Author Archives: meganm

Ruper’s Epilogue

I think Ruper’s ending was very powerful. He emphasizes the reason for his book. We must learn the facts about Hitler so myths cannot be formed. He wants readers to know not only about the devastation that occurred, but also how it can be avoided. By understanding how Hitler was able to achieve and maintain such power is crucial for modern leadership. He argues its the stages of his power that needs to be recognized so history cannot be repeated. He gained this irresponsible power and could not longer logically control his dictatorship, and he also did not receive the criticism needed to keep him in check.

Ruper wrote that power “can affect and alter the character which exercises it” (261). This I think is one of the big take aways from the past. Hitler remained in power because once he achieved it, he believed nothing could stop it. The more successes he achieved, the farther he took his goals. Today, this is so important to remember. As a society we need to keep our leaders in check so catastrophes such as this don’t happen again. Its hard to say I don’t think this could happen again, however, there is genocide occurring all over the world. Maybe to that same level of violence it might not happen in American society, but manipulation and power are two very dangerous things when combined by the wrong person. I think this is what Ruper was trying to remind us; that in the end we need to remember how Hitler got to where he was so the same political mistakes cannot be made again.

Nan Keohane – April 15

I found Nan Keohane speech to be extremely interesting. Being such an accomplished leader herself, I found her advice to be relevant and relatable. One thing I really liked was her definition of a leader. She said a leader creates ideas and goals and then gets people to actually accomplish them. This vague and broad definition can be applied to many different situations. As students in college, we are all achieving the same goal of earning an education and a college degree. Based on her definition, we all technically have the opportunity to stand out as a leader in our community. We can encourage each other to complete one of our ultimate goals and graduate college.

A second point that really stood out to me was about female leaders. She said women tend to choose high impact jobs rather than high profile. The result of their work is more important than necessarily their resume. I think a lot of this has to do with the woman’s responsibility of being a mother. For me, I know that I want to someday have a high profile job. I want to be able to make a living for myself. I also know that I want to be a mother at some point too. I think this instinct to care for children may hold some women back in their career choice. This also ties into her ideas about the future of female leadership. The majority of the students in the leadership school are women. Although we are a unique campus, I think this still proves that women want and are working towards achieving leadership roles in either the community or in their careers. Women are changing their roles in society. It is not even that motherhood is being forgone for careers, it is that women are able to balance the two. Because of this reason, I think female leaders still will raise in the future.

 

Harvard Cheating Scandal 3/25

Tonight the Honor Council hosted a guest speaker to talk about the Harvard cheating scandal last year. 125 students were found guilty of violating the honor code at Harvard and expelled after a professor allowed an open book, open internet take home exam. The speaker was a member of the group who made the decision. I first of all was shocked in the first place to find out about this expulsion because I had no idea it happened until tonight. I was also somewhat confused as to how to react to the situation. A lot of students, he said, were confused about the instructions even though it was supposed to be treated like their previous exams. There was no group collaboration but many sought help from teaching fellows. Over half of the class had similar responses, all having to accept a forced withdrawal. I can totally see how if students are paying attention in the same class, it is logical they would have similar notes, resulting in similar answers. I want teachers to be able to trust their students but its situations like these that I think could be avoided if the professor chose to do an in-class, closed note test. Then the answers are more dependent on the student’s attention in class or their study habits. I also realized that maybe I think this way because of the environment we have at Richmond. Teachers and students both respect the honor code system. We can successfully take in class exams as well as take home assignments. I had an honor code in high school too so maybe I am used to it, but I think they are very important in institutions of higher education. These honor codes level the playing field because students can trust one another to not take advantage of the system. Obviously there will always be students who do push the rules and not all honor codes work (clearly Harvard’s failed them in 2012), but its hard to pin point the downfalls of them.

