Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mastering a Free-Thinking Perspective by Brittany Davis

 

It’s amazing to me how certain texts can generate profound reactions, inciting my thought and broadening my outlook. Whilst reading the works of Franz Kafka, Susan Faludi, Plato, and Walt Whitman, I became particularly introspective due to the relatability of the concepts and the artistry in which they were written. With Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, I was forced to confront the magnitude in which I use my voice, and if my voice is considered a leading component of my character. Susan Faludi’s Backlash educated me on the struggles that adult women encounter, motivating me to denounce and reform the current structure in which women are marginalized. The symbolism behind Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” demonstrated the obligation I have to be both free in my thinking and influential in my liberation. “Song of Myself,” written by Walt Whitman, contains an abundance of complexities, but, as he elegantly expresses, I am not alone in understanding the convoluted perplexities the world puts forth. Not only have these texts forced me to reflect on my identity, but they have also promoted me to further my advancement in both my attitudes and my judgments.



In Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis, the protagonist, Gregor, wishes to be rid of his mundane job and household responsibilities. To his surprise and his family’s, he wakes up one morning as a giant bug. Though his family tries to assist him in his new condition, they end up finding him to be a burden and want to be free of him. The novella ends with Gregor’s demise from depression and lack of care. Metamorphosis is grim not only because of Gregor’s unwelcomed transformation and consequentially his end, but also due to his immediate exclusion from society as a result of his noncompliance to societal norms.

 

Gregor is unable to speak, therefore suppressing his identity. He is unable to explain his actions and is therefore chastised for behaving in a manner that renounces norms because he is unable to justify such actions. Subjectively speaking, I have never been one to repudiate the status quo; however, I can relate to the protagonist’s conflict with speech. Unlike Gregor, I have the opportunity to communicate with others; however, my aversion to speech tends to put me in a position similar to Gregor’s. Great communicators can oftentimes undermine the voices of others. With this work, I was forced to ask myself if I am repressing my own identity by allowing those with more potent voices to assert their opinions over mine. Kafka also challenged me to observe how much of our identities come from the nature of speech. Those who may not have the capacity to sufficiently verbalize their thoughts may find an interest in writing; however, today we rarely communicate through writing and if we do, it is mostly through shorthand and Emojis. Although we can attempt to express ourselves through appearance, like Gregor, we are forever subjugated to the unwarranted disapprovals that are cast upon us. Through voice, one can learn, engage in compromise, and speak up for themselves and others. Kafka challenges me to use the voice I have to construct my own identity.

 

I don’t find that our nation’s gender gap is apparently distinct in my everyday life; however, the media, one of the greatest influences of my generation, is always prone to highlight gender disparities and even widen the gap for further self-interest. In Susan Faludi’s Backlash, she exposes the inequalities women face today, despite the many misconceptions people have made in believing that women have overcome all of their obstacles. Faludi concludes the debate by offering several instances in which females are deemed inferior to men, including government representation, occupational and domestic positions, our nation’s failure to accommodate for women’s reproductive rights, and the way we are portrayed in popular culture. Due to Faludi’s work, my stance on women’s rights expanded, because at my age, many of the divergences between genders are not necessarily conspicuous in my position. Through her outlook and research, I am able to better understand the challenges I might face if  adequate progress in the women’s rights movement is not made.

 

Faludi argues that female dilemmas derive from the media, calling it “an endless feedback loop that perpetuates and exaggerates its own false images of womanhood.” I find that it has been increasingly difficult to overlook the prevailing portrayals of women in the media. Through advertisements, women are repeatedly over-sexualized, and onscreen, in television and movies, they account only for 12% of the protagonists in 2014 programming. This depiction of women gives society the impression that women’s voices are less valuable compared to men’s, and their appearances are the foremost component of their identities. Women’s voices are also extremely underrepresented in the media. In 2014, women comprised merely 25% of writers, 23% of executive producers, and 20% of show creators (Alter). As expressed by Simone de Beauvoir, “Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth” (141). It is difficult to achieve genuine images of womanhood if men are the ones constructing female ideals. Faludi’s writing settled my position on women in media: the lack of female involvement in the media’s influential portrayals of women generates further insignificance for women’s central identities. In acknowledging this issue that women continually endure, I can aim to resolve the ongoing imbalances and false depictions, furthering the advancement of gender equality.  My identity as a woman should not be established by distorted ideals, and other women should not feel the need to alter themselves in order to match any corrupt standards. 


