01
Nov 19

Improving Academic Self–Concept: Opening the Door to a Brighter Future

The mind is a powerful thing…I was never a good student back in high school. No, let me rephrase that—I never thought I had what it took to be a good student, so at some point I just stopped trying, and then I really became not a good student. I never had much academic success, so I developed a pretty bad academic self–concept of myself as a result. Today, I know I could have been a good student if many things had been different—namely, my attitude.
Being a “good student” isn’t simply being intelligent. Being a good student involves a mindset which includes having a positive attitude towards learning, with beliefs that learning is important, that you have the ability to do everything it will take to achieve your academic goals, and that the outcome is worth it and within your control. Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior helps explain how attitudes relate to behavior, which can predict intention, which then predicts behavior (Gruman, Schneider, and Coutts, 2017). This constant loop of a relationship can be a powerfully positive one or a powerfully destructive one.
Academic self–concept has been shown to be strongly correlated with academic success, and is influenced by many factors. Complicating this whole process are many intervening variables as well, which can either work for or against someone’s academic self–concept. Subjective norms can be powerful influences on beliefs, intentions, behavior, and motivation—what others think can matter a great deal. Often, we meet the level of success that others around us expect of us, and a supportive environment can work wonders for behavioral change. Additionally, intention and motivation can be diminished if one perceives that they have a low level of behavioral control over the outcome—in this way, self–fulfilling prophecies about one’s own abilities to achieve success take root.
The process of achieving a positive academic self–concept includes not only attitudes, perceptions, motivation, and behavior, it also includes good experiences that will reinforce one’s evolving overall perceptions, intentions, and behavior. Negative experiences, resulting from actions such as repeatedly failing classes due to one’s behavior, such as cutting school or not studying, can have a strong negative impact on one’s academic self–concept. On the other hand, the skill development affect explains how positive experiences, such as receiving positive feedback from professors or getting a good grade on a midterm you studied hard for, can motivate us even more to continue this positive trajectory of our lives (Gruman et al., 2017, p. 224).
There are great rewards to positive behavioral changes. A positive academic self–concept can come anytime in life, people have it within their grasp to turn it around. For me, it has been developed and positively reinforced over the last four years at Penn State’s World Campus. Every new theory I learned or good grade I got after working hard on a paper was a building block for an improved academic self–concept. In addition, knowing that other students have the same motivation to perform well academically, despite many challenges, and receiving positive support from teachers and administrators, contributes to high positive outcome expectations (e.g. completing a difficult task, graduating) which then predict academic attitudes and academic performance (Gruman et al., 2017). I believe change can happen as soon as you open your mind to change, but it’s not that easy—as Ajzen’s theory explains, it takes a lot of planning as well.

References

Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2017). Applied Social Psychology:
Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage. ISBN 9781483369730


14
Oct 19

Looking for a Job?

