26
Apr 20

Unethical Activism

              Unethical Activism

Written By: Judy Laut

              Several economists have alluded that saving lives is not as important as saving the economy. One of those economists, Sean Snaith, has stated “…there are eight billion people in the world, so the number of deaths from the [Corona] virus, as bad as it has been, does not justify devastating the economy…” (Hacket, 2020) Interestingly enough, the economist making these ethically-debatable claims has also stated that there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis to support his accusations (which hasn’t been done yet). Why would Sean Snaith, Ph.D., the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting and a nationally recognized economist in the field of business and economic forecasting, be willing to make such claims without taking the necessary steps to support his theory? Perhaps Dr. Snaith is counting his chickens before they hatch, so to say. He is pushing for social change based on his beliefs without having all of the information that he himself describes as necessary. I think it’s a fair assessment that Dr. Snaith as well as those economists that share his beliefs and have come to similar conclusions are participating in activist research, at least certain aspects of it.

“Activist research goes beyond participatory research in that the researcher is not only vested in the outcome of the research, but may be pushing a certain value set through their research.” (Nelson) Dr. Snaith has already shown that he has a bias towards believing that lost lives do not justify the devastation of the economy. This bias is evident as Dr. Snaith has already publicly announced his findings and beliefs without completing his research. Snaith is directly contradicting the findings of health experts who say that “reopening commerce too soon could lead to a resurgence in cases.” (Hacket, 2020) The biases between the health experts and economists can be seen in their contradicting research findings and beliefs on how society should proceed. The health experts are concerned about health and the economists are concerned about the economy and the research from both groups support their corresponding values and biases towards certain outcomes. The contradicting research findings raises major ethical concerns specifically when those findings are publicized without completing all research and have the potential of contributing to the loss of life.

It may not have directly been Dr. Snaith who contributed to the many protests that have been seen, specifically in Madison, Wisconsin, but there is no doubt that his value set and the value set of economists with similar findings have most definitely contributed. Thousands of people protested and rallied the shelter in place order, all in close proximity and all without face masks. The protesters held similar beliefs as Snaith and wielded “… signs that said “All Workers Are Essential” and “Death … is preferable to communism.”( Beck & Glauber, 2020) Ironically, “The same day as the protest, Wisconsin saw its highest daily increase in confirmed positive cases of the virus – 304.” (Beck & Glauber, 2020)

I find Dr. Snaith’s actions deplorable and completely unethical regardless of his findings. At no point should the loss of life be deemed less important than a declining economy. I think that scientists, health experts, economists, psychologists, and researchers in all areas owe it to society and their field of study to not only complete all necessary steps to confirm or deny their hypothesis when conducting research but to also refrain from publicly publishing their findings that are not peer-reviewed and that may contribute to the loss of life and the spread of an uncontrollable, untreatable virus.

 

 

References

Beck, M., & Glauber, B. (2020, April 24). Thousands gather at Wisconsin state

Capitol to protest coronavirus restrictions. Retrieved April 26, 2020, from

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/04/24/coronavirus-

wisconsin-protest-draws-thousands-state-capitol/3023629001/

Hackett, D. (2020, April 24). Is an Economic Shutdown Worse Than COVID-19?

A State Economist Weighs In. Retrieved April 26, 2020, from

https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/coronavirus/2020/04/opening-up-the-

economy

Nelson, A. (N.D.) Lesson 13: Social Change/ Participatory Research – Lesson

Overview [Notes]. Retrieved from

https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2040175/modules/items/28379818


20
Apr 20

Online learning is a lot harder than you think.

“How hard could going to school online really be?”

That is a question I am asked more times than I can count. It is a lot harder than a lot of people think. In some of my classes, there is hardly any material posted by the instructor; it was just “read this chapter in your textbook and take this quiz” It was almost as if I was trying to teach myself everything that I needed to know.