One of the concepts created by Plato is the Theory of Forms, which explains that in our reality there are true “forms” that we cannot necessarily observe with our five senses, but function as our reference point for everything, from beauty to goodness. Plato taught that humans are born with an understanding of the real forms, but as we grow, society alters those forms, obstructing us from being able to see the truth (“Plato’s Theory of Forms- What Does it Really Mean”). In the “Allegory of the Cave,” prisoners have been held inside a cave since birth, and while they are unable to see the world outside of the cave, they do observe the shadows that the world makes, accepting that to be reality. One prisoner frees himself from the false world presented to him, and by leaving the cave, the prisoner is attempting to unearth the true “forms.” The environment the prisoner discovers represents the World of Forms, and all elements in the world derive from the sun, which represents goodness. The World of Forms is believed to be where honest beauty exists. Plato’s work broadens my outlook on what is deemed beautiful. Society establishes standards of beauty and forces humanity to perceive them, through advertisements and media, although the ingrained standards are merely reflections of the true “forms.” Plato teaches that those who seek the genuine model of beauty will find that it derives from goodness.

 

As humans, our knowledge is limited to the civilization that we are born into, similar to the prisoners enduring the entirety of their lives in a cave. They perceive the world from solely their position inside the cave, observing inaccurate depictions and refusing to believe that they are being deceived. “The Allegory of the Cave” can also be resolved by understanding of what it means to be open-minded. As described by Alan Watts, “If we are open only to discoveries which will accord with what we know already, we may as well stay shut” (103). In order to interpret the world on a broader spectrum, I must learn to detach myself from what I was taught in order to justly perceive a world that is unlike the one I have come to know.

 

The best way to learn is through experience, according Walt Whitman. In his poem “Song of Myself,” he is not only commending himself, but also humanity in its entirety. According to Whitman, we are all connected as he illustrates through the nature of grass. Grass grows upon the deceased, connecting humanity to earth and individuals to all of humanity. Just as humans and nature are equal, Whitman considers body and soul to one as well. Whitman’s emphasis on the integrality that exists between humans and nature builds by notion that humanity should fixate on what we know, rather than what we hold to be true, as in religion. Whitman rejects prioritizing one God over others, because God is everywhere and we are all one collective world. I am inspired by his rejection of complete isolation, because regardless of the circumstance, one is never alone on his or her journey of existence. The difficulties in life are easier to conquer when an individual recognizes that they are not unaccompanied. Whitman declares, “And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes” (79). He is assuring readers that their identity is great and able to overcome any of the challenges that life presents.

 

It’s a beautiful concept that poetry, stories, and memoirs can forge one’s individuality. The publication and dissemination of history’s and today’s influential perspectives persuades the mindsets of several individuals, not only connecting people to the past, but also connecting people together here and now. People might not always think the same way as me either because their identities have been more or less developed, or because their identities have been established in a completely dissimilar system; however, this difference in identities is one of the grand advantages that humanity tends to overlook. Those who possess identities that have been forged by numerous experiences can influence and inspire those who have not or may never be able to undergo those experiences. The works that I read have guided my growth as an individual, and my interactions with others encourages me to continue to expand my own perspective.



Works Cited

Alter, Charlotte. "8 Sad Truths about Women in Media." Time. N.p., 5 June 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://time.com/3908138/women-in-media-sad-truths-report/>.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. N.p.: n.p., 1989. Print.

