By Brinda Gurumoorthy
A January 2014 media revelation disclosed that Socialist French president Francois Hollande has been, well, socializing! Reports about Hollande’s two-year-long affair with actress Julie Gayet created quite a stir in the French political community. The French First Lady, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, hospitalized herself for extreme fatigue after finding out the news. As Hollande’s image was already going south (his approval rating in November 2013 was 15%), any small thing could easily put his international reputation in jeopardy.
The scandal may look embarrassing to other nations, but as far as the French are concerned, it has little impact on people’s opinion of Hollande’s presidency. In past years, French people have tended to look the other way when their presidents pranced around with secret lovers. Still, although it may seem like what a politician does in the conference room has no correlation with what he does in the bedroom, an affair is not something to be overlooked. If someone is representing his or her nation to the world (i.e. Presidents, prime ministers, etc.), he or she should display fundamentally good character. The standards for average people differ greatly from those set for political figures, who must behave 24/7 since their every move is under public scrutiny. When the sordid details of Hollande’s affair made their way to Closer magazine, Hollande responded by saying that the reporter who wrote the article was attacking his right to privacy. He even considered suing the magazine! However, it is quite naïve for him to think he can get away with deflecting the attention to an invasion of privacy issue. To some extent, privacy no longer exists as a concern for people like Hollande who are in the limelight and must respond to any gaffes with tact. Hollande needs a bit of a reality check.
Even more interesting is the media’s interpretation of events. Many critics and analysts have said they simply do not care about Hollande’s infidelity, and in fact they turned to criticize the First Lady for not handling the situation in a classy manner. Fainting and heading to the hospital for a weeklong recovery does seem rather melodramatic, but then again it was an emotionally taxing shock. Perhaps Ms. Trierweiler should have dusted off her skirt, wiped her ever-present scowl off her face, and said something like “Vive la France”? One thing many reporters pointed out was the First Lady’s colossal lack of appeal to the public thanks to her far from amiable demeanor. Consequently, she received next to no sympathy. Some members of the press went so far as to say that Ms. Gayet, Hollande’s extracurricular friend, would look better for the press anyway.
Hollande’s response as a whole, in fact, was rather unremarkable; he simply said that he needed more time to evaluate the state of his relationships with Ms. Trierweiler and Ms. Gayet. Maybe the media has already dismissed Hollande as a person who was not the sharpest of leaders to begin with, and so infidelity is only confirmation of his silliness.
Is this groundbreaking ignominy? No. However, it does illustrate a case in which a political figure does not take responsibility for his wrongdoings. I’m not sure what is more absurd, the fact that Hollande expected people to accept his silence on the matter or the fact that people criticized the victim of the situation more than they did the evil mastermind behind the whole thing. Maybe “evil” is an exaggeration, but here’s proof that politicians do foolish things just as much, if not more, than the rest of us.
By Brinda Gurumoorthy
Physics and calculus are the same everywhere; a student in Canada takes derivatives in the same way that an Indian student does. However, schools across the world vary greatly in their styles of teaching. While the United States of America tends to aim for an educational system that focuses on critical thinking and application of concepts, eastern countries such as China have used rote learning, a method rooted in drilling and memorization, for years.
The rationale behind America’s preferred system, known as active learning, is just what the name suggests: in a competitive market where technology evolves at the speed of light and qualified applicants outnumber jobs available, the best way for an educational system to prepare students is for it to teach application-based concepts. For example, rather than a textbook simply giving algebra problem after problem, usually a textbook contains a realistic hypothetical scenario with a problem built into it. “Jane wants to get a pool built in her backyard. Assuming the volume of the pool is Insert-number- here, what are the largest possible dimensions of the surface of the pool?” Or something to that effect. Education is supposed to give young people a broad knowledge that they can use to solve problems in the real world, and real world problems are not going to be cookie-cutter or pure mathematics.
Consequently, an application-based program enables students to understand the reason that they are studying certain subjects, from economics to biology.
