Violence-101: A Syllabus of Higher Awareness

Violence is, and always will be, that uncensored part of human existence to which we are all subjected to becoming exposed to it in one form or another; either as perpetrator, victim, or spectator. For those who have suffered violent acts at the hands of their attackers, there’s a road to recovery for them that seems optimistic for some survivors and yet exasperating for some. Over the past few years, there have been numerous repetitive situations of violence involving a generation that retains a monstrous amount of uncontrollable rage, with their focal point being a desire to strike fear into the hearts of innocent onlookers in one of our most highly regarded traditional environments: our schools.

On December 13, 2013, Karl Pierson opened fire at his school, the Arapahoe High School located in Centennial, Colorado, critically wounding a 17-year old student before killing himself. Originally, detectives had several leads as to a possible motive for the gunman’s violent rampage, however, the most reliable source of information would have to come from the person themselves.

Prior to this incident also in the state of Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the Columbine High School located in Littleton to carry out a terroristic massacre that resulted in 15 deaths before both students turned their guns onto themselves. Both suspects left a trail of clues for detectives to decipher the meaning behind this premeditated killing spree with all of their conclusions directing towards the most obvious cause: mental illness.

Both of the above cases, as disturbing as they may be, seems to point to an even bigger issue with youths who suffer from incurable psychological illnesses that, if left ignored, can alter one’s perception of reality in the most tragic of ways. It’s sad when youths turn to violence as a solution for the pain and rejection they feel for not being deemed as “normal”, for so many innocent bystanders have had to have their lives ended without warning or defense. It is time for society to stop brushing this issue under the rug and start taking into consideration the innocent blood that is continuously being shed among the students of our educational institutions.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

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Literacy In America

The advanced potential of technology, along with its mainstream function of being able to access information at any given time, has now overturned the way readers have access to books. Having the potential to access publications from the comfort of your own home at any given time of the day or night may be the main contributing factor as to why consumers have elected to invest in the purchasing of an e-book reader as opposed to spending money on transportation costs to their local bookstore. More recently, local and large chain bookstores have reported an enormous drop in sales since technology has introduced a more convenient way to read by way of the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Amazon Kindle, the Pandigial Reader, and the Sony Reader. While e-book sales have increased over the years in the United States, the U.S. adult literacy rates have decreased.

Literacy has a major impact on the functional ability of a country. However, statistics reveal a sad truth concerning the readers residing in the United States: approximately 32 million Americans cannot read. According to a study performed by The Organization for Economic Adult Literacy, the United States ranked 16 out of 23 countries. 1 out of 3 American adults cannot read properly, meaning either they do not fully understand the material they have read or they cannot analyze the information they have read correctly. Oddly, 33% of American adults, or 1 out of 4 Americans, own an e-reader of some sort. As the number of e-books sold has increased by 43% over the past 5 years, over 10 million e-books have been sold thus far yet this does not indicate there is hope for an increase in American literacy rates.

One possible explanation as to the awkward imbalance in statistics when comparing the number of e-reader and e-book sales to literacy rates is the decline of available bookstores where physical books may be purchased. When assessing the literacy rates, approximately 1 in 3 adults scored low in problem solving abilities within a technical environment. Not every reader is computer literate. In bookstores, customers can readily ask for assistance if needed when searching for a specific topic or publication. With e-readers, the reader is pretty much on their own. Since the sales of e-books has risen over the past 10 years, bookstores have been forced to shut down due to their low sales volume. Their low sales volume is contributed to the rising number of readers who prefer to purchase e-books rather than the traditionally printed book, and not all adult educational development resources are available in electronic form.

With bookstores becoming extinct and electronic book sales increasing, there may still be hope for raising the literacy stats for American adults as long as the number of library locations does not decline in the process…

©2013 Learus Ohnine

The Real World vs The Taught World

Throughout our educational years, we have been taught by our instructors that we can become whomever we want to be, we can achieve any dream we wish to achieve, and we can have anything we want to have. Our educators encourage us to dream big, to never give up, and to strive for success by reaching the top of the ladder in society with hard work and dedication. We are pre-programmed to think the recipe to make our dreams a reality is a dose of perseverance, an ounce of faith, and a smidgen of determination is all that’s needed to make them come true…along with a good, quality education of course. But the one thing that is not taught is the fact that our perception of how things SHOULD be and the reality of how things WILL be are two separate entities, that if ignored, is the recipe for disappointment.

