Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Britain is Cutting Aid to India by 2015

By: Dianne Heath
Individual Poverty vs. Overall Economy 
The political institutions within Britain are ignoring large pockets of individual poverty and using rudimentary measurements, such as the World Bank’s decision in 2007 to move India from a low income to a lower middle income country, as the basis for discontinuing aid by 2015. Although 400 million people in India live on less than $1.25 a day, 1.6 million children died due to poverty and "malnutrition figures are among the worst in the world", India's GNI, 4.749 trillion, almost dwarfs Britain's GNI at 2.331 trillion. In fact, the UK's aid only contributes 0.03% to India's national income which makes a strong argument that India is growing more competitive with "developed" nations.

According to reports, India's economy “continues to grow at a faster rate than other large economies." Therefore, Britain has decided that the extreme poverty in India is due to internal inequality as opposed to global inequality. The assumption is that as India continues to develop social & political institutions dedicated to alleviating poverty and allocate more of their newly acquired economic growth to social programs then the vast disparities will decrease. Britain cited India's capacity to lift "60 million people out of poverty just by doubling the amount of money they spent on education and health care since 2006." Britain has decided that the individual poverty within India is not due to economic underdevelopment and that overall measurements of India’s economy are sufficient to measure the necessity for aid.

Capacity for Partnership & the Threat of Competition 
The definition of development seem to evolve according the agendas of those who have the power categorize countries and implement social policy in based on these definitions/categories. As Britain suffers through a recession, many politicians are appeasing the electorate by proclaiming that its rising rival is no longer in need of aid. Instead of using indicators such as life expectancy, education, per capita income or purchasing power as determinants to discontinue aid, Britain and other developed nations are focused on the change of power relations. The U.S. Agency for International Development noted that India's growing power "creates an opportunity to evolve the traditional donor recipient model of development into a true partnership."

Britain doesn't want to fund a potential competitor but they want to maintain their interests in India. Since India's economic institutions appear to mirror Britain's economy, they can engage with each other in a “bilateral relationship” (equal partners & cooperation) as opposed to vertically (exploitation). Britain mentioned being partners in skill sharing (comparable education & industry), trade (integration into the global economy) and investments (India has the economic institutions in place for returns to be made). Skills, trade and investments are traditional components of a complex, monetized & developed economy. Since Britain has acknowledged these elements within India's economy, then India is perceived as developed and no longer in need of aid. Britain's reaction to India choosing a French company to supply fighter planes and Britain's protectionist practices against India's exports reveals India's position as a competitor and growing global power.
Indian Space Research Organisation, via European Pressphoto Agency

In the Image of your Colonizer
The most compelling argument is how India's growing likeness to developed nations is influencing the discourse on aid. As India moves away from being perceived as "other" and more in the image of their colonizer then the more they will be perceived as developed. For example, India's space program was a major indicator to Conservative MPs that they were no longer in need of aid. Space programs are milestones generally reserved for countries defined as First/Second World. Gradually India will be displayed less as an "exotic, mysterious, static" colonial territory that contrasts to the "technological development of the industrial revolution" but a modern country that participates in technological development . As the narrative of India as a less developed nations ends the narrative that they "can't do for themselves" will be forced to end also.

India is also reflecting their former colonizer's behavior by distributing billions in aid and credit to impoverished nations such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh. India isn't representing themselves as passive therefore challenging Britain's notions of India as an underdeveloped nation in need of aid. India’s move to what is defined as modernity is influencing other Britain’s perceptions of their development..

Ghosh, Jayati. "India Will Shed Few Tears over the End of UK Aid." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 9 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2013.

GNI, PPP (current International $)." Data. The World Bank Group, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2013.

Majumder, Sanjoy. "UK to End Financial Aid to India by 2015." BBC News. BBC, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2013.

Mandhana, Niharika. "A Global Shift in Foreign Aid, Starting in India." India Ink. New York Times, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. Retrieved 9 Sept. 2013.

Sheppard, Porter, Faust and Nagar (2009) Chapter 2 ‘Measuring, Describing and Mapping Difference and Development’, in A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development. The Guilford Press, New York

Williams, Meth and Willis (2009) Chapter 2 ‘Representing the South’. In Geographies of Developing Areas. Routledge, London: 27-52.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

The Effects of having Negative Political Campaign Ads on YouTube

By: Dianne Heath

When Campaign Ads Attack
Your stomach is violently growling, your face is aching from the tension and your mind is flooding with doubts. “I should have chosen answer ‘b’. Answer ‘c’ was probably a trap.” *sigh* Yes, it’s been a long day of classes with every exam and quiz mimicking the intensity of a boot camp obstacle course.

