The Answer to Gun Violence by Emmy Siletto

In the past year alone, according to The New York Times, 6,000 Americans were
murdered by guns, and another estimated 28,000 were killed through accidental and suicidal gun use. The growing concern over gun violence in our country has captured the attention of world leaders and caused a significant amount of political and social tension. To solve this pressing issue and end the taking of innocent lives, our country must follow in the path of other nations which have successfully reduced gun violence through regulation.

In recent times we have seen the devastation that unrestricted access to weapons can
cause. The 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting is perhaps the most powerful example of this.

Twenty six- and seven-year-olds, as well as six adults, were fatally shot by a man bearing semiautomatic rifles and handguns.

Sandy Hook was the sixteenth mass shooting of 2012, preceding fifteen others, including the “Batman Shooting” in which a man opened fire in a  crowded Colorado movie theatre, killing 12 and injuring 70.

Despite the tragedy and shock that pervaded the national mood following these tragedies, efforts to unite and move in some way towards prevention were in vain. President Barack Obama’s response to these instances aimed to put in place reasonable gun regulations such as universal background checks. However, citizens intent on protecting their Second Amendment rights stopped all of his attempts.

Yet the same regulations that Obama and other gun control advocates are pushing for
have been successful in reducing the gun violence in other nations such as Australia and Canada. In 1996, following the historic “Port Arthur Massacre” which took the lives of thirty-five people, the Australian government put in place the “National Firearms Agreement.” This legislation banned automatic rifles and shotguns, as well as enabled the government to buy back more than 640,000 firearms nationwide. Then Prime Minister John Howard, who was known for his conservatism and ties to President George W. Bush, stated, “All the credible research both in Australia and elsewhere shows that the gun control laws have markedly reduced gun related deaths.” And in fact, ever since the legislation was put in place under his leadership, gun related homicides decreased by 7.5 % per year. Canada is another country known for its strict gun legislation and peaceful reputation. This is not to say that Canadian citizens with a passion for hunting or a desire to feel secure cannot own a gun; it is just that the process required to obtain one is much more extensive. According to Business Insider, in Canada, it “takes sixty days to buy a gun . . . and there is mandatory licensing for gun owners. Gun owners pursuing a license must have third-party references, take a safety training course and pass a background check with a focus on mental, criminal and addiction histories.” It is these precautions which keep guns out of the wrong hands and keep citizens safe. In the United States, on the other hand, people who have been deemed unsafe to fly on airplanes are still able to purchase guns. The New York Times reports that the number of homicides in relation to the national population of Canada is nearly six times fewer than in the United States. Despite the repeated tragedies and consistent evidence in support of gun regulations, the resistance from pro-gun lobbyists continues to prevent the U.S. Congress from passing any restrictive legislation. For example, in May 2013 the Senate rejected the Manchin-Toomey bill which proposed extending background checks to internet and gun show sales, and as of right now, anyone is able to purchase weaponry through these means. One of the strongest arguments from the opposing side is that guns are essential for self-defense and home security. The idea put forth by the National Rifle Association that the “only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is good guy with a gun” has become a popular argument for those in support of gun freedom. However, FBI homicide data shows that for every one justifiable gun homicide ( in other words an act of self defense), thirty-four innocent people are murdered by guns. In addition, gun enthusiasts maintain the conviction that any movement to enact stricter regulations is an infringement upon their Second Amendment rights. This amendment states “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” and questions under what circumstances and with what restrictions the amendment should be interpreted, have been the subject of much debate. In 2008 as part of a Supreme Court case guaranteeing Americans the right to have a handgun in the home for self-protection, Justice Antonin Scalia made a point to add that “nothing, in our opinion, should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” This statement, given by a conservative justice, implies that even people from the opposing side acknowledge that the right to bear arms does not conflict with regulations meant to ensure the safety and well being of the citizens.

To prevent the loss of more innocent lives, our country needs to unite in imposing stricter regulations on firearms.

As President Obama once said, “We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.

My belief is that we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement . . .weapons that were designed for soldiers in war… don’t belong on our streets.” This quotation articulates the argument of many who feel that asking for stricter enforcement is not asking too much, especially when the end goal is protecting the lives of innocent people.

Argument for the Abolition of the Death Penalty by Jane Shim

How curious it is that the Grim Reaper comes in all shapes and sizes? Death awaits us by some means, whether it be an axe-wielding murderer, a gusty typhoon, or the bite of a venomous serpent. Yet even more curious is another, perhaps more shocking bearer of death: the federal government itself. Capital punishment is an undeniably real phenomenon in our nation, and despite its social sensitivity, the controversy surrounding the death penalty must be engaged with a fair and unbiased approach. One should not be quick to assume that executions are performed cleanly and without bias; the ugly truth lies just beneath the surface.

Although those who have committed heinous crimes may be deserving of capital punishment, the death penalty should ultimately be abolished because in the flawed justice system, innocents are executed and people of color, the poor, and the mentally ill are unfairly tried.