Rote learning is also designed to maximize students’ understanding of subject matter, but the approach to learning is markedly different. Countries in Asia and Eastern Europe practice this style of teaching in their schools, and they promote this style over the active learning methods that characterize American education. The reasoning behind rote learning lies in the old adage states that “practice makes perfect”. If students can spit out multiplication facts and recite the Preamble to the United States Constitution, soon the information will be etched into their brains and they will pick up speed when completing schoolwork. Speed and accuracy are the goals of this method; when students master the art of balancing speed and accuracy, they demonstrate understanding of the material.
So which learning style is superior? Of course, the subject matter in question can have an impact on which learning style is preferable; for courses heavy on memorization of acts, rote learning is the only option available. But critics of rote learning claim that it only leads to cramming, which results in a temporary absorption of material.
Students will study because they have paid to take the AP exam, but after the AP Government exam, perhaps dozens of chapters of learning will just vanish, rendering the entire course a waste of time. The pitfalls of rote learning appear glaring (perhaps because I am a student in an active learning setting). Yet empirical evidence does not show that there are pitfalls in rote learning; rather, some nations who avidly emphasize rote learning boast the highest scores in reading and mathematics. For instance, China is cracking the whip with drills and seas of practice problems; in the minds of Chinese educators, there simply isn’t time for excessive creative fluff. And with that system, its students are outpacing American students; researchers tested fourth and eighth graders in math and science and found Chinese students to score some of the highest scores overall.
There are some problems with rote learning: it may seem dull, obscure, and tedious. But if it is helping students to perform well on tests, maybe that means it is time for the United States to think about revamping some aspects of its educational system. A dash of rote learning may be a bore, but it may be for the best as well. Perhaps implementing some rote techniques in a few different subjects, such as math and science would help. A good educational system can and should implement both active, application-heavy sections and rote-based sections because both have their respective merits.
By Brinda Gurumoorthy
Any student taking US Government and Politics can tell you that political beliefs don’t just appear out of thin air. They are formed by your environment, experiences, and background; the lifelong process by which people acquire their political tendencies is called political socialization. But there are numerous sources that contribute to political development.
One of the most frequently discussed factors in political socialization is a college education. In March 2012, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum called universities indoctrination mills for liberalism, because professors are largely liberal. The claim about professors tending to be liberal is valid, a trend that can be seen throughout history. During the Vietnam War, professors encouraged anti-war sentiment, a liberal ideal at the time. More recently, a 2006 study by Solon Simmons and Neil Gross concluded that around half of professors surveyed identified themselves as liberal, compared to 1/5 of American overall at the time.
Since professors seem to gravitate towards a liberal mindset, it makes sense that they teach in a somewhat biased manner and therefore college students begin to perceive situations and philosophies in an increasingly liberal manner. The same logic can be applied to the argument that college makes students stray from the path of religions, because higher numbers of professors report being atheist or agnostic. Knowing this information, the question is whether or not Santorum’s assessment of colleges as ”indoctrination mills” is correct.
A New York Times article, “The Indoctrination Myth”, argues that the bias in postsecondary education does not have a particularly substantial impact on students’ political beliefs. Although it acknowledges that over the course of four years, students do become slightly more liberal, it argues that the change is one that affects the entire 18 to 24 age bracket. In essence, it is stating that although students are becoming more liberal, it is because of changing societal values, not because they are getting educated by a liberal faculty for four years.
The debate boils down to whether or not correlation implies causation. Many conservatives believe the answer to that is a firm yes, while liberals are more likely to disagree. Conservatives attack higher education and its alleged legal brainwashing by calling it an element of “liberal elitism” and claiming that professors and similar intellectuals are looking down on the common man and trying to manipulate the ideology of our nation. Whether the liberal “indoctrination” is intentional or not, it is occurring and can be irritating for conservative students.
