Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
May 9, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #13 – Journal

As much as I wanted to present my paper today, I'm not going to be able to do it. I'm well on my way to completing it, but I truly doubt that it will be done by the time I leave here this morning at 7:30. I think my problem is that I chose something that has so many angles that I had trouble focusing and narrowing it down. Right now, I'm concentrating on two stories: swine flu (hard) and Elizabeth Edwards speaking out about her husband's affair (soft). Just these two topics, however, is not so black and white. Some of the experts feel that sensationalized news is soft news, which this certainly is. Going by this standard, there is less hard news than I thought! A few weeks ago, we had the Somalian pirate story, before that the Italian earthquake, and on and on -- all serious stories to begin with, that were sensationalized. Even Hurricane Katrina fits into this category.
Well, this is where I'm at. Since I haven't done my journal yet, I'll put essentially what I've written here, as my journal. It will probably be word for word, too, as I realize this is the type of thinking that should go into the journal.

Journal – Week 12
I made a lot of headway on my draft, but not enough. I’m going to be embarrassed to show what I’ve done. I overdid the research so much that I didn’t leave enough time to get it all together. I know this paper, as it is now, will need lots and lots of editing. I’m glad I have something done, but I’m not happy with it at all. I know how it’s going to end up, so I pretty much know what’s going to go in the conclusion; it’s just the stuff in between that I have to deal with.
I don’t know why, but it was very hard for me to come up with the introduction. Instead of wasting so much time trying to force something to come to me, I probably should have skipped it and then come back to it at some other point in time. If I had done this, I might have had a decent draft to turn in at this point. I have to remember, that this is a draft and not the final product – yet! I need to practice, but the way it is now, I think the paper is way too long. Considering that I watched over 13 newscasts for a total of over 14-1/2 hours, I shouldn’t be surprised. And I haven’t even watched the PBS news nor have I studied too closely the newspapers. I was hoping to do a week’s worth of the newspapers, but it looks like that’s going to be cut down considerably.

Journal – Week 12
I was wrong when I thought I was almost done with the experimental phase of my project. When I was going over my notes, I saw that there should be more angles to the research that I should touch upon. Unfortunately, I erased the news shows that I recorded and I had to start all over again – not just once – but twice! You would have thought that I would have learned my lesson the first time I erased the shows. I did it again! Each time, I erased the shows thinking for sure that I had enough information. I think I have learned my lesson! Let’s hope! I have my DVRs set to record this morning’s news on CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. I hope it records – sometimes the technology doesn’t always work.
So far, I’m not really seeing anything that says my hypothesis is true, though depending on when the news show is aired, there is more soft news than at other times. For instance, “The Today Show” has more soft news in half-an-hour (the second half-hour) than “NBC’s Nightly News.” Still, I’m finding there is more hard than soft news, with one exception – ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Hopefully, this weekend, I will get to the point where I’m just refining my project rather than still creating it. I need to practice so I can do a good presentation. I hope the kids won’t be too bored with it. That’s a big fear of mine. It’s not like they’re coming willingly to hear a presentation on “Hard News v. Soft News.” These kids are coming from a different place than I am.
That’s all for now!

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
April 18, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #11 – Journal

Journal – Week 11
I think I’m almost done with the “experimental” phase of my project and am almost to the point where I can put the information together and put to paper my findings. I might have gotten in over my head with this project. I thought I would be a lot further along with it than I am. There are so many aspects involved in broadcast and print news. I was going to include cable news in my project but I found that too overwhelming for the time I have to work on the project. I will include a few sentences about cable news as well mentions of other sources of news, but they won’t be the main focus.
I had to shift my focus on this project. I was going to go at the project from the angle that the evening news programs increasingly covered more soft news and covered less hard news. From my observations, I saw this was not true. On all the broadcasts I watched, they only covered soft news for about two to two-and-a-half minutes each night. So, I started my experiment all over again, with a focus toward foreign news coverage. While I’m typing this, I think I see a way to make my original idea of soft news work. I’ll decide this weekend which way I’m going to go.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
April 18, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #11 – Exercise

A Passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Modern English
A. Jim, do you have any spiders in here?
No, thankfully I do not, Tom.
All right, then we will get some for you.
Thanks anyway, but I don’t want any, as I am afraid of them. I would rather have rattlesnakes than spiders.
Tom thought for a minute or two, and said, “That is a good idea. And I believe has been done already. It is reasonable to think it must have been done before. Yes, that is a very good idea. Where would you keep it?
Keep what, Tom?
A rattlesnake, of course.
No way, Tom! If a rattlesnake were to come in here, I would burst through that log wall with my head.
Jim, after a little while, you would not be afraid of it. You could tame it.
Tame it?
Yes, that would be easy to do.
In the original version of this passage, Jim spoke through his voice as the slave that he was. Typically, slaves were uneducated, so they did not know how to speak properly. Tom, on the other hand, spoke through the voice of a young boy who was somewhat educated, but still had a lot to learn about the proper use of words.
By changing the language into Standard American English, the flavor of the passage is lost. When reading the revised version, it seems like an ordinary conversation between a man and a young boy. There is nothing special about the dialogue between the two.
I prefer the original dialogue. When they were speaking, I visualized a young boy, full of energy, who wanted to know if Jim had some spiders. As Jim is a runaway slave, I see him as a big, muscular black man who was probably wearing bib overalls that were dirty and scuffed-up, worn shoes.
Since Jim is a runaway slave, I picture him as being one who worked out in the fields, so I am visualizing a place that has a country feel to it – a place where there are no paved roads – where it’s hot and dusty. Jim and Tom are probably off the beaten path, as Jim is a runaway.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
April 4, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 9 – Journal

Week #9
We had a good session with Patrick last week. He helped me with the focus of my project to make it a lot more manageable. In my outline, I started to spread out in too many directions, so we pared it down quite a bit.
My project is starting to come together, but I’ve got a long, long way to go. I’ve done part of the experimental stage of my project, but I may have to do some more. A couple of my slides are done and some text, too, but it doesn’t make too much sense in this very, very, very rough form.
Today, I’m having lots of “Eureka” moments. The first one was when I was rushing around getting ready for work and all of the sudden these ideas started to come to me about my project. I had to stop getting ready for work to write the ideas down. Then, at work, I had to stop working quite a few times because I had to write some ideas down. These ideas came to me while I was going about my everyday boring duties. Once I get home, I’ll see if these ideas pan out. I sure hope that they do.
I’m a bit frustrated because I came across a study on the Internet that would be great reference material for my project, but I neglected to make note of the URL and now that I want it, I just can’t find it anywhere. I stumbled upon it twice a couple of weeks ago and I tried all the search terms I could think of, but no luck. This will teach me not to at least copy down the link.
I can’t believe we’re coming down to the wire for this semester. The time really flew by! I’m not sure what I’m going to take next semester. Hopefully, I’ll have a new job and I can take more than one class. I was hoping to be able to take a class during each of the summer sessions, but I don’t think that’s practical right now. From what I can see, these classes take place every day and, with my work schedule the way it is now, it just wouldn’t work. Unless there’s absolutely no outside work to do with the class, it would be impossible for me to keep up.
That’s all for now.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
March 28, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 8 – Journal

