Saturday, April 30, 2011

Maybe I'll Just Stop Trying

     Age discrimination affects every aspect of my life. Every time I walk into a store, I imagine getting kicked out by some brilliant employee who thinks I'm shoplifting. When I eat a restaurant, I make sure it's me who tells the waiter what I want, not my mom. Today, when my family went out to lunch, I kept my elbows off the table and even put my napkin on my lap.
     Today, I went to my cousins wedding reception at a giant greenhouse sort of place with all sorts of exotic flowers. I went out on the large balcony with two of my cousins. They're in seventh and second grade, but since their family isn't exactly known for their height, they look a lot younger than that. A lady who worked there came out and said, "You kids need to get back inside with your parents.*" We weren't doing anything wrong. We weren't even touching the precious plants.
     I did what she asked, even saying "sorry" for whatever horrible wrongdoings we had commited. But I was angry and frusturated. No matter how how hard I try, the adults won't see me any differently. So why bother?
     Maybe the best way to present yourself as an equal is to not backdown (but not rudely). The next time something like this happens, I'll ask why. If they give me a straight, reasonable answer, I'll obey.
But not before then.

*Not exact quote

Friday, April 29, 2011

Malaysian Teens Face Prejudice

There is a statistics tool on on blogger that organizes pageviews by country. I've noticed an increase in views from Malaysia, so I thought I should blog about Malaysian youth. A little bit of research really opened my eyes to the severe prejudice young Malaysians are afflicted with.
     The Youth Society and Youth Development Act consideres anybody between the ages of 15 and 40 as youth, which makes me wonder who's doing the considering, especially since the average Malaysian life span is 74.39 years. I don't see how much of a difference anybody can make if they wait to act until the last thirty years of their life. This emphasizes how people everywhere in the world should take action while young.
     Have you ever types the words  'Malaysian teenagers' into google? You get 2, 570, 000 results. This from the search engine that can come up with 92,200,000 websites in response to the word 'mango.' As I scanned through the search results, many of them seemed to be negative. Next I tried 'Malaysian teenagers making a difference' and couldn't really find anything pertinent. I did, however, find one small web article about a video making camp for Malaysian teenagers. Youth journalist Wan Su-Ann is quoted saying, “People always say that teens are meant to be seen and not heard. “I have the very strong urge to tell people that we are teens, we have our opinions and we want the world to know.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Feel Like Writing a Poem Today

We've been here longer
And so we are right
And you will be wrong
When you put up a fight.
You've been here longer
And shaped yesterday
But our ideas will
Shape tomorrow, today.
We've been here longer
And that makes us wise
That means you're stupid
So we must advise
You've had your time so
Today is our day
We'll act for ourselves
Despite what you say


Monday, April 25, 2011

Teens and Technology

     Hey, everybody! Did you know that sometimes, kids know more about technology than adults????!!!!!!
     Sorry for that. I have to recognize that some of my readers might be living under rocks. Or have recently emerged from a twenty-year coma. Anyways, welcome to storytime:
     Once upon a time, that time being 1968, there lived a twelve-year-old boy. Let's call him Bill, since that's his name. One day, Bill's class went on a field trip to see a confusing new invention: the computer. With instructions from a teacher, he sat down and typed out a few instructions. Lo and behold, the bulky machine actually did what he wanted! Bill was in love. Soon, he knew more than his teachers about computers.
       But with most love comes trouble. Bill and his friends got in plenty of trouble. They cut classes and didn't turn in homework because they were sitting in the school's computer lab, writing programs and playing games. Even worse, they used up all the school's computer time in a few weeks. Then they crashed the computer company's network. Then fixed it. Then crashed it again. The company tried to secure it. The kids hacked it.
     When the company's executives realized how smart the students were, they hired the students to fix the weaknesses in the system. Bill spent all his time with computers now, which worried his parents. They told him to stop working with computers for a while. Ah, the pangs of forbidden love! He listened for almost a year. Then he came back with dynamic force. By the time he graduated from high school at seventeen, he was a world-class computer expert. That was before he was even legally an adult.
    So why is it that teenagers so often know more about technology than teachers and parents? Maybe it's because they were born into a world of text messages and touch screens. Their parents were not. Maybe it's because they aren't as busy as their parents. Maybe it's because they take the time to figure stuff out.
     Just today, my mom was helping my younger brother write a report and told me to print off some pictures for him. She had found the pictures and downloaded them, but she wasn't sure what to do from there. Neither was I. I normally right-click and click print. But for some reason, that wasn't working today. So while she was busy helping my brother with the writing part, I figured the computer out. Either one us could have done it, but she was doing something else.
     People seriously underappreciate just how smart teenagers are. The world is a technical place now, and teenagers have the keys at their key-tapping fingertips.
     Quote of the Day: "I knew more (about computers) than he did for the first day, but only the first day."
      -Bill Gates's math teacher