Bottom line – America is growing more liberal by the minute, no matter what anyone has to say about it. Our generation is getting ready to take center stage in a world that requires problem-solving, cooperation, and street smarts; and usually, college is the place to acquire those skills. Learning from a group of people with liberal leanings will most likely influence the youth of today to process and solve the pressing problems of today with a liberal mindset. This could imply that future political decisions will be implemented more quickly because there will be less difference of opinion if everyone thinks alike. However, it could also imply that our nation will lose the benefit of having multiple perspectives on an issue. The issue is far from black and white, and whether the effects of increasing liberalism in the future generation will be positive or negative is a question up for heated debate.
By Brinda Gurumoorthy
The spirit of election season is in the air. November 6th is fast approaching, so both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are making efforts to convince voters that they would be the best person to lead the United States through its next chapter. Online polls fluctuate greatly; one day Obama has the upper hand in the polls, but the next day Romney takes the lead.
The American voting system is similar to that of a republic; in essence, American citizens vote for either Obama or Romney, and then representatives in each state correspondingly vote in the Electoral College.For instance, if Obama wins in New Jersey, all fourteen New Jersey electors vote for Obama. The number of electoral voters per state varies based on state population; California, the most populous state, has fifty-five voters while Wyoming, the least populous state, only has three. Ultimately, the votes of electors decide who will be the next President of the United States, so the Electoral College is a hot topic as Election Day approaches. Most states have formed clear political leanings by now. Many are strongly Republican or strongly Democrat, but there are a few states that are divided. These are called “toss-up” states. As per the New York Times Electoral Map, President Obama has 185 solid votes and 52 votes leaning in his favor, while Governor Romney has 168 solid votes and 38 leaning in his favor. Obama has a slight lead, but that is subject to change. Currently, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania are leaning Democrat. On the other hand, Nebraska, North Carolina, Indiana, and Arizona are showing Republican tendencies. The toss-up states that may sway the election in favor of one candidate or the other are Colorado, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nevada. Both candidates are more concerned with winning political favor in these states because they may be the determining factor in the Electoral College. Both Obama and Romney must instill trust in the voters of swing states in order to maximize voter turnout.
Florida is the most populous toss-up state, which is why it has twenty-nine electoral votes. Although Obama won Florida’s electoral votes in 2008, Florida residents have suffered from an abysmally slow economic recovery and a large number of home foreclosures. Right now, since there are many conservative retirees who live in Florida, Mitt Romney may have hope of winning majority of votes, but there is also a large Hispanic population that he must win over in order to gain Florida’s twenty-nine votes. Just as Florida’s votes were recounted and ultimately dictated whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won the 2000 Presidential election, it also has an major impact on the 2012 election. President Obama, remembering the influence of Florida’s votes in 2000, used that information to his advantage. He published a TV advertisement which discussed the Florida electoral recount in 2000; claiming that it was “the difference between what was and what could have been”, the ad compels voters to make their voice heard.
Likewise, Mitt Romney went on an Ohio bus tour to convince the residents of Ohio that he was going to be the catalyst for change. Ohio has eighteen electoral votes, therefore its influence on the election may be fairly substantial. There are conservative areas of Ohio, but Ohio’s economy is steadily improving, so that may motivate Democrat voters. Romney seized the chance to take action and inspire voters. Casting Obama as the “status quo” candidate, Romney promised to accelerate the pace of economic growth and alleviate unemployment problems. He, too, urged Ohio residents to spread the message about the elections and convince others to use their powers of voting. Romney also made a point to mention poor quality of public education and, of course, US debt, and he vowed many times that “big change” was on its way. Is he right? It will be a while before America knows the answer, but until then Romney wants to make sure he instills confidence in voters.
The presidential debates have finished, and now both Obama and Romney are on the home stretch of 2012 election. Both candidates have fervent supporters, and both get ridiculed relentlessly on the internet; essentially the race is neck and neck. Clearly, both candidates are making an effort to focus their energy on the swing states, and no matter who is currently leading in the polls, the race is extremely close. The United States was founded upon the idea of the people choosing their leaders, and that philosophy is apparent in today’s election process. As the United States battles a sluggish recovery, a hefty unemployment rate, and trillions of dollars of debt, Americans want a leader who will bring change. Both candidates have proposed ways to bring about change, but the path America takes next will only be determined on Election Day.