Just Promise Me You Won’t Tell…

The Nature of Secrets

A few weeks ago, I was binge-watching the TV show Reign, a drama on The CW network about the politics of Europe in the 16th century. Now, this show may be fictional, and the politics may be over exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, but there is not a doubt in my mind that some of the scandals that the show presents were real issues that people of that century had to deal with like the revulsion against women royalty leading without a King by their side. There is plenty to be said on the feminist topics cleverly woven throughout the show, but that is a discussion for another rainy day.

Today, I want to talk about secrets; the act of hiding a certain truth from somebody in order to protect oneself or one’s investments. Not everybody has to worry about tricking monarchs and hiding infidelity scandals, but despite what we might tell ourselves, we all have secrets. Whether it be a hidden love for One Direction fan fiction, or an affair with a protestant lord that wants to lead a coup against your husband, there are truths buried in all our hearts that we pray will never see the light of day. However, to a certain point, we all understand that our secrets will never truly remain hidden. An older sibling will someday find the journal that you used when you tried to write fan fiction of your own, or your husband will ultimately realize that there is an army camped at his door and you are across enemy lines holding the hand of a certain Prince of Navarre.  

Nobody can keep something hidden forever, as it is at great cost to ourselves if we attempt to do so. We weigh the costs of telling our secrets against the weight we bear and the torture we endure if we keep them locked away. Most of the time, we admit our secrets to somebody because we feel we need to tell somebody or else we might explode. Sometimes, they come out on their own, and we have no say in when our secrets are exposed. Whenever we have a secret, I think that deep down, we want somebody to find out.

Secrets are forged through guilt and panic- most of us only keep secrets because we fear the cost to ourselves if somebody were to discover that which we are hiding. Eventually, we look for sympathy- somebody who will understand why we did what we did, or feel what we feel, and we pray that that person will comfort us and forgive us. If we have the chance to expose our own secrets, there is hope of a lesser reckoning than if our secrets were revealed through a third party.

If a secret is exposed too soon, or to the wrong person, our lives can swiftly feel ruined. We will lose whatever advantages our secrets gave us, and we risk the consequences of keeping something from someone we care for. When you learn that somebody has kept something from you, lied to you, it is only natural to feel anger. As a secret bearer, that anger is directed straight at your heart and you must beg for forgiveness. Perhaps your secret endangered somebody else or prevented them from getting something they wanted. Perhaps keeping something hidden away made them feel as if you couldn’t trust them, and maybe now they don’t trust you.

Some secrets we need to keep, others we build up in our minds to be horrific weapons that are not, in truth, incredibly important. We think that since we have kept something a secret for some time, we have to keep the truth’s of our soul buried even longer. We are constantly compelled to create new secrets through our lies and omissions, so eventually our arsenal of cover-ups becomes so extensive that the secrets are buried to deep to ever be told.

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Comparing Transgender Bathroom Bill and the Day Care Hysteria of the 1980’s

It’s Not the Burnt Toast

Transgender rights are finally coming into the political discussion and public opinion is slowly shifting to be more liberal. The main topic of conversation in most states is the bathroom bill. The bathroom bill determines if transgender people can enter the bathroom they feel most comfortable in and what the criteria for them to enter is. At the moment the primary argument that conservatives use is that some creepy man will pretend to be trans in order to enter a women’s bathroom. Now of course, this situation isn’t outside of the range of possibilities, but how many more times does a trans woman walk into the bathroom without any complications than a man pretending to be transgender walks into the bathroom?

In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was a huge fear of sending children to day-care because there were many court cases of day-care workers sexually abusing the children and performing satanic rituals. There was a huge controversy over this sexual abuse scandal. Across the country, and even other countries such as New Zealand and Canada, stories began popping up that exposed day care workers. Most workers were indicted and found guilty. Recently their sentences are being overturned because the courts are discovering the evidence to be weak and insufficient and the children’s testimonies are falsified.

The nationwide panic turns out to be a response to the influx of women entering the workforce. Day-care services were in high demand because most middle class mothers were working to help bring in an income. The first case came from Judy Johnson, a single mother of her son who was attending the McMartin preschool in California. After her son had some bowel complications, Johnson accused the workers at the preschool of molesting her child. This sparked the country into a deep panic.

Many theorists studying this phenomenon were all coming to similar conclusions, the fear was stemming from women entering the workplace. In the 1980’s women were still beginning to build careers and not focus on housemaking. When rare stories, such as Johnson’s, were becoming international news, parents started to withdraw their kids from day-cares. The mothers would have to return home from work to care for their kids.

The paranoia fabricated more abuse stories. A few decades later, accounts of forced testimonies from children and inaccurate physical claims are being reviewed and retrials are occurring. Kids were asked confusing questions in order to elicit a desirable response, there is no real evidence, and the tests run by doctors have no validity to back them up. In other words, most of these cases were a result of fear and anxiety.

Now, transphobia is the new day-care sex abuse hysteria. Although transphobia isn’t a result of women entering the workplace, the following response is eerily similar.