I’m almost positive without research being done, (which is a big no no in my future field to assume, however, I’m going to anyway) that a majority of working individuals have hated at least one job they’ve had. In my own case, I’ve hated about half of every job I’ve ever had. I have worked with children the majority of my life. I love my first job and I was lucky to be there from teenage years up until adulthood. Of course, there were aspects of it I didn’t like such as waking up at the crack of dawn or rude parents, but I loved the environment and the students.
There were many reasons I didn’t like coming to work at other places of employment I had. The majority had to do with leadership. I’ve had hostile managers, that I felt like loved to berate me. I’ve had supervisors that wouldn’t support the team but will take credit for the accomplishments of the group. I also had supervisors that had no idea what they were doing.
One way to avoid those unfortunate environments is to find something you enjoy. Job satisfaction is an important factor in whether or not you’ll stay at a particular place of employment. Job satisfaction according to Gruman, “can be defined as a person’s attitude toward his or her overall job as well as toward various aspects of the job; it is a predisposition to respond to one’s work environment in a favorable or unfavorable manner.” In other words, it is the ways to determine what causes you to like your job.
When it comes to looking for a job you can gather if the work will be mentally challenging from the ad a company puts out for the position. Equitable rewards are usually noticed after working there and sometimes is labeled in the company’s benefits policy which most find out in great detail after being hired. Supportive working conditions and supportive colleagues is what you can figure out before you accept the position by asking some key questions in the interview. You can also get more information about the work’s challenges in the interview as well. Asking these questions could help with your own person-job fit model. The person-job fit model argues that job satisfaction will be higher when there’s a pretty good matchup between your personal characteristics and the nature of the job (Gruman, 2017). The key is to not be too intrusive. Make these question flow into the interview like conversations as to not put off your future employer.
Asking what the companies’ values or mission statement is very important. This let’s you know what environment you will be entering into. A related question is what is the office culture like? These answers will let you know if this organization is something you want to run away from depending on your personality. An eclectic artist would not want to work in an environment where the culture is very strict in appearance and conversation and the organizational values reflect a cutthroat mentality where individuals steal ideas in order to gain success. It’s important to ask upfront instead of finding out later.
To find out more about supportive working conditions, asking about a learning development program or about training will let you know if they support employees learning more. This could also clue you in about how the company supports growth. If you’re the type of person with high growth need strength which can be explained by your job contributing to your personal growth and development, it’s especially important to ask this question.
One question I have learned to ask an interviewer which gives insight to supportive colleagues is “What do you like best about working for this organization?” This would give information on how colleagues support each other when things go wrong. Social influence at work can affect job satisfaction. The answer to this question derives specifically from their social environment at work. Beware when an interviewer gives vague answers and doesn’t answer with some slight enthusiasm. It probably means you should definitely run for the hills.
These are things I wished someone told me once I got into the workforce full time. I would’ve avoided some very unhealthy environments. Please remember, that you add value to your organization by being there. You do have to accomplish getting their attention with impressing them in order for them to offer you the job, but they need to impress you as well. After all you’ll spend the majority of your days working there.


30
Sep 19

You, Me, We, and Stress

Stress always sounds like a frequently used bad word. If you ask a fellow student, a parent, a family member, or a coworker how they feel, “stressed” is usually one of the common words they might use in description along with sleepy, exhausted, and burnt out.

To get technical, stress results from things that happen in our environment, according to the transactional model of stress. Unfortunately, this model implies almost anything can cause stress, “people, events, and situations” (Gruman, 2017). Those categories mentioned are called stressors and there are many things that fall into those three categories.

In these situations, our brains appraise the situation. Appraisals can happen consciously or subconsciously. When this happens think of fight or flight. Either we can think this situation is threatening to us or it’s something we can conquer or get over. We also have secondary appraisals that evaluate and assess our resources to determine how we handle the stressor.

Appraisals can be different for everybody even if it’s the same situation. For example, if I saw a snake (it could be at PetSmart), I would immediately appraise the situation to be threatening. My secondary appraisal would be my resources, my legs to move away from the aisle or my car keys to escape just in case the snake escaped its cage. My husband on the other hand, would appraise the situation as something he could overcome or may not be stressed by the situation at all. If we were looking at the same snake however, his stress maybe because of my reaction to the snake, not the snake itself. What can stress one person out may not phase another.

Appraisals can also change over time. Another personal example, at one point I used to be terrified of dogs. I had been bitten as a child. If I saw a dog, my subconscious appraisal was that the situation was threatening, and I would cry, scream, and beg to leave whatever place the dog(s) were. About 7 years later my cousin, whom I was very close with, got a dog. His gentle nature and my constant appearance in his home changed my appraisal. I no longer saw the situation as threatening. Later on, I grew to be a dog lover with my own two spoiled puppies.

This is an example of coping. Coping is “thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that people engage in when trying to reduce stress” (Gruman, 2017). In essence this means what do you do to reduce the stress that the event, person, or situation caused.