Faludi, Susan. "Blame It on Feminism." Introduction. Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. N.p.: n.p., 2009. Print.

Plato. "Book VII." The Republic. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

"Plato's Theory of Forms- What Does It Really Mean?" Philosophyzer. N.p., 8 Oct. 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.philosophyzer.com/platos-theory-of-forms/>.

Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Metamorphosis Summary." Shmoop. N.p., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.shmoop.com/metamorphosis/summary.html>.

TED- Ed. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave - Alex Gendler. Youtube. N.p., 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWOpQXTltA>.

Vlach, Michael. "Plato's Theory of Forms." Theological Studies. N.p., 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.theologicalstudies.org/resource-library/philosophy-dictionary/158-platos-theory-of-forms>.

Watts, Alan. The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Whitman, Walt. "Song of Myself." Leaves of Grass. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.





Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bursting One's Bubble to Discover One's Identity by Raymond Chappan






It is not uncommon for a person to wander through life not knowing who they are. It drives people mad trying to find their identity. The most clich├ęd response one can say is, “I’m trying to find myself.” But what are we looking for? Identities seem to be all people have: All we stand for, all we’re known as, all we know about ourselves. Who is to define an identity or what it should be comprised of? Several people try and dictate how to think of ourselves or how to categorize our identity. Education and experience are tools to help a person develop their sense of selfhood, but the ultimate definition comes from within. Through several readings, the idea of one’s personal identity can be challenged, enlarged, conflicted, or resolved. However, as a young adult seeking to find himself, I have learned that in order to become who I am, I must embrace where I come from, love my heritage, and then work on being the best I can be.
 
We, as college students, are at the most impressionable stages of our lives. It is up to us to become ourselves. Just thinking of that concept alone frightens me. Every class we take, every word we say, or every action we perform help shape us to be individuals in a great, big society. Entering Kohlberg’s stage of moral skepticism at 4.5 is exactly what we need to break the social confines, think on our own, and develop personal opinions true to our own beliefs (Kohlberg). As we learn and develop, the path to figuring out our identity tends to get easier and more finite. Identity can mean lots of different things to a great many people because of how personal the topic can become. Each one of us must grow on our own and find what identifies them as an individual.
 