I’m finally done with the midterm! I got the assessment back on it and I’m sure that there are quite a few errors in the answer key. Two of the answers don’t even show up in the answer key, even though they’re shown clear as day on the test itself. Luckily I printed out the test before I got it assessed. Even though it was open book, it wasn’t easy.
I had a thought while I re-watched 12 Angry Men. Why was Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda) willing to change his vote in an hour if the vote still stood at 11 – 1. Why wouldn’t he have stood strong if he really believed there was room for reasonable doubt? That didn’t make sense to me.
I am working on no sleep in the last 24 hours and I’m totally exhausted. I hope I don’t fall asleep in class today. It’s been a rough week at work – I’m doing trial prep for one of the attorneys and she didn’t seem to get that I need to get home to finish taking my exam.
Well, I better go and get ready for school.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
March 21, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 7 – Chapter 10 Arguments

1. Dennis was outraged by the fact that a person was unjustly sentenced to fifteen years in prison for possessing marijuana. He reasoned that in most states people convicted of violent crimes like armed robbery, rape, or murder didn’t receive 15 years. And unlike the possession of marijuana, these crimes violate the rights of other people.

This is not a valid argument. Unless Dennis has taken the time to really study his claims about convictions of violent crime in most states, he can’t make this statement with authority. Marijuana does violate the rights of others. Studies by groups like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proven that marijuana impairs judgment and reaction time. If you get behind the wheel of a car while impaired by marijuana use, you are violating the rights of others by posing a risk to their safety.

2. In response to Dennis’ position, Caroline agreed that fifteen years was extreme. No mention of how much marijuana was possessed. Was it a whole warehouse full, or just a joint? Depending on the answer, a fifteen year sentence might be appropriate. Caroline made a sweeping generalization about the dangers of drug use. She brought up overdoses, which are irrelevant. Harder drugs like cocaine and heroin are more closely associated with overdoses. How many people have died from marijuana use? Does marijuana use lead to a life a crime? Where is the evidence? I couldn’t find any. Caroline’s arguments are invalid.

3. Dennis has a point with his assertion that it’s not right to make an example of someone. Maybe morally it’s not right, but it happens all the time. If you’re a federal government worker, oftentimes the federal judges don’t look too kindly on you if you break the law. Let’s say, you’re an IRS worker in the District of New Jersey and you don’t file your taxes and you get caught. When you come up in front of a federal judge in the District of New Jersey, you will most likely get a harsher sentence than an ordinary citizen who doesn’t file his taxes. In my line of work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, where I assist on a lot of these types of cases, I see this all the time. The judge, when he passes the harsher sentences to government workers, will comment and have put into the record the fact that government workers are to be held to a higher standard and therefore an example will be made of them.

Did Dennis take a poll of society when he said they believed in justice? There are plenty examples of injustices. Is it just for someone who is killed just because he happens to be wearing the wrong color? Is it just to be told you can’t live here because you are the wrong color? Is it just to be told you can’t be married because you and your partner are the same sex? Dennis means well, but he’s off the mark.

4. Caroline’s reasoning doesn’t hold here. She’s generalizing too much by saying that something that’s bad for you shouldn’t be legal. Marijuana isn’t totally bad for everyone. There are some bad side effects, like head and neck cancer that come from habitual use of marijuana, but there are also proven benefits for glaucoma and cancer patients. Making it illegal for all would hurt a lot of people.

5. Dennis has somewhat of a point about alcohol and cigarettes being bad for you, but not illegal. But, he’s wrong about marijuana not being a threat to our health. As I mentioned before, impaired judgment can cause accidents, which could be a risk to your health and the health of others. Also, studies show head and neck cancer risk rises among long-time users of marijuana. Some alcohol in moderation can be a good thing. Driving under the influence of alcohol is absolutely a threat to your and others’ health, but drinking alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to your health.

6. Caroline went a little far in her argument about cigarettes and alcohol not being good for you and maybe they shouldn’t be legal. Cigarettes she might be right about, as I couldn’t find any positive contributions they make to your health. At the same time, many studies show that drinking wine in moderation can add years to your life and benefit your health greatly.

7. Dennis is right, there are risks everywhere you turn, but he doesn’t clearly back up his premise that 70% of people in the United States think that marijuana should be legalized. He makes a vague reference to something he read somewhere, but he’s not specific.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
March 21, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 7 – Journal

Week #7

After a few days of trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the mini-research project, I’ve settled on a topic. This is a big relief. Now I’ve got to figure out a schedule to do the “experimental” phase of this project. I did a dry run last night and I see I will probably have to come up with another time of day to do this. I also may have to slightly adjust the number of days I set aside to do this part of my paper. If I devote the time I originally planned, it won’t leave me enough time to do the writing and researching I need to do.

When this assignment was first given, I thought at first I might like to focus on Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s statement about loving the rich people who shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants. I thought about how great it would be to gather information that would prove that poor people also shop in the stores.

I then thought about how I would to go to a grocery store or two to survey the shoppers. Next, I thought about what question or questions I would ask in my survey. In order to get a feel for what the shoppers’ economic status was, I’d actually have to ask them how much money they make.

Next, I started to wonder if I could actually pull this off. I then decided that this would not work. Besides the fact that I would be scared to death to approach a stranger like this, it’s just not appropriate to be asking what a person’s economic status is. You might be able to get away with this if you do a blind survey that’s completely anonymous, but it just won’t work with a face-to-face survey. It took me a little while to refocus on another topic, but I finally came up with one that I think will work out for me.

It looks like I’ll be very busy with this class during the next week. Not only do I have to start on this project, I’ll have to make time to do the tests that are on Blackboard. Since these tests require some thought on my part, I’m going to have to figure out when best to do them. I can’t just sit down and breeze through them in 10 minutes.