In my last example, I unknowingly was involved in problem-focused coping which is exactly how it sounds. I faced my problem head on to reduce the power it had to stress me out. Did I consciously think “Hey, you really have got to get over your fear of dogs. It’s ridiculous.” No, I did not, I was 10. But I did think, “I want to be around my older cousin more so if that means dealing with her dog then fine.” Pepper was a gentle lovable dog, he made it easy to start to look forward to his cuddles when I saw him. Pepper himself didn’t make my fear of dogs obsolete, but his nature did help me cope. Eventually he was a point of stress relief and now so are my dogs.

There is another type of coping called emotion-focused coping. It deals with how people try to regulate their own emotions in order to reduce the effects of stress. It’s commonly thought of in terms of things we can not change, however, it’s important to note that this does not mean that we avoid the stress. Avoiding stress can lead down a destructive pathway which could possibly bring on more stress.

I experienced emotion-focused coping when I found out that Pepper died. I do not like to be sad, but I let the emotion come forth and I also thought about all the things Pepper opened me up to. Because of Pepper I have two dogs that I love so much. I learned how to take care of an animal because of him. I also learned how to train a dog and instill obedience. My dogs have a better life because of my own interaction with Pepper.

If you notice my end results in both dog examples was that they lead to a healthy outcome. Using the coping methods appropriately lead to a healthy management of stress. Other coping mechanisms for stress management are relaxation training, expressive writing, and using cognitive behavioral therapy to identify stressors, discuss appraisals, and practice coping strategies (Taylor, 2018). Stress may not cause illness; however, it can greatly exacerbate it. Other factors affect stress like socioeconomic status, negative events. Stress can also impact sleep and the time frame to recover from the physiological effects on stress on the body.

To reduce the likelihood of developing chronic stress or incur any of the negative effects of stress it’s important to also have a support system. Social support according to Taylor is information from others that one is loved and cared for, esteemed and valued, and part of a network of communication and mutual obligations. This means that people are better able to cope and have healthier outcomes with social support.

There are difference types of support such as tangible assistance, which is like a monetary gift or someone physically helping you move. Informational support is getting advice or information on situations we’ve never faced before such as getting marital advice as a newlywed. Emotional support is what we receive from people that love and care about us and our well being. Though this doesn’t list all types of support, these are just a few things to possibly reduce our haste to stress out.

Stress is something that can’t be avoided. Our bodies were made to respond to it for our survival, but it can be managed so that it won’t take over our lives and our health. Let’s make use of all of those strategies to keep up healthy and thriving.

 

References

Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (2017). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Taylor, S. E. (2018). Health Psychology. New York: McGraw Hill Education.

 


29
Oct 18

The online classroom

Education has definitely changed with the introduction to online classrooms. There are plenty of people who used to think, and some still do, that an online degree is not worth as much as one that you get after studying on campus. I know a few people who still believe that my online degree is not the same degree that students on campus get. They think that the online classes are easier and that’s one reason why it’s not worth as much. The ones who don’t think that way are usually more motivating and encouraging. It has become quite frustrating attempting to explain to others that my online education is just as good as what students get in person on campus. The degree will be the same. I’m not sure why some try to argue this even today, but it is definitely frustrating and annoying.

Online education is just as important, valid, and useful. In my opinion, it requires more discipline when you have a lot of other responsibilites that you need to pay attention to at the same time. Some of us have full-time jobs, families (kids, parents, grandparents) that we are taking care of, while also at the same time going to school full-time. With all of that combined, you can forget about getting your eight or nine hours of sleep every night. Personally, I’m lucky to get six hours of sleep. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. All of the things mentioned above can also prevent you from sitting down and really think about what you have read and what you’d like to write for your assignments. Some content requires you to take a moment and think about it or research it even further.