“Quick! I need a cat video before my brain explodes. Time to tune into YouTube,” you tell yourself. You slowly relax and comfort yourself with the thought of cute cats. The first cat video is cuddly enough to start the recovery. “I might as well look at the next video. I can’t watch just one.” Suddenly you hear the archetypal eerie music grow louder in the background. This is definitely not your typical ad convincing you that you need to shop at ModCloth. The voice over sounds critical & inflammatory, there are combative statements, sound bites that make you cringe, misconstrued quotes, blatant scare tactics and promises of apocalyptic doom if you vote for the other candidate.  Now there’s a haunting black and white screen shot of the opposing candidate laughing. He probably was heartily laughing at a funny joke. But the ad positions the laugh after exposing an unpopular statement from the candidate and of course it’s altered to look as unflattering as possible. A jovial moment turned evil. Yes, of course, it’s the all too familiar negative campaign ad. It’s emotional, it’s predictable and it could be on your favorite YouTube video attacking when you least expect it.

Choose your Own Ending
According to political behavioral studies, you’ll either:

A. Be on the edge of your seat. Usually you ignore politics but you can’t ignore the fact that the opposing candidate supports the war. The startling sound bite about cutting Pell Grants has you livid. “How will you ever survive college without Pell Grants?!?! My textbooks are $600 for just one semester!!!” you question in outrage. Relaxing is now impossible as your hearts races. You become anxious with the thoughts of getting a second job while going to college full time. “Who does this candidate think he is? He’s not here to comfort my friend who suffering from PTSD after fighting in Iraq.” You realize that your future and the future of families across America are at stake. In just one clip you’ve become more aware about the issues. “I don’t think I’m even registered to vote,” you mention to yourself in a panic. In a state of urgency you resolve to register first thing in the morning.

This ad has motivated you to make sure that the opposing candidate doesn’t win. Since you’re on YouTube, you decide to check out the videos of the candidate that promises to not to cut Pell Grants. “Hey, this guy is pretty cool. Too bad I don’t have any money to donate.” You sign up to volunteer for his campaign instead.

B. Reject the campaign ads. You have deadlines on top of deadlines. You’re already feeling stressed and you refuse to allow a politician to get you frazzled about his struggle for power. The political ads fill you with disgust. Some of the statements are so ridiculous and revolting that you actually chuckle. “Just great! The regular ads are already annoying. Now I have to deal with campaign ads attacking each other!” You click on another video and now there’s another campaign ad attacking the other candidate. You think to yourself, “If these ads are true, then I don’t want to vote for either candidate.” From what you recall from the news, neither of them had a strong enough argument for the presidency.  Their lack of strong arguments was just as disappointing as the negative campaign ads.

You grow cynical and even more apathetic. You thought were going to vote but you quietly decide to just stay away from the polls altogether. The attack ads are so vicious, overtly dishonest that they confirm your suspicions that both of the candidates don’t have a positive record or enough qualifications for the presidency.  All of the positive media attention about the candidates means nothing to you now. You click out of YouTube. “I should be studying any way.”

C. Overlook and/or miss the ad. You saw that a political ad was about to play. You hate ads in general and you already know who you’ll vote for. This ad won’t change your political behavior.  “Campaign ads aren’t the best source of information for politics,” you note to yourself, “they are so over the top, I don’t know how anyone can take them seriously.” You use this time to hurry up and fix a snack so that you can watch those cat videos in style.

You come back after the ad is over and after a series of videos and post the most adorable one your Facebook page. Now you may have inadvertently shared a political message even though the ad didn’t reach you. Your friends, family and associates may face the same dilemma. I wonder what ending they’ll choose.

The implications and effects of Negative Campaign Ads on YouTube

Although YouTube is a media source, the consumption of YouTube in comparison to other traditional media outlets such as television and radio is different since it’s social. Therefore I believe that political scientists should take a deeper look into what happens when negative campaign ads invade YouTube. Until that happens, I want to take this time to briefly outline some pros and cons of this phenomenon.

1. YouTube becomes an online Town hall- Social media is more interactive and immediate than traditional media. Instead of passively watching political pundits spar with each other on TV, you can read comments on YouTube or watch citizen YouTube videos expose corruption, reveal holes in political platforms, criticize past political blunders and harshly dissect the views of political parties. It’s like a social marketplace where you can shop for political ideas to adopt. You can also go a step further and offer your commentary or post a video to get feedback from citizens like you. YouTube allows the average citizen to stay engaged in politics. "The technology now has made it a lot easier for everyday people to participate. It's made it easier for campaigns, too. The technology allows us to build a platform and see if people come," said Genachowski.

