Advocacy Campaign/Issue Brief Ideas

Below are several possible ideas that I think would fit this assignment well. I hope expand on these ideas as I learn more about the assignment.

  1.  Continue with my civic issue blog theme of religion and religious problems in America: I’ve become very passionate about this topic after researching it heavily over the past few months, and think that I could focus on a certain religion-related problem to create an effective project. This would certainly be a civic issue, and I know that I could draw from numerous modern statistics and movements in order to create my own advocacy argument.
  2. Attempt to discredit an existing civic advocacy movement with a different civic advocacy movement that I create: There are so many social movements spouted into societal consciousness in modern America, and in my opinion several of them are uncalled for and harmful. Maybe an interesting take on this project would be using my own movement to bring down another, destructive movement.
  3. Create a local advocacy project: There are several visible civic issues in my own town that I’d like to assist in resolving. Maybe a project focused on one of them would be a good idea, in that I’d have a personal stake in the outcome and would be incredibly knowledgeable of the topic already.
  4. Create a civic advocacy project regarding an issue on campus: I think it’d be original, and I’d have the opportunity to go in depth in that all of the information I would need is easily found.

I understand that these ideas are general and unspecific, but I hope to clarify them with my partner during class time. Please let me know what you think of each, I’d be glad to hear your feedback.

This I Believe Rough Script

Last weekend I went to State College’s College 9 movie theatre to see Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece—Silence starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver.
The film tells the story of two 17th century Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to spread their faith and find one of their own who is rumored to have apostatized in the face of death. The story revolves around their struggle to keep their faith despite the apparent silence of the god they devote themselves to. The movie’s most powerful scenes were the ones during which nothing was said.

On the quiet ride back to my dorm, I thought about the importance of silence in my own life and the world.

Those games on television when I watched my heroes and the roaring crowd stop and go silent for a moment as they honored a person or a group of people—their faces like statues and their arms over each other’s shoulders as the floodlights blared down on them.

The time when, after finishing Schindlers List in a humanities class in high school, the entire class sat in the dark classroom after the bell had rung, processing what they’d just seen wordlessly on a Friday afternoon.

My room at three in the morning after finally finishing a good book.

The cool, crisp quiet of a lake before the sun comes up.

And most recently, the arboretum. It’s hard to find privacy and real quiet here because of headphones and cramped dorms. But once you cross park avenue, the open space starts to appear, and it’s easier to listen to yourself. I woke up early on a Wednesday morning and went for a long run in the dark—out along the golf courses to the west, past the Nittany lion inn and eventually ended up at the arboretum.

The sun was just coming up as I stood in the middle of the little wooden bridge that crosses the marsh and the reeds. They were still covered in early morning frost and the morning flood of cars was turning onto the main campus roads as the horizon turned orange. And in the stillness, I didn’t feel cold. It felt like I was listening.

I don’t take enough time during the day to appreciate the silence that exists in simple moments. I wonder why I struggle to make decisions and feel as if I know myself. I’ve realized now that the only way to hear what your heart, the space around you, and the universe are trying to tell you, is to be quiet and seek silence.

Ideas for This I Believe Podcast, Passion Blog Update, and Civic Issues Blog.

This I Believe Ideas.

These ideas are the equivalent to a shitty first draft. I haven’t come up with a story based on my own experience that would intrigue an audience for an entire three minutes, let alone make for a decent narrative. So until I come up with something or run out of time, I’ve decided to try to take some bit of ordinary life and create a narrative about its deeper significance

  1. I’m thinking of telling a story about a time when I came close to death or serious injury and then understanding the value of just being alive
  2. I’m also thinking of writing about something more abstract, like the fact that I believe life has meaning even though we may not see it. I think deep questions like these are something we all think about, but rarely discuss with others. For this reason it’d be something new that is hopefully easy to relate to.

I don’t want it to be cliche, so I’m hoping to come up with something new.

Passion Blog Update 

I’ll stick with my original passion blog theme–writing about the freshman experience. I liked this theme last semester because it was extremely broad and I could write about anything, really. I’ll attempt to frame my posts with regard to our class by connecting each unit’s theme to interactions I have with others every day. I hope to make this blog more coherent than it was last semester by hopefully following a more central theme. I’m not sure what this theme will be–I plan to develop it as the semester unfolds using the course and my own experiences.