The group of people who don’t want transgender men and women to chose their bathroom often turn to the argument that creepy men will take advantage of this and enter the girl’s bathroom. Yet as with a couple arguing over burnt toast, it isn’t really about the burnt toast. To these men and women, being transgender is an abnormal process that makes them uncomfortable. The creepy men argument is justification for their ignorance. As a result, the whole nation is falling under the spell that if we open up bathrooms to transgender men and women, boys and girls, then pedophiles will have a new way of exploiting children. These fears are not a reality yet, there are no accounts of a man posing as a woman entering a women’s bathroom; but our society is still convinced that it is going to happen.

But to the same people that are worried about this, are you not worried about your children being sexually assaulted by priests and parish men? Those cases may be rare, but are they not a reality? What about the thousands of underprivileged girls that are coerced into prostitution in the United States? Where are the laws and legislations designed to protect them? These bathroom bills aren’t about men entering women’s bathrooms, but about the irrational fear society has of transgender men and women.

Much like the child sex abuse scandals of the 1980’s that removed women from the workforce, bathroom bills are erasing the transgender community from our society.

 

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Assisted Suicide

Who Gets to Choose?

If I were in bondage, and I begged to be released, would you be punished for setting me free? Would you tell me to wait until I accepted my fate or until my captor one day chooses to release me from my chains? If I freed myself, you would be safe from punishment, yet the process would have wounded me and left me in tatters. Think of how much simpler things would have been, how much less painful, if you gave me the key. There is no difference for a person feeling oppressed by their own circumstance, for the mind can hold chains that are far stronger than metal.

Choosing to die is not a split second decision; it is something that races through your mind maybe once or twice, then more and more frequently until the thought of death consumes you. Can you imagine being so incredibly hopeless that there seems to be no possibility of escaping the wretched weight of the minds’ aggressive attacks? The terminally ill are often in pain, and what right do we have to continuously subject our loved ones to daily torture in the effort to save just a few more days of their lives.

We are tricked by smiles and laughter. We are deceived into believing that a person is incapable of being both happy and miserable at the same time. Someone may feel pleasure while watching a movie or spending time exchanging witty banter with their friends, but that doesn’t mean that they are any better off when the lights are turned back on and the friends leave for the evening. The most crippling moments are those in private when the joy seems to fade from the air. Staring wide eyed and paralyzed at the ceiling, they dread the moment when their eyes open and the trials of the day await them.

We see our loved ones get up in the morning and go about their day. We don’t see the clockwork in their mind ticking away the time until the next bout of happiness may hit, or wondering whether or not that happiness may come at all. We watch the ill suffer in hopes that they can hang on until a cure is found. That hope both enlightens us and constrains us. We tell the ones we love to keep on moving forward, not necessarily for their benefit, but for ours. We don’t want our loved ones to die. We don’t want to imagine lives without them, but we must understand that at a certain point, those people are already gone. They have been replaced by doppelgangers, shrouded in misery, struggling to keep us believing that they are stronger than they feel.

If it comes to the point when a patient is begging for death, for release from the pain of existence, what is a parent, sibling, or lover to do? Keep the suffering bound in torture, or face the wrath of thousands of strangers who will forever judge them for letting their poor child kill themselves? These strangers believe they are upholding the standards of ethics as they accuse husbands of manslaughter after they’ve sat next to their wives and watched them take a drug that erases all of their pain. The prosecutors rarely have any relation to the deceased, yet they feel compelled to argue on their behalf. Do they not think that a parent, spouse, or sibling understands the desires of their loved ones the best?

If there is mutual consent among all parties, there is no one to blame. Poor widows are unable to grieve with mobs gathered around their doors threatening them with threats and handcuffs. Suicide itself used to be considered a noble sacrifice, a preferable death to dying in battle or being held hostage, why have things changed so much? We criticize terminally ill people for cutting their suffering short and releasing themselves from the prisons of their own minds, and how is this different from what used to be thought of as “justifiable” sacrifice.

Death is by no means a good thing, however it can be preferable to a life of suffering. We need to decide as a community whether we want to scorn the dead for the way they ended their lives or appreciate the positive ways in which they lived.

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Standardized Testing

Less Stress = Less Tests

Standardized tests are something I have felt strongly about since the beginning of my testing career. No kid likes tests, okay well maybe some do, but as a general rule kids hate tests. I’m no exception. They’re asinine and inaccurate.

My state’s test is the MCAS, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, taken grades 3-10 with the exception of grade 9. There is a reading and writing section as well as a math, and select grades have a science. The questions themselves I never found to be too hard, the typical “If Daniel eats 3 apples and Frank eats 4, how many apples were eaten in total?” never really bothered me. It was the principle behind the whole thing. The energy and the time spent learning how to answer the questions is ridiculous.

In 5th grade we had a practice math MCAS open response due pretty much every week in preparation for our upcoming math MCAS. During math the following week we would go over the good responses, all student examples, and my teacher would tell us where and why people lost points. I always got a 3 out of a 4 because I never quite explained enough and therefore my work was never used as an example (that really busted my ego). You see, the question says “show OR explain”, but my teacher always insisted we  “show AND explain”. But how do I show and explain that I added 2 and 3 together and got 5.