2. Candidates have less incentive to only appeal to PACs, corporations and individuals with large budgets thereby diversifying who influences government – In the past you needed an astronomical budget in order to indirectly get the people on your side. This required gaining the support of wealthy citizens that could contribute to your fundraisers. Even though candidates since need a large campaigning budget, with YouTube there’s more of incentive to directly appeal and cater to the people. YouTube is expansive and videos have the potential to go viral reaching millions. If your ads are embedded in these video your message can spread almost as rapidly as television. In the same way the small donations added up to $500 million, the bits of attention to the ads can result in a landslide victory.

1. Personable nature of YouTube exploited by the candidates - People feel more connected to social media because it’s free media that the general public largely contributes to. Many people distrust traditional media and have grown to trust YouTube. Negative campaigns ads take advantage of this close connection and the comfort that people associate with YouTube. Positive feelings about YouTube that were built overtime may undeservedly transfer to the negative campaign ads. It would be the equivalent of a neighbor candy store suddenly taking advantage of the relationships that they’ve developed over time by broadcasting propaganda. You go to the trusted store mentally disarmed just to be inuaded with negativity.

2. Negative campaign ads on YouTube target a younger audience that is more susceptible to political manipulation- By targeting younger audiences with negative campaign ads, they are attempting to encourage young people to develop a strong aversion to the opposing political campaign. They also hope to garner party loyalty for the duration of their life. Young people are also an attractive demographic because they have more time to volunteer in campaigns. Their naiveté shields them from understanding the sly methods politicians use to shape messages for serving their own purposes.

Unfortunately young people don’t have as much emotional defenses and political savvy to reject this manipulation. It’s also harder for young people to decipher between the honest and dishonest messages.  Young people are more vulnerable to political candidates because they are taught to view adults, especially powerful adults, as authority figures.  With campaigns ads taking over YouTube, it’s difficult to process a logical view about politics as a child.

This could negatively influence their view of politics once they become an adult. They might learn that politics is about choosing the lesser of the two evils when it really should be able choosing the candidate that has best ideas and experience for managing the country. They learn that corruption is normal and to feel powerless instead of holding politicians accountable.  They might become so disillusioned after being tricked once that they avoid politics completely as an adult.

Concluding Thoughts
Negative campaign ads will affect everyone differently depending on their personality, childhood socialization, culture, age, etc. Therefore it’s difficult to determine whether it’s a mostly positive or negative occurrence. What we do know is that campaign ads feed the need to gossip. Many people are more afraid of loss, therefore those citizens will gravitate to learning about the negativity to protect themselves from harm. Therefore, negative campaigning will always have a place in politics. It’s interesting to see how negative campaigning differs depending on the media sources and time period.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

I understand Herman Cain’s Appeal, but are his Story and Policies Relevant?

By: Dianne Heath

Herman Cain Comes to UNC
To stray away from politics and inspire – then subtly influence – bright yet impressionable college students, Herman Cain narrated his personal history of triumph. His father worked 3 jobs and managed to save enough money to purchase a house. Herman Cain graduated from college, met his modest income goals, moved up the corporate ladder, now owns a bus with his face on it despite racism and he ran for president. Even though he didn’t stand a chance as a viable candidate for president, his personal story and ambitious upbringing are supposed to vouch for his policy ideas.

His Story versus Modern Politics
Unfortunately modern realities have complicated the American Dream of class and income mobility. In fact it’s harder for an individual of lower socioeconomic status to achieve social and economic mobility now than in the 1970s. Research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths. He boasted that his father worked three jobs. Imagine if the entire American population within the lower income bracket attempted to get three jobs. First you have to wonder if there were enough jobs for everyone. Then they would somehow need to quality for three jobs since employers are demanding more qualifications. If you actually got hired at three jobs you would need appropriate transportation. However the lack of funds of purchase a car or even gas to travel across several jobs would be a major barrier. If they overcome the transportation barrier, then they are at the mercy of the exploitative job market where they have to deal with the frequent schedule changes. Since low-skilled employees are now viewed as expendable, it’s difficult to negotiate your hours which make holding second job difficult and a third job nearly impossible.

Herman Cain and many older college graduates brag that they worked full-time through college which enabled them to graduate without financially crippling loans. However they forget that now tuition, room & board, textbooks and the other extraneous costs of college are rising faster than household income. It’s significantly above what the average college student's income can generate, especially since you need specialized skills to gain access to higher paid jobs. Unfortunately Republicans are eager to cut Pell Grants, making the possibility of paying off college while still enrolled even dimmer. He also forgot to mention how increasingly competitive getting admitted into a college has become. Many students are trapped in poor K-12 education systems and are surrounded by a negative attitude towards academics. The lack of a knowledgeable and ambitious support system is also a major hindrance to knowing how to escape poverty. It’s extremely admirable that he was raised in a two-parent home; unfortunately many lower income kids don’t have this privilege.

