The election is over. We lived through the campaigns, the ads and the constant mudslinging. We lived through the harsh Facebook statuses and the threats some of our friends made about moving to Canada. We lived through the election and, much to a few political pundits’ surprise, the sun still came up on Wednesday morning. However, the re-election of President Barack Obama does prove some interesting points and say a few things about our nation’s evolving values.
First of all, I find it interesting that despite our country’s economic status, Obama was still re-elected. I am not saying the economy is his fault, because this economy is not the fault of any single man.
However, there is no doubt that our country is in a deep slump. Unemployment is at 7.9 percent, and the dollar is sinking in value almost every day. This indicates that, first of all, America as a whole is being much more patient than usual. We trust that Obama has a plan and that, though the economy is not perfect now, he is still working to make things better. America trusts that Obama is a good man with a good heart and we trust that, in the long run, he will improve the economic situation.
It also implies that America is not as concerned with having a commander-in-chief as they are in having an orator-in-chief. Obama’s eloquence and obvious intellect speak louder than his track record for a lot of American voters. In a situation in which America is in a deep hole, we value a strong leader and communicator over the potential for different policies.
In addition, Obama’s re-election accentuates the need for many citizens to feel that they are part of a “we.” With his successful past and strong economic understanding, Romney may have been more qualified for the job. But Americans no longer settle with being represented by their president; they want to feel as if they are partnered with him. Romney simply seemed too out of touch and unrelatable.
Obama took advantage of this and ultimately, this is what won over the black and Latino votes that surely helped him win in both 2008 and 2012. Latino and black voters both consistently poll as socially conservative, especially on issues such as gay marriage. Despite Romney’s strong conservative voice, both groups still cast their vote to support a candidate who made them feel that their voice was heard. With this, the Republican Party lost a very strong potential demographic and further polarized more voters.
Moral of the story: Obama’s re-election proves to me that the Republican Party is facing some huge decisions. According to The New York Times, 55 percent of women voted for Obama, which can be mainly attributed to Obama’s more liberal stance on reproductive rights. Let’s be honest, Romney’s campaign was left up to the white men. And they didn’t show up.
The country is shifting away from its center-right position that it has held for years and years. The Democrats are evolving to face new issues, but the Republicans are radicalizing, isolating themselves more and more from independent voters who support Libertarian and Green Party politics.
It’s time for the Grand Old Party to either innovate and prepare for a more modern Republican party or prepare to be trampled.
Poll results published by Gallup on Oct. 30 showed Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama by five points. Rasmussen had Romney up by two and the average difference, according to Real Clear Politics, was 0.8 in Romney’s favor.
The numbers have flip-flopped the last several weeks. The popular vote will most definitely be a fight. With the Electoral College still granting Obama 10 more votes than Romney and several significant swing states still up in the air, it is difficult to predict what could happen on Tuesday.
It is quite possible that the election will be a repeat of 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the Electoral College vote.
The Electoral College was established by the U.S. Constitution. The purpose was to allow voters to cast votes for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates. At the time, there was fear of the uneducated popular vote accompanied by fear of allowing Congress to choose the president. The Electoral College was the compromise.
Forty-eight states practice a winner-take-all system in which every electoral vote for a state goes to the candidate who won the popular vote in the state. This can be a big deal for large states with a lot of electoral votes, such as California or Texas. Maine and Nebraska practice what is called a congressional district method, in which each elector votes to represent different districts with different conclusions.
The trouble comes when electors pledge to vote based on their state or congressional district, but then change their mind and vote for the other candidate. At least two dozen states have established punishment for these faithless electors; yet, it still happens and is one major criticism of the Electoral College system.
Today, a candidate must receive 270 of the 538 electoral votes to win. In cases where there is no majority, the decision is given to the House of Representatives. The House selects the president by majority vote with each state delegation receiving one vote.
Since the 2000 elections, many states and government leaders have called for Electoral College reform.
This election may very well be the tipping point for the Electoral College. Just imagine if Obama won the popular vote and then the Electoral College declared Romney as president of the United States. Claims of racism and attacks on the Republican House would surely ensue. Or if Romney won the popular vote and Obama won the electoral? I shudder when I consider the wrath Rush Limbaugh would bestow upon the airwaves.