I feel I’m getting a lot out of this class. I am starting to see that for me to get anywhere in life, I have to have a plan. For the most part, things just don’t fall into place and I have to figure out how I’m going to get from “point A” to “point B.” If I want my life to go in a certain direction, I have to map out the steps I need to take to get there.

I have to get ready for work, so I’ll end here for now.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
March 14, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 6 – Journal

Week #6
I feel like what the person in the “procrastination” essay must have felt like when she (or was it a “he?”) put off important things to the last minute and was very stressed out about it. I haven’t put anything off, but I’m very anxious because I haven’t been able to do the quiz yet. Blackboard has been down for a few days, so it hasn’t even been posted yet. As I am normally pretty easygoing, I’ve never thought of myself as an anal retentive personality. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t always the case. When it comes to doing class assignments, I’m not so relaxed. I like to allow myself the most time possible to do the best work that I can on any given assignment. I know there’s nothing I can do right now about taking this quiz, but I still don’t like not having the control over it.

My father came for a very brief visit this past weekend. He arrived on Saturday night and left at about 2:00 on Sunday afternoon. My father always knocks himself out for me and overdoes it. He brought with him an LCD television for me. While I am very appreciative that he did this, he shouldn’t have. I would so much rather that he spend his money on himself. For whatever time he has left (I hope it’s a long, long time), I want him to enjoy his life. He hasn’t had much joy over the past five years, but I want him to try to have a good time.

Before my brother died, he led a very interesting life that took him to just about every corner of the earth. For instance, for a couple of summers he went to Vietnam to teach English to the nuns. Then there was the time he went digging for diamonds in Venezuela. When I was a kid, he built a helicopter that he sold to the president of the Dominican Republic.

My father has been a terrific grandfather to my son, his only grandchild, Kevin. When Kevin was 15, my father took him to Europe for the entire summer. They took the Eurorail all over the place and stopped in countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, just to name a few. They slept in hostels and on barges that sailed the waters. Just as my father has always been there for his kids, he has always been there for Kevin. It’s a good thing, too, because Kevin’s own father has been an absentee father.

I just found out last week that a good friend of our family’s, Flo Clark, passed away last July. Flo was a great lady. I feel very guilty that I didn’t do more to keep in touch with her. I last spoke to her in February 2008, when I first moved back to New York, and she said wasn’t feeling so great. I chalked it up to her being 89 years old. She was gone five months later.

When my son tried to call Flo this past week, he got a recording that said “I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is not in service at this time.” I was hoping that Flo had gone to see one of her many brothers or sisters and temporarily disconnected the phone. But that turned out not to be the case. I went online to Ancestry.com and typed in Flo’s name (“Florentina Clark”), and up came her name on the “Social Security Death Index.” There was also an obituary for her that came up.

Back in the late 1970s and in the 1980s, Flo looked after my two sisters and brother, while my father was at work. After they grew up, she took on Kevin in the afternoons, after school let out. While she took care of him, she tutored him in French and Spanish. They also had a great time playing Scrabble and other games.

I haven’t told my father yet. This will be another heartache for him and I just don’t want to spring it on him that Flo is no longer around. He was very, very fond of Flo. Maybe when I call him this weekend I’ll tell him. I am dreading telling him.\

I’m looking forward to seeing the St. Patrick’s Day parade next week. I haven’t seen it live since 2000. It’s always a good time. It can get pretty wild. I remember one year, I was on my way home from work and on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 88th Street there was a fireman and a policeman in a fistfight. Both were in uniform and both were obviously wasted. Nobody did anything to break up the fight. Both firemen and policemen were just standing there looking at them fight.

That’s about all for now. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to take the quiz.

I’m back. It’s 7:52 p.m. on Thursday night, and still no Blackboard. I just checked my email and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be up until maybe early Saturday morning at the earliest. It’s not looking good for the quiz. I have this nightmare of me not realizing I can access it and when I get to class I don’t have the test.

It’s almost time for “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” so I’m calling it a night. Tonight Keith is doing a story about Seymour Hersh’s allegation that Bush & Cheney set up “death squads” that reported to only them, to go into certain countries and carry out assassinations unbeknownst to the leaders of the countries they went into. If this is true, I hope President Obama won’t let this slide.

Twenty-eight minutes have elapsed since I last said I was signing off. I’m really going to do it this time, really I am! Goodnight

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
March 7, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week 5 – Journal

Week #5
It’s been a good week so far. Monday was particularly great because the office was closed down due to the snow. Yes, the federal government came to a standstill on Monday. I was so glad I didn’t have to make that trip into New Jersey.

Yesterday (Tuesday), my normal 90-minute commute turned into a 2-1/2 hour one. New Jersey Transit had all sorts of problems. This was a good thing for me. I was able to be in more than one spot for an extended time. Usually, the longest stretch that I’m sitting in one spot is 18-minutes, which is the time it takes the NJT train to get from Penn Station to Newark. Otherwise, I’m jumping on and off trains and shuttling between Grand Central, Times Square, and Penn Station.
I’m done with my essay. I thought this was a good exercise. I’m glad we got to do it at home, because I had the time to really think before I wrote. I did a bit of role playing with this essay and I had a good time with it.

I took a look at the preview for 12 Angry Men, and it looks like a good movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Watching a film to study its content will be something different for me. I usually watch a movie for the enjoyment or because I am interested in the subject. I wonder if, because I need to study the film, whether it will take any of the enjoyment that I normally get out of a film.

Well, it’s Friday. I thought I would get back to my journal before now, but I didn’t. It’s still been an okay week, but I am concerned about my father, who will be coming to see me tomorrow – he lives in Florida. I’m not sure how long he’ll be staying. He’s thinking about moving back to New York.

He’s a retired New York City policeman and he left New York in 1987 and bounced around a few places before settling in Florida. When he first left New York, he went to Stateline, NV and then to Federal Way, WA; then it was on to Florida, where he lived a couple of different places.
I’ve been trying to get all the reading done and studying the chapters for the test, but my mind has been on my father. He’s 76 and since my brother died five years ago, it’s taken a lot out of him. It seemed he aged overnight.

My father told me this past week that went to a doctor in the fall who told him he “might” have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. The doctor’s not sure, though. The thing is, we don’t have a history of Alzheimer’s in our family. And the symptoms for depression mimic those of Alzheimer’s which, considering he’s still grieving for my brother, would make more sense.