The problem there is that there isn’t much time to do that and really enjoy what you are reading. I wish that there was time for me to enjoy and thoroughly research every single reading assignment (learning more about it, etc.), but there just isn’t much time. I’m sure that there is a lot going on for student’s on campus as well, where they don’t get much sleep either, but while they are on campus they are just responsible for themselves. They might have jobs while studying, too but they don’t have family members to take care of at the same time. This might not apply to all, but I think it applies to the majority.

The stereotype threat is the anxiety that students feel when they are faced with expectations consistent with stereotypes about their group (Schneider, 2012). The fear that they would confirm a stereotype in the eyes of others has been shown to affect someone’s academic motivation, self-concept, and academic performance (Schneider, 2012). I think that the stereotype threat can be applied to online education because of the fact that some people believe that online students are “less-than” and expect them to not be or not count as much as students on campus. Then some online students might be afraid of confirming this stereotype and that fear can get in the way of their academic performance and motivation. My motivation, academic performance, and self-concept have been affected a little bit in the beginning when I was told that my online education wasn’t “real”. It does produce anxiety and you have to fight to get that motivation back in order to break the stereotype threat.

 

References

Schneider, F. W. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Pub.


14
Oct 18

Guilty or not guilty?

Many people are guilty of being biased and can experience generic prejudice, especially when on jury duty. However, you don’t have to be a juror to experience this. There is generic prejudice even when just watching a trial on television, but that depends on what kind of a trial it is. For example, sexual abuse and homicide trials are the ones that seem to get the most attention. Those are especially difficult for jurors and it can be difficult to not be biased. For example, the moment we heard about a woman named Casey Anthony and her dead daughter, most of us said that she must be guilty of murdering her own child. We did this without listening to the facts of the case first. Personally, that is exactly what I thought (and still do). I don’t have children, but I used to work with kids, so I am protective.

Emotions can also be sparked during a homicide or sexual abuse case. We conclude right away that the person on trial must be guilty when it’s something so severe. This can be due to personal experience, or we know someone who went through that, we know a survivor, etc. In most cases, we are right to be biased and think that they must be guilty (which they are most of the time, I think), but there are cases where this would not be the truth. Sometimes there are people on trial who were accused of something so horrible, but end up being innocent. Generic prejudice can put an innocent person behind bars and it can make choosing the right jury a difficult task.

According to an article by Neil Vidmar, “Jurors do not approach the trial as empty receptacles who passively listen to the evidence and decide cases independently of their past experience, knowledge, and awareness of community norms” (Vidmar, 2003). Sexual abuse and homicide cases aren’t the only ones though. Generic prejudice also includes racism, which can affect someone of a different race/culture who is on trial. For example, many people established a negative view of Muslims after September 11th. Although only a particular group of muslims was responsible, an entire faith and people were punished for it. Completely innocent people who had nothing to do with the horrible tragedy that took place in 2001. “Research indicates that events that cause strong negative emotions, or that threaten people’s cultural world view, affect the way that these schemas operate” (Vidmar, 2003).

Basically, people who are racist or have strong views that they can’t put aside, would not make a great addition to a jury. A jury should be open minded and not have any strong views one way or another. If someone absolutely hates muslims, for example, and is supposed to be a juror on a case where an innocent muslim is being charged for a crime, how could they make sure that they give that person a fair trial? The same can be said if someone is accused of murder, and they are guilty, but a juror can’t find them guilty based on various reasons (same ethnicity, background, culture, etc.). It’s no wonder that selecting the right jury can take some time, but this is something to keep in mind if you are called in for jury duty.

 

 

References

Neil Vidmar. When All of Us Are Victims: Juror Prejudice and Terrorist Trials, 78 Chi.-Kent L.Rev.1143 (2003). Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol78/iss3/10

30
Sep 18

The way diversity affects us

“Diversity brings about the opportunity to learn new perspectives and, in so doing, to increase creativity and innovativeness for both individuals and groups” (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2012). While I agree with that statement, I have to point out that diversity can obviously also lead to things such as prejudice, discrimination, and some conflict. We are all different based on how we look, how we behave, our background, gender, and socioeconomic status. Diversity can affect us positively or negatively and that can depend on many different things. One example that I would like to use is my own background and experiences.

