayed with me throughout the day... Are the expectations of being a successful student in a wealthy area, like the North Shore, too high?

Dereseiwicz also mentioned the book, The Price of Privilege, by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. which is also about this topic. Levine wrote her book after being a psychologist for 25 years. She argues that students in affluent areas are experiencing "epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse". I see this first hand at New Trier, for I know students who have suffered with depression as a result of the high expectation of being "perfect".

The percentage of students with depression goes up remarkably during the ages of 16 and 17. This is  when students are beginning to apply for colleges, which causes high-stress levels for students (especially in affluent areas). The graph ends in 2011, but the graph shows that the percentage is on the rise.

1 in 10 Americans will have depression at some point in their life, and according to people like Deresiewicz and Levine, this number is even higher in areas such as ours. The number of people diagnosed with depression increases by approximately 20 percent each yearIt is important that parents, teachers, and even other students put less pressure on students. For if this pressure builds up too much and the student puts too much pressure on themselves, then one could possibly become depressed and this number could become even higher.

Unfortunately, this issue is not an easy fix, and I do not even know how to begin to prevent these high numbers of depressed students. In the words of Deresiewicz, "I don't know how to solve things, I just complain about them." Parents can stop putting so much pressure on their children; however, I think this will only get us so far. High-achieving students somehow have engraved into their minds that they have to be "perfect" and put pressure on themselves to be exactly that. 

How do you even turn off that switch that tells these students they have to be perfect?