For me, math is my weakness, so taking a math class all online seemed like a death sentence for me. Being a psychology major, we have to take a statistic class, I was TERRIFIED! There was no way I was going to pass. When I got to Stat 200, I would spend hours with a tutor; I would meet with my professor through zoom, email, and phone communication. It was a lot harder than when I took a math class in high school and just had to raise my hand to get help.

Online learning, you don’t get that personal communication between your teacher and your peers. You are left physically alone, but virtually you have everything you need at your fingers tips. Sometimes you just need to look for it. If I were to answer the “how hard could it be?” question accurately, I would have to say, “It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do!”


20
Apr 20

New age learning

New-age learning is something I never thought I would be involved with. When I first attended college everything was done at a brick and mortar with face to face interaction with our professors. I had one professor who had a favorite student and they seemed to always be nicer to them, willing to answer the questions they would ask. The third-grade teacher we learned about who wanted to teach her class how stereotyping was interesting. It reminded me of a lesson Mr. Smith (name changed) did in high school. He was my high school history teacher and we were learning about World War II.

In this lesson, he had everyone who had brown hair and brown eyes stand up and move to the back of the classroom. Anyone who had any hair color other than blond hair and blue eyes was told to also join those in the back of the classroom. After he had us separated he told those of us left sitting to look around the room. My natural hair color is blond and I have blue eyes. There was me and two other people left sitting. He told us we would have been the only ones to survive if Hitler were to still be alive. This may seem extreme and probably not something you would expect to learn about in high school but it helped drive home the point of discrimination.

It was a lesson that still sticks with me 14 years later. I will never forget him or that lesson, I will never forget that simply because someone looks different than me they are discriminated against. I think that was a defining moment for me, even if I didn’t know it back then. As an adult, I speak out against discrimination, I teach my kids that you treat everyone the same regardless of what they look like, who they love, or what gender they are.

 


20
Apr 20

Coping and Pain

My mother once told me that she is a passive-aggressive type of person, explaining that she seems to bottle everything up inside until those emotions burst from inside, usually at the person causing the distress. My father seems to be the same way, wearing a smile on his face as issues become more frequent and complex until the only response left is a frown. My brother, I think, tries to keep his negativity in check around his friends until he can find someone to vent his frustrations to. Even I seem to have inherited the same habit, where I worry about school, work, home, family, the present, the future, and everything in between. Plans unravel, situations become more dire, and all one can do is smile and press on as things grow more out of control. When searching for inspiration for this blog post, though, I started to realize that maybe, similar to learning more about pessimism, this form of coping with negativity might not be the healthiest to enact.

Though I couldn’t find information related to it in the book or modules for this course, an article by Ana Masedo and M. Rosa Esteve a concept called “Wegner’s Theory of Ironic Processes”, and how theory has been used to study pain tolerance. Masedo and Esteve mention how “Research suggests that suppression contributes to a more distressing pain experience”, and their experiment seemed to involve putting groups representing the variables of repression, acceptance, and spontaneous coping, and exposing them to “a cold presser procedure.” The results of Masedo and Esteve’s experiment, then, indicate that “The acceptance group showed pain and distress immersion ratings that were significantly lower than in the other two groups”.

Another study focused on suppression and acceptance was conducted by Laura Campbell-Sills, David Barlow, Timothy Brown, and Stefan Hofmann. In their study, participants with anxiety and mood disorders were assigned to two groups where they seemed to learn either emotion suppression or emotion acceptance before proceeding to watch an emotional movie. From this study and their measurements, Campbell-Sills et al. found that “Although both groups reported similar levels of subjective distress during the film, the acceptance group displayed less negative affect during the post-film recovery period. Furthermore, the suppression group showed increased heart rate, and the acceptance group decreased heart rate in response to the film.” While Masedo and Esteve showed how acceptance can affect ones reaction to physical pain, Campbell-Sills et al. seem to demonstrate how it can also have an effect on emotional distress, as well.