Thursday, April 21, 2011


     Most of us will never do even one of the following in our lifetime:
  • Get shipwrecked on a deserted island 
  • Stumble across $600 worth of gold
  • Talk to our country's chief military leader
  • View our own tombstone
  • Become a samurai
  • Change our name-twice
  • Sail halfway around the world-twice
  • Drastically change the world
     Manjiro did  all this and more.
     In the 1630's, the leaders of Japan decided to cut of contact with other countries so they could keep order in Japan. Leaving the country was punishable by death. In the isolated two hundred years that followed, Japan developed a strict form of feudalism, dividing everybody into social classes. Your class determined everything-that food you ate, the clothes you wore, how you made your living, and even your name. Manjiro, the son of peasants, ranked rock bottom. He had no hope of going to school, since his father had died and his mother was too poor to send him to the Buddhist temple for lessons. On January 5, 1841, Manjiro went on a fishing trip with four friends. In the first six days, the tiny crew caught nothing at all. On the seventh, huge waves washed away most of their oars and snapped their rudder. They were stranded on a rocky island far from shore. To survive, they killed albatross and drank rainwater from the hollows of rocks. After six months of this, they spotted a ship far away. The others hesitated, but Manjiro swam towards it. He and his friends were taken aboard the John Howland, a whaling ship that had sailed all the way from Massachusetts.
     William Whitfield, the ship's captain, was impressed by Manjiro. He was brave, strong, and wanted to learn everything. Manjiro's four Japanese companions got off when the ship reached Hawaii, but he stayed on until they docked in New England, he took on the name John Mung and enrolled in school, determined to learn everything he could so he could introduce Japan to modern ideas and machines. But to introduce Japan, he would have to get back their first. And  to do that, he would need money. So John went west to California. One day, he found a glittering, egg-sized nugget. He buried it in the ground, sat on it all night, and the next day sold it for six hundred dollars so he could buy a boat.
     In January 1851, ten years after he first set out for sea, Manjiro neared the Japanese coast. After landing, they saw a sign that said:
     "The sending of ships to any foreign country is hereby forbidden. Anyone who secretly enters into a ship is later detected will be put to death. Any person who leaves the country to go to another and later returns, then he, too, shall meet meet with the same fate."
     Manjiro was found and taken to a local official, who took him to a higher official. He was questioned by authorities again and again for the next two years. He even told his story to the shogun, Japan's military leader.  He became a hatamoto, a samurai who directly served the shogun. Higher class people like the samurai had two names, so he called himself Nakahama, after his village. Nakahama Manjiro is believed to have influenced Japanese officials to open up and trade with Americans. Think of all the great things Japan has given the world-cars, phones, Nintendo (who could live without it?), even instant ramen, the staple food of college students everywhere. Where it not for Manjiro, who decided in his teenage years to change the world, the world might be a very different place.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teach, Don't Preach

     Two years ago, my parents gave me a book called Words You Should Know in High School to improve my writing skills. I found it very useful, interesting, and sometimes even funny. However, some of the words in there are, well, duh quality. Some of the words included were mortal, inspiration, vanity, even acronym. Even worse are the example sentences, many of which are condescending towards the teenagers. These sentences include:
     I am surprised that you didn't understand that the consequences for your bad behavior would be unpalatable.
     The vagaries (meaning unpredictable, impulsive) of the teenage mind frustrates many parents, as well as teachers.
     When caught doing wrong, some teens obfuscate their explanation of events, hoping parents won't quite understand.
     Some of the the sentences are just downright rude.
     Obesity is becoming a serious issue for America's youth.
     Hello, it's a serious issue for ALL of America, along with many other countries. Besides, don't the authors realize how many millions of people who will pick up this book suffer from anorexia and other eating disorders? 50% of girls between the ages of 13 and 15 suffer from anorexia. That's one out of every thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen-year-old girls you pass each day. Don't the authors realize what a big issue self-esteem is here and now?
     In conclusion, teenagers who read this book are looking to improve their academic skills and test scores. They are not on the lookout for life lectures. This book is meant for academic use, it should stick to academic expression.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Young Adult Fiction Disappoints

