I thought that The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear was such a great way to end this course and the semester given the state of our world right now. The question that the woman asked at the Spirituality and Ecology conference in 1998, “‘I want to do something, but what can I do? I’m just one person, an average person. I can’t have an impact,” is a question I think a lot of us Jepson students think all the time. Danusha Veronica Goska’s essay, “Political Paralysis,” was a reminder that even the “unnoticed” and “insignificant” actions altogether, can make a huge impact on the world and the people around us. In leadership studies, we don’t only focus on famous leaders like political figures, monarchs, and social justice warriors. We learn that we are in charge of our own actions and choices and through our education, we can work together to make informed and collective impacts. I know this is somewhat cliché, but we see this exact mentality given the current pandemic being so important. If we are social distancing, staying home, and supporting small businesses and healthcare workers–for those that have the privilege to do so–we know that we can contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Although we are each one person in the 300,000+ million in the U.S., it does in fact matter.
This essay also made me think about the power of integrity and how not all actions need to be seen or celebrated to be important. The example that Goska gave with global warming helped me put this into perspective. If we don’t recycle soda cans, limit plastic use, and lower our meat consumption, it may seem like these unnoticed, insignificant actions do nothing. However, this mentality is dangerous because if these actions are so “unimportant,” we might as well not try to stop the slow of global warming if we can’t stop it NOW. Small actions like recycling or lowering meat consumption, if done by a greater population, can, in fact, make a tangible difference. That is not to say global warming is not a worldwide emergency that we need to take immediate, dramatic action to fix. But, it can be slow to help enact this change as politicians and the public continue to neglect global warming. So using individual moments and following heroes–in this essay she used Gandhi–it is the sum of these small actions that led such influential leaders to prominence in the first place. It is with the lack of integrity and submission to larger systems that “burnout” and “apathy” come from. I thought this was a well-written, inspiring piece that I’ll certainly refer back to when I feel like my activism or strides for change go unrecognized.
I was assigned to watch the ads on The Living Room Candidate for 1996, the year of the Clinton vs. Dole election. This was so interesting to watch and compare to the presidential campaign ads of today; they are not too much different, but they are also poorer image/sound quality and use terms that we don’t consider “politically correct” today (e.g., the term “illegal alien”). Of all the ads I watched, both from the Democrat and Republican sides of 1996 presidential campaigns, the Democrat ad entitled “Surgeon” was my favorite to watch and analyze. This ad utilized children to create an emotional appeal, by asking what they want to be when they grow up. Four children–of different genders and races–responded with a civil engineer, astronaut, orthopedic surgeon, and an airplane pilot. This emotional appeal with children then transitions into the ad explaining how President Clinton wants to create educational opportunities for children, and he will provide a $1,500 tuition tax credit and a $10,000 tuition tax deductible. Thus, most community colleges would be free and all colleges would become more affordable. Following this information–that is all presented in color–the ad transitions into accusing Dole-Gingrich of wanting to cut college scholarships and eliminate the Department of Education, which is presented in black and white. Lastly, one more young boy says he wants to find a cure for cancer, and President Clinton will help him reach that place of educational opportunity.
I thought this presidential campaign commercial for 1996 was so interesting through its utilization of children to make a statement about education reform. I can imagine how parents, who wanted their children to attend college, watching this ad would be led to believe Clinton would be the right candidate for their situation. Also, when the ad transitions from color and then to black and white when Dole-Gringrich is shown, I think that automatically creates a negative association with him for consumers of the ad. It is very interesting how colors and sounds can have that effect on people watching the ad, even when they do not realize it. As the years have continued, there has been an ethical debate about using kids and minors in ads. In the journal article, “Scenes from the Political Playground: An Analysis of the Symbolic Use of Children in Presidential Campaign Advertising,” by Susan A. Sherr, the research found that children are often used in ads to address “economic insecurity, poverty, crime, war, and hope for the future” (Sherr, 2001). I found this to be an interesting way to analyze the Living Room Candidate ads, and I’d be interested in hearing whether any of your ads featured children? And, do you think this is ethical? Why or why not?