My father is still as sharp as can be. He does the NY Times crossword puzzle everyday (he gets the puzzles online). He’s very interested in current events. He was the one who told me that Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States and not John Edwards. He’s still an avid reader. He still drives and doesn’t get lost.

The only odd thing that happened was about two or three years ago, he started smoking again, after having quit the day my son was born, in 1979. I’m going to talk to my father and see if the doctor even brought up the possibility that he suffering from depression rather than having Alzheimer’s. Maybe we can get a second opinion while he’s up here.

Well, I didn’t mean to get into all this today, but this has been what’s been on my mind this week.
That’s all for now.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
February 28, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #4 – Exercise

Exercise 4.1
The setting looks like it might be in a classroom. The window looks like a window you’d find in a classroom, i.e., it has no drapes. The desk doesn’t look like a traditional classroom desk, though. Maybe it’s an ergonomic desk that will lessen the chance of stress injuries.
It seems the kid is sitting isolated from others in a corner. He looks bored and he just wants to get out of there. He could be in detention and he’s waiting to be told he can leave. As soon as he’s told he can leave, he’s going to pack up his computer and get out of there as fast as he can.
The kid’s going to go home and his mother is going to be upset that he was late getting there. He’s going to have to tell her why he was late and when he does, she’s upset and says, “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” His father will come home and yell at his son, and then he’ll tell the kid that he is grounded for a month.

Visual Thinking
The artist is saying that each witness had their own perception of the suspect due to their own biases and life experiences. They also each saw the suspect from different angles – some were taller, some were shorter, etc. The witnesses were comparing the suspect to themselves.
It occurred to me while doing this exercise that not only did the witnesses have their perceptions about the suspect, I had my own perceptions about the witnesses.

1. He was a real tall guy dressed normally. With light dry hair.
This man is short, so anyone taller than him may appear “real tall.” I think by “dressed normally,” he means he’s dressed in a suit, like himself. “Light hair” would be hair that’s lighter than his, as his appears to be very dark. The “dry” hair comment, I’m not so sure of. Maybe this guy has oily, greasy hair and the dry hair references hair without grease in it?

He was a healthy, good looking young kid, but dressed rather shabbily.
This guy is old, with glasses. Anyone younger than himself, he would consider “young.” I think this guy thinks that if you wear glasses it somehow makes you not “good looking.” The suspect is not wearing glasses, so that makes him good looking. The suspect is not wearing a tie, so he’s dressed “rather shabbily.”

He was real big and real old.
To this young child, anyone older than himself is “old” and the suspect is much taller than the kid, so to the kid the suspect is “real big.”

He was a well-dressed sort, a little overweight and with a lot of hair.
This witness is skinny, bald, and dressed very casually. Because the suspect is wearing a suit jacket and suit pants, he considers this better dressed than himself. Though the witness is skinny, he perceives that to be a normal weight, so anyone heavier than himself he would consider overweight.

He was surely a Westerner.
A man in a turban, whom I perceive to be of Arabic descent, may think that anyone with lighter skin and wearing “western” wear is a Westerner.

I remember he had a large head and he smelled funny.
The guy with a small head and a large nose would think that a normal-sized head is “large.” Perhaps, because he has such a large nose, his sense of smell is more acute, so he can smell odors that most would not ordinarily smell.

He was a scrawny little short-haired twerp from back east.
The cowboy, who is wearing western wear and is large and hefty, thinks that anyone weighing less than himself and smaller than himself is scrawny. Because the suspect was dressed as he was, the cowboy automatically thought he was an easterner.

He had dark hair and a cute nose. A real doll.
This woman is into men’s looks. She notices the facial features and whether or not he has hair.

He was a rough, furry guy with little beady eyes, probably inedible.
This thing has large eyes, is slimy and it doesn’t look like he has any teeth. The suspect’s eyes are smaller, he has hair, and because the thing has no teeth, he wouldn’t be able to eat the suspect.

Exercise 4.2

I am a 53-year-old white female who live in New York City and loves to travel, see movies and sit and relax by the East River on warm, sunny days.
I am also interested in world and U.S. history and current events. I like old historic buildings and don’t like “new” construction. I cringe every time I see an old building being brought down to make way for a new one.

I am very interested in my family history and if I could spend my days just researching my family, I’d be as happy as I could be. My passion for genealogy has led me to an idea for a book I’d like to write. The subject of my book would be Father Thomas James Synnott, the brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Ellen Synnott Walsh.

Fr. Tom, as we affectionately call him, is credited with bringing Catholicism to Connecticut. He is the one who built St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the 1860s and he also sat on Bridgeport’s school board.

I am at a standstill as to where I can go for the information I need for the book. St. Augustine, which is where the Diocese of Bridgeport is headquartered, had a fire years ago, and Fr. Tom’s papers were destroyed. Before there was a Diocese of Bridgeport, the New Haven Diocese covered the Bridgeport area. They also had a fire, so any papers that they may have had of Fr. Tom’s, were also destroyed. Since he died in 1884, nobody alive knows him. I did find a relative up in Canada whose great-grandfather was a nephew of Fr. Tom, but he doesn’t have much information either. I’ll have to keep plugging away and hopefully someday I’ll find some information that’s hidden away somewhere.

Because I have such an appreciation for my own roots, it saddens me when I look at all the construction that’s going on in New York City. When the little walkups are torn down to make way for the bigger buildings, families who have probably been here for generations are losing their homes. Those families will probably never be able to afford a new apartment in the new buildings, so they have to leave what might be the only home they have ever known and relocate elsewhere and it probably won’t be in New York City. The whole flavor of New York is changing – actually, it’s getting to be where there is no flavor. All the buildings are starting to look the same and all the little neighborhoods are disappearing. I’m afraid there’s no turning back; the damage has been done. Those with the money and power want New York City to be a playground for the rich, and it seems that they have no need for the regular lower and middle class folks.

It’s been pretty quiet for me this week, which is good. After last week, I needed a little down time. That presentation really had me stressed out and I was living on three hours of sleep a day, Wednesday through Friday, last week. I wish I had not been so confused about what was expected for the presentation. At first, I thought the project was supposed to be a debate, then it seemed like it was going to be a group project, and not a debate. Then it turned out it was going to be an individual project.

When I got home from class on Saturday, I re-read the work I had done and, considering that I didn’t know what was expected for this assignment until Wednesday night, I was surprised the writing was as good as it was. Next time, I hope I have time to practice presenting it. As I was still writing until about 7:30 Saturday morning, I had no time to practice presenting it. I probably would have still been nervous, but maybe I would have been a bit more relaxed. I thought I did pretty good during the question and answer session at the end. Good questions were asked and I don’t think I got stumped on any of them.