Moving up the corporate ladder is becoming difficult as more and more college graduates get trapped in dead end jobs. Even his attitude towards women’s rights appear a bit antiquated and nostalgic. He made special emphasis on the fact that if a man was to purchase a house without a woman’s permission “you’ll be living in the sucka all by yourself,” [ in reference to his father surprising the family with their own house] almost implying that a strong woman’s presence is a hindrance to a man’s progress. I guess that’s why his wife continues to tend to the home while he engages in manly activities such as business, politics and campaigns. "Throughout our life together, she has been primarily the person who has taken care of the home because I moved around a lot.” Cain’s declaration “restore the American dream” is a scapegoat that enabled him to side step outlining actual solutions and to avoid identifying key issues that could delegitimize his campaign. He needs to acknowledge and define the struggles of his fellow America in order to develop relevant policy solutions.

His Simple Solutions & Complex Emotion Baiting
Americans are facing a number of complex cultural and structural problems therefore simple solutions are not adequate. For example, the energy debates are raises a myriad of concerns. If you support energy independence questions that could arise are, What if another oil spill occurs isn't the damage so costly that the profits and ease of mind becomes diminished for Americans? and Is green energy worth the cost and effort? If you are against energy independence, then the concern is, Could America could be indirectly funding terrorist groups. Or the concern is, If the dependence on foreign countries for oil indirectly draining the economy  because America has to intervene in their affairs through wars. To declare a resounding no to either stance without a thoughtful process is dangerous.

To make up for the lack of analysis and depth, Herman Cain used intense emotional appeals – which is actually growing more widely used in politics. For example, to take a strong stance against Obamacare (another simple solution to complex health care problems), he told a personal story about his battle with cancer and how the government would had denied his claims for treatment since he only had a 30% chance of living. However his simplistic story didn’t mention that fact that private insurers also deny the claims of average Americans for certain types of treatments when their survival rate is low. When he was asked about people who didn’t have health insurance, he delicately side stepped the concern. His simplistic views about discrimination are appealing to conservatives. His simplistic yet well-crafted and branded 999 tax plan that is offered as his only defined strategy to “restore the American Dream” can’t solve wars, alleviate rising health care costs, create jobs, lower the price of gas, etc. However I’m sure that it’s mainly to appease his target demographics and he just uses his story to shuffle everyone else along even though it’s not in our best interest to support the tax plan.

Naïve college students are easily to manipulate. If you impress them with a story, a bus with your face on it, make them laugh, be inspirational and entertaining then you have a formula for campaigning success. Greg Steele, chairman of the College Republicans, said Cain was a good speaker because of his various experiences. “Mr. Cain appeals to such a wide array of people and has a fascinating story that is a true testament to the American dream." Due to the lack of life experience, some college students lack the insight to see through a politician’s ulterior motives, which leads to blind voting. However many college students are also very savvy. I overheard one student comment on Cain’s lack of discussion about his political and policy ideas. Cain just wants to imply, I’m a hardworking, with a humble & relatable background and an overall good guy. Therefore you can trust my policy solutions; I don’t have to explain them in detail. Whenever Herman Cain states rhetoric such as “Don’t let someone tell you America can’t be fixed, the great strength of this nation is America’s ability to change when it has to” he's really saying I even lifted Godfather’s Pizza out of bankruptcy when the corporate office was convinced that it couldn't recover. He supposedly embodies success and overcoming hardship therefore he claims that can help get America on the right track.

On a Positive Note
I don’t want to diminish his struggle but instead add a more realistic perspective. I am still impressed by his achievements and the mental fortitude of his family. Perhaps Americans can use that same work ethic and ambition together to achieve our dream of recovery by devising and utilizing the appropriate policy solutions. The take away message that Cain offers is to create your dreams so that you will know when you get there and to stay “informed, involved and inspired.”

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

American Teacher Documentary Summary: A Plea for Respect & Evidence for Higher Pay


American Teacher Project Raises Awareness for Teachers
American Teacher reviews the value of a teacher versus how American society treats teachers. Because many teachers - especially in low income areas - are undervalued other aspects of the profession are undermined through pay, classroom conditions, parent-teacher relations and school administration. Teachers from all over the country named the many misconceptions about teachers that society has accepted as truth. One teacher recanted the sentiment of a critic, "Teachers have it easy". Similar negative statements that society shares about teachers delegitimize their pleas for more respect and higher pay. If the majority believe these views, then this explains the discrepancy between the value teachers add to society versus how they are being treated by society.

Ironically in urban and rural areas, where teacher burnout is the most prominent, are the same areas where teachers are the most undervalued and have to deal with the lowest pay, overwhelming amounts of paperwork, safety issues, strained parent relations, the most scorn from society, etc. Since many teachers in urban and rural areas are neglected or mistreated, their personal and professional lives are severely impacted which in turn gives their students less of the teacher's attention and less of a competitive academic edge. 

