Monday, April 9, 2007

USC Psychology Department: What Really Needs To Improve?

The University of Southern California is an institution that offers a high quality education and abides to its mission statement which strives for, “the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” The university also stays true to its values of free inquiry, caring and respect for one another as individuals, appreciation of diversity, team spirit, strong alumni networks, commitment to service, informed risk taking, and ethical conduct. This institution has maintained a commitment to provide its students with a promising future after they have earned their degrees and concluded their collegiate studies. Students learn from the best educators who give the University of Southern California the respect and prestige it has earned through the years. The University of Southern California is ranked 17th among the all American universities and 9th among private universities. Constructing its strong foundation, students will become aware of the future experiences they will encounter because their professors will have passed on their knowledge. The institution awards its students for providing feedback and suggestions on how academic life and educational experience could be improved or enriched. The College Dean’s Prize rewards students who write out proposals as to how their particular program or department can be improved. This allows students to have a say in their education and what goes on in the process of knowledge.

The psychology department in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences consists of a professional faculty that has a great amount of experience in the research field. It allows students to expand their learning on Clinical Science, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Developmental Psychology, and Social Psychology. Even though the information they offer is reliable; in many cases, students do not obtain the true understanding of the concept being discussed because they lack the hands on learning ex
perience. In order to receive well rounded knowledge, the individuals should be required to dedicate a semester of their learning to assist a professor with their research endeavors. One way this can be achieved is by allowing students to work with professors during their lectures and actively participating on research projects. If students become familiar with settings they will encounter in their future, they will not have any difficulties adjusting with them further on. This way the students will gain some experience working on an actual research project rather than just taking a research methods class and only studying the basics. Besides gaining the experience and knowledge they will also obtain familiarity with the complex and lengthy research process. Throughout the proposed semester the student would be able to question the intense process and receive a deeper understanding of the subject they will be dealing with in their future. This would then lead to the independence of the student when he or she finds him or herself working with real life scenarios. By completing this process the student will have received the enrichment as an individual they were promised by the university.

Producing competitive individuals is another goal the university must meet. An improvement that can be implemented in the department is expanding the range of classes the students can choose from. The psychology department of the University of Pennsylvania has been ranked among the top leading departmen
ts in the world. The institution has taught leading psychological scientists the knowledge they needed to obtain. Their studies cover Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental Psychology, and Evolutionary Psychology. In the field of psychology new areas are explored by professionals on a daily basis leaving individuals with more material to learn from. If the range on classes is not widened, students will be deprived from learning about the current subjects being exposed. There should be an expansion of psychological subjects available to study and there should be a group of classes for each area of the field, not just one or two. There needs to be classes or segments of classes dedicated to the current research studies and not just on past information. Some of the information has been outdated and professors must discuss studies occurring in the present as well as in the future. Previous studies can assist as a foundation to the current studies being performed but the recent results will be more concise.

Overall the psychology department has great professors and faculty who care about the students’ prosperity in learning. The suggested changes will augment the program and attract more new comers. By doing so, the University of Southern California, will also bring about more successful individuals; and if they continue their hard work they will able to conduct research that will enable future discoveries. The programs in the department are great but these minor suggestions would enhance the learning process. The university is only steps away from resembling a leading psychological institution.

Steven Pinker: Modern Day Psychologist Deserving of USC Honorary Degree

In society today, education is a prime ingredient in establishing opportunities for an individual to succeed and it opens a plethora of doors that can possibly lead to bigger and better things. Current scholars are now being pushed into extending their educational lives with so much competition for jobs out in the “real” world. A degree certainly takes a tremendous amount of hours and dedication to receive, not to mention the stress and sleepless nights of studying and working hard. Earning a degree is a major step in life and four years worth of having school as the top priority culminates when that very significant piece of paper lies in hand. In comparison, an honorary degree requires more than just working towards an education and attending an institution for the amount of time it takes to accumulate enough units to graduate. It entails being a superior figure in a particular field in addition to serving and giving back to humanity. At a prestigious institution such as the University of Southern California the goal of the honorary degree committee is “[t]o honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” An honorary degree candidate should also exert influence on individuals through character and other role model attributes.