For instance, racial discrimination in the justice system is a heavily biased factor in judges’ decisions that results in many innocent people being executed. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), George Stinney, Jr., a fourteen-year-old African American boy, was convicted by an all-white jury of murdering two young white girls. No confession was ever made, and although Stinney’s sister claimed that she was with him on the day of the murders–meaning he could not have committed them–she was not called to testify at his trial. The trial lasted just three hours, and the jury deliberated for only ten minutes before sentencing him to death by electrocution. Moreover, according to a study conducted by Professor Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina, the death penalty is far more likely to be used if the murder victim is white rather than black. After examining every U.S. execution from 1976 to 2013, it was found that of the 534 white defendants executed for the murder of a single victim, only nine involved the murder of a black male victim. Hence, the biases of the legal system that delivers capital punishment are a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Above all, capital punishment should be abolished because innocent people have been and will be executed, and killing innocents is morally wrong.

Over the years, many innocent people were wrongfully convicted and executed.

According to a 2014 TIME publication that showcased a new study led by researcher Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan, almost four percent of U.S. capital punishment sentences are wrongful convictions (almost double the number of people set free), meaning around 120 of the roughly 3,000 inmates on death row in America are not guilty! In fact, many judges who give out death penalties to convicted suspects make their decision without substantial evidence such as confessions or DNA evidence. For instance, in the late 20th century, Ellis Wayne Felker was convicted for the murder of a woman and executed. An autopsy would later rule out Felker as a suspect, but it was altered by a technician. After his execution, Felker’s attorney received a box of evidence that was unlawfully withheld by the prosecution, including a confession given by another suspect and DNA evidence. Such cases reflect the injustice of the “justice” system, which leads us to the conclusion that capital punishment should be abolished.

Now, an argument could be made that murderers that have committed horrifying and atrocious murders and have an utter lack of remorse for their crimes, and are therefore deserving of death–painful death. Yet regardless of how deserving a murderer may be of capital punishment, the risk of executing innocents and unfairly executing the poor, the mentally ill, and people of color far outweighs the incomplete comfort that one receives from a criminal’s execution. If you do not take action to argue for the abolition of the death penalty, then yes, the murderer you believe deserves to be executed will indeed be executed. Perhaps you will feel wholly satisfied. Yet because you chose to support capital punishment, a poor and innocent man—one who was innocent but did not have the financial resources to hire a professional lawyer to successfully fight the renowned lawyers hired by the wealthy opposition—may be executed mere hours later. Or perhaps a death row inmate with schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder that results in hallucinations and extremely disordered thinking, is executed the very next day regardless of his mental disability. Thus, you are indirectly responsible for the death of innocents because you have supported the system that has killed these death row inmates who had a right to live. And in this sense, you are killing innocents—just as the murderer you originally believed to be deserving of execution did.

Consequently, although those who have committed murders may indeed be deserving of death, the death penalty should ultimately be abolished because of the risk it poses towards the innocent, poor, mentally ill, and people of color. Capital punishment must be abolished because of the shockingly high number of innocent, poor, mentally ill, and people of color that are unjustly tried and executed in the flawed justice system. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the total number of death row inmates is 2,905. Who knows how many of the 2,905 are innocent or wrongfully convicted?

So, an alternative solution to capital punishment is life imprisonment for the murderer and financial support for the family members of victims. One may argue that it is unreasonable to waste money by keeping a murderer alive through life imprisonment when it is cheaper to execute the prisoner. Yet it is considerably more expensive to execute a criminal. In fact, according to “Executions Cost Texas Millions” from the 1992 Dallas Morning News, each death penalty case in Texas costs taxpayers about $2.3 million, which is about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. By abolishing the death penalty, the leftover money can be contributed to the families of victims and to the poor and underprivileged.

One may argue that avenging victims by killing their killers gives peace to the victims’ loved ones, and that monetary value is by far not enough to compensate for a priceless life. That position, alas, is erroneous. It is true that a life cannot be repaid in full, and it would be cruel to attempt to do so. But although the family members and friends of victims may be haunted and unfulfilled by the thought that the killer is still alive in prison rather than dead by capital punishment, they may be comforted by the knowledge that they were able to save the lives of many innocents. Revenge may offer some satisfaction for the family and friends of victims, but it is impossible for this satisfaction to last forever. If taking a life is wrong, taking a life in return cannot be right. In other words, two wrongs do not make a right. So the next time you weigh the pros and cons of capital punishment, remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.”

NSA Domestic Spying by Taylor Moises

Balancing national security and protecting individual rights while maintaining the United States’ democracy is a major problem. According to our Global Issues textbook, the United States is the “best example of a presidential democracy” that should have checks and balances and clear separation between executive, judicial, and legislative branches; nonetheless, the government is riding a thin line with programs such as PRISM and other bulk collections of American citizen correspondents that seem to undermine our constitutional liberalism, which is the commitment all fully developed democracies have to “protect individuals’ rights, freedoms, and dignity from abuse by the government, institutions, society as a whole, and other individuals,” as written by Richard Payne.  The National Security Agency and some conservative politicians, such as Rand Paul, argue that the price we must pay to have a secure nation is impeding on our individual rights, but is it unconstitutional and does it chip at our democracy? With fear of terrorism and fear for our national security, we tend to sacrifice our individual rights and, furthermore, our democratic ideals.

Americans take pride for being champions of individual rights. Ever since our humble beginnings, we have been concerned with our personal freedoms such as our freedom of speech, religion, and personal property. Thanks to the Bill of Rights and James Madison, Americans are ensured protection of our individual rights as a part of our democracy. However, the major impediment to maintaining individual rights is the ensuring the greater good of our nation as a whole.

National security can hinder our individual rights and furthermore hinder our democracy.

