Author Archives: annaj

Evil.

Wow. After reading finishing the Last Days of Hitler and then reading The Lucifer Effect on blackboard there are so many thoughts running through my mind. Throughout the blackboard reading I kept coming back to different things we talked about in class throughout this semester. I thought the piece tied in well with a lot of topics we have covered. For example, systems of power, structural forces, Hitler, propaganda, and perception were all brought up.

As I continued to read the article I kept thinking in my head, “Oh I could write my blog about this! Or this! Or this!” Finally, what really hit home was the awful description of the “mass murder century” we live in. He points out all of the different tyrannies and notes the millions of people that have died or are currently suffering. Those perpetrating such evil are seen as the dehumanized enemy or “other.” This makes it okay for those looking to aid in such terrible situations find abusing terrorists to be “fun and games.” The American military took so much pride in their torturous actions at the Abu Ghraib Prison that they videotaped it. And these actions are justified based on the terrible things that the prisoners had done. I am all for justice being served, but this cycle of evil will never stop.  Genocides, bombings, rapes, and even the small minute sins created by ordinary people will continue to happen so long as we continue to stay fascinated by the evil we so very much fear.

Nan Keohane

The lecture by Nan Keohane was extremely relevant to current leadership topics, especially the one discussed in one of my other leadership classes yesterday morning! In Leadership 102, we discussed the stereotypes based on expectations and leaders. Regarding the Case of Gender we learned that good leadership involves leaders with certain characteristics. Often these characteristics are confident, assertive, independent and decisive roles. These are considered manly traits.  Women are often stereotyped as the complete opposite. Their communal traits are kind, helpful and sympathetic. Thus, women are often not successful in leadership positions because they don’t carry, or so the stereotypes say, the traits of a leader.

Now, how does this relate to Nan Keohane? Well, Nan Keohane pointed out the Princeton undergrad study, which revealed that female students were not interested in holding formal positions of power and leadership. What we later learned in leadership class was the stereotype threat theory. When individuals feel that they might be judged in terms of a negative stereotype or that they might do something that would confirm that stereotype, inadvertently act in line with that specific stereotype. This thoroughly supports much of what Nan Keohane talked about. Women are often found not interested in taking on high impact leader positions because of the stereotypes. Women are not expected to be good at being leaders and they fall in line with the expectations. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Other empirical data also supports the stereotype threat and Nan’s definitions of leadership. Some studies show how stereotypes can cause those included to underperform or take a back seat role. For example, one study we learned about talked about exposing participants to TV commercials that were either geared towards a gender stereotype or not geared to a gender. After watching these commercials participants were asked to take on a leadership position. The stereotypical ads undermined females’ leadership aspirations on an upcoming task. Although there are women highly confident in leadership abilities and there are women who respond positively to stereotypes with Nan Keohane being a prime example, they are still in the minority. Hopefully two of Nan’s three future leadership possibilities will come true and the stereotype threat theory can be nixed!

Do we know what actually happened during Hitler’s last days?

Hugh Trevor-Roper’s introduction interestingly set the tone for the book. He spoke the truth when he wrote that human testimonies can be worthless. After reading about how many different assumptions turned into statements and facts regarding Hitler’s death I came back to the common theme of many of our lectures: What is the truth and how do we know?
In the beginning of this course we learned about fallacious reasoning. Then we learned about the deception of statistics. Ever since those lectures I find myself questioning everything I read. Take for example our most recent discussions on Henrietta Lacks. Is Skloot’s novel an exaggerated attempt to make money or is there truth behind what she wrote? We take for granted the words of others. Sometimes we put too much faith in what we learn from others and sometimes we let the words of others in one ear and out the other.
Roper clearly states that the last days of Hitler are fuzzy. They are clouded with the testimonies of others, but Roper argues that despite the falsely illogical statements his research stands alone as the strongest and most valid. His story throws out a lot of the past testimonies made and fills in a lot of the blanks with a factual story. Although he says his story may vary and differ when reading it against other testimonies, he clearly states at the end of it that the Russians (strongest support he could ask for) have accepted the truths regarding Hitler’s last days. I am interested to read and investigate the validity of the rest of Roper’s testimony in The Last Days of Hitler!