There are many great minds that have both changed and have left their mark on the field of psychology, which include Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler. These extraordinary figures are considered fathers of exploring the mind and its complexity. Although not as prominent as the figures mentioned above, Steven Pinker (pictured above) has dedicated his life to the psychological world. His exquisite devotion has led him to great achievements and marvelous theories. Pinker can be categorized as an experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and popular science writer who is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology as well as the computational theory of mind. He is most famous for popularizing the idea that language is an “instinct” or biological adaptation shaped by natural selection rather than by general intelligence. Pinker’s ideas and contributions have given the field new branches to the already existing theoretical knowledge. The evolutionary mindset he imposed has brought about more experiments and studies to test the language area of the brain. According to Pinker’s website he is currently working on various research studies, one of which involves indirect speech and understanding “why people so often veil their threats, bribes, solicitations, and sexual come-ons in innuendo rather than blurting them out explicitly.” It has become a very rapidly growing research paradigm, especially amongst cognitive psychologists. These significant contributions have been a great addition to the science of the mind and behavior. He stated himself that “evolutionary psychology is one of four sciences that are bringing human nature back into the picture.” His stance towards the belief that the mind has evolved through the evolutionary process is shown in the quote. Many critics state that Pinker’s argument “derives root and branch from evolutionary psychology can never explain how the mind works because it is logically incapable of explanation.” Although there is a substantial amount of critics of the evolution theory, Mr. Pinker stands by his belief and by his research. His courageous effort of going against the tremendous amount of criticism has made him stronger and more dedicated. Through his loyalty, Steven Pinker has made his mark in the psychological world.

Although Steven Pinker is not widely known, he has an extensive educational resume that includes specializations in visual cognition and language development in children. He is a great scientific writer that has contributed four brilliant books, The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate. These books have earned him numerous awards, praising him for his work. The Blank State won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, while How the Mind Works was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Steve Pinker is more than deserving of an honorary degree from the University of Southern California due to his intellectual abilities, shown through his extensive resume of studying and working at both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and life long effort in studying and exploring the realm of the complicated human mind. According to USC’s requirements, the recipient must be “widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” He has spent much of his life researching the evolution aspect of development, which fits in perfectly with the research standards the University of Southern California upholds.

A potential candidate of an honorary degree should be an influential figure, not just to the individuals in his/her respected field but also to the populace in general. They have to be intelligent and able to touch the lives of the public for the better. Part of the responsibility when awarded the degree is to give a speech at commencement. Throughout the speech, Mr. Pinker would provide the graduating students with guidance that will help them in future undertakings. His ability to inspire can be seen in his statement that reads that, “a simple logical point is that no matter how important learning and culture and socialization are, they don't happen by magic.” This proclamation would bring hope and a never give up attitude to an audience filled with fearful individuals about to enter a new stage in their lives. In 2004, Steven Pinker was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. This respectable accomplishment has its value in that it involves the whole world not just the country. His intelligence has also led him to be one of Prospect and Foreign Policy’s 100 top public intellectuals in 2005. He has numerous honorary doctorates from the universities of Newcastle, Surrey, Tel Aviv, and McGill. The University of Southern California would continue to exemplify its excellence as one of the world’s leading research universities by honoring Steven Pinker and awarding him an honorary degree in science.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This I Believe: The Path That Led Into Psychology

"A public dialogue about belief—one essay at a time” is the motto of This I Believe, a website which acts as a median for those who want their ideas to be heard through writing. This site served as an inspiration for this week’s post because it brings about different points about similar ideas, which relates to my major because psychologists base their findings through writing. “To point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization,” as journalist Edward R. Murrow states is also another way to understand the site. The work on this site is mainly personal recollections and experiences on various subjects that include addiction, discrimination, and good/evil. Although these are very interesting topics, by following the format of, I will focus this post on how the field of psychology became an interest and a part of my life.