Two Civic Issues Ideas 

  1. The Decline of Spirituality in America–I’ve noticed, through my own experience, that religion and spirituality of any kind isn’t as common as it used to be. We also don’t talk about it much. I’d love to investigate why this change has come about.
  2. The idealization of the startup–this new trend of people starting businesses and bands etc. completely by themselves (think Uber, the Chainsmokers) has compelled many people to try new things and be more hopeful about their passions. I’d like to explore this attitude and why these changes have been made.

Please let me know what you think.


TED Talk Outline

Purpose: Youth sports have become an obligation rather than a pastime for the children of America. This has coincided with the rise of mandatory public education and the cutthroat college admissions process. But it also serves as an example of the over-structuring of the lives of modern children. This final aspect is what I’d like to explore with my talk.


-Begin with a personal anecdote about my own involvement in competitive sports and a funny picture of myself to make people laugh. Explain the basis of my talk outlined in the purpose section but without the final aspect about over structuring.

History and Actual Shift

-Summarize the basis of paradigm shift paper, the gradual organization of youth sports and the shift in our way of thinking about them—their transition from pastime to job.

Turning Point—over structuring and us

-Make the claim that this represents a larger trend of extreme over structuring and competition in the lives of American children of all ages and that we have suffered from it. Bring up data that shows how packed our time is, how much time we spend studying, participating in clubs, etc. and that we do it all in order to keep up with everyone else. Explain the disadvantages of these packed schedules—how this constant ‘go’ attitude leaves us no time to explore our own interests and relax and the need to compete leaves us unsatisfied and mentally unstable. Apply this specifically to the college lifestyle and use specific examples from Penn State.

Finishing it off—Will it change?

-Admit to not knowing what will happen next with regard to over structuring and competition in school. But encourage the audience to, when they get a chance, take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to search for self-fulfillment and education instead of competition and to do things for their intrinsic value, not just because they look good on a resume. Remind them that it wasn’t always this way in schools. Be sympathetic to the urge to compete and fill the days, however. In the end, you as the speaker don’t need them to change, you just want to draw their attention to a possibly harmful aspect of their lives.

RCL Paradigm Shift Paper Outline

Paradigm Shift: Over the past 100 years, youth sports have changed from being a leisure activity played on the streets between neighborhood friends to a highly competitive, structured and time consuming ‘activity’ meant to keep children out of trouble and on a narrow and well-defined path of development. This shift can be linked to the development of schooling in America, especially with regard to the introduction of mandatory public education and the competitive college admissions process.


-Begin with a personal anecdote about my own experiences with organized and competitive sports beginning when I was very young. State the shift and describe today’s youth sports in detail.

-Note that this shift occurred because of a fundamental change in our perception of youth sports and sports-related ideology. Then note that this change in thinking and ideology was largely a result of historical changes in education and the daily lives of children. (basically a summary of the rest of the paper.)


-Explain the fundamental differences of our perception of youth sports, then and now. Note that it was at first a simple, recreational pastime for fun, and now it is a basically a job for children—extremely competitive, time consuming and pressurized. Sports have gone from a pastime to a route to something else, always something else, be it a higher level of the same sport or admission to a preferred college.

Historical Background

-Provide the bulk of the paper in this section. Explain the gradual progression described in the introduction—the parallel development of American schools and structured youth sports. Provide detailed information and research here.


-Focus this section primarily on the combination of the ideology with the research. Summarize the shift briefly and spend time describing the current and possible future of youth sports in America.







Final Circle Post (Prompt 2)

It was the first time I’d seen my girlfriend’s two best friends in a little over a month. They were both long-haired, crop top wearing selfie takers with a passion for Instagram, partying and boys. But especially Instagram.

“Jimmy!” They fake-squealed as I walked up to them.

“Hi ladies,” I said, wrapping them both in a hug.

“You didn’t like my Instagram picture,” the blonde said with a mock pouty face.