     Many people wonder why teenagers don't read as much as younger or older people. Are they lazy? Stupid? Busy? Or is it because there isn't much out there worth reading?
     When I was in second grade, I discovered that the kids section of the library had chapter books in addition to picture books. After that I barely went a day without a book in my hand. I read in the car, on the bus, during lunchtime, while walking, and even during recess. When I did something wrong, I was grounded from reading. Sometimes I would read six books at once, picking up a new novel when one got boring. But now, at the age of fourteen, I don't read as much as I did in third grade.
     There are two reasons why: quantity and quality. The youth section of my local library is puny. It lines a wall and a half of the kids' area. The quality is even worse. When I was younger, I could run into the library ten minutes to closing time and find seven books I liked before then. Now I can take a half hour to scan the shelves and only find three novels I might enjoy. Many of the books in the teenagers' section were originally written for adults but were shoved down to younger readers because they weren't good enough. Also, lots of books written for children were shoved up because they were too inappropriate. I'd actually like to read something good and wholesome once in a while.
     In a few years, today's youth are going to be running the world. If we are to do a good job, we need stimulating books today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bethany Hamilton: Surfer, Survivor, and Role Model

I've been writing a lot about smart, courageous youth in history and I've decided it's time to spotlight some modern heroes, too. The new movie Soul Surfer is based on the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. On October 31, 2003, thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton was out surfing with some friends when she was attacked by a fourteen foot long tiger shark. Fortunately, she survived, but she lost her left arm.
Bethany had to train herself to do simple tasks with one arm, such as cutting fruit, pulling her hair into a ponytail, and, of course, surfing.  That must have been the most difficult part. Surfing had always been Bethany's life, and she was used to living it with both arms. Arms are very useful things to a surfer, it's hard to paddle or balance without them. But Bethany didn't give up. How could she turn her back on the only world she ever knew?
Normally I don't like "amazing handicapped person" stories. The kind that make a person out to be a hero just for living their life. Marathon runners who happen to be deaf, artists who happen to use wheelchairs, singers who happen to have heart conditions-it's insulting. No one wants to be defined by their disability, especially when it's not related to what they do. But Bethany's inspiring because she had a taste of normal life first. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it.
So she kept trying, time after time, practice after practice, wave after wave. And when she finally got it right, she didn't content herself with little rides. She has gone on to win several awards, including the ESPN Best Comeback Athlete. She has inspired millions of people around the world, many of them with physical struggles themselves. Thank-you, Bethany, for staying strong and showing us all what we can do!

Friday, April 8, 2011


     "Stupid teenagers!"
     Who hasn't heard this before? It's an ever-present phrase in a society with growing prejudice against youth. Retail workers will glare suspiciously at large groups of teens roaming the aisles. At the first thought, these glares seem to be justified. After all, 25% of shoplifters are below  the age of eighteen. But stop and do the math and you will discover that 75% are adults. That means that there are three times as many adults pocketing merchandise as youth. Now stop to think about what they're stealing. Teenagers mostly steal for the thrill. They take small things, like Skittles and lip gloss. It would be very hard for them to getaway with a stolen iPod. After all, they have parents to explain to. "IPod? What iPod? Oh, that one? It was, uh, lying on the side of the road?"
     Adults aren't so easily excited about the novelties of candy and cosmetics. But DVD's? Fashion accessories? Sure, why not? Nobody's going to notice. At least, not that employee keeping an eye on the highly suspicious twelve-year-old girls.
     Many teenagers find it difficult to even get admitted into a place of business. A classmate of mine went to a restaurant called Red Robin with his friends. The staff didn't take them seriously and kicked them out. Um, hello, you just lost several paying customers.
     Really, teenagers are just as human as adults or children, and just as deserving of human rights. Age isn't some grand accomplishment and youth is not a sin. Let's try to be more tolerant.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Big One Hundred

This blog has now been viewed one hundred times by people in both America and China. Yeah!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Teenagers Who Changed the World: Part Four

     Think back to the last time you opened a history book. Try to remember who you read about. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln. For some reason, all you ever hear about is the heroics of adults. History teachers go on and on about Columbus, but did they ever tell you about Diego Bermudez, a teenager who sailed with him? Or his brother, Juan, for whom Bermuda is named?
     They lecture about many of the adults involved in the Revolutionary War, but what about Christopher Seider (eleven) whose death triggered the Boston Massacre and Samuel Mavericak (seventeen) who died in it?What about Joseph Plumb Martin, who joined the American army at the age of fourteen? What about Sybil Ludington (sixteen), who warned the local militia of attacking redcoats? (See Teenagers Who Changed the World: Part One for more information) What about Mary Redmond, John Darragh, and Dicey Langston, teenage spies for the colonies? What about Deborah Sampson, the sixteen-year-old girl who disguised herself as a man and joined the rebel army?
     The Civil War was also fought by young people, including Elisha Stockwell (fifteen), drummer boy Johnny Clem (nine), and prisoners of war Billy Bates and Dick King (fourteen and eighteen).
     It is not right to pretend that wars were all won by adults. Next time you're in history class, see if your teacher has ever heard of these heroes. Chances are, they haven't. That's why it's up to us to remember them.