The most significant threat to America’s national security occurred on September 11, 2001 when members of Al-Qaeda hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. John Green explains, “There was a shared sense of trauma and a desire to show resolve brought the country together.” Americans became overtly fearful of terrorists, which evolved the notion of perceiving all Muslims to be terrorists. President George W. Bush was able to pass the Patriot Act without much opposition. According to the USA Today article “Patriot Act Blurred in Public Mind,” most people supported the general idea of the Patriot Act two years after it was passed. However, “confusion about what the law says and does [complicates] the debate whether the White House and Congress . . . went too far by passing a law that may threaten civil liberties.”

Now, fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act is less supported because the initial urgency is no longer relevant.

Additionally, the more we unpack what is in the Patriot Act, the more concerned the American people become with its insurgence on our individual rights.

The Patriot Act lost some of its support when Edward Snowden leaked the National Security Agency’s secret collection of data of millions of Americans’ private phone calls and exposed the unprecedented power granted to the government. While American citizens were more open to the impediments on individuals’ privacy and freedoms, we were not fully aware of the NSA programs that deter the function of liberal democracy. On The Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he explains that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, nicknamed the “Library Records Provision,” allows the government to request any “tangible things for an investigation to protect against international terrorism” from businesses by petitioning the FISA Court (This has also been confirmed by Jeremy Diamond of CNN). Moreover, this allows the NSA to collect metadata, which is all the information surrounding a call including the caller’s and receiver’s numbers, time, location, and duration. The Bush Administration defended the metadata analysis program by saying its effectiveness depended on bulk collection, though the CNN Politics article by Jeremy Diamond shows that the Bush Administration conceded, “the vast majority of [data collected] will not be terrorist-related.” The ability to monitor our private conversations seems to impede on our democracy, so the main question is: do we, as the collective American people, believe domestic phone call surveillance’s national security efforts outweigh the infringements it causes on our individual right to privacy?

There is still opposition on whether or not Section 215 of the Patriot Act is constitutional or beneficial in fighting terrorism. Last year, Congress faced the decision to either let the key section expire or to renew it or attempt to reform it, making the NSA get a warrant from the FISA court to collect data on an individual, as shown on the CNN Politics website. Opposition to reforming the Patriot Act cites the necessity of bulk collection to fight terrorism, especially with the growth of ISIS, and argues that it is a key tool in national security. Reformers refute this saying domestic surveillance is not beneficial when combatting terrorism. The Judiciary Committee website states that on June 2, 2015, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act thus reforming the Patriot Act: ending bulk collection, preventing government overreach, and allowing challenges of national security letter gag orders. However, there are still some who believe the passing of the Freedom Act was detrimental to national security and that the facts were not fairly presented. Senator Rand Paul cited “even the most vocal defenders of the spying program have failed to identify a single thwarted plot,” but National Review journalist and strong supporter of the NSA metadata program, Fred Fleitz argues that the source Rand Paul cited goes on to say it is “valuable when it is the only means to obtain certain information.” This illustrates that balancing national security and protecting individual rights is still highly controversial and that finding the correct balance is an essential question when characterizing our democracy.

As mentioned before, the question of balancing national security and protecting our civil liberties is complicated and there is no clear-cut answer. NSA spying and the approval or disapproval of the American people is a great example of this dilemma. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Americans were much more willing to give up their individual rights for national security. However, as the threat of terrorism grows less prevalent, we are less inclined to sacrifice our liberal democracy in order to fight terrorism.

Christmas Break Movie Recommendation: Before The Flood By Hashini Weerasekera

When I first heard that Leonardo DiCaprio had made a movie about climate change, I can’t say it was the #1 must-watch movie on my list. But when I was given the opportunity to get extra credit for seeing it in Marine Science, I guess you could say that notion changed.

Growing up next to the ocean, conservation has been a big part of my life since an early age; and working at the Aquarium this past summer led me to feel that sustainability has really impacted my life.

I always knew climate change existed, and I didn’t doubt the theory for a second. If companies are emitting black fumes and cutting down rainforests to drill for oil 24/7, how could something bad not come from that? It was hard to watch the ice caps drastically melt, and acres of rainforests be cut down every day, resulting in thousands of animals losing their homes and nearly going extinct. I actually expected the majority of the movie to be DiCaprio telling his viewers that climate change was real, and wondering how ignorant people could be not to believe in the phenomenon. I was, however, pleasantly surprised because he didn’t push his own opinion once in the movie. Instead, he traveled around the globe for 2 years, and came face to face with climate change. I was shocked to see how small everyday things we do can damage the ecosystem so badly. For instance, raising beef hurts the environment and giant name brand companies are some of the leading roadblocks to working towards a sustainable earth. DiCaprio just found the evidence and filmed it, as his audience was in silence over shock and agony. It was interesting to see what influential world leaders like the Pope and President Obama had to say about the world we are living in today. I enjoyed hearing their opinions and ideas on ways to fix the companies and factories, and what they believed would be the eventual outcome of the human race. Before the Flood made me realize that we are already way past seeing recycling or saying no to plastic straws as negotiable issues.

I realized that the only hope is for world leaders to universally agree to cut emissions or issue carbon taxes.