In the world of psychology there is an abundance of great minds that have produced most of the theories and useful information we know today. For example, Sigmund Freud a man whose name cannot be overlooked because of contributions like, The Interpretation of Dreams—a book that concentrates on the deeper meaning of dreams. He believed that “all humans are endowed with an unconscious in which potent sexual and aggressive drives, and defenses against them, struggle for supremacy, as it were, behind a person's back.” Ivan Pavlov, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1904 “in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged.” He dedicated his extensive career to researching the human brain; he then revealed through his research the basic laws governing the functioning of the cortex of the great hemispheres. Another contributor to our knowledge was Jean Piaget he found interest in researching the question, “how does knowledge grow?”

During my middle school years I came across Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a book containing a good amount of information and facts about a famous psychologist and his work in the field, Carl G. Jung. As I read through it there was a particular quote that caught m eye. It read, “anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar's gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.” After reading this, a feeling of astonishment rushed through my body. It was one of the first times I had heard about psychology and I started to research more about it. Carl Jung can be credited with opening my eyes and introducing me to his world of the mind.

The most inspirational psychologist is none other than Carl Gustav Jung. His contributions, like defining Psyche as “the totality of all mental processes”, to the field might seem a bit peculiar; however his work on the theory of the duality of man has proven he belongs among the best. Carl Jung’s work ethic and way of approaching his job—like considering himself a scientist—add to his greatness. These factors have sparked my willingness to declare myself a psychology major and inspired me to pursue a career in psychology. At about the same time I encountered the book, there was a program on the PBS network on human behavior that documented Carl Jung’s lifelong work and the various theories he proposed. The theory of the duality of man, where a person is seen calm and easygoing until an outside force interferes with their pathway, causing problems and enables them to react with force. This theory really caused me to look into possibly making psychology the branch of science that I could see myself engaging in. The duality of man theory proposes that humans have their individual personalities and ways of going about life. However, Jung believed that every human also has an unconscious personality that acts somewhat like an opposite. This unconscious self exposes itself during times of need, in matters of life or death, and when backs are against the wall. The mind works in miraculous ways.

As time went on and as I grew older, my respect for the work done in the psychological sphere also grew and a particular instance added to my fascination. One of my mother’s relatives suffers from a case of schizophrenia and the first time I observed him, the experience put me in a phase of thought. I would think to myself and ask how a human being can possibly be acting in such a way and what caused a person to suffer from this. From that point on I had my mind set as to what I wished to accomplish; I wanted to help individuals suffering from a mental illness. Much like Carl Jung contributed to the improvement of humans, I want to be able to reach out to the sick individuals and understand them because the majority of society looks down upon them. Through ideas, discussions, and observations I was pulled toward a path of interest that I hope to follow for years to come.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: An Actual Disorder or Just a Temperament Problem?

A study founded by the National Institute of Mental Health proved that five to seven percent, about 16 million Americans, of the nationally representative sample had intermittent explosive disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder involves multiple outbursts that are way out of proportion to the situation. These angry outbursts often include threats or aggressive actions and property damage. After the outburst the patient might feel genuine regret and embarrassment. This disorder is more common in men that in women and it affects more people than thought. Women have reported that the symptoms seem to increase during their premenstrual cycle. Since men seem to be more affected by it they have a history of traffic accidents, sexual impulsivity and they also develop an extreme sensitivity to alcohol. It shares similarities of some of its symptoms with Alzheimer’s disease, Anti Social Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Conduct Disorder, and Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. This disorder raises a sort of controversy among clinicians because they believe it is a symptom to other diagnoses rather than its own disorder.