 

 

“An Open Letter”

I think Kumar’s argument in the beginning of the article was very interesting in that she questioned the reliability of Skloot’s sources. She claims to write a nonfiction novel,  but how can you write a book when the main characters cannot even talk about their own experiences. Everything is based upon he-said, she-said, and then again, the text could possibility be manipulated through Skloot’s personal interpretation. I think the author should have admitted to the possibility of inaccuracy but then again, as readers we have to be proactive and question what we read. We can not assume that a novel written in this situation is completely accurate. Kumar also argued that Skloot was racist in her writing. I am not sure I completely agree in this statement. I think that yes, she might have embellished her information a little to write a novel that people would want to keep reading, but I think ultimately her motive was to tell the story behind the He-La cells that she had been curious about since childhood. If she wanted to learn more, so would many others.At the end, Kumar wrote, “I hope I’ve drawn out the ways in which the ‘knowledge’ of racist and gendered events does not make racism and sexism go away” (page 6). I don’t think Skloot was trying to erase these events from history but instead I think she was trying to make people aware of the racism and sexism that did occur. I don’t think Skloot was trying to perpetuate the racism, but instead she was trying to depict the reality of the situation. As students, I think it is important to read a variety of literature so we understand the past and so we do not repeat the mistakes of history. The more we understand, the more we can be aware, and I think this was one of Skloot’s purpose of writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

One Book, One Campus Lecture

On Wednesday March 20th, I attended the One Book, One Campus Lecture where Henrietta Lacks’ grandchildren, Kim and David, spoke about their grandmother. I was somewhat disappointed with the discussion. As I’m reading the book by Rebecca Skloot, I am angered by the treatment of Ms. Lacks. I have no personal connection with her but I am still shocked at how her pain and complaints were completely disregarded up until a few weeks before her death. I was looking forward to hear about the family’s reaction to this and was let down when this was barely discussed. When the grandkids were asked about it, they explained that the treatment was the norm at the time and rather now they are focusing on their grandmother’s recognition rather than compensation. I do understand that now, two generates disconnected from Henrietta, they are trying to focus on the good of the situation. They can’t sit around and complain about something in the past but at the same time, the injustices that occurred cannot be forgotten. The family is trying to turn a horrible situation into a better memory for everyone to remember her by. I think it would have been very interesting to see what her son, Sunny, would have had to say because he personally experienced everything and was closer to his mother. I think he would have been able to comment on the issues that I thought were more prevalent in the book and would have conducted a better discussion. It is such a hard topic to discuss so I can see why the coordinator of the discussion was worried about bringing up the issues of mistreatment and injustice, but at the same time, if we don’t continue to discuss these issues and try to better understand what was going on, we will forget what truly happened to Henrietta. The mistreatment was occurring throughout hospitals across the country, but simply because they found a great scientific discovery with the HeLa cells does not justify the actions. What about the other patients who suffered the same and nothing was ever said? I think thats one of the bigger problems that should have been addressed during the lecture.

The World as a Polder

After reading chapter 16 in Collapse, I was left feeling very uneasy. Much like Diamond says towards the end, I don’t know if I should feel optimistic about our future. Through out the book we have seen how old civilizations failed to meet society’s demands and collapsed. Now, we are looking how these very similar issues, specifically environmental problems, are effecting our society today. To be honest, it is hard to not be scared that history could too soon repeat itself. Furthermore, what to me is even scarier is that idea that we aren’t really sure where to even start to fix the problem. The twelve issues are so intertwining it really is hard to figure out where to go from here. Clearly overpopulation and our inability to sustain our current living standards needs to be addressed. We touched on the idea in class, but it really does emphasize the question of responsibility. Who needs to start the healing process? As individuals who are aware of the issues, how do we help such an overwhelming and seemingly impossible global problem to solve? How involved should the government be? It seems like an endless cycle of questions that we aren’t sure who can answer correctly.

I thought the objections or the “one-liners” were really interesting. For example, one that stood out was the assumption that “there really isn’t a world food problem…” on page 507. I was surprised at the ignorance of this comment as well as a lot of the other ones. This argument assumes that First World countries are capable of solving Third World food scarcity simply by redistribution of resources. Yes this could help, but as Diamond explained, First World citizens might not be willing to pay extra to do so. Even if the United States or other countries implemented a plan like this, I think it would only be a short term solution. Simply giving answers rather than teaching new ways to address the long term problems is not beneficial. Then again, this beings up the problem who whose responsibility really is it to “solve” these potential environmental disasters and the idea of who or when should intervention become necessary.