Though these articles’ abstracts don’t really provide much explanation about acceptance and suppression and how these concepts could relate to pain, their results make me wonder how that data can relate to the way my family seems to handle stress. If repression of our negative emotions isn’t effective in eliminating physical and emotional pain experienced momentarily in an experiment, then how effective is it to really cope like this in a more realistic environment? How many people engage in repression, possibly without even realizing it, when there could be other ways to handle whatever pain they feel?

 

References:

Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2005, November 21). Effects of suppression and acceptance on emotional responses of individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796705002068

Masedo, A. I., & Esteve, M. R. (2006, March 29). Effects of suppression, acceptance and spontaneous coping on pain tolerance, pain intensity and distress. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796706000489


18
Apr 20

Pay attention to your loved one- SUICIDE might be closer than you think!

Suicide prevention line

I personally have been impacted by this in my own family.  My daughter became deeply depressed in the summer of 2018.  She was just turned 26, a bubbly young adult with a heart of gold.  She loved dancing, animals, had a joyous adventurous vibe wanting to experience the world as she saw it.  She had loved the arts and New York.  She had a love of writing poetry and reading.

She seemed to deteriorate and change in her behaviors, which started with her mood swings, and her patterns and actions.  She seemed very snippy and started to lose interest in her favorite things.  I even seen a mean side to her. Now, I had experience dealing with mental health professionals with her diagnoses, but this was different.  I tried to address the concerns I was noticing, but it was worse.  She even began rejecting my grandson, her nephew who she loved dearly since his birth in December 2017.  She lost concern and started tearing up her poetry, throwing out her books she treasured, and videos and keepsakes she cherished.  She was refusing a lot.  I did my own outreach attempt, which helped but barely, and ended up going to her medication appointment.

It was a blessing that she was receptive to the new psychologist who was kind, and very thorough as she usually doesn’t like opening up.  That was a blessing.  He recommended some things like a day program but she rejected that and at that time, she didn’t get hospitalized but was being watched by me, etc.

She had to work through finding out what the issues were and come to find out, one of her medicines she had been on can create these issues later on. That was one problem.  She later agreed to talking to a therapist and made strides there and stopped again in 2019 after making progress.

That was the scariest time for me.  I had tools, but it almost wasn’t enough how bad it was.  So just wanted to share in case anyone may need and to call the prevention line, and take your friend/loved one to crisis in your area if possible.  Save a life! It can happen to the best of us, unexpectedly, or by other means that may have ignited it.

This song is an example of how my daughter felt.  Please pay attention and do all you can.  My daughter actually heard me playing this as I posted this and said that is exactly a song from that time and how she felt.  She clearly remembers and said, “You remember mom.”  Sobering.

“More Americans teens and young adults appear to be struggling with mental health issues.”  (CBSNEWS)

Retrieved from CBSNEWS:  Health experts also recommend that everyone also familiarize themselves with the warning signs of suicide, which may include:

  • A person thinking about or threatening suicide or seeking a way to kill themselves
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, being trapped, or hopeless
  • Social isolation and withdrawing from people and activities
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood change

“If you believe a loved is at risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek help from a doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department or dial 911. It’s important to remove access to firearms, medications, or any other potential tools they might use to harm themselves.” (CBSNEWS)

“For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.”  (CBSNEWS)

Find your local crisis invention number and keep it available.  Pay attention to all of the signs.

References:

CBSNEWS.  Welch, Ashley.  “Depression, anxiety, suicide increase in teens and young adults, study finds.”  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/suicide-depression-anxiety-mental-health-issues-increase-teens-young-adults/.

YouTube. Vevo.  Logic.  “1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid”  Aug. 17, 2017.  Accessed April 18, 2020.


18
Apr 20

Restorative Justice

I think the prison system should be massively reformed. As it stands, our system is punitive, as it focuses on punishment, rather than fixing the problems. A lot of offenders can be helped, if given the right tools to succeed. There are a few possible models that can be used that are not based on punishment, but on helping. These sorts of systems lead to lower rates of recidivism.