I was born in Bosnia and was three years old when my family moved to Germany in order to escape the Yugoslavian war in the early 90s. We spent nearly nine years in Germany and, since I was so young when we moved, I had no memory of Bosnia. Germany and that culture was all that I knew. At that time, there were all sorts of people living in my town who came from a different culture. We all managed to blend in with the Germans, while also maintaining our own traditions. Somehow it all worked, so we experienced little to no discrimination. The negative conflicts that happened came in the late 90s when a few local government officials decided that it was time for a few of the Bosnian families to leave Germany. We were on that list and were given a choice – either go back to Bosnia or move to the United States. We chose the United States because there was nothing left for us in Bosnia and a few family members had already moved to the USA at that time.

We faced negative conflict and discrimination when we moved to the United States and had to yet again learn a new language and learn about the new culture. Although our new home had a diverse group as well, it somehow included more negative conflict. When we moved here, I was finishing the seventh grade and barely spoke English. It gave the other kids a reason to bully me, which affected my self-esteem.  They believed that their group was superior and that I was the ‘lower class’, so to speak. Thinking back on it, it made my social and personal identity stand out. “Social identity theory suggests that it is the context within which individuals find themselves that determines which type of identity – personal or social – will predominate” (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2012). I think that back then, the social identity dominated because the new environment that I found myself in evoked the sense of social identity. Now I would say the personal identity dominates more because I am more aware of myself and focus on that rather than the social group that I find myself in.

“Anywhere humans exist, diversity will exist” (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2012). We need to find ways to minimize discrimination and find resolutions that can maximize positive outcomes because in the end it affects all of us and we all have the common goal of embracing our differences and living in peace.

 

 

References

Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.


16
Sep 18

Habitat Destruction

The loss of habitats is something that we are all aware of, but maybe don’t discuss as often. I love animals more than humans sometimes because we have changed the planet in so many ways and are responsible for the extinction of many species, which is pretty shameful. Habitat destruction should be discussed even more than it already is and some serious changes need to occur right now before we destroy everything completely. One way to do so is to educate everyone on what is exactly going on and motivate people to participate in making a change.

We have done many things that have been harmful to animals and have caused extinctions. Things such as abusing animals, using them as entertainment instead of letting them live in their natural habitats, and using their skin for fashion. Another terrible thing that has caused extinction is habitat destruction. The world’s forests, swamps, and lakes are disappearing because humans are building more housing, more roads, more pipelines, etc (Evans, 2011). According to EarthTimes, “Human activity is responsible for the loss of around half of the forests that once covered the Earth. Although these can recover and can even be sustainably harvested, their rate of loss is about ten times higher than the rate of regrowth” (Evans, 2011). Loss of these habitats also means the loss of other living species. For example, habitat destruction will be responsible for the extinction of 120 living primate species within the next ten to twenty years (Evans, 2011). The animals that will probably be affected more are the bigger ones such as tigers, mountain gorillas, pandas and lions because they require a bigger area of land for a healthy living and breeding population (Evans, 2011).

“Habitat loss is also a huge problem in the marine environment. Destructive fishing, using deep trawlers and dynamiting coral reefs destroy entire ecosystems. Coastal habitats are destroyed when land is drained for development. Excess nutrients from fertilizers or domestic sewage flow into the sea, causing harmful algae to form, blocking out the sunlight and depleting the water of oxygen” (Evans, 2011). The marine environment is another habitat that needs to be protected more because it’s also a great resource for humans. If the sea isn’t taken care of, then it can’t take care of us as well. For example, fish and water. We need fish because it’s beneficial to our health and we need the water. What happens when all of that is eventually destroyed?