The Logic of Failure

In Dorner’s article The Logic of Failure, I found his point about never being able to truly understand real-world decision making processes of others to be very interesting. Due to the lack of documentation and inability to reconstruct these processes, society is left at a loss trying to put together either a failure of reasoning or even some of the decisions that most benefit society. Along with the idea that humans ultimately control the fate of our society, I couldn’t help but think about the recent mass shootings across the country. As a threat to humanity and our idea of safety in our communities, for the most part we will never understand why these people did what they did. Psychiatrists and doctors can predict and try to explain these horrendous events by blaming, for example, mental disorders, but the person who made the decision to shoot innocent children in a school or harmless movie goers are the only ones who really know why they chose to take action.

That example is obviously a little more extreme than the decisions made by people who were in control of a stimulated environment that the author provided, but it still makes you question the same fundamental motives. When people have the power to make choices, its crucial to understand the thought process. We all think differently and come to our own conclusions, but when these decisions impact whole ecosystems, such as Tanaland or Greenvale, or small communities such as Aurora or Sandy Hook, who has ultimate say in which decision is the “right” or “wrong” one. It is almost impossible to justify the shooters’ decision, but to them at some point in time, their thought process led them to a decision that seemed like the best one.

Somewhat similar to the Chernobyl instance, the operators pushed an experiment too far regardless of the known safety hazards. Dorner explained that we tend to simply think in terms of cause-and-effect reactions, often ignoring the unintended consequences. We forget about the little mistakes and ignore them until there is a larger problem at hand. I think a large part of this is influenced by the desire to be in control and the maintain power over something or someone else, so I guess ultimately his article made me question when can this power become too dangerous and how do we stop it from conflicting with our ability to logically think through problems.

History of the Scientific Method

After being introduced to the scientific methods as early as elementary school, we often don’t think about all the different ways it can be used and the different variations of collecting observations. The readings provided a new alternative perspective into something that seemed so familiar.

I thought Skinner made a very interesting point about the evolution of the scientific method. In his first paragraph he talks about how college simply teaches students standard procedures and methods in the laboratory, but scientific thinking needs to be practiced. His point that not all discoveries used these scientific methods throughout history stood out to me. Some of the greatest discoveries in history were by accident and exploration within a field of study. We are taught in school about these basic methods and how to conduct experiments, which I think is definitely important, but we have to remember its not all about order and precise measurements. I liked how he went on to explain that his one experiment went on to develop into many more based upon the alterations that needed to be done after observations with the rats. The unanswered questions from one experiment leads to more and more hypotheses. I think this series of events is sometime more important than the actual results found in some studies. The continual discovery of knowledge and information is crucial and will continue to be important. We can never know too much.

In the college environment, I think we as students can take advantage of the scientific method in a more casual sense. We don’t necessarily need to get caught up in the nit-picky details but the general process can help us assess problems and think critically to find solutions. For example, double checking the reverse causation or coincidental correlation can help avoid making mistakes in assuming false conclusions. I think the knowledge of some form of the scientific method is helpful in everyday logic and problem solving for any situation, not necessarily just scientific research.

 

Fallacious Reasoning

I found the reading on fallacious reasoning to be very interesting. Not only have I caught myself accepting false premises before, but now I have a better understanding of what to look for while reading others’ arguments. Before I really only noticed emotional reasons that clearly caused a bias in reasoning, but now I understand why we must be more skeptical before accepting one’s position. Throughout the reading I was reminded of just how powerful rhetoric can be, and I couldn’t help but think of my first year seminar I took in the spring of my second semester freshmen year. All semester we analyzed presidential rhetoric and how persuasive presidents can be simply by using their words. As authority figures, we as listeners are inclined to believe their speeches and support their opinions because of the position they hold in office. Too often we are influenced and manipulated by authority figures, which is why it is so important to critically think about the information being presented. For example, we discussed a lot about how presidents will use emotional tactics to connect to the audience since they are trying to get their message through to such a large, diverse population. It is hard to appeal to everyone’s interests when there are such opposing views on controversial matters. I think those in authority use this to their advantage and know that some people will fall easily into their trap by accepting whatever is being told to them. Because of this reason, I think its that much more important for people who are aware of these fallacious reasoning to help educate others so they too can form personal opinions. There are many mistakes made by people presenting the argument, but there are also similar mistakes made by the people who accept these false claims. Especially now, as students who are being told new ideas and new opinions by so many different people every single day, its crucial that we are able to truly understand the techniques being used behind arguments so we do not make the same mistakes and accept false statements. At the same time, we need to be able to present and communicate our own ideas and opinions so that we too are not making false arguments but rather logical and complete points of views.