One of my favorite ad campaigns over the years has been the #LikeAGirl campaign for the menstrual product brand, Always. When the first ad was launched in 2014, I remember I teared up watching it, being a middle-school girl at the time. This ad campaign was launched as “a new leg of its epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence through puberty and beyond by tackling the societal limitations that stand in their way” (Always). Unlike ads that promote negative stereotypes, hyper-sexualize individuals to sell products, and inform consumers that they are doing something inherently wrong, I love this ad because it instead reinforces that young women and girls deserve to be confident, even during a hard transition such as puberty. This ad has been widely celebrated for breaking down gender stereotypes and for empowering women and girls; while advertising for a brand, Always, the company has focused on a larger societal issue to encourage people that there should be no stigma in being a girl, and in that case, no stigma while purchasing menstrual products. When connecting this ad to the Teays reading, the first thing that comes to my mind is the diversity of the ad– for once, it actually does represent the society we live in. There are people in the ad across genders, ages, races, and ethnicities featured in this advertisement. This is important, especially in a world where white, thin, heterosexual, and conventionally “attractive” women are emphasized as the norm so that consumers of the ad are able to connect to it.
I also think it is worth noting that none of the interviewees in this ad mention their use of Always menstrual products or is attempting to promote a product in any type of way. The ad utilizes the stories and opinions of the interviewees through a message of female empowerment, with the name of the company mentioned as a supplement. In a way, this made me want to support Always more than a company with an ad promoting traditional gender stereotypes or making women seem weak during their menstrual cycles. Always did exactly the opposite of this and encouraged young women and girls to support their company as a result of their positive, progressive programming.
Reading Michael Harvey’s book chapter, “Questioning leadership: an integrative model,” brought back what I learned in Leadership and the Humanities and tied together with the ethical issues we’ve considered in this course. I have to agree with scholar Ron Riggio that, although the field of leadership studies is an emerging discipline, the importance of it lies in the “underlying unity of focus” (Harvey, 200). One of the most interesting aspects of the Jepson School and why it appealed to me so much as a student was its unity– despite the different specialties of each professor. I have had professors in Jepson with PhD’s in Philosophy, Psychology, English (Dr. Bezio!), Economics, and History, yet they all teach under one roof and collaborate with each other on research and other projects. As Harvey discusses, it is imperative “we can get the different disciplines within leadership studies to talk with each other,” in order to fully understand leadership (201). And, with these different interests and disciplines, we can define leadership from many different angles. I also liked that Harvey addressed that, although times have changed– where people are members of more social groups– the “basic equation of what groups need” still applies. This made me think of our class discussion today in rewriting narratives and telling stories– although leaders look different than they did centuries ago, the basic premises still apply.
I really enjoyed how the author included cultural and historical examples with each leadership question he posed. This helped me to better conceptualize the implications each question has within leadership. These anecdotal examples are exactly what we need to fully understand leadership, as it “must learn about the group’s history and culture, the environment it operates in, and its condition and effectiveness” (213). We can apply this knowledge while understanding business hierarchies such as Toyota or even the hierarchy of a public education committee. I really enjoyed reading each rhetorical question within these broader examples.
I was excited to read Howard Zinn’s chapter from A People’s History of the United States, “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” as I was an avid reader of Zinn’s work while taking history classes in high school. We had also discussed the controversy of Columbus Day during Leadership and the Humanities, which I really enjoyed, as it is such an important topic. What many Americans do not realize are that Indigenous peoples continue to be among the most marginalized in our country after centuries of unwarranted violence and discrimination. Columbus, upon encountering the Arawak Indians, exhibited an extreme sense of paternalism as he made assumptions about a community he did not belong to. His report that the Arawak Indians “‘are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…'” (Zinn, 3). This mentality was yet the beginning of the violence and mass murder the Arawaks faced– with 250,000 Indigenous people killed within two years (Zinn, 5). I was extremely upset, yet not surprised, to read about this violence fueled by Columbus and other Spaniards’ racism.
There is often debate surrounding historical events, such as Columbus Day and The First Thanksgiving, being taught to elementary and middle school students. We ask ethical questions like, “Is it ethical to tell children about a mass genocide?” and while I agree that discussing murder and bloodshed may be inappropriate, I don’t think Columbus should be represented as a heroic figure. It was not until taking AP United States History in high school that I was finally told the “truth” about the violence against Indigenous Nations or the “truth” of historical figures who were in fact white supremacists or slaveowners. I wish I hadn’t had to undergo that epiphany when I was 16-17 years old to understand the truth of figures such as Columbus. As I mentioned, I do not mean we should teach kindergartners about a mass genocide, but they should not be fooled into thinking Columbus deserves his own holiday. Educators should work up to the maturity levels of the students and build on concepts they learned in previous years. As Zinn delineates, the historian’s distortion occurred when Columbus was emphasized as a hero and the mass genocide that took place was downplayed (Zinn, 9). And we are prone to thinking through the lens of the leaders/heroes of the time, but as Zinn says, we must not fall prone to this way of thinking, and it is up to us to reverse that.