I laughed it off, but she was completely serious. She continued to pester me about it until I pulled my phone from my pocket, scrolled to her Instagram profile, and liked her most recent picture.

Could this have been a part of some flirtatious game? Yes. Was it? No, not at all. Instead, I’m convinced that she was suffering from the “new neediness” Mercer describes in the Circle. It’s the toxic need for approval that drives people to inward insanity and outward conformity.

Where’d this new neediness come from? It grew from the digital world’s emphasis on instant communication, the comfort level modern users have developed with social media, and finally the social value that has been placed in shares, likes and comments.

Instant communication is necessary only in emergency situations. But in our world, replying to a text fifteen minutes after it was received is considered to be rude. Social media and messaging platforms make it easy for us to send and receive all sorts of communication, and instant replies are considered courteous and necessary. But this pushes us closer to neediness. We wait for the return call or text, and if it doesn’t come, we think that the person on the other end is trying to send us a message. Modern digital users are familiar with this sort of anxiety, and take slow return times as a sign that the person they are communicating with is uninterested or angry with them. This fear is rarely rational. But it’s one small example of a new aspect of communication that has caused hyper-neediness in modern tech users.

Expecting a speedy reply is a result of constant digital usage. Modern individuals are constantly plugged into their devices, and for this reason they have developed a level of comfort with social media and the internet that can be dangerous. For example, Francis’s overconfidence in the Circle’s philosophy of oversharing causes him to damage his relationship with Mae when he records and posts their first sexual encounter. Alistair, the Portugal-obsessed Circler that Mae offends by forgetting to accept an invitation, curates his social life and passions strictly via internet. Similarly, modern individuals share incredibly personal information on social media sights, regarding everything from family issues to relationship problems to political rants. By placing these items in a public forum setting, digital users make themselves extremely vulnerable. Anyone can access their information and leave what are often unkind or crude comments. This understandably upsets the individual who posted originally, and could cause them great emotional harm and anxiety. This vulnerability gives way to the overarching neediness prevalent in today’s digital society—Users are willing to share all sorts of information, but must be reassured emotionally by those they share with. Because they are constantly seeking emotional validation from others, modern users are often seen as needy.

Modern users have become so comfortable with social media and technology that they base social value off of social media statistics. The popularity of young teens is determined by their number of followers. An activist’s post is considered successful if it garners a certain number of likes. In the world of the Circle, Mae’s job performance and campus social presence is determined by the number of “Zings” she posts online per day. These numbers give users a perceived value of their social performance, a seemingly concrete indicator of their popularity and success. Because social value is such a coveted quality, users take these indicators very seriously. This creates neediness—users actively hunt likes and other actions in an attempt to promote and encourage themselves. When they don’t receive them, they become distressed.

Neediness—in a relationship, in the workplace, online—is rarely a good thing. It drives people away and displays a lack of confidence in the person who displays it. Yet this is the type of behavior that today’s social media culture perpetuates through its instantaneousness, personal content and use of numbers. If individuals continue to use social media and other technological platforms without control, they’ll find themselves become needy and anxious, constantly seeking the approval of others.

Paradigm Shift Initial Outline

Paradigm Shift Thinking Process

Work to articulate the shift:

State the timeframe, from sprout to full bloom: Sprout, I’d assume, started to grow within the last 30 years or so.

Full bloom is right now.

Identify those affected: children from 8-18

Characterize the ideology or worldview before: Sports were recreational, people played multiple sports, if you were good at one you continued to play it, but you never went to a school just to play a sport there.

Characterize the ideology after: Children now play one sport all year round in an attempt to get a scholarship with multiple training sessions a week.

What markers can you point to as evidence of the shift (e.g. new language/terms)?: “year—round,” “Club” “Looks” “Commited” “#DI”

What resistance is evident? Who is resisting the new ideology?: doctors who say that overspecialization causes injuries, kids who burn out easily, Kids who actually enjoy more than one sport, etc.

What is the shift a response to? A discovery? New knowledge? Injustice? A sudden event?: I’d say the shift is caused by the massive amounts of attention and money pumped into collegiate athletic programs.

Who or what was key in moving the shift forward?: College coaches, competitive athletes, parents who like to live vicariously through their children, helicopter parents, videogame manufacturing companies.