A severe disorder might be undertaken like Dr. Emil Coccaro (pictured), chairman of the psychiatry at the University of Chicago’s medical school, states, “people think its bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don't that there's a biology and cognitive science to this.” The disorder typically first appears in adolescence; in the study, the average age of onset was 14. A factor that has to be carefully watched is that people should not automatically diagnose themselves with this disorder just because they experience any of the symptoms mentioned previously. Even thought the intermittent explosive disorder has been included in the manual psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illness for several decades, they still react with admiration to it because of the many affected. As said by Ronald Kessler, “it is news to a lot of people even who are specialists in mental health services that such a large proportion of the population has these clinically significant anger attacks.”

Patients are often treated with psychological treatment along with medication treatment, and it is often very helpful to base their psychological treatment on addiction-based models. Studies suggest that patients with intermittent explosive disorders respond to treatment with antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and mood stabilizers such as lithium, carbamazepine, and divalproex. Patients left unattended and those given no medication can display behavior that can result in extreme catastrophe. For example, David Edward Attias, a student from the University of California Santa Barbara, forced his car towards a crowd of students and triumphantly killed four of them. Victims who witnessed this crime described Attias as an insane person. He was often referred to as “crazy Dave” or “tweaker” by people in his dormitory. After he left the scene of the crime he went directly to a female student’s dormitory confessed he was a virgin and demanded she had sex with him. Instances like these call for immediate detection and treatment for the disorder so that tragedy can be avoided and innocent people would not be harmed.

Intermittent explosive disorder is unknown among many and their ignorance may lead them to leave it unattended. As new victims are affected, an effort should be made to inform people about this severe disorder that lingers amongst society. This will be beneficial in the near future because we never know when we might encounter a person that is affected by it in any public location. Both the victims and patients are at risk and without the information needed to learn about its danger, nothing can be done to keep it from spreading. Although intermittent explosive disorder contains many of the symptoms attributed to other mental illnesses, there should still be further research and studies done to provide the public with more useful information, treatments, and medications to contain it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Money Hungry Tobacco Industry and Child-Praising: How Low is Society Willing to Go?

This week’s post focuses on my comments to two other blogs in the blogosphere. These blogs deal with different topics that are recent in the field of psychology. My first comment is towards a post that involves the effects of praising on children. According to recent research, there is evidence that praising children on their intelligence causes them to under perform, which is the opposite of what parents believe. “Praising Your Kids Might Lead to the Unintended” provides more information on this interesting topic. The second comment is directed towards a post titled “Big Tobacco Targeting the Homeless, Mentally Ill” which explains a controversy involving the tobacco industry’s new market. Statistics show that over 75% of the homeless smoke cigarettes and nearly one-half of American tobacco purchases are made by the mentally ill. It is no wonder the tobacco companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to reach out to this group of individuals. The following are the comments to these fascinating topics.

My Comment on "Praising Your Kids Might Lead to the Unintended":

Being a parent is a heavy responsibility that entails a great deal of love and comfort in order for the child to develop a secure bond and help development. Praising is viewed by parents to be a positive form of encouragement. I firmly agree with the parental wisdom that has been around for ages. I believe that praising is a way to get a person, not just a child, to try their best. The praise inflicts an extra boost of confidence and an increase in self-esteem. The added self confidence can propel the child to new heights and widen his or her perspectives. I somewhat agree with the point that the praise puts too much pressure on the child because if the parents tell the children that they are “smart,” then the children might feel as though they have let the parents down if they come home with a bad grade in school. However in that situation, I believe that the children would bounce back and succeed due to the parental support. In my experiences as a child, I feel that praising does more good than harm and it is an important aspect in the life of a child.

My Comment on "Big Tobacco Targeting the Homeless, Mentally Ill":

The big tobacco companies are always finding new ways to market their products and target certain groups of individuals but this time they have certainly crossed the line. In my opinion, targeting the homeless and mentally ill can be compared to selling cigarettes and tobacco products to young children. Those individuals lacking mental health have a resemblance to children in that they lack the ability to make the right decisions at times. All of this just adds more fuel into the fire when it comes to the tobacco companies and their money making strategies. Sure everybody in the world needs to make money and companies need to compete for business, however this move by the tobacco industry is not right. The tobacco industry’s heartless antics wreck people’s lives as they just sit back and reap the benefits. As a non-smoker and non-supporter of the tobacco industry, I feel anger and disgust towards this ridiculous method of money-making that should be stopped before it is too late.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Mozart Effect: A Good Money Maker?