The societal issues surrounding teachers also highlight other pervasive issues in America and even globally such as class divisions (do urban and rural child deserve less than upper class children and are they given equal opportunity to succeed?), the undervalue of women (teaching is dominated by women, do women deserve to be paid less?), child rights (why is America content with their children learning in poor classroom conditions that are non-conducive to intellectual enrichment?) labor rights ( in fact many other professions are having the same struggles ex. productivity has increased but pay in relation hasn't increased in relation, many work in dangerous and psychological harmful conditions) and complacency (why is America letting social professions deal with the ills of society when these are our family, friends, why are so many dependent on welfare programs when the fathers should be providing for their children?)

A Teacher's Value 
Skillful, passionate and compassionate teachers serve as interventions that can lift students out of poverty and inspire them. Education enlightens the mind, give students a greater awareness about themselves and build networks of knowledge for future achievement. Relevant education also prevents self-destructive behavior which is costly for society, devastates the individual and stunts professional potential and/or personal milestones. American Teacher revealed that just $7,000 in extra earnings for teachers can result in a $40,000 increase in earnings for students as adults. Research confirms that better treatment of teachers results better educated students who have increased job preparedness. The more resources and peace of mind a teacher has, the more she can endow to her students. The New York Times recently revealed that “Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade. That’s right: A great teacher is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to each year’s students, just in the extra income they will earn."

Jaime Ridler clearly realized the impact of her role, explaining that the elementary years is a major phase in cognitive development. I agree that this period for intellectual and academic growth is poignant. It could mean the difference between being left behind academically or being competitive with your peers. In the extreme case the difference between being a high school drop-out in jail or trapped in an exploitative job or a student being accepted into an elite university. 

Erik Benner also realizes his role in giving students a solid academic base. He is striving to lay the foundation for the knowledge of history. As trivial as these realizations may appear, many college students are struggling with basic concepts in history which lessens the amount of time left for upper level courses that could propel their understanding of life, boost their transcripts and prepare them for graduate school and/or a cognitive intensive profession. In addition to academics, Benner is a source of guidance and emotional support. He grew up poor and was the only one from his family to graduate college. He wants to reach the "kids who hates his life and is still living in a trailer." Benner states "maybe I can give him hope. I also employ the use of respect, because many are not used to getting respect at home." 

Rhea Jasey tries to work on character development, because emotional intelligence has been proven to enhance academic performance. Colleagues notice that she works toward instilling leadership skills and confidence. She uses any opportunity available to develop healthy relationships with the students and relate to them, even if over lunch. Students are more willing to absorb lessons from teachers they can identify with. 

The Many Duties 
The responsibilities a teacher seem endless. Amanda Lueck recanted breathlessly that she was overwhelmed and burned out. The poor conditions and lack of support can hinder the adequate fulfillment of these multiple roles. She's disappointed that society believes their cellphones are more important than teachers and students. Perhaps it is time to care for people more than technology? Fidler usually works during lunch which often doubles as detention for at risk children. In addition, she also completes other duties outside of her job description that captures time more away from her main responsibilities as a teacher. Rhena Jasey explained that teaching requires juggling multiple roles, "You have to be the counselor, social worker, parent and the friend." All of these responsibilities and roles translate into a 65 hour work week. Unfortunately the pay doesn't match up with the work. 

Degradation of Women & Children 
The vestigial historical degradation of woman still affects teachers to this day. Since teaching is associated with women and children, this career is often viewed as an inferior profession in comparison to male dominated careers such as tech or engineering. American Teacher explains the dilemma. Women were denied access to other jobs, therefore many were over qualified in relation to the pay and conditions. Now that the job market has opened up for women, it is harder to attract the same caliber of women because the outdated pay and conditions are still in place. Also the woman's income was seen as the second income which further embedded the pay disparity.  Since the pay is so slow, teaching isn't necessarily an appealing career for men who are expected to financially to support their families. American Teacher pointed out that the amount of male teachers have dramatically decreased.

Rhena shared a common exchange with her colleagues at Harvard who wondered why she wanted to be a teacher when she could do anything. She was aghast at these comments and replied, "Wouldn't you want a teacher from Harvard to teach your children?" Views expressed such as these is a stark reminder that teaching isn't perceived as an sought after professional for the highly educated even though in reality it's a profession that brings much value. 

The neglect of urban and rural children also explains why the teachers aren't given the best tools to educate them.  Amanda Lueck lamented that, " there weren't any pencils, crayons or anything. It was an eye opener. It was really hard." She was disappointed by the middle school with 40 desks crammed in a small classroom, almost sending a message to the students that they didn't deserve a personal attention or solid education. American Teacher revealed that 90 percent of poor districts are lacking school supplies and support for new teachers. "New teachers are always put into the most difficult situations." The question remains, If you valued children wouldn't you at least want the professionals that interact with them to have enough support? Due to the conditions, 20 percent of urban teachers quit in a year. High turnover is unhealthy especially when many of the students may have unstable home conditions. 