I wondered if it even mattered if I used my reusable water bottle, because how can one person truly make a difference? I realized, though, that if I keep doing what is right and encouraging the people around me to do so as well, the population at large will eventually influence higher authorities to make a real change. It is up to us to come together and protect the environment we have for the future generations. And it’s actually not that hard! There are small steps we can all take to make a big difference. The key is accepting that there is a problem, and finding ways in your daily life to lower your carbon footprint or make purchases from eco friendly companies. Even if the change is small, it is better than nothing, and every little bit counts. This movie truly inspired me, and even though it put me through a lot of heartbreak, it gave me hope for our future. I highly recommend it for a great Christmas break movie!

A Reflection on Abortion by Sofia D’Amico

Killing is wrong. We learn this simple and straightforward fact from a very young age, whether it comes in the form of seeing the public devastation after a terrorist attack or simply being told to free a spider outside instead of smashing it.  In spiritual terms, many religions also view killing as a wrongdoing.  Morally, America purports to value life and equality.  Why then is abortion acceptable and legal, when the purpose of abortion is the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy?  To any moral and thoughtful citizen, this should be provocative and even disturbing.  Abortion is a procedure that has gained significant attention and press within the last decade as America has experienced a strong shift to the preservation and protection of human rights.  People are torn in the case of abortion, because whose rights need protecting: the mother’s, or the baby’s?  American citizens often promote equality and human rights for all, and although many believe it is a woman’s right to have the ability to choose whether to have an abortion, the act of abortion itself is a violation of human rights, as it is the tragic terminating of a human life.

Marching with us were many young women holding signs that made statements like: “I regret my abortion” and  “My only child became medical waste.”

When I was 10 years old my mother and I attended a Walk for Life parade in San Francisco.  We marched with several thousand people to protest abortion and spread pro-life awareness. Marching with us were many young women holding signs that made statements like: “I regret my abortion” and  “My only child became medical waste.” It was after this event that I further looked into the facts surrounding abortion and read many women’s stories online.  I found a common thread among the stories: that the idea of undergoing a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy is not only about the death of an unborn child, but the negative effects it may have on the woman as well.  Interested in the psychological side of the argument, I asked myself: what makes a miscarriage a tragedy, and an abortion a right?  Both can occur during the same time periods through pregnancy, and both involve death.  The difference is how we perceive them.  Society projects the message that if it is your choice to abort a child, it is your right and you should be granted the ability to do so, while a miscarriage is considered a tragedy because the mother did not want her pregnancy to terminate.  This arbitrary tragedy is refuted by pro-lifers, who believe that both scenarios are death, and both are tragic.

Through recent history, abortions have gained significant attention, especially with our country’s current awareness of rape, preventative measures surrounding it, and survivor care.  Many argue that abortion should remain legal and available for women who have been victims of rape.  However, studies show that most women’s choices to get abortions have involved elective reasoning.  This means that of the women who have undergone abortions, most have done so for reasons other than rape, such as bad timing in their life, influence from family and friends, and emotional unpreparedness.  According to a poll conducted by Lawrence B. Finer et al., 92% of abortions occur electively on healthy women carrying healthy fetuses.  

Feminists for Life, an organization of women who believe that women deserve better than abortion, argue the fact that abortion is not a right, but a demonstration that the rights and needs of women have not been met.  Feminists for Life urge people to look deeper into the global roots of abortions and why women are driven to abortion as a choice.  They pose the question: why must women choose between having a child, or education, or employment, and undergo an invasive and physically and mentally consequential procedure?  According to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, if you are a garment worker in Cambodia or India at a factory supplying products to stores such as H&M or Forever 21, becoming pregnant can cause you to lose your job.  What we are seeing is that the root of the problem lies in pregnancy being seen as something that will cost a woman her career plan or education.  While not as extreme here in the United States, even here, pregnancy is viewed by many as a hindrance or an inconvenience.  Abortion is often marketed by companies such as Planned Parenthood as something that will save women their futures.  It is important to note that girls as young as 10 are seeing ads like these for Planned Parenthood and the “morning after” pill.  This can plant a seed in their minds early on in life that pregnancy is something that can hurt their future, and that abortion is a healthy and just option to preserve their options.  In order to truly protect women’s rights we must find solutions for this issue so that women, in our country and abroad, don’t have to choose between aborting their child or their future opportunities.

Science plays a large part in exposing the problems with abortion.  According to, which gathers factual information from sources such as John C. Willke, M.D., Barbara H. Willke, R.N., and John Jefferson Davis, Ph.D., new life is formed at the moment of conception when DNA is specific to a fertilized human zygote. This lends credence to the idea that abortion does kill a human being, not simply “cells.”  In addition, argues that abortion is an issue of rights, and that the right to not be pregnant is not equal to the right to live; the latter is a life or death matter, while the former is not.  Paul Stark, a writer for Life News and a member of the staff of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a state pro-life organization, discusses how fetal development science supports the fact that life begins at the moment of conception.  When a sperm and an egg meet after intercourse, the sperm and egg are not separate beings, but have come together to form a zygote with 46 new chromosomes, 23 from mother and 23 from father.  A zygote develops into an embryo and the embryo develops into a fetus.  As depicted in the graphic included, this progression is much like the one from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, with every stage being just as important, and just as human.  

In fact, the human genetic DNA of the new cell is unique, unlike any other in existence.  It is human DNA that is different from both mother and father. Therefore, an abortion involves much more than just a woman and her body–it most certainly affects another human life.  Science also proves that after just 22 days, a cardiovascular system has begun to form, and the child can circulate his own blood and has his own heartbeat.  The unborn meets the requirements for life: cellular reproduction, metabolism, reaction to stimuli, and growth.  The presence of growth is a good indicator of life, as both born and unborn organisms continue to grow; if they did not, they would be dead.  Science proves to us that legitimate human life in the womb begins at the moment of conception and supports the argument that abortion compromises the human rights of both parties involved.