What conditions didn’t exist that came to exist that made the shift possible? Consider presence of laws, technology, media (tv shows, music, news organizations), political ideology,psychology, societal/cultural power dynamics, commerce, economic well being, attitudes about race, class and/or gender, etc. Think of this as the “priming of the pump” for this shift: Scholarship money, more of an emphasis on sports, parents are becoming more controlling of their child’s time, the rise of professional sports in popular culture, the glorification of the rags-to-riches superstar, kids don’t play outside anymore, parents must turn to organized sports.

Now, beyond their simple existence, which of these played a more direct role in advancing the paradigm?: I think that, primarily, this shift was caused by the increased tendency of children to play inside. When they began playing inside and stopped playing pickup sports and games on the street with their friends from the neighborhood, children needed to travel to the local field or YMCA and join organized sports teams and leagues in order to have a chance to play actual sports with a sufficient number of other children. These organized sports, however, became more competitive and win-focused, and as players improved from regular practices, college sports became more serious. For many young athletes, a college scholarship became the goal, and in order to make this a reality, they focused their time on their strongest sport. Alas: the specialized athlete under the age of 18-19 is born.

Now, create a map or timeline that charts the emergence of the ideology that pushed the shift into existence. Figure out how to visually present the geo/socio/political/cultural context of the time and how to indicate, where necessary, how sequences of events lent to space for the budding and blooming of a new paradigm and the withering and demise of the old.


Before the late 80’s—children play outside, pickup sports with friends from the neighborhood.

Late 80’s onward- children needed to travel to the local field or YMCA and join organized sports teams and leagues in order to have a chance to play actual sports with a sufficient number of other children. These organized sports, however, became more competitive and win-focused, and as players improved from regular practices, college sports became more serious. For many young athletes, a college scholarship became the goal, and in order to make this a reality, they focused their time on their strongest sport.

2010’s— Alas: the specialized athlete under the age of 18-19 is born.

Visual—possibly showing pictures of children from each decade playing sports, show how they change.

Responding to Circle Prompt 4

Mae’s significant others, past and present, are incredibly different from one another—not only with regard to their relationship with Mae, but also their perception of the Circle.  Khalden and Mercer both receive Mae’s attention at different points throughout the novel. But Francis, the weak, cookie-cutter Circler on an admirable mission to save the children, is Mae’s first and unfortunately last lover in the novel.

These characters, like any good characters, are placed in the story for more than just entertainment. Each represents a side in the ethical battle that subconsciously rages in Mae’s head throughout te story. In the end it is Francis, who represents the conquered and mundane, that wins Mae’s heart. This serves as an example for the larger theme of the novel—the triumph of the information age over the spontaneity of present human interaction.

This metaphor is proven through an examination of Francis’s interactions with Mae, Mae’s perception of him, and the eventual, presumable triumph of Francis in the race to win Mae’s heart.

Francis is Mae’s first love interest in the novel. They meet at a nighttime circle event. Francis is immediately awkward—after Mae tells him that she is self-conscious about her voice, he tells her “it’s the best thing about you so far,” (Eggers, 35) before clumsily backtracking. Although he is enthusiastic about his life-saving work, he continues to be socially unaware throughout the novel, embarrassing Mae at a Dream Friday meeting and taping their first sexual encounter. He then comes crawling back to Mae in an attempt to apologize. After experiencing these interactions, the reader gets the feeling that Francis is a weak and unlikeable character. He does not make an effort to maintain any sort of control over his relationship with Mae in the same way that circle supporters surrender control of their own privacy and information. He is completely devoted, to the point of brainwashing, to the Circle and its ideals, making him one of the first suspicious signs of Circle activity in the eyes of the reader. By explaining Francis’s flat personality and slave-like goals, Eggers makes the larger assertion that a life without mystery is no life at all. Readers, therefore, are made aware of the effects of oversharing and the Circle way of life.