Restorative justice was a model that was created around the concepts of offender victim reconciliation and rehabilitation (Palermo 2013). This is a concept that is used in more than 80 countries across the world (Palermo 2013). It doesn’t mean that people aren’t held accountable for their actions, as they definitely are; rather the focus is on healing and reconciling with victims, if possible (Palermo 2013). During this process, offenders will be rehabilitated and supported, to lower recidivism (Palermo 2013). Ideally, this model is designed to humanize criminal justice from the original punitive system (Palermo 2013).

This model of criminal justice is particularly useful for juveniles, as current models are not known to lower recidivism (Palermo 2013). Restorative justice is much more humane and has been shown to help children more than current systems (Palermo 2013). There is a lot of analysis still being done on how well this system works with children (Palermo 2013).

The criminal justice system is too focused on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation. It’s even worse for juveniles because they have so many opportunities to work on things and become better as adults. It is extremely hard to help criminals when punishment is the focus. Restorative justice is a model that holds offenders accountable, but also works on getting through the issues, restitution, assuaging feelings of guilt and resolving issues with victims. This system doesn’t focus much on punishment, as that’s not the goal.

Reference

Palermo, G. (2013). Restorative justice: A more understanding and humane approach to offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 57(9) 1051-53. DOI:10.1177/0306624X13495009


17
Apr 20

The power of an idea put to action

Participatory Action Research (PAR) was described by Hall in 1981 as a process of research, education and action. Researchers and participants take on an active role in addressing issues that affect themselves, their families, and their communities (Brydon-Miller, 1997). When officially carrying out a PAR progression, Maguire relates his model to earlier work by Fernandes and Tandon, adapting a model that begins with an established relationship built off mutual trust and commitment held by all members. Process participation relies strongly on responsibility for the design of the research, data collection, data analysis and the development and implementation of the change (Brydon-Miller, 1997).
The institute of Development Studies provides an excellent website explaining participatory research with colorful tabs indicating how to get started. The tabs include: plan, monitor and evaluate, learn and empower, research and analyses, communicate, facilitate and methods and ideas. The site’s moto provides a positive status: “people working together around the world to generate ideas and action for social change (PRC/IDS website).” I like how the site not only explains steps in participatory research but welcomes ideas and input for future pages. The site provides real examples for action research including Accountable Aid, Facilitating workshops, Community Art projects, Poverty Assessment and many others. I think this website provides a perfect example for interested future members or for anyone discovering information on established participatory research.
When reviewing the participatory methods website, I decided to click on an established action plan to get a better idea of the process. I chose the first plan, accountable aid. This plan indicates, a need for accountability of aid for citizens for various reasons, such as natural disasters, violent conflicts, or corruption. This action plan helps to narrow gaps working alongside or separate from the government. These types of programs are subject to monitoring, evaluation, impact assessment and reporting in order to carry out the intended goal for aid (PRC/IDS website). This action plan appears to carry out the several methods of progression for action, especially indicating responsibility and reassurance for those receiving aid to use it for its intended purposes. I believe this type of action plan is similar to what we recently received in the United States with the stimulus, due to the effect of covid19. These types of actions plans are essential to help the country move forward in difficult times.
In conclusion, I feel Participatory Action Research is beneficial for advancement and growth in community and society. I can understand how action plans can also be challenging do to commitment and development over time. I believe participants in participatory action research would acquire a great sense of achievement if an idea became an established change for the better of the community. Hard work, dedication and determination for moving forward and created good is a noble feature of PAR, that I believe takes a special group of individuals to carry out its intended purpose.