There is also another environmental issue that is contributing to the one discussed here and that’s climate change. Climate change will cause many habitats to become inhospitable. For example, “A study in Nature indicated that within the next 50 years a quarter of the world’s land animals and plants could become extinct. This is around a million species”  (Evans, 2011).

Human intervention is a cause for this habitat destruction and needs to be taken more seriously. Right now the only thing that can be done is educate those around us on how to be more responsible for our environment. We need to be aware of what we can do in order to save more animals from extinction and we can start by taking care of their habitats. When you take care of the habitats, then more species will be saved over time. By destroying everything, we will end up causing the predicted extinctions and then what? Can you imagine a world with destroyed habitats and not seeing specific animals anymore such as lions, tigers, and gorillas? Personally, I can’t imagine a world like that and I don’t want to. We need to take responsibility and educate ourselves on how we can change our destructive ways.

 

References

Evans, M. (2011, May 10). Habitat Loss and Degradation. Retrieved from http://www.earthtimes.org/encyclopaedia/environmental-issues/habitat-loss-degradation/

 


16
Sep 18

Stately Sustainability

 

While I may consider it to be the best atmosphere in the whole country, others fear the cheers and jeers of the over 107,000 white-clad diehards screaming their lungs out on any given football Saturday. And no matter which side one may fall on, there is little doubt that Penn State’s Beaver Stadium provides a raucous and unique environment for college athletics, one that has drawn millions of people to central Pennsylvania over the years.

But in speaking about environments, there are many who are also concerned about how fan behavior not only generates an exciting sports scene but can also negatively affect the Earth. Do alumni waste an exorbitant amount of gas making their trips back to Happy Valley during football weekends? Is too much electricity consumed to turn the borough of State College into a bustling city in anticipation for the big game? Can anything be done to balance good times and good practices? A discussion of intervention strategy on individual’s behaviors, along with some current efforts by the Penn State community, may provide perspective in to what actions can be taken to promote future environmental sustainability.

One approach to shaping desired outcomes amongst society is the use of antecedent strategies during interventions. These schemes promote identifying the factors that cause behavioral issues, and then using goals, educational tools, and information to target the negative behavior before it has been committed (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012). These devices “prime” the subject to make the necessary changes identified when formulating a solution to a problem, but do not necessarily require that the actual change takes place (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 307). Essentially, a proactive approach to eliminating adverse influences before a problem arises.

Here is an example for my football fans out there. Let us say that a certain football coach may hope to prepare his Nittany Lions to beat the University of Illinois next week but is concerned about his players losing focus as they look a week ahead to the Ohio State matchup. During the time prior to this week’s game, he may take to Twitter and repeatedly use the term “Illinois” to remind his team of where their concentration and goals should lie. Next, he will instruct the coaching staff to review film of only the Illini football team’s games and then also directs them to not use the words “Ohio” or “Buckeyes” all week. The entire team is provided with a scouting report on only Illinois’ strengths and weaknesses from the coaches, and there is no mention of any schools that may be located in a bordering state. In removing some the interfering elements, the team dedicates itself to focus solely on winning at Illinois. Likewise, similar interventional avenues can also be used to persuade others not to commit environmentally-hazardous behaviors.

With an overabundance of trash left after football games, Penn State is leading an effort to determine how to promote less waste by visitors to Beaver Stadium. In conjunction with the university’s Sustainability Institute, Tailgate Ambassadors have descended upon the stadium in recent years with the goal of promoting efficient recycling practices at football games (Tailgate, 2018). To intercept poor habits before they occur, these student volunteers spread out amongst the tailgating lots during the season, interacting with fans and providing educational information about how and where to dispose of waste. Fans are encouraged to presort their recyclable cans and bottles in to blue bags, and other waste is disposed of in similar clear containers. During just one home game against Michigan last season, Tailgate Ambassadors communicated with 80,000 fans, handing out 3,600 bags, and capturing 62,000 pounds of recycling (Tailgate, 2018). In using the antecedent strategies of setting goals and providing education and information before the problem arises, Penn State students are tackling the issue of environmentally-damaging behaviors.