The pandemonium may be enough to either radically change the Electoral College or spur thoughts of why the U.S. established the system in the first place.
Moral of the story: At the very least, America needs to assure that the electoral vote will align with the popular vote. A better solution might be to scrap the system all together. After all, the original purpose was to compromise between a mistrust of big government and a mistrust of the common man. Neither fear is nearly as prominent or rational anymore. With a strong watchdog media, systems of checks and balances for every major agency and an educated and literate public, I believe we can trust our own to adequately choose their leader.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in March confirmed one of my worst fears about my generation.
The study found that the millennial generation, consisting of those born after 1982, “considers money, image and fame more important than values like self-acceptance and being part of a community.”
In addition, results showed that millennials were less environmentally conscious, community-oriented and politically engaged than previous generations were at the same age.
An obsession with wealth and those who hold the wealth grips culture like never before. Newspapers that used to cover important political and newsworthy events now feature countless photos of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston’s engagement ring. In the recent presidential debates, the focus has been on the wealthy. There have been countless discussions and arguments based on President Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment as well as Gov. Mitt Romney’s tax return information.
America is not alone in this materialism, though. Nearly any college student with Facebook has heard the Korean pop song “Gangnam Style.” Gangnam is a city in South Korea associated with those in Korean society who have made it to the top of the economic food chain. They are ridiculously rich and live a life of decadence. South Korea, which has a 3.1 percent unemployment rate, is currently in a situation in which they must assess their nation’s values. South Korea is booming with business and opportunity, but this is not necessarily a wonderful thing for society. South Korean workers put in some of the longest work hours in the world and children spend almost all of their time either at school or being tutored so they can do better in school. Korean students are then shuffled into colleges, where they face anxiety and family pressure to achieve and out-perform their classmates.
Similarly, a high-level job and an economically stable and successful country are both important facets of the American ideal of achievement. Yet where have those standards gotten South Korea? They are well off and financially stable, yet starved of time with family and friends. Their lives revolve around jobs that provide for families they never see.
From the time I was a child, I was told by teachers and guidance counselors to find what I love in life and go do it. That “doing” always implied a job and money. We are taught that the highest degree of satisfaction in life comes from doing a job we are passionate about. When the purpose of our life is to find a fulfilling job, we live to work instead of working to live.
Of course, I want to have a job in which I do quality work that I care about. But I don’t believe a job can truly fulfill a life. America must realize that relationships are the lifeblood of a deeply satisfying life. Don’t sacrifice a gratifying and profoundly rewarding relationship with family members or close friends for a job title that won’t matter at all in a few years.
A palliative nurse in the U.K. reported the top five regrets of the dying in a powerful article published by The Guardian. According to the nurse, almost every male patient and several of the female patients expressed one regret: working too hard. They expressed guilt and sadness after realizing that they had lost precious years with their spouses and children.
Moral of the story: Millennial generation, it is time to set our priorities straight. Stop worrying about your future job and fantasizing about how much money you could make. The best things in life are free and the happiest people are those who see the value of relationships instead of the value of money.
At its birth, affirmative action offered hope for America. It promised to help prevent racism and stereotypes and assist minorities in getting the education and profession they deserved. Now, 50 years later, I am not sure about the hope that affirmative action is supposedly providing.
This week, the Supreme Court heard Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which will challenge the use of race as a factor in university admissions. The case is based on Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian student who graduated from a public high school in Texas in 2008. According to The New York Times, Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin after an evaluation that considered a candidate’s race.
The Atlantic recently published an article challenging affirmative action in light of the Supreme Court hearing. Basically, writers Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. argue that the students accepted by a university that gives strong preference to minorities struggle more than they succeed. Elite and rigorous universities are eager to diversify and use affirmative action as a tool to do so. However, this often results in students attending schools where they don’t fit in and where there is a large gap between their aptitude and that of their peers. This is called mismatching.