Johnathan Dearman quit after 5 years to pursue real estate. He was considered a pillar at the school. His absence was hard on the school's administration and the students. An insightful comment was made that "knowledge has been flowing out and the school is peddling to stay in place." 45 percent of teachers quit by the 5th year however studies have shown that as turnover rates decrease so does the drop out rate. The longer a teacher stays at a school the more personally invested the teacher is in the well being of the students which fosters a nurturing environment and an ambitious culture. The lack of respect causes the teacher to make many sacrifices that has the potential to dampen the quality of their teaching. Erik Benner had a second job at Circuit City when he could be focusing on his own self-enrichment, working on side projects, honing his creativity or developing more plans for his students so that he could add more value in the classroom.

Why Do They Persevere?
For the teachers that were interviewed, it was a sense of pride in what they did despite how society undervalues them. They had a strong calling to be a teacher and they love guiding students. One teacher visibly relished the thought of turning a non-reader to a reader while another sincerely enjoyed doing science experiments with his students. When asked, "What do you do for a living?" with a coy smile, he replies, "I blow things up." Hopefully as respect increases for teachers, we can apply a fairer standard of treatment.

How you feel about the state of education in your district and/or nation?

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Psychology and Sociology Behind Guru Gossip

Analyzing the Hate in Guru Gossip
Guru gossip is a forum for the sole purpose of “trashing gurus”. The exhaustive list of gurus to trash demonstrates how much time normal people put into criticizing YouTube beauty stars. There are even sections for lesser known gurus because no one should be allowed to escape their scrutiny. * Unfortunately, the forum doesn’t include other as prominent or equally popular sections such as politics, relationship or health that would give them the chance to focus on their own self-improvement and get feedback about their lives from other people. Even the forum Demand Studios Sucks offers sections that could help ardent Demand Studios critics find leads to other freelance jobs and break away from freelancing with the company they have gripes against.

The “rave a beauty guru” thread pales in comparison to the other endless hate threads and posts.  Therefore this site isn’t about balanced gossip, just negative bantering. Many of the posts resemble cyber bullying, consistent cyber bullying that lasts 24/7 with hundreds or even thousands attacking just one beauty guru with the intent to undermine and destroy YouTube careers. Ironically the gossipers don’t feel as if they are cyber bullying. Here is a small sampling of their posts, you can decide for yourself. *disclaimer: there is profanity *

1. AndreasChoice – “no wonder she is so stuck up and full of herself. Every comment is from people worshiping her and calling her "a goddess" and how "pretty" she is. She is so conceited. It's sad hundreds of thousands of little girls want to grow up to be a materialistic princess too now."

2. JuicyStar07 – “Ugh, just UGH, how can anybody watch and actually enjoy this fake little twit? Could some YouTube executive PLEASE come gather up these fake-as-h*ll little "beauty guru" sellouts and put them all in a spaceship headed for the moon? Honestly, this is getting sickening.”

3. MichellePhan – “1. She's a criminal. She should be thrown in jail for doing illegal IQQU business. 2. Arrogant and delusional. She thinks she's where she is now because she's soooo talented and amazing. B*tch. She got here because of lying, plagiarizing and cheating off innocent people. 3. Uneducated B*tch. It drives me insane how she steals quotes and ideas to sound smart. She tries to sound smart but ends up sounding like an idiot. 4. Ungrateful B*tch. She never says thank you or does giveaways for her subscribers. They're the main reason for her cash! Even the b*tch**st gurus like Holly do generous giveaways. 5. My ultimate reason is that she's SHAMELESS. HOW CAN SHE BE SO SHAMELESS AND CLAIMS TO BE INNOCENT AFTER WHAT SHE'S DONE?”
*note: Guru Gossip has change their domain name to gurugossiper.com . Therefore I've removed the links*

A third party assessment of guru gossip by pamlovsy2j:

Questions to think about
How come these ladies haven't started a forum targeting the real issue, male dominated corporations encouraging materialism or corrupt CEOs exploiting beauty standards?
How of most of these guru gossipers are attractive ladies? (the thread "post a picture of yourself" no longer exists, link has been removed)
How come these ladies have a site only targeting other ladies?
Why do they assume that they would "behave any better"?
Why do they feel better from lashing against YouTube beauty gurus?
....the main question....
Don't they have something better to do?