Why couldn’t have it been Indigenous People’s Day in the first place?
I first learned of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment when I took AP Psychology during my senior year of high school when we were learning about the ethics of experiments. For my Research Methods and Analyses psychology class last year at UR, I watched The Stanford Prison Experiment film, which gave an excellent rundown of the entire experiment. Although I had a prior understanding of the experiment, “The Story: An Overview of the Experiment,” on the official website gave profound ethical insight on the Stanford Prison Experiment. The first video, “A Student is Arrested,” indicates that the surrounding neighbors and bystanders were completely unaware that the student was participating in an experiment, which poses questions to how the public might have viewed arrestees. Once the participants entered “prison” (the basement of the Stanford psychology department) they were designated to “cells” and were even sometimes sent to the “hole” (simulating solitary confinement) if they misbehaved or if a guard sent them there. As delineated in the film and through this website, the results of this experiment were beyond anyone’s expectations, including Philip Zimbardo’s. It fascinates and disturbs me to this day that human nature pushed both the guards and the prisoners to act in the ways they did.
I am currently taking a class about prisons with Dr. Andrea Simpson called Gender, Politics, and Prisons where we have learned extensively about the degrading conditions of prisons. What fascinates me most about the Stanford Prison Experiment is that it utilized similar degradation techniques to mock a real prison, and we were able to see the psychological impacts this had on the prisoners. Yet, the prison industrial complex remains degrading and with an extreme power imbalance between correctional officers and inmates. The “prisoners” in the experiment endured oppression and maltreatment from the “guards”– through forced push-ups, only being called by their ID numbers, forced “counts” at 2:30 AM, and more– yet this is not far off from the treatment of prisoners today in some institutions. Many female-identifying and trans prisoners face extreme physical, sexual, and verbal abuse from correctional officers; while the Stanford Prison Experiment worked with strictly male prisoners, the abuse is prevalent throughout the clips provided on the website. While I do respect the perseverance of Zimbardo to conduct this groundbreaking study, I wish our society would have taken away from it more policy implications. We could have used the psychological findings to improve and reform the brutal conditions of some prisons, yet the carceral system remains coercive and abusive.
In this TEDGlobal talk, university head Patrick Awuah delineates the significance of a liberal arts education for inspiring future leaders. Awuah left his big career at Microsoft in the United States to return to his home country of Ghana to found Ashesi University, a liberal arts school. As an attendee of a liberal arts school myself, I was intrigued to learn the perspective of a Ghanian professor and leader and how he views leadership. Although Awuah gave this talk back in 2007, I felt that the points he made still resonate with the state of our world in 2020 as well as the rising popularity of liberal arts education. He mentions that leaders are not merely those in the political sphere, but also the lawyers, doctors, civil servants, judges, policemen, engineers, and all those who have been trained to serve society. This is why liberal arts education is so important– so we can train these future leaders to enter all fields. At UofR, a lot of us often default that our future leaders will be the political science and business administration majors; while this is often true, we must view other industries and skillsets to also be leading the world. Artists, writers/journalists, psychologists, healthcare professionals, policymakers, etc….these are all people who will become leaders in our society with a well-rounded, liberal arts education.
I really enjoyed Patrick Awuah’s talk and how he applied leadership to the state of the African continent, his home country of Ghana, and the state of the world. Many often do not think Africa as a developed, educated continent, but this assumption is often very wrong. Awuah wanted to come back to Ghana and fix the weak institutions and the corrupt leaders in Ghana. He went towards the educational system of how these people come to power, and he found that the educational system there had little focus on ethics and a massive sense of entitlement. Instead of ignoring the state of Ghana, he found that ethical leadership– starting at the primary school level– was the key. Awuah founded Ashesi University to combat this issue and bring ethical, entrepreneurial leaders into the world.