Clearly, there are two main sides in the abortion debate: pro-life (anti-abortion), and pro-choice (advocating legal abortion).  Pro-choice individuals often argue that it should be a woman’s choice to have an abortion or not, that her privacy is her right, and decisions like abortion are intimate.  While these contentions may have some merit, in the end, abortion can be simplified to a moral dilemma.  With the extensive scientific knowledge about abortion, and what is really occurring, how can one still morally undergo this procedure?  Despite whether or not a woman exercises the right to her fertility, and if the decision was made in private, what makes it an okay decision?  It only appears to support women’s rights and is the terminating of a precious life.  The pro-choice camp promotes abortion insofar as it doesn’t oppose it.  The pro-life position is the one that stands for women, their unborn children, and is based on the concept that all life is precious.  

We need more focus on the issues surrounding abortion.  America is built upon equality and the right to life, yet abortion is still morally acceptable to many and is legal.  

We must stay true to our values as a country–and as moral individuals–to protect all life, whether it be that of an endangered animal, the environment, or an unborn child.

We must stay true to our values as a country–and as moral individuals–to protect all life, whether it be that of an endangered animal, the environment, or an unborn child.  Individuals need to be more educated on the science behind conception.  We need to halt the message that pregnancy can mean no future or career.  If people are educated, open-minded, and proactive, we can end the widespread support of abortion and ultimately end the killing of innocent unborn human beings.

Senior Thoughts Thus Far by Nicole Granat

Senior year has been an extremely challenging time for me so far. While filling out college applications I was constantly faced with questions asking me why I belonged at a school or what made me special. I spent hours staring at a blank Google document surrounded by empty coffee mugs.

The one thing holding me back from starting my college applications were the questions pointed towards my character. I did not know who I was as a person or what I wanted. It was extremely frustrating and discouraging.

To be honest, I started thinking negatively about myself and my potential. The words “I can’t” and “that is not possible” were frequent words in my vocabulary.

I was unable to put myself into words on a page. Then, one morning, I walked into my favorite coffee house after a long night of staring at a blank screen. I thought a change in venue would help me defeat my writer’s block. Sadly, after another hour of procrastination filled with Pinterest searches, I decided to walk into the bookstore next door. My bank account was low due to the expensive latte I had just purchased, so I was drawn to the sale section in the back of the store. There was a shelf labeled “five dollars and under”. This seemed like the perfect sale for me, but there was a catch. You had to buy a book with the cover hidden behind construction paper. I was intrigued, so I bought a book as a distraction. Little did I know that this would be the best three dollars I have spent in my life so far.

It turned out that the book was about putting positive energy out into the world. It talked about how thinking positive thoughts is the key to living a happy and successful life. The words, “can’t” and “impossible” are no longer allowed. The most powerful message I took from this book was that I had to start living life for myself. I stopped doing things I thought I needed to do to impress other people and started to do things that I loved again. I decided that I would do a trial run by spending a week living by the rules of the book. That week changed my mindset and priorities for the better. The first thing on the list was to start surfing again.  

I realized that I stopped doing a lot of things that I loved because I decided they were no longer a priority. That was the root of all of my problems.

It was unproductive and unhealthy. I now know that it is extremely important to take time for myself. It is important to do the things I love because life is so short, and it should not be spent feeling unhappy. Once I added the things I loved doing back into my routine, I noticed improvement. My grades, my attitude, and my lifestyle changed for the better. It was all because I did what I loved and learned to love who I am. This resulted in my discovering what I am passionate about and who I want to be as a person. I now have faith in my future, and I am looking forward to the adventures ahead. And it’s all because I spent three dollars on a book in the back of a store.

See You at School by Sherry Ma

There is a trending Youtube video called “Evan” that caught my eye very recently. In fact, this two-minute-and-28-second video clip had hundreds of views on December second, the day it was published. By the time I casually decided to watch it, I was totally not expecting how it actually turned out to be.

I strongly recommend you stop reading here and take the time to watch the video yourself. Here is the link:

