Thursday, December 22, 2011

Teen Stereotypes

I was at a neighborhood Christmas party with about twenty people whose ages ranged from ten to seventy-three. My friend and I were sitting at a table with two adults. She was talking about all the car crash  videos she watched in her drivers ed class and how most of them involved texting. For some reason, everybody associated teenagers with car crashes. That is logical-a 16 year old has less driving experience than a 56 year old. While I was on this train of thought, I  said, "Adults have so many stereotpyes about teenagers."
The adults looked surprised. One woman said, "Do we?"
Hmm...let's see. According to stereotype, all teenagers are about sixeteen years old. Go to google images. How many of those kids look thirteen? All of us have about fifty piercings and tattoos on our faces alone. All of us. That's because all of us are gangsters. We all use drink, smoke, use drugs, text, and crash cars. At the same time, because we are a generation of multitaskers.  That's just how we live. All we do is go to school and then go home to singlehandedly support the video game industry.
Oh, and most importantly, we're always wrong. The exact same words that would be a joke from a child, a casual statement from another adult, and astoundingly clever if you said it, are sarcasm when we talk.
I think there's a little more to teenagers. Stories about teenaged gangsters crashing cars are usually the only ones that make headlines next to adult politicians and adult criminals. Most people who aren't directly involveved with teenagers on a regular basis don't bother to look beyond the bad and into the realm of normality.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Teens of the Year

If you've rallied against the government in the Arab Spring or occupied Wall Street (or Tokyo, or Oakland, or London) you have something in common with JFK, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mark Zuckerburg.
Congratulations. You are Time Magazine's Person of the Year. You (and your buddies) have played a greater roll in shaping 2011 than any human being on the planet. At least according to Time.
Let's take a look at some of the teenage protesters who share this honor.
Hamza Ali al-Kahteeb (13) and Tamer Mohammed al-Sharei (15)

This is Hamza. He and Tamer were tortured and killed in seperate incidents after they protested against inhumane conditions in Syria and the reign of President Assad. He's obviously going to pushed out eventually. I just wish Assad would hurry up so we can stop the shed of innocent blood and check off Syria on the same list as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. If anybody deserves this recognition, they do. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Alec Loorz, 16
An old Dutch proverb says, "We don't inherit the world from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children."
Alec Loorz is passionate about both saving the environment and empowering youth. Everybody knows they're supposed to care for the world, but Alec is taking it far beyond recycling and carpooling. He's suing the government-not for money-but to reduce CO2 emission 6% every year until it disappears entirely. He believes they are responsible for overpollution and overdevelloping the planet that rightfully belongs to our generations and those to follow.  Loorz says:
"I believe this revolution needs to be led by youth. It’s our future we’re fighting for, and we are some of the most creative, dedicated, and passionate people on the planet. We have the moral authority to look into our parents and leaders eyes and ask them, “Do I matter to you?”
Also, as youth, we are the last group of people in the United States who don’t have any official political rights. We can’t vote, and we certainly can’t compete with rich corporate lobbyists, so we are forced to simply trust our government to make good decisions on our behalf.
The time has come for the youngest generation to hold our leaders accountable for their actions."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teenager Escapes Terrorists

Kevin Lunsmann, Come home safe.
Kevin (left) and a friend try on interesting coats prior to his kidnapping.

Kevin should have spent the summer wandering around the mall with friends. He should have started school in August and suffered through the same boring classes as everybody else. But this July, Kevin was vacationing with relatives in the Phillipines. He was probably looking forward to sunshine and a vacation he could brag about to his friends at home. Not terrorists for sure.
On July 12, Kevin and his relatives were kidnapped by terrorists with connections to al-Qaida. His captors called their family in Virginia to demand a ransom. When paid, only his mother was released. She stayed in the Phillipines to help free her son. His cousin escaped last month with help from the Filipino military. And so Kevin was left alone.
Not knowing if he would ever be released, he took matters into his own hands. He convinced four armed captors he was going down to the river to bathe. Kevin ran for his life-alone, hungry, exhausted, and shoeless in a foreign jungle-until he came upon a village. Unsure if the villagers were friendly, he ran from them to before they were able to convince him they didn't want to hurt him. They got him to officials, who helped him contact his parents and friends.

Kevin discusses his escape with Filipino soldiers.

