Tag Archives: Education

Has Technology Changed Our Culture?

Today in one of my seminars, this question came up. To my surprise (and my professor’s, I’m sure), there were people who sincerely (and stubbornly) believed that there’s no way technology could ever change a culture. One of them said that culture changes technology (Guy). Another said that it was a “dynamic relationship” (Girl). And the others didn’t even have arguments worth remembering.

The class turned into a mini-debate on the subject. Guy made the argument that we are the same people, we just use different tools. Girl somewhat supported his argument, but added a little example. “Think about back in the day when people ate berries. One of them finally figured out that they could use a stone as a weapon and kill that animal. And now they ate animals!” This was her way of showing that culture and technology interacted with each other, but had no effect on each other. About three classmates and myself sided with the idea that technology can DEFINITELY change a culture. So after Girl’s argument, I said: “you just proved our point.”

I then offered my counterargument. After listening to their flawed arguments, it was clear to me that they were throwing around the term “technology” without having a concise idea of what it meant. I explained to them that technology isn’t just something digital- but that the term included other things. A bottle, for example, is a technology- because it helps us carry and conserve water. Then, I tackled why Girl’s argument was actually evidence supporting my own argument. The people (from back in the day) were now meat eaters. This involved so many different changes including how they gathered, cooked, and ate their meals. AND how eating meat would affect their bodies. This technology, in this case the stone used as a weapon, definitely changed a culture (think of hunter-gatherers becoming farmers!).

The most interesting thing of all is that Guy and Girl still would not agree with what I explained above. They were short of saying that it made no sense. But I think their ulterior motive was that admitting you were wrong about something is not easy for some to do. I do admit though, that we are all ENTITLED to have a different opinion. So if they really want to stand and say that technology does not inflict change, then be ready to look extremely uneducated. I mean, you’re UCLA students, be proud to show off your education.

Now I turn this back to you. What do you think? Can technology change a culture?

-MTO


Your Generation Screwed My Generation

When we tell our older relatives that we are stressed out about an upcoming test, their reaction is overwhelmingly similar; they’d say something along the lines of: “Do the best you can.” I really don’t believe they quite understand how things have changed since they were in college. If the best we can do is a B, that will literally take us nowhere. The bar has been raised so high up, that it’s getting harder and harder to see.

Consequently, our generation is built on competition. The higher the number attached to your name, the better chances to succeed you have. I could be a decent student and have a 3.4 GPA*, but that’d just mean that anyone whose GPA is above 3.4 has better chances than me to get into a good graduate program, or a top-tier law school. In fact, some graduate schools will not even consider your application if you don’t have a 3.5 or above. Basically, every mistake we make can hurt us in a world in which to be the best, you have to be absolutely flawless. Thanks to this, college went from being the place where you tried different things to figure out who you were and who you wanted to be, to being the place where you played it safe and conformed to what would give you the best score you could get.

But what does this say about the generational gap? I’ll bet half of the people sitting in any admissions table in a top university never had more than a 3.2 GPA. But then, how did they get to raise the bar for us, who have yet to influence the way the world works now? I’d say some bad decisions were made and we’re stuck with less jobs, more problems, and cleaning up someone else’s mess. I’ve always heard the 80’s and 90’s were a lot fun- Well, I don’t doubt it.

-MTO

*Not my actual GPA. Thankfully. 

 


Procrastination? Again?

I have a midterm tomorrow, and a paper the day after. I just drank some coffee, Mad Men is on, and all I seem to do is browsing with StumbleUpon. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I am at my peak of procrastination. I work before my midterm tomorrow so I either study tonight, or I study tonight- yet I can’t seem to do either.

What do you do to keep from procrastinating? I don’t even have a Facebook anymore, so I’m in trouble here.


The F Word

We went to the Glendon Bar & Kitchen this morning to grab some brunch- courtesy of my wife’s aunt. Summer hasn’t been the best financially, and having an opportunity to get a free brunch is something we treasure greatly. I always tell my wife she’s been really lucky to have relatives who care deeply about her (us, really) the way they do.

This was our first time going there, even though it’s within walking distance. The place was getting crowded when we arrived… around noon. And for some reason it was hotter inside than outside. We were seated right away (we did have a reservation), and it didn’t take us long to get drinks either.

There were four students to our right, and the table to our left was taken after a few minutes of us being there. Perhaps at the same time the college boys left. A man, a woman (Both mid thirties), and older woman sat there. For the longest time I though the man and woman were a couple, taking grandma out to brunch- but my wife says that they may have been brother and sister. Whatever their relation, I envied them.

I live very far from my own family, and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like to. I ran away from their judgement, and that’s on me- but now that the judgement is somewhat gone, I wish I could have more contact with them. I certainly wish we could take my grandma out for brunch sometime.

She would smile all the time, happy to see us. And she would probably tell very embarrassing stories about me as I choke on my cup of coffee (my wife and grandma have not met so these stories have not been shared yet). She’d probably say how proud she is of us, and I would have to keep myself from wanting to hug her all the time. My grandma raised me… so she’s more than just a grandma to me. We hope we can see her for graduation- that would complete my day then.

As we got our food, I tried to push the sad thoughts away from my mind. I had the Steak & Eggs- which were to die for. Sourdough at the bottom, Ribeye steak, then sunny side up eggs on top. There was a “salsa” on the side, which was more like just roma tomatoes… but taking a bite of all four things combined made this dish worth every penny (even if I were actually paying for it myself!) The Mrs. had the Curry Waldorf sandwich- which was also pretty good (and this is a lot coming from me because I’m not crazy about curry. This one had chicken, yellow curry, granny smith apples, roasted cashews and dried cranberries on raisin pecan bread- and a side of garlic fries. Though I had been thinking I wouldn’t come back to the place because of how hot it was… the food was too good to ignore.