In the field of psychology, researchers and experts spend a tremendous amount of time conducting studies and experiments in order to uncover some new helpful information on child development. Many theories and tips on how to properly raise a child from the time the fetus is in the womb to the stage of adolescence have been presented. One of the most absurd theories dealing with development is the “Mozart Effect,” which is a term created for the theory that an increase in brain development occurs in children under the age of three when they listen to the music of the great composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The idea originated at the University of California, Irvine with physicist Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher. They began studying the effects of listening to the first ten minutes of the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major on a few dozen college students. Next they conducted the Stanford-Binet Intelligence test and they found a temporary enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning. Since the original findings were presented, the "Mozart effect" phenomenon has been widely discussed in both the scientific community and media.

There have been various attempts to replicate Shaw and Rauscher’s original findings, however they have been unsuccessful. This fact has caused many in the scientific field to deem the theory false and that there is no evidence that shows a correlation between listening to the music of Mozart and cognitive development. One of the primary rules of psychology and the scientific method is to enforce the results of an experiment or study by conducting similar experiments and coming up with similar results. If the results are not duplicated, then there is really no significance to the findings. In this situation, there should have been no claims that Mozart tunes causes an increase in brain development if the results were not significant because they were not reproduced.
The media is to blame for the small claim to be spread to the entire nation. They took the invalid results of one particular study and exaggerated the implications. The media caused society to believe that children would gain a great deal of intelligence if they were exposed to the music of Mozart during the first three years of life, especially while in the womb. The media reports also distorted the original findings with the college students and generalized the effect towards children, none of which are true. This media outburst has caused an opportunity for individuals to make money and new programs to be implemented. The governors of Georgia and Tennessee started new programs that give a Mozart compact disc to every newborn. Florida’s legislature also passed a law that requires every state-funded childcare to play classical music daily. Suddenly, there has also been a tremendous amount of books, tapes, and compact discs that deal with the Mozart Effect. Along with the production of these materials comes the money as more parents are becoming sold on the Mozart claims. Individuals are increasing the size of their wallets by making a fool out of caring parents. Kenneth Steele, associate professor of psychology at Appalachian State University, stated “the Mozart Effect is pretty much on the wallet of the parents buying the CDs, there’s no special effect on the baby.” Could the money used to establish these programs and buy the tapes, compact discs, and books be better spent? The answer is a definite yes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Our Children: The Many Problems Faced Today

As we advance through our lives, there seems to be a growing number of problems that society must deal with as a whole. Out of the many problems, I encountered two in the world of psychology. Statistics show that the rates of suicide for children have risen over the past few years. During 2003-2004, there was an 18% increase in the number of suicides among people under 20. Is there an end in sight for tragedies that cause families devastation and grief? Another problem that has been lingering in the field of psychology is the “off label” dispute. Should children under the age of 3 be allowed to take the same mental health medication as adults do? There is no real connection between doctors and the research evidence to support clinical decisions. For this week’s post, I decided to explore the blogosphere to find out some recent topics in the psychological realm. Below are my comments on two blogs that talk about these issues.

My Reaction to: “Can a 3 Year Old Be Accurately Diagnosed?”

There is really no correlation between an adult's organism and a child’s organism in handling certain types of medicaments and medications. It is expected that any adult meets the criteria to take a certain dose of medicine, however, it is recommended that he or she prevents from participating in their regular activities because there might be side affects. A child's immune system is weaker and it can not defend itself from such side affects, therefore it is unethical to make such a comparison. Unlike an adult's body a child body is not yet fully developed. The medications intended for an adult body can affect a child’s body development and can cause a great deal of harm. Professionals should not risk patients’ lives because they have based their decisions on text. In order to make moral decision they should base their prescriptions on studies and their results. With today’s technology there is no necessity to expose anyone’s life to death. The only thing that would be left to ask is how many more children would have to die before someone puts their foot down on this situation.