This idea is developed even further when Mae’s thoughts about Francis are revealed. Her first impression of him is that he is “warped, troubled and asymmetrical.” (Eggers, 36). This perception only worsens as story continues—Francis angers Mae by embarrassing her and is then absent from the plot for long periods. The reader can also infer that Mae doesn’t trust Francis. Egger’s shows the reader Mae’s anger and distrust towards Francis on multiple occasions to further develop the disconnect between human nature and the world of the Circle. As the story’s primary character and protagonist, Mae is the reader’s guide to other characters. Because the reader sees Francis through Mae’s eyes, they are inclined to share the same opinions of him. Anger, distrust and a certain fear—emotions that Mae initially associates with the Circle, are all encapsulated in Mae’s perception of Francis. By sharing these thoughts with the reader, Eggers subtly associates Mae’s relationship with Francis to the average person’s relationship with Circle culture.

In one of the novel’s final scenes, Mae is sitting in a hospital room with Annie and sees Francis in the hallway through the window. “Mae waved, She would see him later, at an all campus event..” (Eggers, 496). Although he doesn’t directly tell the reader that Mae and Francis get back together, Eggers implies that Mae gives him another chance. Francis, therefore, has triumphed over Khalden—a much more likeable and interesting character. This relates directly to the fact that the Circle and world connectivity prevail over uncertainty, privacy and life as modern Americans know it. Francis and the Circle are the ultimate winners, while Khalden and nonconformity are swept aside. By creating these two parallel story lines—the Circle’s rise to power and Mae’s romantic competition—Eggers suggest that the ‘good guy’ and therefore the correct way of life did not ‘win’ in the end. It perfects the overall theme of his story—that the increased cataloging of modern information should be approached with caution.

The Characters of any well written novel help to prove the author’s ‘point.’ Francis is no different, and a comprehensive examination of his role in the story reveals many similarities between his persona and the theme of the novel. Francis is the Circle, and when the Circle wins, so does Francis.


Circle Post Three–Responding to “boring” prompt.

Mae spends hours every day at work seeking the approval, advice and input of others. Yet when she finally receives a grain of actual, constructive guidance from Mercer, who calls her “boring,” she becomes incredibly angry and deeply hurt.

In many ways, this scene represents the terrible phenomenon taking over the minds of our world’s teens, who seem to seek the approval of everyone except those who actually have something useful to offer.

This is a result of the new online universe that is now as close to the physical world as it ever has been. Experiences of all kind must be recorded. Celebrities are made through video sharing. Arguments and suicides occur because of comments on a Facebook post. We have traded the freedom and confidence of anonymity for the stress and self-destruction of approval seeking.

This may seem deeply dramatic, but it’s actually quite boring. It isn’t, for the most part, fun or thrilling to be engulfed in the new social media wave, which makes us slaves to the approval of others, conformists in the purest sense of the word and unable to properly experience and appreciate the beauty and excitement of life.

Mae’s performance with regard to her job at the circle is completely based off of a subjective number provided by the customers she assists. In the novel, the reader is constantly updated on her performance, and her efforts to raise it by seeking and pestering for approval. She is ranked at the company based on participation in social media—climbing the ladder by documenting, responding and posting as fast as she can 24/7. It is important for the reader to remember that this is part of Mae’s actual job, and not just a social effort to be a part of a larger group, although it serves this purpose as well. This obsession with the approval of others has permeated our society as well. Companies now higher “social media analysts” in an effort to glean more likes from potential consumers. The data they gather then influences the company’s further work, making them completely dependent on the feedback of readers and, in many cases, stray from their original identity. Children and young adults base their personal self-esteem on the number of likes they receive on a photo or a certain number of retweets. Their tendencies and interests are overwhelmingly similar because they are always putting themselves up for evaluation. This constant criticism drains individuals and unique organizations of their specialness by forcing them to shape their product or themselves into something others will approve of. Instead of setting their own standards of excellence, they are forced to rely on those of others. Implied here is the risk averse and therefore boring nature of our online and social lives.

