Writing

10th grade was a year of As on all (if I remember correctly) of my English papers. I thought I was a pretty good writer. I thought I was clear and concise, and that my arguments were relatively sound. I thought I knew how to write a good essay. If I had a list of times in my life when I was very wrong, my perception of myself as a writer during Sophomore year would be on there.

I came into AP Lang thinking that it would be easy. I never scored higher than a 6/9 on an in-class essay. And that happened only twice. It was about midway through the first semester of 11th grade that I realized, “Wow, I can’t actually communicate a point that has any meaning.” Unfortunately, I still feel that I am in this place even though I have grown significantly as a writer from the beginning of the year. This year was a rough one as far as writing goes, but I did learn something very important: I learned why logically communicating myself through writing and rhetoric is a crucial skill to have. Why is that important and crucial to have? It’s because it’s a difficult task and not many people can do so. That one idea is the most valuable thing I learned this year. Logical articulation has less of a place in today’s world. But one day when I’m all grown up and am applying for jobs, I’ll be thankfully for AP Lang teaching me the importance of rational communication. It may just make me stand out as a little different from the rest.

On Entertainment

If I were to be honest with myself, entertainment is probably the number one thing my heart seeks. My heart seeks to have fun by being entertained through video games, people, sports, and the like. I know I’m not the only one like this. Western society, particularly America, pushes for entertainment and happiness like Bernie Sanders pushes for the downfall (or maybe fair treatment depending on your perspective) of cooperate America. That is to say entertainment is highly regarded and sought after in America. Some people say we should study history so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. With that idea in mind let’s visit one of the greatest theaters of entertainment of all time: the Ancient Roman Colosseum.

Rome was an incredibly powerful nation that controlled the European world for several hundred years. Eventually, corruption began to seep into the Rome. The emperors attempted to keep civilians happy by providing them “bread and circuses” or in modern words food and entertainment. As the power of Rome weakened, the spectacularity of the circuses rose and the food became more abundant. The Roman Colosseum was the location of the most spectacular events of all. People lived simply so that they could watch the proceedings of the Colosseum. The emperors of Rome knew this and made the Colosseum all the more extravagant. Instead of being concerned with the barbarians invading the outskirts of Roman land, people only wanted to see the next gladiator fight in the Colosseum. The entertainment Rome provided caused people’s minds to shift from worthwhile things to not so worthwhile things. The “bread and circuses” of Rome ruined society and partially led to her downfall. Entertainment truly is capable of ruining a society. We must ask ourselves: how similar is our society like that of Ancient Rome? Will our downfall be our own desire for entertainment? Will history repeat itself?

Execution

The Death Penalty has been a hotly debated topic in recent years. In the USA, Capital Punishment still exists in about 30 states. People are still killed for their crimes in what is supposedly one of the most advanced and free countries in the world. That seems shocking at least to me in the 21st century, and I assume to other people as well.  There are strong feelings on both sides of this argument, and I will attempt to approach the topic with an objective and open mind.

I once heard a student say that if a person kills someone else he too should be killed. In his mind, death is the proper punishment for murder. A multitude of humans from history would agree with him. Some cultures were based on this very idea (officially known as the law of retaliation). Humans’ feelings towards the death penalty are largely based on what they believe to be right and wrong. In cultures based on the law of retaliation, mirror punishment is considered acceptable, good, and even morally right. If someone kills someone else and gets caught, what do they deserve? Do they deserve anything less than the atrocity they committed?

Quite a few people believe in Capital Punishment, but quite a few people also believe that Capital Punishment should  be done away with. Most human’s moral arguments go something like this, “It’s never right to kill another human being regardless of what they’ve done.” It’s hard to make an objective decision on law based solely on morals. Luckily, some facts have been collected by Amnestyusa arguing against the Death Penalty. They discovered that the Death Penalty is largely delivered when a white person has been killed. Over 77% of Death Penalty cases are over a white person being murder even though half of all homicide victims are African Americans. This is just one statistic that shows that when specific parameters are not given for issuing Capital Punishment, racism can seep into the decision making process.

I personally feel that people should not be executed by the government unless they choose so. I think that the proper way to approach homicides and the like is to give the criminal an option between life in solitary confinement or death. Life in solitary confinement really does mean for life. Therefore, people are called to choose what they believe to be the lesser of two evils. One can choose to die or live by themselves and die of old age? It is not a perfect solution, but it is an option to consider that is not currently on the table.

The Tragedy of Othello

Who is responsible for the tragedy in Othello? Is it the insecure, noble Othello? or the conniving, cleaver Iago? To answer this question one has to define what the tragedy in Othello is. It can either be defined as the downfall of Othello or as the feelings of fear and pity that the audience feels. The initial question of who is responsible for the tragedy in Othello is a bit vague, and once we have a definition of tragedy to work with then we can make an argument.

In one way, tragedy can be defined as the downfall of Othello. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Iago is the evil mastermind who is manipulating the other characters in the play to do his will. He gives Desdemona’s handkerchief to Michael Cassio for the singular purpose of having Othello see Cassio in possession of the handkerchief. Once Othello sees Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio’s possession, Iago hopes that Othello will think his wife is cheating on him. The handkerchief situation was a large reason why Othello killed his wife and eventually killed himself. Iago also sows the seed in Othello’s mind that his wife is cheating on him. The handkerchief exasperates this, and Iago tricks Othello. Iago causes Othello’s downfall in this way. Yes Othello is very gullible and easily influenced, but had Iago not brought the idea of an unfaithful wife to Othello’s mind no tragedy would have occurred.