I know there is lots of room for improvement. It’s been quite a while (about eight years) since I’ve had to cite sources for a paper, so I’m very rusty doing that. I’ve never had to cite internet sources before, so I’m not exactly sure if I did it right in the paper. I bought an updated edition of the “MLA Handbook,” but I still wasn’t sure how to cite articles that were cited on websites. Maybe Patrick can give me a few hints.

For this week’s journal, I was going to try not to gripe about not having enough time to devote to this class, but I’m not going to succeed. I think for a project like we had last week, two weeks would have a reasonable timeframe for completing it. That way you have enough time for research, writing, and practicing the presentation.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the assignment. When I’m doing research I can get lost in it. Time slips away without me even realizing it. I wonder why I like doing research so much. I never stopped to really think about this. Maybe because I’m a naturally curious person? Maybe because I like to stay informed?

All in all, I got a lot out of this project. I learned a lot about hate crime, though I’m sure there’s a lot more to learn, as I barely scratched the surface. I found the disparity in the statistics shocking and I wonder if there is anything that can be done or is being done about it. This is a subject I want to get deeper into. I am eager to hear what the other students’ takes are on hate crimes and also date rape.

Well, lunchtime is over and I have to get back to work. This work is just stimulating the heck out of me (not really!). My project for today is to scan documents into the computer and convert them into PDF files. When I applied to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I certainly thought my mind would get more of a workout than it’s getting. I thought a legal assistant would be assisting in more than making copies, answering the phone, packing up closed cases for archiving, and typing the same documents over and over again. I’ve have to get out of here!

…’til next week……

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
February 21, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #3 – Exercise

HATE. “Hate” is a powerful word. Hate is also a powerful emotion that causes great harm -- both physically and mentally -- to the many college students who have crimes committed against them just because of who they are. They are hated for their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin, or disability.

You may be surprised at who is responsible for perpetrating these hate crimes. Dr. Edward Dunbar, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, addresses this issue. For the most part, these crimes are NOT being committed by career criminals. Not even 5% of the 1,459 hate crimes committed in Los Angeles during the period 1994 to 1995, were perpetrated by someone from an organized hate group.

If it’s not someone from a hate group who is committing these crimes, then who is? Previously law-abiding, young people are committing most of the hate crimes. Dunbar also says that those who commit hate crimes are not psychotic, but they are very troubled and disturbed members of our community. They will most likely become violent. The perpetrators of hate crimes came from environments where there was much abuse by parents or caretakers and violence.

Some drugs and alcohol are involved, but usually that’s not the case. For the most part, those who are being raised in an environment where bias against those who are “different” from themselves is acceptable, are committing these crimes. Dr. Karen Franklin, a forensic psychology fellow at the Washington Institute for Mental Research finds that, in some instances, these offenders think that society allows them to be violent toward homosexuals.

According to Dr. Jack McDevitt, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, hate crimes send a message. The message being sent to members of certain groups in our society by those who commit hate crimes, tells the victims that their “kind” don’t belong in the neighborhood, school, or workplace. “Leave!” is what the message is saying.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been tracking the number of hate crimes since 1991. According to the statistics, the number of hate crimes reported to the FBI by various law enforcement agencies around the United States, decreased in 2007 from the previous year. In the “school/college” category, there was around a 9% decrease to 859 incidents, when compared to the 941 incidents reported in 2006. While, for the most part, the numbers are down, there was an uptick in hate crimes that are in the “sexual orientation” category. These crimes rose from 116 in 2006 to 135 in 2007. This is about a 19% increase.

There is much discrepancy in hate crime numbers, for instance, when it comes to the homosexual community. According to the FBI’s first report in 1991, 421 hate crimes were committed against the gay community, in the United States. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (“NGLTF”) Policy Institute has a different set of statistics for that period. Their numbers show a much more serious problem than was reported by the FBI. They reported that 1,822 bias incidents in just five major urban areas: Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The discrepancy in numbers is all too apparent in Alabama, where a horrific hate crime took place 1999, but it wasn’t recorded by law enforcement as one. The crime that was not reported as a hate crime occurred in February 1999. This particular incident happened in Syclacauga, Alabama, where Billy Jack Gaither, a gay male, allegedly came onto two male acquaintances. Later, these men lured Gaither man to a bar, where he was beaten to death and his body was then dragged to a creek and burned.

The murder of this man was not considered a hate crime. In fact, as of July 15, 1999, none of Alabama’s 282 law enforcement agencies had reported any hate crimes, at all. You would think that at least one murder in Alabama should have been considered a hate crime in 1999, but there wasn’t even one such incident recorded. In 1999, Alabama’s law enforcement officers never bothered to determine whether or not bias was a factor in any crimes that occurred in their state.

When looking at the U.S. Department of Education’s hate crime statistics for New York State’s public four-year colleges, SUNY and CUNY, you’d think there wasn’t much of a problem with hate crimes. Only ONE incident, a burglary, was reported for the years 2005 through 2007. This burglary is reported under both the “on campus” and “residence halls” categories. And, strangely enough, there weren’t any hate crimes on public college campuses reported by local and state police – not even the burglary!

This underreporting happens for many reasons other than the law enforcement community not properly reporting these crimes. Many times the victims of these vicious crimes are keeping silent and not reporting them. Or, they may have reported them, but weren’t taken seriously or the crime was not treated as a bias crime.

Why would a victim stay silent? There are various reasons for this:

• The homosexual community might not report hate crimes because they haven’t come out yet to their families and friends.

• Too often, victims are ashamed and don’t want anyone to know what has happened to them. In some Asian communities, the victim of a crime thinks he is shaming his family.

• Immigrants who may not speak English well or those who fear being deported because they are undocumented, might very well not report themselves as victims of bias crimes.

• Those individuals who are originally from the Middle East or Southeast Asia might fear law enforcement altogether because where they came from, law enforcement was oppressive and not to be trusted.

Now, the question is, what do we do to solve the problem of hate crime? Anything that’s done can’t be limited just to the campus. Communities as a whole must commit to wiping out hate crimes.

1. Get to the children while they’re young. Beginning in kindergarten,
children must be taught tolerance of others. They must be taught not to hate someone who is different. Children must be taught to embrace each others’ differences; that it’s not o.k. to pick on, bully, or beat up on others. As children go into the higher grades, and even through college, continue these teachings. Nurturing children like this will counteract the abusive environments these children might be being raised in.