This leads to mass conformity in a different way as well. When Mae first arrives at the circle, she is stunned to learn about the company’s seemingly excessive social media requirements. She nears a breakdown when, at the end of a lengthy speech, another circler reminds her “we consider your online presence to be integral to your work here. It’s all connected.” (Eggers, 96) Her uneasiness is justified and most likely shared by the reader. But eventually she embraces this idea because it is accepted by her coworkers and those surrounding her. A hundred pages later, her participation rank has climbed and she is “zinging” all the time. The idea, initially forced upon her, is now central to her existence. This concept also exists on our social media platforms. You often risk some level of social backlash simply for not participating on selected social media platforms. Ideas, as exhibited by this year’s election conversations, are declared wrong or right by a general public, and if a user is on the wrong side, they can face sometimes brutal abuse. Our opinions are no longer formed through introspection and careful research, they are formed by what’s trending or what our friends share. We, like Mae, are forced to conform to the ideals and biases of others. This makes us extremely unoriginal and therefore very boring.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, the digital world has rid us of our ability to experience the best aspects of tangible life. In The Circle, Mae visits home and discovers that her family has received a custom-made chandelier from Mercer. She immediately whips out her phone and shares photos of it on “two dozen design and home design feeds.” (Eggers, 256) She spends the rest of the evening checking on the status of her posts and the feedback she receives from viewers, angering her parents and Mercer. She is so engulfed in the chandelier’s value in the virtual world that she forgets to admire its physical presence. We, as modern internet users, are guilty of this crime. We no longer watch parades and dance at concerts and clap for performances—we record and share them. Our live experiences happen through a screen. It is difficult to believe that this does not affect our absorption and enjoyment of the actual experience. And yet we continue to document—ignoring the intrinsic value of just being there. We become boring because we record more, but observe less.

Social media and the presence of the internet has tangible and effective benefits that have enhanced some aspects of the human condition. But these benefits are in many ways outweighed by the negative effects these platforms have on an individual’s self-image and use of time. The constant desire to please others, conform to their ideas of quality and the inability to truly enjoy and experience render us boring, unoriginal crowd followers. Mercer, in death, deserves the eulogy of a tragic hero—his ideology and perspective were more noble than that of any other character.

Rhetorical Artifact Analysis Essay Outline.

I plan to begin my discussion of each point in my essay with a Nike add clip that especially highlights that point.


  1. Introduction providing a summary of my own speech and then delivering my own thesis.
    1. A general description of the topic of my speech: the specific marketing skills of Nike and why we buy their products so often.
    2. Thesis: “Our cultural dependence on and perception of Nike is a narrow example of a much larger American problem—our obsession with professional athletics.” (Points of discussion will be outlined in actual thesis.)
  2. The false perception of masculinity that athletics enhances
    1. Explain the three stages of masculine accomplishment for men as outlined in Season of Life—Athletics—sexuality—economic status, and note that professional athletics are nowhere close to being equal in terms of gender status.
    2. Recognize the intense cockiness and selfishness that this attitude develops.
    3. Describe the psychological and relationship-related meltdowns that this causes in athletes and men who were once athletes.
    4. Relate this concept to Nike ads and the athletes portrayed in them.
  • The implications of putting sports before the arts, academic achievement, and school.
    1. Note that most children dream of being athletes, not scientists.
    2. Provide statistics showing America’s decline in just about every academic subject and the arts.
    3. Provide examples of athletes not completing their college degrees in order to begin their playing careers early.
    4. Examine what happens to athletes after their playing careers are over.
    5. Research—does America’s scientific and industrial decline correspond with the rise of competitive and professional athletics?
    6. Provide examples of Nike’s marketing to younger consumers, and the constant emphasis on “following your dreams” in sports.
    7. Note that there is nothing wrong with competitive athletics between children—there is only a problem with the way in which we perceive them.
    1. Calculate how many people could be fed if athletes combined to give a small percentage of their salary away.
    2. Provide statistics on the highest athlete salaries and contracts (like Nike’s with Penn State) and highlight how ridiculous this is.
    3. Ask the question—is this really what we want to be spending an extreme amount of money on?
    4. Highlight Nike’s extreme deals and global revenue.
  2. Conclusion: restate three points, and emphasis that sports can be extremely useful when it comes to having fun, learning how to be a part of a team, developing leaders, and growing as a person. But note that as a society, we often see sports as the pinnacle when we should view it as a rung on the ladder.