When asked if a ransom had been paid, which would violate Filipino policy, Kevin said, "No, I really did it myself." The boy's father says, "I only know he is a hero and I'm so happy he escaped.
Alec Dement, Kevin's best friend, says "I’ve just been basically depressed every day,” he said. “I didn’t really talk to anybody for like three weeks." He can't wait for him to come home. “I just want to give him a hug and hang out with him for a couple of days straight."
After his dramatic escape from terrorists, Kevin will be home for Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rules Are Changing

Everybody knows the internet rules. Don't mention where you live. Don't tell anybody your last name. While you're at it, don't even give them your real first name. Don't talk to people online if you've never met them in reality. Never, ever, meet an online friend in reality.
But the rules are changing. When you think about it, those rules came into existence when online communication meant chatrooms and, for the kiddies, virtual worlds like Club Penguin. Does anybody really use chatrooms anymore? They've given away to social networking sites. Chatting is fun, but it's more fun when you can add pictures and search for long-lost friends. With facebook, you have to put your full name on your page, otherwise nobody knows who the heck you are.
As for meeting in person, a survey of 10,000 couples taken back in 2008 reported that 14% of married couples surveyed met online. That isn't to say you should meet any random internet friend in person and then get in a car with them. Lots of these couples probably met on safe dating networks.
Personally, I think it's okay to use your real name when you're leaving a comment on  an online article or facebook page. All the kidnapping stories I've heard happened after a predator took several months to build up a relationship online. None of them snatched some random girl who put her first and last name on her facebook page which  they used to track her down.
There's no doubt the internet has changed in the past five or so years. The rules have evolved along with them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is Math Really Worth It?

Last year, middle school math looked like this: seventh grade math, pre-algebra, algebra one, geometry, and algebra two. Most seventh graders were put it seventh grade math and moved up each year. Students who were more comfortable with math would start in pre-algebra or algebra one if they were extremely nerdy in the advanced program.
Then some genius decided we should learn algebra and geometry all at once. Now we have normal seventh grade math, seventh grade honors math, etc. I'm sure the genius had his/her reasons, but after a few months living the math program I've noticed a few mistakes.
Problem #1: It holds back more advanced students. I'm in ninth grade, but some of our lessons come out of the book I was using in seventh grade.
Problem #2: There's no textbook. The idiots who changed the curriculum smart people are still working on it. It'll come out next year. We could have waited until next year to change it up, just saying. The fancy new curriculum covers material from three different books, so the teachers haven't even bothered distributing them. We can't even look through one for reference because we don't know what book or unit we're in or where to find the information we need. Ask the teacher, you say? We can't because
Problem #3: teachers are writing their own worksheets, so the information isn't coming from the books in the first place. 
Problem #4: If there's no book, parents can't help. They may have learned f(x)=3^x into -f(x+5/6) in school, but that was a long time ago and it's hard to remember something you don't use in everyday life. 
Problem #5: We'll start a unit by learning how to write some new kind of equation or inequality. That very day, we'll get a worksheet, correct it tomorrow, and then learn how to add it. Take home that worksheet, sweat over it, and come back tomorrow to learn how to subtract. Then we cover multiplying, dividing, graphing, and naming the properties. It's guess it's efficient to swallow a concept a day, but the rules for multiplying get jumbled up with the addition rules until you can't remember which is which.
 Problem #6: Because of the concept-a-day method, you can't google 'solving transformations on linear functions' and find the rules for the specific concept you covered today. You can't just ask the teacher how to do it tomorrow, because by then everybody has moved on. 
The math system is frustrating at best and agonizing at worst.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Policy for Policy's Sake

Every school I've heard of has a long list of banned stuff-miniskirts, ipods, alcohol, missle launchers, etc. But some of it just seems ridiculous. Two years ago, my school placed ban on knitted headbands. They cover the ears, so they qualify as hats. That just doesn't make sense to me. The whole reason hats are banned is because they're associated with gangs. I guess that makes sense if you're from Chicago, but my school is in a rinky dinky settlement they call a city because it's to big to qualify as a small town.  I've never even heard of any gang activity going on in my 'city'.
You have to admit, she makes one very scary gangster.
Hats are only one small part of the dress code, but for some reason they're the one teachers and principals pay the most attention to. I've seen people come to school day after day with sagging pants, holey underwear, and shirts that don't leave a lot to imagination. But forget to remove your hood (yep, that's a hat too) fifteen seconds after you walk through the doors and the principal is barking at you to take it off.
Other schools have banned stupid things. In 2010, an eight-year-old boy in Rhode Island was told to take off a hat he made to honor troops. Not because the hat was a hat, but because it was covered with 'weapons', or so the school policy said.

Then there are the books. When I think of banned books, I think of racist books or novels about things I can't mention because my mom reads this. Not Harry Potter, The Giver, Where's Waldo?, A Wrinkle in Time, and James and the Giant Peach.  Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are constantly under fire because of racist language, which is kind of ironic because they were written to fight racism.
School rules are supposed to protect students, but you can't help wondering if they're blindly following policy for the sake of correctness, rather than the safety issues behind the rules in the first place.