Anger at the little man (or in this case woman) for making the unscrupulous corporations appear more trustworthy and marketable
I can completely understand this sentiment. As we already know, corporations exploit the insecurities women hold about our looks since the beauty standards are so rigid yet very pervasive. They create standards that are almost impossible to achieve - everyone looks different, it’s hard to compete with women whose careers are to be beautiful (models & actresses) and it’s especially hard to compete with Photoshop - and then mass market this ideal to the public for their own profit and gain. Now these beauty gurus have created a direct avenue for the corporations to influence the impressionable, turning young girls into life time consumers. Instead of advertising being in impersonal magazines, these beauty gurus are gaining the trust of these girls and passing on this trust to corporations. Now there’s even more pressure to meet the beauty standard, because people are most likely to compare themselves to people closest to them. If these relatable girls on YouTube are beautiful, then I have to be attractive also! These beauty gurus are now selling a seemingly attainable yet desirable lifestyle through their makeup tutorials. Instead of just stating in a bland and unconvincing TV commercial that if you look beautiful you will feel better, girls are seeing their themselves that beauty = boyfriends (boyfriend tags are extremely popular) and a carefree lifestyle filled with glamour.

The message is clear, if you want to be like us you have to look like us. This is where you get the term sell-out from. You are selling out the heart of young ladies across the nation to earn your pieces of the corporate pie. You’re not doing this for fun, you are not even giving positive reviews about the best, you’re just giving positive reviews for the money.

One reason why they are spending so much time tearing down the gurus is because in a way they feel like Robin Hood. They feel like they are on a mission to do what’s best for young girls. They hope that instead of girls growing materialist and pulling out their wallets for the newest make up kit they run across the site and save their money (and self-esteem). They can’t get to the corporations and the men behind it all so it’s easier to just target the messengers. However what makes them so sure they wouldn’t behave the same way in a similar situation? They are already showing their capacity for callousness by the way they tear down others. Under the same circumstances they would be fully capable of applying this callousness to market corrupt corporations and misleading young girls.

Society (including women!) is not accustomed to shrewd, business minded women
Society is not accustomed to women actively trying to climb up the corporate ladder, especially the typical girly girl. Usually we expect girly girls to just marry rich or learn to depend on men for their advancement. But now we see this new generation of shrewd and almost calculating women such Kim Kardashian that will giggle like a little girl one moment to seem less intimidating and maintain her bubbly image yet behind closed doors is strategizing her next business venture. I looked up a couple of self-proclaimed CEO gossip sites and it was literally just positive and negative news and information about CEOS. Perhaps because society is more accepting of aggressive ( or even brutal?) practices men use to earn a profit. However with women there seems to be this huge issue with ambitious women who want to use YouTube as a stepping stone to other opportunities. This can also be seen in other areas of society just like teachers, a women dominated career, are always expected to contribute to society just for the fun of it. You’re never supposed to demand to be paid for your efforts. How dare these beauty gurus attempt to earn money and climb the corporate ladder!!! This topic is a reoccurring theme even the recent topic, "AndreasChoice just another guru getting filthy rich of YouTube" touches on this sentiment again. These gossipers seem almost insulted that the YouTube gurus want to expand their beauty careers by writing books, doing makeup for fashion shows, developing products and social networks, hosting celebrity events and appearing in music videos or movies.

We all know that Steve Jobs has been dishonest, he’s made mistakes, he’s allowed gadgets to be produced in exploitative sweatshops and he was quite secretive, making plans that he didn’t tell the general public about. His private life was also a bit sketchy (since the guru gossipers love to negatively dissect beauty gurus’ private lives). However Steve Jobs was generally revered and I don’t think there’s a hate site dedicated to top men in the tech field. I understand that beauty gurus’ accomplishments don’t necessarily compare however I’m showing how people are used to the shrewd, imperfect man but not the shrewd, imperfect woman. It’s almost like men are sooo much more important that they should be allowed to achieve their goals by any means necessary. I’m also involved a blogger community that is more male dominated (because of the niche I selected). It’s expected to earn money, prestige and expand your brand just from blogging. For example Problogger started off small and now they are a huge network. All of their articles aren’t perfect in fact now they mostly are guest posts and it costs money to join their forum. But you don’t see a bunch of ladies or men starting up a hate site against successful SEO bloggers.

A relic of primal behavior that Evolutionary Psychology explains? Women fighting for scarce resources
Women viciously fighting for scarce resources either by trying to tear down the person so that she will stop her efforts to succeed or harm herself and convince others to tear her down, is an understandable reaction to the sad state of society. I also believe that this trait is quite primal once you factor in the discrimination that women have endured for centuries which have destroyed their ability to earn a living independently. There are limited resources for women therefore we are taught to fight over the bits that men leave behind instead of just demanding more rights from the men. Instead of women sticking together for our rights, we’re too busy trying to identify our prime competition to tear down. It’s quite tragic but survival is survival. Women are often neglected in fact an anthropology study that I read about highlighted a tribe of women that were so deprived of protein (since the men got the first serving of men during famine) that they became cannibals which of course introduced a whole set of issues. What happens when a woman can’t make it? …well you have sexual exploitation or slaving away at an undesirable job. This inner fear of being at the bottom women have been implanted for centuries.