2. Organize projects that the whole community can participate in. Start a food pantry, a gardening club, or a tenant’s association. Work together on beautifying the neighborhood. Attend city or town council meetings. Become active in the schools and the houses of worship. You’ll get to know your neighbors and you’ll find that you’re not so different from one another after all.

3. Victims of hate crimes must report the crimes to campus security or local law enforcement. If there are no records of these types of crimes occurring, no resources will be put towards prevention.

4. All allegations of hate crimes must be taken seriously by law enforcement. Law enforcement must treat these crimes as hate crimes and not lump them into other crime categories. Make sure these crimes are reported to the FBI so that the federal government will be aware of the problem and will know to devote the necessary resources for hate crime initiatives.

5. Increase punishment for hate crimes. Like the federal government has abolished parole for federal prisoners for other types of crimes, abolish parole for any defendant who commits a hate crime, whether on the local or state level.

6. Form support groups for victims of hate crimes. This is key to removing the stigma attached to these crimes.

7. Provide counseling for those who are likely to commit a hate crime.

8. Enhancing security on campus will reduce incidents of these crimes.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
February 21, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #3 – Journal

I am deep into the assignment that’s due on Saturday. When doing the research, I was very surprised at how inaccurate government statistics appear to be when reporting on hate crimes, i.e., the number of hate crimes that occur. There seem to be two main reasons for this, which I’ll get into when I do my presentation.

About the presentation, I’m not done with it yet. I tried doing it over the weekend, but since I wasn’t clear on what was expected, I didn’t make much headway. Wednesday is when I really began working on this assignment, when I had a clearer idea of what needed to be done. I’m trying to make it not so complicated that I won’t remember anything, but I want it to have substance.

I am trying hard to stay up at night to do the project, but I keep falling asleep in front of my computer. I have been waking up way before the alarm goes off, usually just before 3:00 a.m. When this happens, I am able to work on the project without falling back to sleep. I am definitely an early morning person, that’s for sure.

My physical fitness is starting to suffer. If I have to give up my weekends to be able to do my assignments, it’s no big deal. But the one thing I can’t compromise on is staying healthy and fit. As I said before, I’m a morning person, so my routine is to get up first thing to work out at the gym. Since I have to be on my way to New Jersey at about 7:15 a.m., first thing is really early. I just changed gyms and this one is open 24-hours, so I try to be there no later than 4:00 a.m. Today, I was up early, but because of the work I needed to do on the assignment, I couldn’t go, and now it’s bothering me. I won’t go tonight, no matter how much it bothers me. I am physically unable to work out in the evenings. I am so beat. When you think about it, by the time I get home after 7:00 a.m., I’ve already been awake for 15 hours – three of which are spent commuting and 8-1/2 of which are spent at work. I am definitely sleep-deprived.

I am kind of (no, make that very) nervous about the videotaping. I guess it will be good practice for me. I know this will only help me and I need all the help I can get. Last week, I think I did pretty well when speaking up in class. There were a few times when I got flustered, like when I tried to answer questions. I gave answers or made comments that were short and when asked to elaborate, I got nervous and locked up. I did notice, though, when I was talking about myself, I felt very comfortable when detailing my experience at the job interview and about the tale of my move to New Jersey. Maybe, that’s because there’s nobody who’s more of an expert on me than me?

Well, I think that’s it for the journal for this week. I have to get back to the assignment.

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
February 14, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #2 -- Exercises


I chose the Bridgestone Tires “Jump Around” ad that aired on NBC on February 1, 2009, during the National Football League’s Superbowl game. The link for that ad is **http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfX5eNCXehY**.

The setting for this commercial was the moon. The first images you see are a black sky and the planet Saturn, which is so low in the sky that it looks like it’s practically touching the moon’s surface. All of the sudden trumpets blare and an engine roars, heralding the arrival of a fast-approaching dune buggy.

The dune buggy zooms by and is bouncing up and down to the beat of the House of Pain tune, “Jump Around.” After a bit of joyriding, the dune buggy stops and two spacemen get out of the vehicle. While dancing to the music, they are collecting rocks and tossing them into a sack.
As the spacemen finish picking up their rocks, they turn to go back to their vehicle. The music abruptly stops and everyone stops dead in their tracks. The sack of rocks is thrown to the ground, and there is a groan, when they see the vehicle sitting atop of cement blocks where its tires used to be.
The commercial ends with a voiceover that says, “For drivers who want to get the most out of their cars, it’s Bridgestone or nothing.” All in all, I enjoyed this commercial very much, but I wouldn’t want to buy tires that are so desirable that they’ll get stolen.

The visual and audio effects combined to make for a very stimulating commercial. Everything melded together seamlessly. I wasn’t paying attention to the football game when it was on, but when the trumpets blared at the beginning of the ad, my eyes were immediately drawn to the television. This commercial is a lighthearted commercial, with both the vehicle and the spacemen bouncing and jumping around to the blasting music; they were having as great a time as I was watching it. The message the ad was trying to send was that the tires could stand up to any bouncing around you might want to do in your car; no matter what the terrain, the tires can do the job.

Normally, I wouldn’t study a commercial like this. I like to watch them for their entertainment value.



What is the name of this play?
2. Who is putting on the play?
3. Where is this play being performed?
4. Who is the play’s intended audience?
5. When was the play originally performed?
6. How will this play help others?

1. Who took part in deciding to put on this play?
2. When did the group decide to put on this play?
3. Why did the group decide to put on this play?
4. During the play’s planning stages, did you have any idea that this play would cause so much controversy?
5. How soon did it become apparent that there might indeed be controversy?
6. When did the protests start?
7. Why is this play being protested?
8. Who is protesting this play?
9. How widespread are the protests?
10. In what form are the protests taking place?
11. Did anyone in particular voice their disapproval of the play?
12. Were any tactics used to dissuade you from continuing on with the play?
13. Has anyone been personally attacked or threatened because of this play?
14. Has there been any vandalism attributed the controversy over this play?


1. Do you feel more people understood the message of this play than they did the very first time this play hit the stage?
2. Did all the controversy impact the play’s audience numbers?
3. Was that impact negative or positive?
4. Compared to when the play was originally in production, do you think there is a greater understanding of people who are afflicted with AIDS?
5. Are there any regrets that you decided to put on this play?