As a Modern Orthodox Jew from the Syrian community of Brooklyn, I have to find myself the hard way. Coming from a community with set boundaries and rules---such as who I can marry, where I may eat and pray, or who I am permitted to hang out with---really can hinder one’s growth. We call it the “Syrian bubble” because many community teenagers feel sheltered from the outside world, only being exposed to what our parents allow us to see. As per community custom, children usually have a choice between two local yeshivas to attend from upper nursery through high school, and then often pick a local college or simply work in the family business. This leaves little room for exploration in life, since we have generally the same friends since the age of five. With a constant curiosity of what “real” teenagers in public schools are doing and how it would be to have friends of a different race or religion, most of my friends and I feel like we are at a disadvantage in life, being excluded from almost everything the world has to offer. For this reason, I found the message in “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato to sit so strongly with me. Throughout my upbringing I felt as if I was chained up, forced to only see projections on the wall. It is only when I am set free from my chains that I am allowed to go out and experience the world. Similarly to the allegory, not everyone is freed and not everyone is so comfortable with being freed. Only once we explore real life and “look at the sun” does the development of a sense of self begin (Plato). For me, my sense of freedom came from going to college. I left my “bubble” cave and went on to learn things on my own. It took me some time to adjust to the light, but now that I see clearly, I am learning a lot about the world and can finally begin to morph into my own. “The Allegory of the Cave” helped me reinforce the actions I’ve taken in my life to find my identity and to become the fully immersed person I aspire to become.
However, one cannot be the person he wants to become until he begin to own himself. Our perfections and flaws are what make us people, and each of us have qualities that make us unique. I think one of the hardest things for someone to do is to take pride in who he is, even if that’s what makes him different. To be honest, I was always a little embarrassed to tell people I meet that I am Jewish, speak perfect Hebrew, and observe all holidays and traditions. Gloria Anzaldua opened my eyes and showed me the value of loving myself. In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” she writes of the hardships that she, as a Chicana woman, faces in her life. She goes on to say that many Chicana immigrants often drop their native language and learn English to avoid awkward situations (39). I can relate to this because as I was learning Hebrew throughout my entire childhood education, I kept on thinking to myself that I would never need this language, since it is primarily spoken in only one country and is pretty obsolete. As I got older, I secretly started dropping my family’s orthodox values by eating non-kosher foods, using electricity on Sabbath, and skipping a few prayers. When I thought on Anzaldua’s essay, I exposed another portion of my identity that I had tried keeping secret. She furthers her claims by saying, “There are more subtle ways that we internalize identification, especially in the forms of images and emotions. For me food and certain smells are tied to my identity, to my homeland" (42). Syrian and Middle Eastern foods, aromas, and words are a staple in my household. These things along with speaking Hebrew and keeping my Jewish faith are so ingrained in my upbringing that they practically make up who I am. Without Anazaldua’s words I probably would not have been as enlarged as I am now. Embracing the past and keeping true to where you come from are essential components to develop one’s self.
After a person is secure with himself, he can then focus on being a leader. There were several times that I was a leader, whether it be leading my entire grade to victory in a high school color war or directing 40 of my peers through the deserts of Israel; being somebody to look up to is one of my strong suits. I thought that I was a confident, strong leader since I’ve taken courses in leadership development and gone to international leadership training programs. Having read “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr, I realized that not only do I have a long way to go, but once I think I am the best I can be, I still have more to go. Throughout reading the letter I was in awe. What struck me most was how calm was his composure. As a rhetoric communications major, I took particular interest in his persuasion techniques. He uses friendly terms such as “dear” when referring to the clergymen even though they were his enemies (par. 1). Even more so, he breaks down the problem so that each part is clear and understandable. There is also much to learn from his personal life. I cannot imagine being bold enough to take a bullet for what I believe in. He paid the ultimate price for his cause and that speaks volumes about who he was and how much each of a leader he was.
 
Martin Luther King Jr found his calling in life, but some of us aren’t as lucky and are constantly try to fit in somewhere. We are strangers in our skin, not knowing who we are or where we belong until the time is right. I have studied throughout my Jewish education what it means to be a global citizen. The questions of a “Jewish American” or an “American Jew” have been topics of discussion my entire life. After much self-reflection, I chose not to be either one of them. I don’t believe in having a national identity because I feel that people should be free to be whatever they want. It goes without question that I love my countries, both America and Israel, and remain loyal to them both. I just don’t think that a person must associate himself with a country simply because he was born thete. I am a firm believer of Gestalt's saying: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Instead of me feeling like a small piece of something, I’d rather think of myself as a whole to my own. Reading “How I Finally Developed Some National Pride” by Sezin Koehler really conflicted with my ideas of identity. In the article, Koehler, an American of Sri Lankan descent, claims to never have had a sense of a national identity until gay marriage was legalized in America. What she felt she says, was “a strange feeling…pride” (par. 9). She was proud of her country and the progress Americans are making towards acceptance. I do not condemn national pride; sadly I have just never felt it. That doesn’t mean that I will never identify myself with a country; it means that no country has caused me to internally call it mine, to make me feel proud to belong to it.
Identifying ourselves is probably one of the hardest things to do. Each person must go on his own path to find his truth. It is interesting to see how every individual starts off the same as innocent blank slates and then slowly but surely becomes his or her own. Like a snowflake, no two people are the same. With the help of Anzaldua, Koehler, and Plato, I have embarked on the journey of finding myself. I learned that through education, and acceptance of my history I can work on myself to be a leader and a global citizen. Hopefully I find myself and am ultimately happy with who I become.
Works Cited
Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue: Wanderwords in Theory." Wanderwords : Language   Migration in American Literature (2014): n. pag. Web.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]." Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development." Chart of Lawrence. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015