We will come back for sure. Perhaps I can take grandma there for brunch after commencement is over. A dreamer can dream, right?

-MTO


Bus Rides to Different Worlds

I don’t know how much you know about UCLA… other than the fact that our football team still sucks. Despite the fact that this isn’t our brightest hour (see: Education cuts in California), there are some things that still amaze me about this school.

UCLA is indeed a multicultural school. If you walk on campus on any given day, you will probably hear at least three different languages spoken- and after 10 steps in any direction, you may have probably crossed the paths of at least two students that come from a very different place than yours.

Sometimes, when my wife’s break from class and my lunch break from work coincide, and when I’m more than happy to give up my lunch readings to see her, I take the University Shuttle to campus and meet her at the cafeteria behind the law school. Since she only gets thirty minutes, we eat quickly, but I treasure every minute as if it were an hour. Once our meal is over I hurry back to the bus stop. And then I wait impatiently for the shuttle, as I alternate looking at my watch and the corner where the shuttle turns my way.

Once in the bus, a ride to different worlds begin. Last week’s in particular, there were three groups around me. I sat right next to the back exit, because unlike most of the people around me, my trip wasn’t as long. There were two girls sitting across from me. They were speaking Russian. I had heard my wife enough to know which language, but not enough to know what they were saying. They caught me staring, and I smiled shyly, wishing I could have asked where they came from and what classes they were taking.

The guys in front of me, three of them, were speaking French. They were talking about the beach, I knew that much- “Plage.” But their words were too quick for my slow brain, and I couldn’t ever catch more than a word or two- but never full sentences.

A couple behind me, speaking Japanese, seemed to be arguing about something. I didn’t catch anything they said because I have never had any contact with the language… Perhaps something I could correct in the future. Whatever it was, he talked more than she did. Before I knew it, my stop was sneaking upon me.

I stepped outside the bus and I thought of all these people I’ll never meet. I’ll never know their stories, or their classes- yet we were still sharing a ride, a space together, for about 15 minutes…

-MTO


Define Obvious: The Problem With Making Everything Business-Related

As a person who is in a stable same-sex relationship, I have never been curious to know what was life like in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As a student, I am a little curious.

As a student, I want to learn. I strongly believe that every little thing I learn will somehow help me in the future- even if it may not seem like it at first. When I go to class, I am eager to find people like me- people willing and wanting to engage in a discussion about the current mistrust of the US by its European allies or the California budget crisis. I would even settle for anything other topic as long as it’s not Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan related. However this is hardly the case.

Most of the people I have met so far seem to be more interested in their time off, college parties and anything that doesn’t include a textbook. And I’m not talking about what they’d want to do in their actual time off but what they’d rather be doing at all times. These people can hardly be called students. And that’s just the thing, they aren’t.

In a suffering economy where necessary things are way above reach of the minimum-wage earner, a Bachelor’s degree is no longer for those aspiring to immerse themselves in a world of academia, but rather for those who want a shot at a decent life (given the general consensus that a Bachelor’s degree equals a higher-paying job). But if most of the people in a classroom are only interested in passing with the minimum amount of work, how would this affect what education stands for? Not for learning but a business game where you try to maximize your output (a higher-paying job) while minimizing your input (read little if at all, work less, etc.)? But more importantly, how does this affect those who are actually trying to learn?

I give the last question a bigger emphasis because if at least some people are doing the work, it’s better than no people doing the work. For me the answer was obvious. I’ve had classes where the professors constantly tried to pacify the students by assuring them that the material isn’t too complicated and that they shouldn’t worry too much about it. This made me worry. I got confused. I didn’t understand why my classmates were so freaked out. It made me freak out. Being in this environment made me lose confidence of my own academic skills. I was becoming average.

I am not, by any means, trying to put blame on anyone for my academic performance. I am saying that a classroom mostly full of people worried about a test that is supposed to measure what the people in the classroom should already know, will have an effect on the little percentage of people who weren’t worried at first. This is not an ideal classroom environment. This environment should rather show a room mostly full of confident people. People who will soon be the ones taking over the majority of the US population. I gotta admit that I am not sure if I’d want any of the people in my class to be in charge of my civilian rights- at least not if their current major concern is who’s bringing the booze tonight.

Environment isn’t the only problem though. Here’s another scenario: I am currently considering Nuclear Terrorism as something I would like to do research on for my departmental honors thesis. I came up to my Foreign Policy professor the other day and asked him if he knew any other professor I could talk to about my research project (since he is a visiting professor and can’t commit to help me for a year). He gave me a name. I went back to where I was sitting and asked a classmate if she knew him. She said she didn’t. But another girl nearby who heard our conversation said she did. I asked her what she thought of him- hoping to gain some inside about what kind of material he presented, his lectures, and knowledge in the subject. Her answer? “You gotta do the work, if not, he’ll fail you.” My thoughts? It’s a class, of course you’ll fail if you don’t do the work. My actual answer? “Cool, thanks.”

I’d like to think that she’s the only one on campus who feels this way. Yet she isn’t. My fellow classmates are always looking for a way out. Always looking to minimize input- and they’re getting pretty damn good at it. Education shouldn’t be a business. We need educated people doing jobs that affect other people’s lives- not slackers barely passing with minimum knowledge.


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