1. Do you think all the protesting, in its many forms, will result in the state legislature passing a bill that withdraws state funding when plays like these are performed?
2. Will steps be taken to provide for the safety of those who choose to take part in such productions?
3. As a result of all of the publicity that this play has gotten, will there be more attention be paid to those who are afflicted with AIDS?


1. With all the negativity surrounding the play, did anything positive come out of it?
2. Would you do it all again?
3. Is there anything you would do differently?
4. Any regrets?

1. Will your experience, which was widely publicized, cause other groups like yours to think twice before putting on this play or any other such production?


Answer the following questions with “yes,” “no,” on “not sure.”

Is the earth flat? No.
- Authorities: I learned this in geography class.
- References: I learned this in my geography book.
- Factual evidence: I’ve seen pictures of the earth and it is round, not flat.
- Personal experience: The only experience I have seeing an earth that is round is what I’ve seen on television and what I’ve seen pictures of.

Is there a God? Not sure.
- Authorities: I was taught that there was by the nuns and priests, but I’ve never seen an actual picture of him, so I don’t know if he is a real person or not.
- Reference: My catechism books.
- Factual evidence: I have never seen any.
- Personal experience: Sometimes I wonder if there is a God. If so, why did he let my grandmother suffer for several months from congestive heart failure and a series of strokes, before finally letting her die? Then there are days like today, when I think that yes, there is a God. After I finished lunch today down at my building’s cafeteria, I got up and went back to work. When leaving the cafeteria, I neglected to take my purse with me. At 4:30 this afternoon, when I finally realized that I didn’t have my purse, I ran down to the cafeteria, but the doors were locked. So I went down to the building’s security office and what did I see? I saw my purse sitting there, just waiting for me to pick it up! Yes, there just might be a God, after all.

Is abortion wrong? No.
- Authorities: I grew up in a family where we openly discussed topics such as this one.
- References: The Planned Parenthood website.
- Factual evidence: There is no evidence, per se. The decision whether or not to have abortion is a very personal one. One person may think it’s o.k. to have an abortion, and another might think it’s not o.k.
- Personal experience: None.

4. Have alien life forms visited the earth? Not sure.
- Authorities: I haven’t seen anything that proves that there is alien life, nor have I seen anything that proves there isn’t.
- Reference: During a lecture that took place at Columbia University in 1997, Bob Monoit, Ph.D., an associate professor of physics at Fordham University, said, ‘Scientists can say very little with certainty about whether there is life on other planets. It seems natural, since we are here, to ask if there is life elsewhere. However, this is a biased question, in which "the anthropic principle" is at work. Science cannot answer an inductive question based on a single occurrence.’
- Factual evidence: There is none.
- Personal experience: None.

Should men be the breadwinners and women the homemakers? Because I’m limited to “yes,” “no,” or “not sure” answers, I’m having a tough time answering this question because of the way it is posed. I think men and women should be what they want to be, regardless of gender.
- Authorities: I was raised in a family where no options were off the table.
- Reference: After my cousin was born, my aunt went back to her career as a fashion buyer and my uncle stayed home to take care of my cousin and the household.
- Personal experience. Unlike my aunt and uncle, role reversal didn’t work out for me. I worked and my husband didn’t. Neither did he take care of the household. This is part of the reason he’s my “ex.”


I believe that getting at least a bachelor’s degree is one of the most important things you can do in your life. Because I don’t have a degree, there aren’t many job opportunities out there for me. When on job interviews, doors are slammed shut as soon as I say that I have no degree.
Not only are my job opportunities limited, my potential earnings are impacted, too, and not in a good way. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, a worker with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $1,012 a week in 2008. For this same year, a worker like me, a high school graduate with some college, earned an average of just $722 a week.
Computer geeks Steve Jobs and Bill Gates might disagree with me. They’re wealthy. They’re successful. And, according to the WikiAnswers website, these men never graduated from college. Not having a degree certainly didn’t hurt them.


In 1998, about three hours after my flight landed in Dublin, Ireland, jetlag was starting to set in. Rather than give into it by taking a nap like my mother and sister did, I went for a walk, instead. This turned out to be a fantastic decision on my part.
I couldn’t believe my great fortune! There they were -- my favorite singer and my favorite rock band -- just a few feet in front of me! I got the thrill of a lifetime when I came upon Bono and his U2 band mates on FitzWilliam Street, where they were filming the music video for their song, “The Sweetest Thing.” As you might be able to tell, I’m a big fan of U2 and, in particular, the band’s front man, Paul Hewson, a/k/a Bono.
Bono, who was born in Dublin, Ireland on May 10, 1960, is a songwriter and the lead singer for the Irish rock band, U2. This talented man is also a great humanitarian, and is someone for whom I have great admiration for.

Many musicians use their fame as a path to self-destruction. Bono has not followed their lead. Bono’s sold-out tour dates and chart-topping record sales have earned him fame and accolades, but he has not let it go to his head. You only have to look as far the website that’s set up for his “ONE” organization (http://www.one.org) [1] to see what a decent human being he truly is.
Bono has used his fame and recognition to raise awareness of world crises like the Aids epidemic in Africa, world poverty, global warming, and the lack of clean water, in underdeveloped countries through his “One” organization These are only a few of the worthy causes that Bono has put his heart and soul into.

CBS2.com’s online article, Bono Among Nobel Peace Prize Nominee (
http://cbs2.com/national/Bono.Nobel.Peace.2.64212.html), (February 24, 2006), reports that, in 2006, Bono was in contention for a Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in October of that year and, sadly, Bono did not win it.[2]

There have been other honors that have not eluded Bono. For instance, he won the National Constitution Center’s
[3] Liberty Medal in 2007. This award was split between Bono and another recipient, DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) which, as it happens, is an organization that was co-founded by Bono, along with Bobby Shriver. This organization secured $25 billion in funding for additional development assistance for Africa.

All the while the honors keep rolling in for his incredible work on behalf of those in dire straits, Bono is busily preparing for the March 2009 launch of U2’s new album, No Line on the Horizon, which was just announced on U2’s official website,
http://www.u2.com. To promote the album’s release, U2 will be appearing for five nights straight, beginning on March 2, 2009, on CBS Television’s David Letterman Show.
I don’t know how Bono does it all, but I’m sure glad that he does. The world is a better place because of all his contributions to the music world and his many contributions as a great humanitarian.