If I may ask, did you see the twist coming at all? I have to admit that I only focused on the romantic love story and completely ignored anything else. I was so stunned at the end that I got goosebumps when the guy showed up with a rifle in his hand. The white backlight behind him did not make him look like a hero, and the contrast that the light created with his shadow was absolutely horrifying; it sent chills down my spine. I could not help watching the video again after that shocking ending.
The second time I watched, I realized that everything was indeed all there. I could not believe that I completely missed the clearly troubled boy, even if the red-headed “main character” was purposely not placed in the center of the screen but rather to one side of it. The video is incredible, and its message about preventing gun violence is just so powerful and profound. Later, as I discovered from a person’s comment online, the singer who sang the seemingly relaxing background song in the video is in fact Shelby Lynne, who lost both of her parents at the age of 17 when her father shot her mother and then committed suicide. That was also the moment when I noticed the origin of this video, Sandy Hook Promise.
For those who do not recognize this organization’s name, Sandy Hook Promise is a nonprofit that has been advocating for the prevention of gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut. According to Wikipedia, “20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children aged between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members. Prior to driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived at the scene, Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself in the head….The incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school in U.S. history and the third-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in U.S. history.” The shooting prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States. It turned out that Lanza suffered from multiple disorders that eventually led to his severe psychiatric illness, and investigations showed he had been  fascinated with mass shootings from a young age. However, nobody had ever taken all these signs as seriously as they should have.
You might start to wonder: what does this video on gun violence prevention have to do with us at Catalina, where we live and learn in a relatively safe neighborhood? The more practical message we can get out of  “Evan” is exactly about “noticing the signs.” If you take a minute to think about it, the guy holding a rifle at the end of the video might have given up his insane idea of shooting, if only someone had noticed the red flags from him and realized he was not okay. The signs of him reading a magazine about guns or watching a video about guns in the library might not be sufficient to prove anything strange, and maybe neither is his inability to properly interact with people. However, did you notice that he was bullied by a group of people? Did you see his instagram picture of himself holding a gun with a caption, “See you at school”? What about the 56 likes and 0 comments he got for such an obvious warning sign? Even though this video is fictional, I am convinced that such chilling things are happening because such pictures would be considered “cool,” especially by teenagers. I understood such signs as indications from someone seeking help because it is not necessary to leave any indication out in public, and the poor guy was clearly not able to speak out for himself. Would it really be that difficult to do something about it? The shooting at the end is totally preventable, and perhaps, so was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. We all know that history cannot be changed in reality, so instead of feeling sorry, why don’t we start doing something to prevent such tragedies from happening again?
In addition to physical wellness that we have already paid much attention to, mental health is surprisingly discussed about less often. According to Sandy Hook Promise, 80% of school shooters told someone of their plans to commit violence before taking action, yet no intervention takes place most of the time.


This short but profound public service announcement demonstrates how easy we can miss someone’s desperate SOS which can later develop into a catastrophe that nobody wants to see.

In fact, interventions are not as hard as you might imagine; if you actually recall the last time of yourself feeling upset, you might be able to realize how much a warm hug or simply a sincere “Are you okay?” can help. All you needed was some kind attention, right? Remember that deep care does not cost a single thing but only benefits others as well as yourself.
I will never forget the shock I got as I watched “Evan”, the most engaging educational film I have ever watched. It has truly opened my eyes and given me a new perspective on not only gun violence but also people’s internal struggles. If you miss the “signs” the first time just like me, that is okay, but remember that it is never too late to start taking action.

Sandy Hook was the sixteenth mass shooting of 2012, preceding fifteen others, including the “Batman Shooting” in which a man opened fire in a  crowded Colorado movie theatre, killing 12 and injuring 70.

Temptation by Emma Patterson

Imagine sitting in a classroom and participating in a debate. Everyone has a pencil and paper out on their desk, and, while they scribble down notes every few minutes, their focus is primarily on actively participating in the discussion and following all of the lines of reason being drawn. Freeze that frame in your mind. Replace the pencils and paper with laptops and tablets; now, instead of hearing voices of your peers command the room, hear the clicks of people typing on a keyboard paired with occasional murmurs of an idea or a teacher asking, “does anyone have any thoughts at all? The engaging environment has been eliminated, and in its wake is an awkwardly silent, disconnected group of people waiting out a forty-five minute period.

I have sat in far too many classrooms in which there have been walls between my classmates and me created by technology.

In our freshman year, we were required to have iPads to do our work. Now we have graduated to laptops, but the result is still the same: no one is ever completely on task. Personal technology is a distraction to an otherwise creative and highly stimulating environment that supports creativity and independence, and it keeps students from retaining the lessons.

It seems dramatic, but it’s all very simple. When a student gets bored of the lesson or tired of paying close attention, they stop listening and start noticing the red circles appearing on their apps notifying them that someone else is trying to talk to you, from there they ask themselves who it is, what they need, whether or not it is important, and then it is almost impossible to keep themselves from clicking on their messages app and starting up a new, probably more interesting, conversation, and, once they stop paying attention, they will not hear the rest of the teacher’s lesson. On EdTech, a website dedicated to researching technology’s role in education, the technology available in classrooms stretches from interactive whiteboards to cell phones1.

There is an important distinction to be made: educational technology is technology used by a teacher to enhance a lesson using some sort of media supplement, while personal technology, in the classroom, is used by a student with the idea that they will use it for educational purposes by the teacher’s direction.

A classroom is a place designed to foster a student’s ability to problem solve, develop their character, and ask questions, and that cannot happen authentically when they have the ability to Google answers that they could’ve gotten to on their own. Technology has a tendency to enhance laziness more than it does education. The social aspect of a school has been turned on its head since the introduction of social media.  This has created a culture of constant negativity and cyberbullying. As I stated earlier, overcoming the instinct to click on the notification button is impossible, and, when a student is experiencing bullying, the student will never feel safe, as they are tortured every moment they have their devices on them. This creates hostility that stretches into every moment in a classroom; school can no longer be a haven in which students are given time to be distracted from negativity and pressure by being allowed to channel their energy into creativity, growth, and knowledge. Finally, technology gives us the illusion of multitasking. Students claim they can watch TV, do math homework, and hold four conversations on 3 different platforms; in reality, this is not the case. Instead of learning to give their attention to one task at a time to ensure it is done to the best of their ability, students learn to prioritize efficiency over quality. They believe that they have no cracks in a perfect system, but really they are losing the ability to retain information and extend their attention span.