Cognitivists vs. Non-cognitivists

Having already read Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks , the chapter we had to read on moral arguments put the book in a different light. All of the social issues addressed whether it be race, gender, or economic status were based off of moral arguments. A lot of the problems with Henrietta’s situation involved rights that she as an equal human had. These rights that Skloot and most of the society now argue for state that someone is morally obligated to do something or is morally obligated to let someone do something. However, throughout history there has been much controversy because some people do not see eye to eye on moral statements and arguments. It was very interesting that the article could put a name to such different views on the idea of morality. For example, the non-cognitivists believe that there are no moral statements that are true or false. They believe in right and wrong but when there is moral disagreement it is because of different emotions.  On the other hand there are cognitivists, who believe that there are moral statements that are true or false. This allows for moral arguments to be discussed. After reading this I connected religion with cognitivists way of thinking and science (factual basis) with non-cognitivists way of thinking.

One Book One Campus: Henrietta Lacks

The Henrietta Lacks family, specifically the grandchildren of Henrietta Lacks, struck me with curiosity. The grandchildren’s ability to relay the issues of Henrietta Lacks’ situation did not do Rebecca Skloot or the novel justice. It was unfortunate that David Lacks could not attend because the grandchildren’s knowledge of the book and their grandmother was unimpressive. I found it interesting that they did not form a relationship with Rebecca Skloot. What was even more shocking was that they learned most about their grandmother by reading the book. If I were Henrietta Lacks’ grandchildren I would ask my parents about her. Kim mentioned that her Uncle Lawrence, the oldest, was the most emotional when talking about Henrietta. He was the one who witnessed the severity of the situation, a poor african american woman dealing with cancer. Kim and David had to have been curious when they saw how emotional their uncle and family members were over Henrietta’s lifestory. They had to have been curious when their family stopped engaging in conversations with reporters. And when they had been informed that a book was going to be written on her, how could they have not want to have been involved with Rebecca?Throughout the process of gathering evidence I would want to learn as much as possible about Skloot’s new findings and discoveries. Lastly, Rebecca Skloot’s novel put a heavy emphasis on the exploitation of Henrietta. The bitterness that the book gives off towards the Hopkins hospital seemed stronger than Kim and David Jr.’s. The book addresses so many social issues and the hospital (dominant culture) always seems to be in the wrong. So, it struck me as curious that the grandchildren, whose knowledge of their grandmother’s life story was based off the novel, did not reveal any ill feelings towards the those involved in spreading HeLa cells without the Lacks’ knowing or approval.

Autocatalytic Activity

The Viking empire built up and expanded quickly, however, the empire came to a complete halt nearly three centuries later. The author makes a solid argument for the quick subsiding of the empire by defining an autocatalytic process. At first there is a pull trigger that expands the human population. Some of these advantages include people gains, profits, and discoveries. This in turn stimulates and pulls more people to seek the new lands. This chain reaction continues until the area is filled up and the advantages of the new lands are taken. This autocatalytic expansion then ceases to catalyze itself and runs out of steam.

It is extremely interesting that the author relates a chemical process to the rise and demise of an empire. As I continued to read on though I saw how spot on the connection was. It reminded me of the domino effect. New opportunities are a driving factor for migration. As word travels fast, especially good word of a new land, more people migrate. Humans always want more. What the problem is, is that new opportunities are limited in number. Those who are lucky enough to seek them out at the right time benefit. But societies cannot flourish if everyone moves to where the new opportunities and advantages are found. This leads to overpopulation, overpopulation, and other processes by which societies damage their lands. The solution is to control the autocatalytic process and minimize the effect that the pull trigger has on the human population to migrate.