In another way, tragedy can be defined as the feelings of pity and fear evoked by the characters in the play. By this definition, Othello would be responsible for the tragedy in Othello. Why? Firstly, Othello fits all the Ancient Greek criteria of being a tragic hero thus his downfall evokes fear and pity in his audience. Secondly, the downfall of Othello is quite simply a sad story that one has to read or see to fully understand. Othello was a man who had reached a very good place in society, just married, and was well respected. But his life crumbled underneath him because a man he thought he was friends with manipulated him. That’s a tragedy right there.

So who is ultimately responsible for the tragedy in Othello? It all depends how one defines the terms.

Bernie vs. Hillary

Logical fallacies are the topic for this week. What better place is there to look than in political debates? Politicians have largely been heralded as liars and people who will do anything to get what they want. With that in mind, I watched part of a Democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Let’s dive right in to see if these potential presidential candidates use logical fallacies, what types of fallacies they use, and how it impacts their argument.

To set the context for the argument, over the course of two years, the water in a town called Flint (located in Michigan) has been poisoned. People cannot bathe in it or drink it. At about 26 minutes into the video, a woman from Flint asks a question about factory worker jobs. Will the potential presidential candidates encourage companies to keep factories in the U.S. is the question she asks? Hillary responds like any human being would with a resounding yes. Unfortunately for her, Sanders brings up the fact that in the past she has supported trade agreements that took away jobs from Americans. In response to that, Hillary points out how Sanders was against a bail out for the auto parts industry. This is an example of a red herring. Hillary Clinton does not respond to Bernie’s argument that in the past she has taken jobs away from Americans; rather, she tries to shift blame onto him by bringing up something that he has done wrong. She does not defend herself, but chooses to ignore Bernie’s argument. This type of fallacy is a fallacy one might hear on the school playground. In the words of a child the argument may go like this “Well, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done because you’ve done these bad things too.” This has the impact of making Ms. Clinton sound a bit childish. It raises the question in the mind of the audience “Can’t you defend yourself? Or can you only attack others?”

Now there were many more fallacies, but to go over all of them in the close to 2 hour video would take a very long time. For example, later Hillary says, “You were either for the auto industry bailout or against it.” This is an instance of bifurcation. I think that the overall impact of any logical fallacy used makes a person sound immature and unintelligent. That is the bottom line. That if one can’t defend their arguments, it makes them sound quite nonintellectual.

“Give it your 110%”

Whether am I on the basketball court or on the rugby field, in Physics class or English, moving from one house to another or cooking an omelet, I hear the phrase “Give it your 110%.” Now, besides the fact that is impossible to give 110% in anything, this phrase annoys me. People say it because they want others to achieve something; they want others to pursue excellence by encouraging them to give it all they have. Sure people may try their best in the moment, but excellence comes in the preparation. In reality, everyone tries their best in the moment; the hard part is trying your best in preparation. Regardless of the phrase, the pursuit of excellence has been around for a long time and will continue to be around for a long. But what does it mean to pursue excellence? What does it mean give something your 110%?

I think to truly pursue excellence, or give something your 110%, we need to define those things. If we define them then the 110% phrase doesn’t bother me so much. We can’t allow those phrase to be broad, vague terms that have a generic meaning. If excellence in school, to you, means getting an A on the next test then pursuing excellence means doing all you can to get that A. If giving your 110% on the rugby field means you run down every kick then do that: push yourself to run as fast as you can and recover the ball. Everybody defines excellence and the pursuit of excellence differently. You have to define what excellence is to you. Only then will you be able to pursue excellence.

Resumes

Resumes are one of the things in life that scare me. In my humble opinion, resumes are stupid. Why you ask? They are stupid because you tell the world how good and special you are. How prideful must one get to write down all their accomplishments on a piece of paper? Personal unsupported feelings aside, these are the things from my research that make a good resume.

Step 1: Include the most important information at the top of your page.

Employers/reviewers spend less than 30 seconds looking over a resume the first time. To even be considered, something has to check their eye. Humans are wired to get bored with something the longer they do it (as long as they don’t love that thing). Reviewers get extremely bored looking over resume after resume; thus, the best approach to take is to put your most important information where the reviewer is most likely to see it – the top.

Step 2: Make your resume clear, concise, and free of grammatically errors.

This one should go without saying, but I’ll include it anyway. Like the papers we are supposed to write in school, resumes should be clear. Make titles distinct and don’t write in paragraph form. Paragraphs tend to be glossed over whereas points are much easier to read. If the resume is too long, and not concise, the reviewer will get bored and skim over all the words. Grammatical errors are simply unprofessional and make an applicant unprofessional.

Step 3: List accomplishments in jobs not jobs.

Reviewers are apparently more concerned with what you did in a job, and how it was done. Therefore, just listing all your professions since age six isn’t good enough. An applicant has to say how they led in each job, or what difference they made in their job.

And one final piece of advice: remember one type of resumes doesn’t fit all jobs. Make sure your resumes are personalized to the job you are applying to. In the words of a high school student that read a few online articles, if you do these things jobs will fall into your lap.