Technology addictions are classified as a legitimate addictions by several research institutions, including Stanford University. As discussed in the CBS News article “Internet addiction changes brain similar to cocaine: study”, which was published in January of 2012, technology affects our emotions, decision-making, and self-control. People lose the ability to connect with their peers and loved ones. When that dynamic is brought into a classroom, students with underdeveloped brains do not have the ability to overpower their dependence on technology. Instead of wanting to connect with the diverse environment of a classroom, they want to check the likes on their latest Instagram post. They’d prefer looking at relatable memes to participating in a discussion on American foreign policy. As a student, I can say that, as soon as I get off track on my computer in a class, it is incredibly rare that I will end up getting back on track before class finishes, and then it begins a cycle. After a student stops paying attention, they fall behind, so they quickly get frustrated, and stop paying attention, which only leads to more confusion. A question that arises is how much the student is to blame for their increasing isolation from their classmates. Personal technology is engineered to pull our attention and throw us into a black hole of measuring our worth by our number of followers, how similar we look to celebrities, and comparing every part of our body to an unachievable ideal. When we exist in that mindset, the research our teacher has asked us to do during our class period pales in comparison to checking all of our social media platforms. It isn’t the fault of the teacher for not being interesting enough; it isn’t the fault of the student for not having more self-control. Placing blame doesn’t remove the distraction; we can only achieve a positive environment when we eliminate the distraction from our daily educational experiences. Is this barrier between teachers and students really the educational environment we all hope to experience?

It cannot be denied that technology is integral to the efficiency of workplaces around the world, but it can be said that it hinders creativity. With the resources that technology provides, it is perceived as lazy to sit around brainstorming, when you could simply Google your problem and have the top one hundred tried and true solutions in seconds. Developing your own ideas and beliefs takes exposure to what is out there in our world, but it also takes reflection. There are many great thinkers who we can aspire to have similarity with, but our value comes when we step out from the shadows as an individual. Individuality comes from within, not from DuckDuckGo. It is said that schools are where we, as unique people, are developed, but can that be said when a classroom is full of students who are just presenting whatever was written on Buzzfeed as our own opinion? Researching a topic online gives us facts that we corroborate with several reputable intellectual and news outlets, but students in our time confuse fact with opinion. The opinion comes after we learn the facts; it comes when we implement creativity.  Creativity cannot be supplied by any website; we find it when we put our devices away and let our stream of consciousness flow. In classrooms that don’t allow personal technology, students are required to be alone with their thoughts, to hold several different views on the same matter in their mind, and hone their own feelings on a topic.

Technology also can have the effect of rewiring our brains. Students shorten their attention span by being able to flip through apps. For example, at this exact moment, I have five desktops, five apps, and eighteen tabs open, and that will probably not drastically change until I feel the disorganization and clutter starting to bother me in about a week. Does that make me a bad student? No, but it makes me a distracted one. While every person has the ability to focus on a task at hand, how long before your mind falls to your dashboard and another app begs for your focus? According to a UK news outlet, The Telegraph, there was a study done in May of 2015 that showed the fall of the human attention span from twelve seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2015. According to that same article, a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds. In a study called Attention Span Statistics done by in 2016, an office worker checks their email 30 times per hour and people get impatient with an Internet video after an average of 2.7 minutes. All of these times have dropped significantly with the introduction of personal technology into workplaces and schools. The moment people get bored they switch tasks, which only worsens their attention span. On average, a person must write down a simple fact seven times before they remember it for a short term, but, in order to retain information, we must study in short intervals over an extended period of time, and, with our attention being on short term efficiency, the likelihood of repetition and working ahead is slim to none.

It would be absurd to say that technology is an exclusively negative influence. In today’s workplace, proficiency in technology is not an added bonus of a job candidate, it is a requirement. However, banning personal technology from classrooms is not the same as banning it from education as a whole. Homework can still involve technology; the only process it hinders is class interaction and connection. It is also important to distinguish the difference between teaching about technology and letting students use personal technology independently in the classroom; again, teaching about technology is crucial for the success of a student in the working force, but personal use of technology holds back a student’s creative development. There is something to be said for the dynamic that can be brought into an engaged classroom when a student is able to bring up a relevant article or material that sparks a discussion or debate in a classroom, and those moments are important to learning, as a student has showed interest in a way that pulls them deeper into the material, and to that I must concede that, in that instance, technology is an enhancer in a classroom, but those moments are rare enough that the question of their worth is raised once again.

Personal technology is a distraction to an otherwise creative and highly stimulating environment that supports creativity and independence, and it keeps students from retaining the lessons. To call technology evil or wrong is not the correct approach; it is our use of technology that must be evaluated. We have lost quiet moments of reflection in which we could foster creativity and our passions to glowing screens and comparison to unattainable goals. Our young lives should emphasize education and exploration, not of the limitless reaches of the internet, but in the depths of our minds and characters, and the classroom is where so much of that is developed, so I call our reliance on technology into question.

Women’s Sports Broadcasting: Four Decades Behind by Audrey Bennett

The number of women athletes has steadily increased in the years since the passing of Title IX in 1972. However, TV and media coverage of women’s athletics has failed to keep up. Shockingly, a 20-year-long USC study of ESPN and other Los Angeles sports coverage outlets revealed that only 3.2% of airtime is dedicated to women’s sports, which is less than the reported 5% in 1989. Readers of prominent newspapers encounter a similar dismal ratio of women’s to men’s athletics coverage. While there is plenty of space for a thorough story on various jersey numbers that are possible for a NFL player (an article featured in an October 2016 New York Times paper), coverage of the WNBA finals is virtually nonexistent. The sort of unequal coverage perpetuates stereotypes and conformity to gender roles while marginalizing the dynamic social changes that have occurred over the last 25 years. Significantly increasing attention to women’s sports through broadcasting, newspapers, and magazines would positively affect the way women feel and the way women are treated in society.