Interventions program can be implemented to address the different factors associated with changing individual’s behaviors, as evident by organized volunteer initiatives at Penn State. Based on their adaptation in a variety of situations, antecedent strategies are currently being invoked by the university’s Sustainability Institute in providing student Tailgate Ambassadors who make a considerable difference in recycling efforts at Beaver Stadium. Prior to the disposal of trash, these volunteers educate fans about the correct methods for managing recyclables and waste, and in doing so, make a positive impact on the environment.

What else can be done to make the Penn State football experience an environmentally-sustainable one. Can all of those used vinyl pom-poms be repurposed into something more beneficial? Are concession stands currently operating at 100% compliance in using recycled foodservice plates and cutlery? Are there options for more energy efficient stadium lights? It remains an important endeavor to continue to seek new ways to make Penn State not only a great football atmosphere, but an environmentally-friendly one as well. Something everyone can cheer about!

References:

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tailgate Ambassadors. (2018). Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.pennstatecsl.com/tailgate-ambassadors.html


27
Feb 18

Juvenile Justice System

There is this perception in our society that those under 18 are under some type of legal protection or exemption. I used to think that if a teenager was tried as an adult then they would be susceptible to an unfair trial and that being sentenced as a juvenile was far better. I certainly do not agree with many ways that our U.S. justice system operates. I strongly believe that young people’s age should be a factor in understanding their motivation and capabilities. Therefore, charging a 16-year-old as an adult seems to be incredibly unjust. However still, juveniles are not awarded many of the same rights as adults and therefore may be getting a fairer trial but certainly not a fairer sentence. It is incredibly unreasonable to hold children to adult expectations; therefore, the juvenile justice system needs to be structured in a way that considers their age, allows them a fair trial and sentence. While also providing consistent and rehabilitative discipline that allows them to succeed as an adult.

Juvenile hearings are quite different than adult hearings, the Juvenile Law Center notes that “juvenile court hearings are often closed to members of the public and records are often confidential…however, despite what many people believe, juvenile records in most jurisdictions are not automatically sealed or expunged” (Juvenile Law Center, 2018). A juvenile record may follow an individual around throughout their life, making it difficult to be successful as an adult. Juveniles are not given the same rights as adults, thus having less protection when being accused or convicted and highly susceptible to manipulation. Furthermore, children are sentenced and tried by a judge, not a jury, which makes them highly vulnerable to discrimination. While also being subject to the judge’s personal opinions of the significance of the crime.

Remember the “kids for cash” scandal in Pennsylvania a few years back? This is a prime example of how the juvenile justice system is vulnerable to manipulation. Judges were found guilty of receiving a monetary commission for sentencing minors to juvenile detention centers (NPR, 2014). Judge Ciavarella took advantage of a system that allowed him to benefit from selling kid’s lives to juvenile detention centers for a profit (NPR, 2014). The juvenile system should not have space for Judge’s to have so much influence in one person’s life. Some of the children in the juvenile justice system lose years from their life based from one person’s sentence. This is different than the Adult justice system where adults are tried in front of a jury.

The article, Mandatory Minimums, Maximum Consequences discusses how federal law is reviving the “tough on crime approach” with juveniles (Steiner, 2017). This requires juveniles to be automatically tried as adults for certain crimes, therefore giving them an adult sentence. Therefore many have spent most, if not all their lives in jail for crimes they committed as teenagers. Steiner notes that a situation where Washington teens faced up to 45 years for stealing candy and cell phones while having a firearm on them (Steiner, 2017). Crimes committed by juveniles certainly need to be addressed and some situations may have more severe consequences on society. However, children should not be held to the same expectations as adults, because they are not mentally mature enough to understand the full consequences of their actions.