Brydon-Miller, Mary. Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Journal of Social Issues. 53(4). Winter 1997. pp. 657-666.
Institution of Development Studies and Participation, Inclusion and Social change. https://www.participatorymethods.org/


16
Apr 20

Increasing Educational Satisfaction at a Thai Buddhist Scripture School

For this week’s blog post, I chose to read more about a learning school created in Khon Kaen Province, Thailand based on Participatory Action Research (PAR). For a brief refresher, PAR helps psychologists and social scientists use their skillset in order to support positive social change with underserved communities/groups. PAR is different than traditional methods of research because “The success of any PAR project depends on the depth of mutual trust and commitment held by all participants” (Brydon-Miller, 1997). The author frames the issue of students in Thailand being challenged due to “soaring social mobilization” causing challenges for education worldwide – particularly how Thailand needs to implement better economics, politics, technology, and education in order to create a quality population for the future. Buddhist scripture schools across Thailand have been known for having problems with quality and even failing nationwide educational standards – the school for this study is Wat Srichan, a Buddhist scripture school. The authors of the article state that PAR is a great process for helping create a better learning environment because both the research participants and the researchers are able to be engaged in the development processes.

While reading more about the objectives of this research and other educational settings where O*Net scores were utilized for a benchmark, I was surprised that the authors cited two online learning organizations. I would think that a traditional, in-person classroom would be significantly different to design and implement a proposal than an online/e-learning classroom. Although I may be a bit nitpicky on the prior point, I appreciate how the authors stated their Ten Moral Codes for framing the research – some of which included: 

  • Enabling equal accessibility to research approach among the participants
  • Enabling full participation from the research informants
  • Making results available to the public
  • If a participant declined to participate, their decision is respected

The researchers were able to have two phases of gathering data – once per semester – based on an existing framework. This included an in-depth individual interview, focus group interviews, observations, and examination of records. All of which are qualitative data.

The researchers had enabled the ~30 participants to be able to take part in discussions around finding solutions for classroom problems and then present their solutions in front of their entire class. To the researchers’ surprise, teachers were far more open to welcoming new teaching techniques in order to help 21st-century learners grasp concepts. Prior to allowing for more open, free-flowing dialogue between students & teachers, the educational evaluation list that the researchers utilized had all scored well below their speculated 3.50 average. The learning environment was 3.07, teachers were 3.04, and students were 3.03. After PAR was completed, the respective scores were 4.13, 4.10, and 4.45. By involving all stakeholders in the educational system at the Wat Srichan school with PAR, there have been tremendous gains in these metrics.

In conclusion, I appreciated the PAR approach that the researchers had undertaken. I would have been a bit happier if the researchers were students of a Buddhist scripture university as well – instead of being from a traditional Thai University. However, I would think there is very minimal overlap between PhD students studying applied social psychology with participatory action research at a small Buddhist scripture school in the middle of Thailand. 

References – 

Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Journal of Social Issues, 53(4), 657–666.

Chanthago, P. J., Phrakrudhammapissamai, & Jantaragaroon, C. (2020). Development of a Learning School in Wat Srichan School, Khon Kaen Province: A Participatory Action Research. International Journal of Higher Education, 9(1), 11–21.


16
Apr 20

The Importance of Self-Reflection in PAR

When discussing the use of Participatory Action Research (PAR) to enact positive change within disadvantaged groups, some individuals can be skeptical due to the potential bias arising from the integration of researchers into the society being studied. The inclusion of a community integration aspect within these research ventures can also be a useful tool however, increasing the external validity of research studies being performed due to their direct testing within the community itself. To counteract some of the potential biases arising from these situations, researchers will often discuss their own involvements and backgrounds regarding the project, in an attempt to clarify and dispel potential underlying biases that may affect the integrity of the data (Brydon-Miller, 1997). With these caveats in mind, is PAR still an effective form of discovering effective social intervention techniques? To help answer this question, we will look at a well-written example of PAR, and how it handles both self-reflection and community-aid.