Only 3.2% of airtime is dedicated to women’s sports, which is less than the reported 5% in 1989

Media and news coverage, often referred to as the “fourth branch of government,” holds a unique position of power in the US. With this power comes great responsibility. These news outlets, whether it be Sports Illustrated, ESPN, or even the local paper covering high school sports stories, have a moral obligation to strive for fair and equal coverage. USC sociologist Mike Messner notes that “news programs are supposed to be a window to the world and there is a journalistic responsibility to reflect that.” However, these news outlets have repeatedly failed to accurately represent the true demographic of athletes and fans. A 2014 USC study led by Mike Messner and Cheryl Cooky examined three Los Angeles network affiliates and found that they collectively ran 60 stories on the March 2009 men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Zero stories were featured on the women’s NCAA tournament of that year.

There seems to be hardly enough time for depth and breadth of coverage for women.

Completely ignoring the parallel women’s tournament demonstrates the preferential treatment that men’s sports receives on a daily basis. Although there are more ticket sales for the men’s tournament, a 60:0 ratio disregards the thousands of fans of the women’s teams. Also, it is not as if crucial topics of men’s sports dominate every moment of airtime. While there is plenty of time for marginal stories about where former Lakers player Kendall Marshall will find a good burrito in Milwaukee (a story featured in a July 2014 release from USA Today), there seems to be hardly enough time for depth and breadth of coverage for women. However, if we generate sports coverage of equal quality and quantity between the sexes, young girls will grow up with more visible female athlete role models, and both boys and girls will see that athletic pursuits are not merely for males.

What’s more, during that small percentage of air time devoted to women’s sports, the quality of coverage is not even equal. Researchers of Messner’s USC study noted that broadcasters relate the news of women’s sports in a more stoic and humorless approach, which suggests that viewers and broadcasters alike must brace themselves and endure a short segment on women before returning to the joyful and joke-filled coverage of men’s sports. As children and adults listen and read to this type of reporting, they come to unconsciously accept it as truth. By diversifying coverage, the fight for equal treatment for both sexes would benefit. The current state of broadcasting perpetuates long-held prejudices that women and women’s athletics are somehow inferior and unworthy of our attention.

By consciously using about 97% of airtime to cover men’s athletics, broadcasting stations seem to think that men’s sports are the only type of sports that will attract viewers.  Many news outlets would defend their decisions as purely economically based, perhaps only reflecting ticket sales of WNBA to NBA games to attract the largest demographic of viewers. However, it is the fault of circular reasoning if broadcasting outlets and newspapers blame popularity for their biased coverage. Sports teams gain popularity through media coverage, yet broadcasting groups repeatedly refuse to fairly feature women’s sports teams because they are not popular enough. How will women’s sports gain comparative popularity to men’s if they only get minimal coverage? Also, studies demonstrate that the interest and participation in women’s athletics is quite respectable. In fact, in the women’s 2015 soccer World Cup, 3.311 million viewers tuned it, making it the most-watched soccer match on FoxSports1. While some stations claim that their job is to reflect interest of the current audience rather than generating new audiences, Cheryl Cooky, the associate professor of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at Purdue University, points out that “that is in one sense a false logic because the interest is there … [and] that particular logic lets sports media off the hook. Displacement of blame onto the audience or consumer removes any sort of accountability on their part…” Thus, if sports channels and newspapers are truly trying to reflect their interest groups, the coverage of women’s sports would be much greater.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972 that prohibited sex-based discrimination in federally funded activities, the number of women in high school, collegiate, and professional level sports has sky-rocketted. The Women’s Sports Foundation reminds us that in 1971, the number of high school girls involved in interscholastic sports was about 294,000. Today it is closer to 3.1 million, which is significantly closer to the 4.4 million boys that play such sports. According to Running USA, there are now more women runners than men (10.7 million women participating in running races compared to 8 million men).

Just as African Americans had to fight for equal treatment and respect even after the necessary legislation was passed, the battle is still being fought for female athletes.

Some would argue that at this steep rate, women’s sports do not need additional support or coverage because they seem to be thriving under these circumstances. However, while the participation in women’s athletics has increased rapidly, the respect and treatment it receives has failed to catch up. The predominantly male sports broadcasters (only about 5% of sports anchors are women according to the 2014 USC study) still believe that this boom in interest in women’s athletics is not worthy of airtime. Women’s sports are still decades behind in the treatment and pay they receive. Just as African Americans had to fight for equal treatment and respect even after the necessary legislation was passed, the battle is still being fought for female athletes.

This battle transcends the world of sports broadcasting.

Media plays a key role in this battle. A different approach to women’s sports coverage could begin to shift expectations, gender roles, and persistent sexism that women athletes around the world face every day. However, this battle transcends the world of sports broadcasting. The simple demand for equal treatment and respect for women still faces resistance in the workplace, in politics, and in the home. If men’s and women’s sports eventually  receive equal coverage, perhaps it influence our perceptions of gender and its role in determining one’s worth in society.