Koehler, Sezin. "How I Finally Developed Some National Pride." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Plato. "The Allegory of the Cave From the Republic of Plato." About.com Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
 
Top of Form


 

Friday, March 4, 2016

We the Students: Independence and Ethical Growth as the Path to Greater Career Succes by Victoria Leto



Turning eighteen opens the door to adulthood for most of us teenagers. It is the time decision-making and psychological growth as an individual starts. Lawrence Kohlberg rates the individual’s advanced thinking and growth on his Moral Development scale. Observing the developments on this scale, one will notice that students reach each level at different ages depending on their maturity. Ultimately, of all the traits students must acquire, I believe that independence is the characteristic that will bring students to their highest level of ethical behavior. No one can force this upon us; we must see and understand this for ourselves.






Kohlberg’s scale is set up in six different developmental stages which illustrate one’s strengths in solving moral dilemmas which I define as choosing between two or more actions and having a moral reason for each. The stages are grouped into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.









The purpose of Kolhberg’s structure is to examine people’s behaviors. It is not so much a ranking of behaviors, but a set of insights into why people do what they do. For example, the responsibilities that we as college students hold may be studying for a final or writing a paper. The goal is to do well on both in order to attain a high GPA. At level 1, if your grade isn’t as high as you expected, you will realize maybe the test was just not what you imagined or the teacher was a tough grader. However, being at a level 6, you will accept responsibility for your actions and not blame your grade on other factors. That is part of being independent.





As teenagers, we don’t just become independent; some kind of experience may open our eyes to a world of freedom that makes us become rely more on ourselves, not others. Whether we are influenced by our peers, parents, or professors, we form a sense of our own independence. Conformity is not always a good thing; if we all choose to be the same, how will our world grow? College campuses may try conform us, but we don’t have to give in. If one thinks about it, we come into our courses hoping to become better educated and more open minded, not to fall into other’s opinions. Forming our own ideas and opinions is what makes us independent. Lola Solis, a freshman at
Hofstra University wrote a powerful essay titled “The Anti-Conformist,” in which she speaks about a literature class offered Hofstra, taught by Professor Pellegrino, that opened her eyes. “When reading novels I no longer have to wait for him to explain the underlying meaning of the text. I create my own meaning. In high school, when deciphering novels, I never had the ability to construct my own thoughts. I have now been able to break those cultural barriers and examine language and make the worldview my own. I do not only think this way in literature, but in all aspects of life” (Solis).





Obviously, this professor left a mark on his student, but she has taken his teachings and made them her own. Professor Pellegrino did not force any beliefs onto Lola; she was able to form her own through his teachings. It is important that we as students do not just listen and believe, but listen and penetrate into our own thoughts. Her professor was so moved by her essay that he sent it to his chairperson. A student made a professor feel worthy! Lola has become bigger in the sense that she now knows that meanings doesn’t have to be taught, but understood on our own terms.


As my journey towards college began, I wasn’t as much nervous as I was relieved. I was so happy to be advancing my education on a new campus. In high school, I lost most of my friends due to the high school “drama” which is really just immaturity. The common partying and drinking aspect of high school, as well as the cattiness among friends, was never appealing to me. I wanted to do well in school and make my parents proud. This led me to become more independent. My parents always told me I was mature for my age as I wasn’t focused on the same things as other students. I wanted to be successful and make something of myself. I never relied on anyone or anything to help me; I helped me. I didn’t need a group of friends to feel “cool.” I needed confidence, independence, and intelligence. A high school guidance counselor says it best: “It’s tough to be a teenager. You want to be independent while still having to rely on everyone around you” (Facebook). I was and still am determined to achieve my goals on my own. I have always known I wanted to be a “helper.” My experiences of volunteering at children programs, being a camp counselor, tutoring, and babysitting made my passion for kids grow. I absolutely adore children and somehow I wanted to incorporate them in my career. With much research I found that Speech Pathology was not only interesting, but rewarding. I could work with children and adults at a school or a hospital, and this  fact led me to change my major. I am content with the changes Hofstra has offered me and intend on becoming more worldly. My path has already changed, and I feel without my independence I would have been lost.