[1] Bono, along with President John F. Kennedy’s nephew, Bobby Shriver, co-founded the ONE organization.
[2] Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank split the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2006/press.html)

Jamie A. O’Brien Critical Thinking 100/9M1
February 14, 2009 Professor Cynthia Wiseman
Week #2 -- Journal

Week #2

I’m still worried about getting my homework just right and being able to complete it. I’m not exactly sure what Week 2’s assignments are. I thought I heard Professor Wiseman say to do the exercises in Chapter 2 of the textbook and review and do the exercises in the PowerPoint presentation. As far as I can see, there is only one activity in the presentation that needs to be done. The other pages look to me like they are informational and are to be used as guidelines. I hope this is right.

I posted a message on Wikispaces, but it hasn’t been answered yet. I hope it’s answered before too long. Today, which is Sunday, is the only day of the week that I have lots of time to devote to homework. Here it is 3:24 p.m. and I’m still not sure what to do.

This might be a strange thing to say, but last week I was lucky enough to be home sick from work for most of the week. The reason I feel so fortunate, is that I had lots of time to complete my assignments. This week, it’s going to be different. I feel better today and, unless I have a sudden relapse, there won’t be any reason I can’t go to work tomorrow and the rest of the week.

I know this is a “writing intensive” course, but I’m surprised by its intensity. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but I am spending way over nine hours doing the work, which is the suggested time that should be spent for a three-credit course.

Still no news on the job front. The FBI hasn’t called, which means they haven’t said “no,” yet. It’s a good thing nobody wanted to interview me last week. Because I was so sick, I would have made a terrible first impression.

In class yesterday, I enjoyed looking at the commercials posted on Youtube. I love funny commercials. Professor Wiseman said that we had to do something with commercials that we found, but she didn’t elaborate. At any rate, I looked at Youtube today and I picked three that I liked, but I’m just not sure where to go now with them. I guess I’ll just wait until I get the clarification that I need.

My decision to go back to school has been the best thing that I’ve ever done. My only issue is I need to find a way to take more than one class a semester. I’m working on just that issue by looking for work in Manhattan; the commute into New Jersey is horrendous. I guess I have to be patient! If I didn’t have to worry about earning a living, I would devote my entire being to studying and to getting a degree.

This class, and the material it covers, may have a significant impact on my future. I am seeing that you can’t just sit back and wish for things to happen, you have to make them happen. And you make them happen by taking the necessary steps.

What I want to happen is to get to the point where I can enroll in the archaeology program at Cornell University. Thanks to an e-mail that I got from BMCC this past week, I may have found the vehicle to get me to that place. This e-mail said that my grade point average is impressive and that I am invited to a Pathway to Success informational session. Pathway to Success is a partnership program between BMCC and Cornell University. The reason for this program is to give community college students who are doing well academically, but not financially, the opportunity to transfer to Cornell after they graduate from BMCC.

BMCC jumped the gun a bit by sending me this invitation, as I’m nowhere near approaching my graduation date. But, I’m glad I got it, because I now have a goal to work towards. Cornell is one of the few colleges in the United States to offer archaeology as a major. This course of study truly spikes my interest. Perhaps, I’ll attend the informational session anyway, to see what prerequisite courses Cornell requires for participating in this program.

I’m still no clearer on what Week 2’s homework is. I’ll just keep on typing.
The Philosophy Dictionary, on the www.answers.com website, defines the Socratic Method as:

“The method of teaching in which the master imparts no information, but asks a sequence of questions, through answering which the pupil eventually comes to the desired knowledge. Socratic irony is the pose of ignorance on the part of the master, who may in fact know more about the matter than he lets on.”

I’ve heard the words “Socratic Method” before, but I never knew what this method was. After finding out the meaning, it’s obvious to me that this is what critical thinking is. It encourages curiosity, which leads thinking, which leads to learning.

If the cornerstone of this country’s education system was the Socratic Method, rather than the idiotic No Child Left Behind (“NCLB”) act, perhaps kids wouldn’t be dropping out of school at alarming rates. Instead of kids being challenged to expand their minds, the current thinking (personally, I don’t think there is much thinking involved) is that you prepare kids to take tests, i.e., “teach to the test.”

What kind of teaching is this? Teaching kids to pass a test? Everyone learns the same thing – no special talents or creativity is required. Unless you have no hands, filling in bubbles on an answer sheet takes no special skill.

From what I’ve read and heard on TV programs like C-Span’s Washington Journal, there is a heavy emphasis on math and English test results. If a school’s students test poorly, funding will be cut. Not wanting their funding to be cut, the schools are putting all their energy into prepping kids for the required tests.

These kids, robots-in-training, are being force fed all the same information so they can pass all the same tests. There certainly is no critical thinking going on here.

Don’t get me wrong, testing has its place. But the testing should be used to evaluate where the kids’ talents lie. Testing could be done near the end of the school term and then there is all summer to create classes for the upcoming school year that are geared toward, as much as is possible, individualized instruction. You can still have the basic math, English, science, etc. classes, but let kids be placed in these classes according to the level they are performing at.

Next, create a curriculum that will cultivate the talents of the kids. Stop with the same classes for all the kids. Some kids may be so talented in math that they’re a prime candidate for MIT, so create a math program that would nurture them. Another might be a talented artist; again, come up with a program that will encourage this talent.

As I stated earlier, it doesn’t seem like there’s much critical thinking going on in school these days. Maybe if critical thinking played a part in education these days, the graduation rates wouldn’t be so abysmal. I can see why kids would want to drop out. If a kid is being forced to learn something, like math, where he just doesn’t get it no matter how much he studies, he’s not going to feel very good about himself. This will lead to anger and frustration, because he’ll never pass the class no matter what. This is akin to trying to force someone who can’t carry a tune to sing an aria in perfect pitch. No matter how many times that person sings that aria, it will never be sung in tune.

Well, I got a little carried away, didn’t I, with the contrast between the Socratic Method and that awful NCLB method. I hope NCLB is done away with; we can do much better.

Well, I just got my answer on Week #2’s homework. In a way I’m relieved that it wasn’t that I didn’t hear the assignment being given out. It wasn’t given out. But now that I know it wasn’t given out, I’m starting to PANIC!!! If last week’s assignment was any indication, how am I ever going to find the time to complete this week’s? As I said before, Sunday is the only day where I have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time to study and write. During the week, I work fulltime and commute a total of three hours (in little chunks of time) to and from work. I leave my apartment about 7:15 a.m. and, at the end of the day, I get back home no earlier than 7:00 p.m. I’m scared that I won’t be able to do all the writing I need to do.