With my background knowledge from both the Leadership 101 and 102 courses, I enjoyed reading “Leadership in small-scale societies: Some implications for theory, research and practice” by Christopher von Rueden and Mark van Vugt. I have not really studied small-scale societies (SSSs) before, so the authors’ work on analyzing these types of societies leadership methods can help us better understand the study of leadership in large-scale societies. This article defines an SSS to have the following characteristics: “small communities, pooling of resources within and across extended families, food production in the absence of significant technology, and few formal institutions governing group life” (979). Looking at SSSs, as the article indicates, gives us an evolutionary on leadership methods since these were the societies humans have lived for the past 200,000 years. The evolutionary perspective gives us the “why” minds have evolved in the ways they did and the “how” they continue to make these decisions.
Some examples of SSSs range across the Amazon, central and eastern Africa, and Southeast Asia. In such an industrialized, fast-paced world, it is crucial to look at SSSs to study human behavior and how the people inhabiting them lead and follow. In my child development class, we watched a film called Babies that tracked the development of four infants across the world; from my observations, the babies in Namibia and Mongolia lived in what seemed like SSSs. In Namibia, the families were very maternal-focused and egalitarian across age groups. Von Rueden and van Vugt indicate that SSSs tend to have egalitarian properties; in both Mongolia and Namibia in Babies, this seemed to be the case in instances such as communication, house duties, and religion. While these were only two SSSs I got to learn about, cross-cultural research suggests that SSSs, especially hunter-gatherer societies, tend to have beneficial leadership rooted in reciprocity, collective action, and coordination. We can analyze the contributions and implications of SSS leadership by looking at large-scale societies (LSSs) in industrialized nations that may have more of a globally-recognized political bureaucracy.
I thought the reading from Rock, Paper, Scissors was an extremely interesting introduction to Game Theory, as I’d never been familiar with its premises before. I had heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the Tragedy of the Commons, and the Volunteer’s Dilemma from Dr. Harwell’s Leadership and the Social Sciences (102) course, but I am happy I got a more in-depth look into the concepts to see how they apply to real life. I really liked that the author provided examples that we exhibit in our everyday lives; for example, the Free Rider dilemma occurs when someone leaves a mess for others to clean up in a shared space. These are things we do all the time, but they can be analyzed through a Game Theory lens. The Free Rider dilemma is the one I am most familiar with because in my 102 class we played the public goods game, where we saw the Free Rider dilemma come into play when people did not contribute resources. Furthermore, in Leadership and the Humanities we talked about groupthink and how it impacted Kennedy’s decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis; brinkmanship (Chicken) was also present here. The Soviet Union and the United States were about to engage in a nuclear war, but Kennedy refused to lift the navy blockade. The groupthink drove Kennedy and his colleagues to make these poor decisions and brinkmanship occurred where both parties both faced unfavorable outcomes regardless of their actions. The threats being made in this historical example lacked credibility, so the two parties were stuck in a stalemate. I am excited to learn more in class about the Seven Deadly Dilemmas and about game theory!
On Friday, February 28, 2020, I attended the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement’s Brown Bag Discussion titled “No Justice, No Peace! Building Student Power” with Kalia Harris. She recently graduated from George Mason University and works for the Virginia Student Power Network as a queer, femme, black activist. Her focus is on student organizing and coalition building at the VSPN on social, racial, economic justice campaigns. Coalition building can be defined as “when groups and/or individuals share decision-making, responsibility, and partnership to work together towards a shared goal” and Kalia discussed this in-depth with regard to creating an effective student campaign. The VSPN includes young organizers and allies interested in racial, economic, undocumented, LGBTQ+, women’s, educational, labor, and environmental justice. Kalia lives in Richmond and came to the Brown Bag Discussion to discuss why she is so interested in this topic, and why student organizing can be so effective.
Kalia Harris was aware of the racist incidents that have occurred on our campus and connected her experiences with using student power to make an impact. Not only did this CCE Brown Bag connect to me as a college student, but it can be applied in the greater leadership context. If you don’t have a shared goal (i.e. stopping racism on UR’s campus, and implementing an Africana Studies department at UR) you cannot end injustices; the politics can get in the way, but building on a universal goal can be what really makes the big impact. For example, multiple student groups on campus might have different structures and individual goals, but if a cohort of groups can come together with a common goal, that’s when real change can occur. Kalia said that the elements of a successful campaign are identifying the problem and the issues, creating a demand, framing the issues to the constituency, strategy for the campaign, and the tactic.
I really enjoyed Kalia Harris’s and the Virginia Student Power Network’s mission to evoke change through student movements. We can apply these methods to the issues we present in Critical Thinking and writing research papers that may push for change.