Narcissistic Advertising

The reading “The Growing Narcissism in American Culture,” which was assigned for another leadership course I am currently enrolled in coincided with “Desire and Illusion: Analyzing Advertising.” “The Growing Narcissism in American Culture” read that there has been an underlying shift in American psychology. This shift is referred to as the inexorable rise of narcissism in our culture. As I continued to read this article I immediately saw a connection between the shift in advertising and the rise of narcissism. Advertising does more than push a product. Contemporary ads have shifted. The power they hold now generally encourage society to put wants ahead of others’ needs and self-interests above altruism. The persuasion factor, sinfulness and fallacies of advertising contribute to American society’s growing emphasis placed on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking. This is also known as the rise of narcissism.

Advertising routinely makes assumptions about consumers’ needs, desires, fears and prejudices. Eventually society’s cultural landscape is shaped by messages relayed by advertisements. In “Desire and Illusion: Analyzing Advertising,” it says that ad agencies spend a lot of time and energy trying to come up with striking ads. However, these ads are commonly found to do more than strike you with colorful facts. The hidden messages behind many advertisements often contribute to stereotypes, class divisions, and ideologies. For example, many magazines have ads with beautiful and skinny models advertising the company’s clothes or other products. The idea that American women need to be skinny and beautiful is emphasized and advertised along with the actual product. These ideals created through advertising are aiding in the growth of narcissism.

Groundbreakers Lecture

This past fall I took Justice and Civil Society and one of the class requirements was to go on a tour of the Richmond City Jail. I walked out of that jail with my own opinion of the mass incarceration and its deep seeded roots. Believe it or not, it was not too far off from what Curt Tofteland believes. The Richmond City Jail Visit as well as Tofteland’s ‘sharing’ furthered my belief that the criminal justice system is flawed. Incarceration rates alone make a bold statement. For example, Tofteland stated that 1 in 100 Americans are in jail and furthered that statistic by saying that 1 in 31 Americans are under correctional supervision. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, yet we are not the most populated country in the world.
Personally, I think that the issue of mass incarceration stems from poverty. I also believe the reasoning behind poverty is structural. Economic status is a major component behind the culture of poverty, because money is power and always has been. Even Curt Tofteland said that we spend more money on our incarceration system rather than our education system. If America created more programs and approached the actual problem rather than lock the problem up behind bars, everyone might benefit. But, as Tofteland also said, it is going to take more than programs like Shakespeare Behind Bars. It is going to take going out into the communities that suffer from poverty. It is going to take allocating funds elsewhere besides our criminal system. It is going to take a lot of changes and as Tofteland said, a lot of voices. The problems mass incarceration is creating today need groundbreaking efforts. The criminal system needs leadership at its finest.

What should I believe?

After reading the last chapter in Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric and the first two chapters in How to Lie With Statistics, it is safe to say that I have been fooled one too many times with persuasive yet fallacious arguments. However, with that being said, I can proudly say that I am on the right track to deciphering false premises.
Unfortunately, I am starting to believe that when it comes to controversial subjects such as politics or religion, arguments are twisted in order to create a false impression. It could be that the sample is biased so the group can automatically rig the answer. It could also be that an opponent takes an irrelevant and direct attack on his or her opponent in hopes of swaying the audience’s views. Whichever angle an argument is viewed, skepticism has to arise.
Throughout tonight’s Groundbreaking Leadership Forum that I was able to dissect Curt Tofteland’s emotional attachment and how it impinged upon the validity of what he was arguing. For example, I learned from the How to Lie with Statistics that in more cases than not, numbers are very hard to believe. Tofteland at one point stated that 1/3 of the incarcerated are mentally ill, 1/3 of the incarcerated are addicts, and 1/3 of the incarcerated are actually violent perpetrators. He went on to further say that it would be beneficial to separate these three groups to treatment centers that would best suit their needs. While his numbers could very well be true, I could not help but be skeptical. I thought first that the numbers could not be separated that easily into thirds. I then thought that the reason it would be hard to separate these is if inmates were violent and mentally ill, or mentally ill and an addict. What group are they then put into and then furthermore, what treatment center are the placed in? Although, I agree with Tofteland’s ideas, I can see that his arguments, though they may not be wrong, can be fallacious or biased due to this weeks readings.