The depressing reality is: half of today’s college graduates are working in jobs that are not in their chosen field or may be overqualified for, are making less money than what they’re worth, and are sacrificing a majority of their hard-earned income into repaying student loans for an occupation they were told would put a substantial amount of money in their pockets in order to cover their post-education expenses. In a 2012 McKinsey & Company survey, along with the collaboration of Chegg, Inc., 4,900 college graduates expressed their regrets of what they envisioned reality to be like after four years of higher learning. 48% of U.S. college graduates were employed in jobs that did not require a four-year degree while 32% of graduates were actually working in their field of expertise. Out of the 72% of college graduates who were required to complete an internship in their chose field of study, only 42% reported their internships have landed them a job. This means either 30% of these college graduates were either out of work or underemployed.

As the competition stiffens within the workforce, so does the number of available jobs for college graduates decrease. Of course, this all depends on one’s major, with the visual and performing arts being the most difficult to break into while science, engineering, and technology provide the most satisfactory results for job seekers. But with today’s economy, even choosing the “right” major still does not guarantee a stable job. Higher education institutions overlook this fact when promoting idealizations of reality in exchange for a signed promissory note. What appears to be achievable through hard work, dedication, and persistence is not always what will be attainable in the end.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

College: Is It Worth It?

Consumers want the most from their dollars, both earned and spent, as we continue to advance to the next level of achieving an economic equilibrium in the midst of a national economic crisis. This means businesses will naturally become more competitive and collaborative, thereby necessitating the recruitment of qualified educated individuals to meet productivity demands. Consequently, the chances of employment will selectively be given preference to those candidates who possess the highest level of education possible for every position. Postsecondary education becomes cardinal for educating tomorrow’s leaders, however, the rising costs of a quality education may outweigh the benefits of having one.

According to the latest reports on CollegeData.com subsequent for the 2012-2013 academic year (fall through spring), the average tuition cost to attend an in-state public college is $22,261 and $43,289 for a private institution. This does not include expenses incurred for housing, meals, books and supplies, personal and transportation.

Depending on the student’s major, all costs may be significantly higher than previously quoted. According to the “U.S. News & World Report”, the positive side to these tuition quotes is that some colleges have already announced they will freeze their tuition rates for the 2013-2014 academic year, thereby allowing better financial planning for those paying out-of-pocket for these expenses. However, the more prestigious universities have already announced an increase in tuition rates that equal more than a $3,000 difference per academic year.

For those students having to rely on the federal government to pay a majority of (or partially for) their college education, the Congressional Budget Office announced earlier this year that drastic cuts will have to be made to the Pell grant program in order to offset a $1.4 billion deficit predicted for the 2015 fiscal year. This means having to impose stricter eligibility and academic requirements as well as reducing the amount awarded to each eligible participant. Furthermore, this will force the reduction of the amount of prospective students being eligible to enroll in a postsecondary institution by 40%.

This leaves prospective students with only one other alternative to meet their education expenses: student loans. In August of 2013, President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress approving the increased student loan interest rates for all variations of student loans, except for the Perkins Loan. Student loans have a repayment grace period of 6 months after graduation, cessation of attendance, or whenever the borrower drops below half-time enrollment status.

Given the average enrollment time to complete a degree that will give a college graduate the competitive edge in today’s job market is 4 years or more, the amount of financial debt owed to the federal government by the borrower could mean having to use a majority of their salary to repay this debt for several years. For some, it may mean a lifetime.

Although most profitable and worthwhile occupations require applicants to have a college education, another requirement for applicants is tangible experience. This takes time and can force a graduate to have to settle for a salary much lower than what they are actually worth. Companies falling by the wayside from the pressures of an enormously competitive economy may be forced to downsize. Ironically, downsizing holds no discrimination regardless of how educated an individual is. Meanwhile, all debts incurred while achieving that education must be repaid regardless of the future outcome of one’s career path.

Conclusively, is a college education still worth the increasing cost and student loans? It will be IF you remember to choose carefully, invest wisely, and keep an open mind no matter what educational risk is taken.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

The Promise of Summer

Out of the 4 seasons of the year, summer is the one that seems to be the most anticipated. Families plan memorable vacations to unknown or familiar territories. Those working within the construction, landscaping, or any of the outdoor-related occupations are sure to have big smiles throughout the entire duration of the season as favorable weather permits them to line their pockets with extra cash. Many teachers look forward to taking that long paid break from the classroom, while students from all educational levels have a chance to either get ahead on their studies or catch up on what they’ve already missed throughout the previous school year.

