Monday, November 19, 2012

An American History of Thanksgiving

As a week full of family, friends, and food lurks around the corner, there is much commotion over the widely anticipated holiday of Thanksgiving. For those whom are unaware of why we celebrate Thanksgiving, feel free to read this brief history summarizing the historic day that triggered a holiday for feast, and giving thanks. The story is widely told that a group of Pilgrims landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the early 1620's where visited by a Native American called "Squanto" greeted them in English, teaching them how to cultivate crops, fish, and live off the land.

Although most Americans know the ending to be a bountiful feast, lasting days, with the Wampanoag Indians and the Pilgrim settlers, there is still a dark history with our arrival to America, and our historic encounters with Indian tribes. Before our Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Plantation, many of the Indians occupying the land had been previously sold in to slavery to Europeans. This is exactly how Squanto learned English! Contrary to Charlie Brown's (5:45) peaceful view on the first Thanksgiving, other English settlers sold Native American's into slavery, killed many in battle, and also brought over terrible plague that wiped out entire tribes. Richard Greener from the Huffington Post agrees that although Thanksgiving marks a historic treaty of peace, it also reminds us of the previous atrocities against Native Americans.

"This day is still remembered today, 373 years later. No, it's been long forgotten by white people, by European Christians. But it is still fresh in the mind of many Indians. A group calling themselves the United American Indians of New England meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole's Hill for what they say is a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a stature of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember the long gone Pequot. They do not call it Thanksgiving. There is no football game afterward."

The rest of the article can be found here. What do you all think about the true history of Thanksgiving?  Although this holiday of giving thanks is bittersweet, I find it interesting how we all as kids learn about the story of Thanksgiving as if it were a peaceful brotherhood between the Native Americans and European Settlers. Why do you suppose that teachers leave out the violent history of bloodshed and plague? Also please consider and comment your thoughts below to how America portrays these settlers. Happy Thanksgiving everybody. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Foreign Policy and Anti-American Sentiment

Last week with the presentation of the War on Terror group (perilous times project), an interesting debate arose regarding why Islamic extremist groups hate America. I pondered this and discussed this topic with various people throughout the week.  Mr. Bolos posed the question whether the reason has to do with our foreign policy and meddling activity in the Middle East. The origins of anti-american sentiment is a whole other debate, but I would like to focus on what our policy has done for the U.S’ fight against terrorism.

Many officials from the Pentagon have said that our sole reason for engaging policy in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan is to suppress terrorist factions who pose threats to the U.S national security. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have used drone strikes as a policy to remove leaders of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and the Taliban. Many Americans consider this policy a success as drone surveillance was used for the Bin Laden assassination. These technologies were also responsible for the killings of 33 high ranking Taliban and al Qaeda leaders according to Jeffery Sluka, Ph.D from Cal-Berkeley. A recent article from CNN challenges the policy and its “successes”, which can be found here.

It is suggested that drone policy is ineffective because of the large civilian casualties sustained, especially in Pakistan where drones are most frequently used. The article highlights a study from Stanford University which concluded that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 - 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 - 1,362 individuals." Many innocent Pakistanis die from our policy, where only 2% of those killed are high level targets.   Is it justified that we continue to use these policies internationally, even with detrimental impacts to civilian life? Also I urge you to think about whether this is successfully helping the fight against terror or fueling American hatred. Please comment your thoughts below. I’m curious to hear what you all think.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Waste" of an Education?

Last week in class Doc Oc posed an interesting question about whether certain occupations are a waste of a college education. Some specific jobs that were mentioned included painters, sculptors, and other occupations that are not always what some would consider "well paying jobs." But as the famous saying tells us; Money isn't everything. 

A college education is by no means a cheap investment. College Board reports that in-state public universities cost roughly $21,447 each year, while one year at a private college is closer to $42,224. With these costs, many students are left with crushing debt as well. To add to the costs, there is also suffocating pressure from figures in our community (on the North Shore) such as our parents, teachers, and friends to get into a "good school",  and use that "good education" to land a "good job."

Many parents, especially on the North Shore, will push their kids to take many level 18 classes and numerous APs in hopes that their child will go to an Ivy league school and become a doctor, lawyer, etc. What is often overlooked is what the child wants to do with his/ or her life. For example, many students are brilliant young minds who love the arts. Knowing that making a comfortable living as an artist is extremely difficult, many students are reluctant to pursue what they love to do, which is a huge concern in my eyes. 

I think students should be more encouraged to do what they love to do, rather than what is the safest economically. Pursuing lower income occupations is not a waste of an education if it's your passion. It is important to think about what the purpose of an education is. I urge you to think about this, and comment below what the purpose of your schooling really is. An article from Forbes helped me understand what many perceive to be the main "reasons" for an education. This article can be found here.  When I reflect the early years of my high school education, I quickly realize that my schooling is mainly to develop not only a broader understanding for how our world works, but a deeper insight to who I am, and what I want I want to do with my life. Discovering what you love to study through education seems like the polar opposite of a waste to me. If creating beautiful pieces of art, or whatever it may be is your passion then I say go for it. What are your thoughts?