Small amounts of minority preference may indeed be beneficial, but the contemporary racial preferences used by selective schools are extremely large. According to Sander and Taylor, accepted minority students often have an SAT score of on average 300 points lower than their classmates’ scores. This creates a very negative learning environment for minority students. A 300-point gap is huge, and minority students realize that. Because of poor education standards in areas where minorities often grow up, they are often not as advanced or prepared for course work that their classmates find ordinary. Such a large difference is bound to cause both academic discouragement and social alienation. In addition, a university that accepts minoritieswho cannot handle the rigor reinforces false stereotypes by setting minority students up to fail.
According to “Increasing Faculty Diversity,” a book about affirmative action by Stephen Cole and Elinor Barber, “blacks who start college interested in pursuing a doctorate and an academic career are twice as likely to be derailed from this path if they attend a school where they are mismatched.”
In addition, a study at Duke University showed that “interracial friendships are more likely to form among students with relatively similar levels of academic preparation; thus, blacks and Hispanics are more socially integrated on campuses where they are less academically mismatched.”
In almost all instances of observation, African-Americans and Hispanics were significantly more likely to fail and drop out of their mismatched university.
No matter what decision the Supreme Court makes, changes have already been made for affirmative action on the state level. Washington, Michigan, Arizona, New Hampshire, California and Florida have banned racial preferences in admissions outright. After the ban, minority enrollment fell, but at the University of Washington “Hispanic enrollment is higher and black enrollment is comparable to before race was banned,” according to an article by The Associated Press.
As the tides turn with affirmative action, I think we will see more universities basing their preferences on economic inequality instead of racial inequality. An economic affirmative action program could consider income and wealth as a factor in admission, and therefore acknowledge discrimination indirectly.
Moral of the story: Though affirmative action based on socioeconomic status may not be as simplistic as asking for skin color, the time has come that universities adjust to the real issues and root causes of lack of diversity in colleges. The current means of affirmative action being based on race ignore the fact that reform is needed in primary and secondary schools. The beginning of a lifetime of dedication to education has to start somewhere, and right now, that starting place is atrocious for most inner-city or poor children. Whether that change comes through the state or Supreme Court, so be it.
I love the Atlantic magazine. To say I am obsessed is an understatement. Here are a few great things I’m sifting through now.
Tea and kidnapping: In the desert with the world’s friendliest hostage-takers: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/tea-and-kidnapping/309078/
I remember hearing about these abductions but I am really glad that this journalist traveled to the Middle East and to report on what’s going on. The kidnappers are actually nice people who are desperate for some sort of justice. Their kindness to the kidnapped is really a true sign of hope for the Middle East, I think. I loved the human element of the story. Give it a read, it’s pretty short.
A nation’s report card: Special report and debate on American education: http://www.theatlantic.com/debates/education/
Education reform is a topic I have been researching a lot lately. I am very passionate about education and outspoken on the fact that something radical must be done to rectify our current situation. The Atlantic presented a series of articles for their current issue addressing some of the arguments being made about how to fix things. The article I am currently reading is about the need for analytic writing and the Common Core Education Standard. I am pretty familiar with Common Core because the Statesville R&L covered it a lot this summer when the school system decided to adopt the program. And obviously, I am all for some analytic writing — personally, I believe it’s the best way to learn and grow as a person. The Atlantic also published an article about homeschooling, the harm of self expression and the popularity of the “Freedom Writers” style of learning.
Politics is a dirty game. People cheat, lie and wait for the opportunity to trash-talk anyone who might disagree with them. With so much scrutiny, it’s nearly impossible for a politician not to mess up. In this election cycle though, it seems that Mitt Romney is messing up a little more than the average politician.
Romney pledged in May to do nothing regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, despite the issue’s absolute need for attention. In making these statements, Romney seems out of touch and ignorant of facts that seem self-evident to the rest of the country. He is very knowledgeable in his sphere of influence, but it seems he knows almost nothing outside of this bubble.
Every other politician messes up and says things that seem out of touch. In fact, just the other day President Barack Obama was asked about the national debt figure and couldn’t respond. The purpose of this article is not to bash Romney in any regard. It is simply to point out the fact that he and Harding students seem to have the same problem — we’re embarrassingly unaware of what goes on outside of our respective bubbles.