There are certainly issues with the juvenile justice system that we could discuss endlessly. The adult justice system in America is certainly no model to strive for. Though, suggesting that juveniles be treated to the same extent and with the same expectations as adults is unreasonable. Duplicating the adult justice system with juveniles, while also giving them less rights and protections is also highly problematic. I am simply suggesting that the juvenile justice system enact changes that truly reflect the child’s needs and ensure fair and ethical discipline. Instead of trying to transfer kids to the adult system or disregard their rights to fair trials and appropriate sentencing.

References

Juvenile Law Center (2018). Youth in the Justice System: An Overview. Retrieved from: http://jlc.org/news-room/media-resources/youth-justice-system-overview

NPR Staff (2014). ‘Kids For Cash’ Captures A Juvenile Justice Scandal From Two Sides. NPR. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2014/03/08/287286626/kids-for-cash-captures-a-juvenile-justice-scandal-from-two-sides

Steiner, Emily (2017). Mandatory Minimums, Maximum Consequences. Juvenile Law Center. Retrieved from: http://jlc.org/blog/mandatory-minimums-maximum-consequences


16
Feb 18

Colleges and Intergroup relations

So, how do colleges address and encourage natural experiences and dialogue? Some colleges are attempting to address discrimination through offering intergroup dialogue classes, sessions, and even entire majors devoted to intergroup relations. Some goals of intergroup relations programs are to foster spaces for students to interact. Intergroup dialogues are intended to be spaces to connect students through broadening their understanding of those who they perceive to fit into some different groups. This strategy is consistent with Allport’s Contact Hypothesis which emphasizes the value of positive contact in decreasing negative stereotypes (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013).

The University of Michigan offers several intergroup dialogue classes for students to participate in. Once students are approved to participate in a 3-credit class, they are placed into a specific “topic placement such as race, ethnicity, SES, Gender, etc.” (Michigan State, 2018). The dialogues are facilitated by trained students who encourage dialogue and discussion in response to reading materials (Michigan State, 2018). A goal of these dialogues is to encourage and foster a culturally diverse community where students are treated respectfully and equally. This program focuses on rich and meaningful conversations with intentionally diverse groups.

Villanova University offers something a little different to Michigan state, as they offer up to three, 1-credit intergroup relation courses to their students as free electives. Noting that “One credit IGR courses are designed to prepare students to create dialogues in situations where understanding and listening are needed” (Villanova, 2018). A goal of this initiative is to encourage and equip students for authentic and respectful interactions. This program defines intergroup relations as an “educational experience about issues of social justice” (Villanova, 2018). These classes are structured to better understand differences among group members through dialogue, exercises, and readings. Each class focuses on a specific topic such as gender, racial identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status and students are encouraged to take more than one course.

Intergroup relations groups encourage participation and thoughtful responses to topics related to various stereotypes and biases. They aim to address issues within society, colleges, and even personally. Colleges are addressing conflict resolution through contact hypothesis by providing spaces for students to find commonalities by interacting with one another (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013).  Consistent with Allport’s hypothesis, intergroup relations aim to address perceived inequalities and foster a space for understanding where all participants are treated equally (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2013). Through providing opportunities for students to positively interact with one another equally and respectfully, colleges are aiming to encourage a stronger community.

Colleges are taking a variety of approaches to address inequality, discrimination, and diversity. In my opinion, colleges have a responsibility to give their students opportunities to learn from one another. I am not certain what approach is the best to take and I would assume that people have different experiences and perspectives of what approach is most appropriate to encourage a healthy and diverse community. However, it is extremely important that educational settings make connecting people and breaking down barriers a priority. Colleges must address discrimination directly and offer learning opportunities for students while also ensuring a safe and healthy community for all students.

References

Schneider, F. W. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

University of Michigan. (2018). Intergroup Dialogues. Retrieved from The Program of Intergroup Relations: https://igr.umich.edu/article/intergroup-dialogues

Villanova University. (2018). Office of the Provost. Retrieved from Villanova.edu: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/provost/diversity/igr.html


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