The life of ease is not realistic for most and the hardship women endure creates this constant anxiety of how to get ahead. One thread “Wouldn’t be Cool to be Them (Elle and Blair Fowler)”, they explicitly share how slightly envious many of these gossipers are of the financial and social security these gurus enjoy. “I would love to be a young woman living in L.A. in a beautiful apartment, with no real job or responsibility other than making videos online and getting sent free makeup products. Who wouldn't want that? Anyone who says they don't envy their lives is lying. They live such an easy, luxurious life. It's really unfair,” says one gossiper. Another shows the anxiety that many young women have “of course it would make life so much easier if i got paid 30 grand a month for doing a few videos 8-), this would make life so much easier for me - i wouldn't have to worry about not finding a job right after school (let's face it, it is actually really hard for a college graduate to find a job) and i could pay all my bills myself (i only pay 100 euros a month for my apartment, so the rest would probably be used for food or be put into a bank). i definitely wouldn't consider it my day job, that's just kind of ridiculous, although i do admire some youtubers who put up 10 or more videos a day and get money from that. that could be considered working since they actually work hard to please their subscribers”

Many of these guru gossipers have YouTube channels and are resentful of the stronghold, almost monopoly that these gurus have over the beauty audience. They can’t understand why these fallible ladies are so popular and they are not...because they (the guru gossipers) are clearly prettier, more knowledgeable and honest. This almost reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha. The antagonist was so evil, picking on the protagonist even when she was an innocent child! Was the antagonist ugly? Nope. But the competition had a physical quality (blue eyes) and personality (goody two shoes) that the men seemed to love. That’s why gossipers like to undermine beauty by saying a guru is ugly or undermine personality by calling them fake. They were almost equal in talent but she just wasn’t “good enough”. Once the antagonist wasn’t as popular or in demand by the men, she was ruthlessly thrown out of the geisha house alone and defenseless. Then you realize that she was simply fighting for her survival. Due the patriarchal society we live in, there can only be a limited number of geishas. Those that can’t make it to the top have a horrible demise. Honestly the gossipers shouldn’t be that insulted, many of these gurus are popular because they were around before people even thought to do makeup tutorials. Now women have more power to create our own opportunities but the mind is still stuck on primal behavior.

I don’t agree with everything that beauty gurus do even though they are quite admirable. I get disappointed often by them however dedicating time just to bash them seems a bit extreme so I wanted to examine why others do. I mainly wrote this because I’m completely intrigued by human behavior. Obviously I couldn’t address all the questions or reasons because I didn’t want this post to be too long. I also stayed away from the usual jealousy analysis because I wanted to explore this concept using another angle. I’ll be writing several pieces similar to this in the future…so I hope you enjoyed ! I encourage you to check out Guru Gossip and tell me what you think.
* update: A commenter pointed out that Guru Gossip also contains sections such as  Fashion, Makeup & Beauty, etc.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Planning for UNC Project Literacy’s Week of Literacy


I’m so excited because this is my official first blog post for Social Science Medley. I’ll continue to do more formal articles and informative commentaries however on the day to day basis I engage in many activities related to social sciences and humanities that I would love to share. I hope you enjoy!

A couple of months ago I was inspired by how another group dedicated a week to spreading awareness about their cause and to fundraising. They focused mainly on documentary screenings and panels. So shortly after I suggested that Project Literacy should have their own week too. Project Literacy’s annual Speed Dating event/fundraiser is already quite popular, so we decided to have other smaller events in the same week. I was hoping to join with another related campus organization and have a panel but you generally need more time to plan those. The next year I’m definitely doing a documentary screening, panel or a lunch and discussion like the Parr Center for Ethics does. 

The components of the Week of Literacy includes the Speed Dating event which I mentioned was great for fundraising. I thought of a game night for the volunteers to give them a chance to get to know one another. Project Literacy is a huge organization with volunteers spreading literacy all across the county therefore cohesion can be quite difficult. Me and the event chair thought of the scavenger hunt in the library which is a fun way to market our organization and may help with future recruitment of volunteers. I LOVE academics so next year I will make sure that it’s a bit more academic and literacy awareness based but since this will be the first Week of Literacy, I’m satisfied. This week I’m submitting the event to the Daily Tar Heel and the student calendar. The lesson? If your organization or nonprofit are looking for fresh fundraiser and marketing ideas don’t hesitate to get inspiring by others. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a review of the documentary “American Teacher", so stay tuned.

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