For most of us, moving out of our parents’ homes and into a dorm in college was our first true taste of freedom. We have painted a picture of the real world based on what we have observed in college. For us, that reality means being surrounded by Church of Christ Christians, rarely hearing swear words and immersing ourselves in a culture that often shies away from controversy and difficulty. The phrase “the Harding bubble” is popular for a reason: We’re shut off and, often, that makes us seem ignorant.
No matter how wonderful Harding is, it’s not the real world. We need to know what is going on in our world, whether those things are beautiful or awful. We need to understand that there are people with whom we will be expected to interact and work even though they are vastly different from us. An honest and open-minded view of the world is necessary for our lives after we graduate.
At a fundraiser in May, Romney stated that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income tax, believe they are victims and are entitled to government assistance. That percentage figure includes elderly and disabled people, but Romney said, “My job is not to worry about those people.”
Romney also said a few weeks ago that the middle class extends to an annual income of $250,000. In reality, the average annual income is $50,000.
As a presidential nominee, Romney has an obligation to take into account the situations of every different American. People don’t make $250,000 a year in the middle class, and elderly people don’t believe they are victims who are entitled to assistance. To say so is ignorant, out of touch and embarrassing.
Just as a presidential nominee has obligations, we have a responsibility as educated American citizens to understand the implications of a flawed and troubled world. To pretend that global crises aren’t an issue or to judge anyone who is any different from us in our moral scope is ignorant, out of touch and embarrassing.
Moral of the story: Do not get caught in the Harding bubble. Take Romney’s mistakes into account and learn about the world outside of whatever bubble you’ve lived in. How can we truly reach and help those in need if we have no idea about life outside of our small, sheltered world?
Last week, Chicago experienced its first teacher strike in 25 years. Instead of heading to school on Monday, more than 26,000 teachers gathered to strike. The strike left 350,000 Chicago public school children out of school for the entire week.
A lot of the trouble here is the result of what is being called the Race to the Top initiative, which establishes the standard of teachers being evaluated based on the standardized test scores of their students. The initiative, according to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, will end with 6,000 Chicago teachers being discharged within the next two years.
The unions and government officials reached a deal last week, but the fact remains — our education system needs serious reform. And the reform needs to come in a way that does not involve hundreds of thousands of children being forced out of schools, parents scrambling for child care and poor children who depend on school lunches going hungry.
The Finnish system of education became popular after the criticism of the American educational system in the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” Finland began education reform about 40 years ago. The reform acted as an economic recovery, much as the investments in the G.I. Bill assisted the American economy. According to a 2011 article in Smithsonian Magazine by LynNell Hancock, an educational study that drew from more than 40 different global venues showed Finnish students outperforming many of the world’s top nations in almost every academic subject.
“Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union,” Hancock reported. “Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.”
Finnish teachers focus on students who are struggling and adopt the mindset of doing whatever it takes to help the student succeed. Currently, there is only one mandated standardized test at the end of a student’s senior year of high school. In addition, teachers are “professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education.”
According to a CBS News article, American education majors, on average, enter school with the lowest SAT scores of any of their classmates in other majors. However, the education majors usually graduated with GPAs that were, on average, higher than their classmates’. So not only is the field of education slacking in recruitment, it’s also handing out easy A’s.
The American system is failing because it does not work to recruit its best and brightest to the field of education. Incentives for good, intelligent, hard-working teachers are rare in the American system. Meanwhile, Finland is recruiting their best and brightest to educate the next generation and teach them to become mature, thinking adults.
Most importantly, Finnish teachers honestly care about the good of every one of their students. As mentioned before, they work to help the least common denominator to succeed no matter what the circumstances. The American system focuses on making our highest achieving students the best in the world. Our drive for competition leaves the disadvantaged in the dust. Instead of creating incentives for intelligent students to become educators, we instead shuffle them along to Goldman Sachs.
Moral of the story: The American education system has fallen into the rhythm of a systematic and standardized scoring of success. Lawmakers are encouraging the premium placed on impersonal standardization instead of working to fix the problem we all know is there. Unionized teachers are striking and begging for change despite the guilt of knowing 350,000 kids are being forced out of school. Something radical must be done.