It was frustrating even as a young child to spend more time learning how to answer the MCAS than actually learning the skills. In past grades we would spend weeks practicing just how to properly format the answer, valuable time we could’ve spent actually working on math or english.

tests

John Oliver, the most knowledgeable American who’s really a Brit, is brilliant. He mixes dry humor, facts, news, sarcasm, popular culture perfectly, yet also delivers a very informing spiel. Basically, he is my kind of guy. He sums up my frustration in an eighteen minute video on testing.

These tests are doing nothing for us besides taking time out of learning and giving more unnecessary stress to students. I take 28 benchmark tests, 14 exams, hundreds of tests and quizzes, and other tests such as MCAS, SATs, PSATs, ACTs, etc. a year. That is insane. The funny things is, teachers hate it too! They lose teaching time and then they have to spend more time grading the exams. Also, at least this is true in my town, if students do well, the teacher receives a bonus. But in other towns and states, a teacher’s job may rest on how well a student does. How has our education system become more focused on doing well on standardized tests than actually having kids learn. Education and school are not synonymous and it’s time for the United States government to recognize this.

Standardized testing is not the solution to ranking better in the world. Funding should be increased for lower income schools and the standard for education should be increased across the country rather than decreased. Yet increased funding is not the solution either.

Finland is beating nearly every country in PISA test scores and humiliating the U.S. who spends more time and money on education. #1 in math, reading comprehension, and science, Finland is doing something right. Most Finnish students have less than an hour a night of homework, shorter school days, nearly triple the amount of recess time, learn real world skills, and only have one standardized test throughout their secondary school education. And Finnish teachers are highly respected, paid nearly as much as Finnish lawyers and doctors, and not required to follow a certain curriculum. The U.S. education system could learn something from Finland.

Testing should be reduced in the United States and more effort should be focused on rewriting the system rather than editing it. I hope that by the time my children begin their education that there will no longer be the stress and pressure that surrounds standardized testing.

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Interesting Article about Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing and the Education Dilemma

 

The GPA Race

“It’s all about the letter.”

Today, while I was working on a project in Spanish, a girl with a 96 in the class was begging our teacher to let her retake a quiz so that her grade would increase to a 96.5, therefore landing her an A+ as opposed to an A in that course. The teacher rolled her eyes and blamed the girl for being grade-obsessed, to which the girl replied: “It’s The GPA Race señora, if I’m not going to get the A+, someone else will.”

As it turns out, there are nearly 10 juniors with GPAs above 4.8, and only one will get to become valedictorian. One boy even has a chart where he tracks how his GPA fluctuates each time grades are released on iPass and how close he is to that coveted number one class rank.  

Students today who are looking to get into competitive colleges have to be grade-obsessed, or they risk losing their chance at an Ivy League school. Of course, GPA is not the only component that determines whether or not you will be accepted into a college, however, despite the assurances of most adults, it really does matter. My school’s GPA scale is so inflated that there are students who are upset because they only have a 4.0. A single hundredth of a point can separate the valedictorian and salutatorian, and class rankings are so competitive that friends feel the need to constantly keep tabs on each other’s grades. It’s a sad day when you can no longer feel happy for a friend’s scholastic success because you fear they might steal your chance at getting into your dream school.

This situation fosters consistent feelings of stress and panic which can cause us to make really bad decisions. Cheating is the most obvious problem, but the mental strain of such high, seemingly unattainable expectations can also really mess with our health. Sleep deprivation, paranoia, and overall unhappiness are just the beginning of the problems stemming from this competitive atmosphere at such a young age. The world is a scary, competitive place, and yes, we do need to be prepared for that, but should we not enjoy our youth? Should we not prioritize learning how to love learning? High schoolers hate school, yet we make no plans to change our educational system. School may be a necessary evil in our eyes, but that doesn’t mean we cannot work to make the process of education more enjoyable.

Colleges are doing the right thing- putting more weight on extra curriculars as opposed to accepting students solely on test scores- but it’s hard to find the time to join 3 clubs, run for student council, and play 3 varsity sports when you need to spend hours doing homework every night in addition to any after school activities. GPA may not be as important as it used to be, but it still matters enough to keep students worried about those decimals decreasing.

As a community, we need to find some way to devalue the GPA race; it just isn’t healthy. I’ve dealt with grades based on “effort,” and that just leaves our transcripts overly vulnerable to teacher prejudice, so how do we accurately grade people’s performance in a class without creating such a competitive atmosphere? How do we encourage students to aim for an understanding of a concept and not an A on an exam? How do we prevent students from dropping challenging courses that they are interested in because they fear their GPA may suffer? I don’t have concrete answers to these questions, but perhaps if we all unite together to find answers, we have a hope of changing our educational system for the better.  

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Somebody else’s opinion who has actually done research: (If you’re interested)

Grade obsession and why it’s a serious problem