Entering college you choose your major, your classes, and eventually your career path. Notice how each chose has you in it? Becoming more independent may come with age, experience, and maturity. With the guidance of your guardians and the advice of you advisors, you will achieve you goals. However, you are the one making the choices, and every step you take is solely by yourself. College is your time to make your dreams a reality, but this can only be done with a clear mind and self awareness. While emailing with Jade, a freshman at Hofstra, she talked about the process of choosing a major, saying: “My major is business. Although I am undecided on the specific business, I am leaning towards either accounting, entrepreneurship, or both. I chose to study business because I had an interest in it back in high school. I took college accounting in senior year and really loved it...I see myself in the future hopefully opening up my own dance studio with my sisters (who are dancers as well). We all dream about this, and I hope we can make it a reality one day!” (
Chu). She expressed her love and dedication for ice skating and dancing and told me of her experiences teaching young children. She is a perfect example of a student who is using her right and left brain strengths to emerge into a stronger individual. Who would have thought a love for dance and business could somehow coincide into a bigger dream? In order to reach your full potential, you must set goals for yourself and strive to reach them.


College students and Kohlberg seem to have something in common: they both are reaching for potential. Every college student will reach level 6 of moral development at some point in his college career. Many students may have already attained this level of universal ethical principles. When children and teenagers grow up in specific settings, they may look at life situations differently.
Independence comes differently to all of us, and Kohlberg was well aware of this. We are all capable of understanding others, ourselves, and the world around us. Our right as citizens is to be independent with the knowledge that it is under reasonable circumstances (Wikipedia). Entering a college campus is a new world for many students, especially those who are coming from households or towns that held them back. Students desire the freedom and acknowledgment of being their own person. A freshman at Hofstra named Kelsey proves that breaking out of the bubble we call home is life changing. “I don't rely on others to do anything I could do myself for I am internally motivated and don't require a push from anyone. All and all, I would say that I am forging my way from a controlled and held-back household to be an independent student with her own unique set of views and morals. I’m independent in the sense also that I don't really pay any mind to the influence of the viewpoints of others, and I am not very easily influenced. I am, however, confident in my beliefs and choices which I feel makes me very independent” (Picciano). Students like Kelsey know they can fight through the conventions of society and be unique on their own. It was her choice to interview her writing professor for a paper in his class to show her classmates how fascinating she found him to be. She was able to make them see that their respect for him should go beyond the that fact he is responsible for their grades by revealing him as genuine, real person. She wasn’t afraid of what they would think of her. If you are able to build a self-esteem that allows you to move forward positively, you will gain a strong independence on your college campus.


Most eighteen-year-old college students are thinking about their futures and not about Kolhberg’s theory of moral development which actually maps out the steps for success in learning how to learn. To see and feel and think and live at the highest level (six), however, a sense of independence is necessary as Lola, Jade, Kelsey, and I have found out .



                                         Works Cited

 


Chu, Jade. “Personal Interview.” Message to the author. 8 Nov. 2015. E-mail.

Facebook. “Humans of
New York.” Web. 10 Nov. 2015
.

Lawerence Kohlberg. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 28 July. 2015.

Picciano, Kelsey. “Personal Interview.” Message to the author.
8 Nov. 2015
. E-mail.

Solis, Lola. “The Anti-Conformist”
21 Oct. 2015
. Essay.

United States Declaration of Independence. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.