In research conducted by Michael Frank, he placed himself into a Latinx community of parents and studied their levels of involvement at their children’s schools. Within this community, alongside seeking to create an intervention for the community, he analyzed the ways in which priveleged individuals can more effectively connect to and aid these underpriveleged individuals within their work. To some, the image of researchers who create interventions for underpriveleged people involves priveleged white academics poorly integrating themselves into societies comprised of disenfranchised people of color and potentially causing more problems than they solve. This self-reflective work seeks to counteract some of the negative effects encountered by these researchers in the past regarding helping communities they were not originally a part of (Frank, 2018).

The importance of this paper lies not only in its direct impact on the causes it wishes to support, but also in the display of proper self-reflection techniques needed by PAR-related researchers. Michael Frank attempts to outline the important aspects of a good PAR throughout his paper (similar to the basic tenets provided by Budd Hall), modeling proper behavior as a priveleged person working with communities that have traditionally been exploited or oppressed. The unique skills and knowledge he can bring from academia to these communities is mentioned, however the inclusion of the importance of educating himself on these issues is prominent. These genuine efforts towards learning how his own identities (racial or otherwise) can negatively interact with the societies he is researching begins to bridge the gap between detached research and the effectiveness of activism. He also includes his experiences with intraracist activities occurring as well, with people of color stereotyping themselves based upon race and ethnicity as well. This is in line with the understanding that the specific concerns of the community should be addressed, as well as a focus on creating positive social change, due to his focus on mitigating any personal negative effects (Brydon-Miller, 1997).

Although focused on the problematic influences of individuals like himself, Frank simultaneously uses this research to enhance the voices of those within the study. To do this, research questions pertained to the issues that participants faced at school, and were created by Latinx researchers. With a hands-off approach that amplified the voices of its participants, Frank was free to analyze the issues potentially harming those he was attempting to help, particularly essentialist assumptions. He would methodically address any instances where it arrived, coming up with possible conclusions about where these problematic behaviors may have originated. Additionally, his conclusions included sections regarding his own influences regarding the conclusions of the study (Frank, 2018). Although the inclusion of the researcher themselves can sometimes be frowned upon in scientific research, the self-recognition present in PAR is beginning to show how restrictive these views can be. Through greater analysis of both community aid and the researcher themselves in PAR, individuals can come to not only recognize the communities they wish to help, but also to better mitigate any negative behaviors they are engaging in, while detached researchers may never come across these opportunities.

References

Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Journal of Social Issues, 53(4). 657-666.

Frank, M. J. (2018). Resisting essentialism in cultural research: A participatory action research study of parent involvement in education among spanish-speaking students and families (Order No. AAI10839744). Available from APA PsycInfo®. (2118094865; 2018-48572-232). Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/2118094865?accountid=13158


16
Apr 20

Misleading Media

In times today there are many different ways to get important information; one of those ways is through the media. The media has continuously proven to be partially, if not fully, biased at times to meet their specific agenda. The media outlet has done activism research, are fully vested in the outcome and results and skewed that information to portray the message they want to get across to their viewers.

This is specifically happening right now and causing harm in China revolving information with the Coronavirus. The media is conducting researched based on information they want to see the outcome of and is only sharing the results that benefit certain people and their organizations. Although the media is responsible and used for providing the public with timely news coverage the bias that the media is sharing is also harmful to the public.

An example the article used below is media outlets discussing information about Covid-19 before any official information had been released. This including harmful, inaccurate and discriminating information in the titles of articles that although, were not untrue, were misleading to the public in a harmful way. The media has a great deal of responsibility and is the primary source of information for many people and if used incorrectly to push an agenda a certain media outlet has can lead to negative consequences.

Activism research is particularly valuable to those looking to find information to support a specific agenda or outcome. With the information not being incorrect, but only showing results supporting a certain conclusion, the media is able to get away with showing information that may be biased and harmful to the other conclusions that it is not representing.

Jun Wen, Joshua Aston, Xinyi Liu & Tianyu Ying (2020) Effects of misleading media coverage on public health crisis: a case of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak in China, Anatolia, DOI: 10.1080/13032917.2020.1730621


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