There’s a psychological transformation that takes place with the anticipation of the upcoming summer months each year, usually right after the winter holidays. Most of us begin an exercise regimen that puts us in a frame of mind to achieve a desired physique by the time we want to wear our favorite summer outfits. Financial preparation for our vacation expenses normally begins anywhere from weeks to months after the previous summer season is over or prior to the new one beginning. This could mean anywhere from picking up a second job or to adhering to a tighter budget plan. Students spend more time studying during the final semester before summer begins in order to eliminate having to use a majority of their time off in summer school. Depending on one’s occupation, refresher courses help with the transition back into the workforce or courses are completed with the sole purpose of qualifying for a promotion.

So what about the lessons learned from summers of the past? Those annoying flight layovers at the airport on the way to a vacation destination can be used to one’s advantage with just a little imagination and careful scheduling coordination. While speaking of imagination, exploring various indoor facilities for entertainment and enjoyment ahead of time can offset disappointment when the summer weather does not always turn as favorable as expected to enjoy the outdoors. Deciding which goals are most important can help free up a lot more time in order to get the most out of summer fun, such as deciding whether or not catching each and every episode of your favorite nighttime drama television series at the moment it airs is more important than spending that time taking a much needed night class at your local community college instead of having to take it over the summer months.

No matter how we choose to spend our time, our money, or utilize our resources, there’s nothing like entering the summer months psychologically prepared to enjoy it to its fullest.

©2013 Learus Ohnine

Higher Learning

With the United States supposedly being the leading country in terms of having the world’s largest economy and entrepreneurial climate, why is our education system falling behind other countries reflective of our student academic performances? Could the academic deficiencies of American children be due to their delinquency in starting their education at an earlier age than in most countries? Is there a learning gap between genders in the United States as opposed to international students? Does classroom size determine the outcome of an American student’s success?

When comparing the starting age of children in pre-kindergarten programs in foreign countries to the U.S., surveys revealed children are allowed to begin their childhood education during the most crucial stages of a child’s early developmental years. For example, Denmark allows children to begin preschool as early as 12-months-old. The main objective for their early education curriculums are focused on learning cultural norms, social and motor skills imperative for managing the cognitive, emotional and social development of a child. Kindergarten programs are taught at age 3 in Korea and Singapore. Belgium provides the same early educational opportunities for 2-year-olds, while the average age for kindergarten attendance in the United States is 4-years-old.

Gender discrepancies when comparing test scores in mathematics and science fairly compensates for the benefits of having an early education, but may also explain the rationale behind the differences in scores amongst gender due to the persuasion from cultural forces in other countries. South Korean and Singapore’s fourth-grade male and female students ranked in the highest overall percentile in test scores in math and science when compared to the 11th percentile ranking in math and the 17th percentile ranking in science for both male and female U.S. fourth-graders. In Korea and Finland, 15-year-old females scored 14 percent higher in science scores than 15-year-old males. However, male students within the same age bracket were in the overall lead by 15 percent when compared to the 15-year-old female students in the United States. Females as well as males in countries such as Russia, Asia, and the Middle East are persuaded at an early age to go into science and engineering occupations whereas females are stereotypically motivated to only pursue nursing, teaching, and administrative occupations in the United States.

Studies have shown student performance rarely depends on the student-teacher ratio regardless of differences amongst the diverse cultural and ethnic populations nationally and internationally. Korean and Japanese K-12 schools, with its 37-to-1 student-teacher ratio, still ranks higher in student performance than with Finnish K-12 schools at a 20-to-1 ratio. In the United States, Vermont and Wisconsin ranks closest in comparison to Korean, Japanese, and Finnish schools for high-ranking student performance yet with a lower student-teacher ratio. While Vermont K-12 schools currently has a student-teacher ratio of 11-to-1 and Wisconsin K-12 schools with a 15-to-1 ratio, both schools maintain more culturally diverse teachers than students.

Conclusively, there is no one contributing factor as to why America does not hold the highest rank in student performances nor is there any cause to blame why the United States cannot achieve a higher ranking than it has. American minority and Latino students have made a considerable amount of progress over the years, therefore it cannot be proclaimed that cultural diversity holds any sort of hindrance on a child’s academic success. All students enrolled in the education system in America are allotted the same equal opportunistic educational advantages as in other countries, but its up to our nation as a whole to encourage our students to make the most out of their opportunities before we can reach the rank of #1 amongst all other nations.

©2013 Learus Ohnine