My Reaction to: “Suicide Rates Rise for Children”

Suicide is a problem that should be addressed in the school system. As the government cuts down education funds, the only ones getting affected by this are the children. The schools should implement better programs that help children with any problems they are having. Teachers should also receive training in dealing with serious issues such as suicide. School officials should make the children feel comfortable by showing trust and letting them know that it is ok to talk about any trouble they are having or what not. In some cases children feel safer trusting people outside of their family with their problems because they either have no one they can go to or the problem is found within the family. There are numerous amounts of children who have abusive family members and they feel embarrassed to tell anyone in the family what is occurring because they are afraid this person will not believe them. There needs to be more concern over suicide and more help needs to be available to reassure students that there are bumps in life but they can be conquered.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Depriving Sporting World: Athletes Lives in Shambles

The sports world is based on athleticism, money, fame, and, most importantly, passion. The world’s best athletes are bred to be passionate about their favorite sports almost from the moment they begin to walk. They spend every spare minute practicing and playing while their parents eagerly cough up the money needed to foster this passion. Throughout their childhood they prepare to become varsity athletes in high school and scholarship athletes in college, with every hope and dream aimed toward one day reaching the last step of becoming a professional athlete. Even a fan’s passion is vital to creating the environment of the sports world. Fans are willing to fill ten thousand seat basketball arenas, forty thousand seat baseball fields, and seventy thousand seat football stadiums. They too grow up loving a specific team in their favorite sport and never forget the passion with which they followed that team. They become loyal adult fans and spend their whole lifetime passionately cheering for the same team. Later they pass this fanaticism down to their offspring and breed a new generation of devoted sports aficionados. All of these factors create a setting in which the professional athlete is idolized and catered too. They are “routinely hounded by autograph seekers.” Everything they could ever want is bought for them and brought to them. They never have to worry about doing anything except playing their game. These athletes have great lives during their short-lived careers, which usually last less than ten years and rarely go past fifteen years.
In any sport, it is easier to find 10 athletes who failed to make a post retirement life for themselves than 10 who succeeded.

When their contracts end and their careers fade away, those athletes who got used to living on a cloud above everyone else now realize that they must come down to earth and return to reality. Cristina Versari, head of sports psychology at San Diego University for Integrative Studies stated that "there's a developmental arrest. When an athlete retires, it takes four to eight years to adjust to a new life.” Without the catering they have lived with during their professional careers, athletes have to live their own lives and do things themselves. Sometimes they even have to earn extra income at a real job. The pedestal the athletes are placed on, causes their egos to skyrocket and later in life when retirement comes knocking on the door, athletes feel like they are above the rest of society therefore they should attain “better” jobs just because they are who they are. But since they spent their whole lives as athletes, many of them cannot handle the pressures of normal everyday living. The only problems professional athletes face are, for example, getting traded from New York to Los Angeles or giving up four runs in an inning. Those are not typical problems real people face everyday. Their inability to handles “typical” problems cause some to have mental breakdowns, turn to alcoholism and drugs, or maybe even tragically commit suicide. A few even exhaust all of their money and are left homeless. Take for example J.R. Richard, a former Houston Astros ace. Richards, pictured delivering a pitch, was a great hurler during his short career and was destined to have a place in Cooperstown among the best. After his career in 1980, he was found homeless living under a bridge. These athletes do not succeed after retirement because the upbringing that bred them for professional sports did not prepare them for everyday life.

The fans should receive most of the blame for this frequent letdown following the end of an athlete’s career. It is the fans’ over-the-top adoration of the athletes that make them willing to pay outrageous prices to buy a seat at a sporting event, even as greedy owners raise those prices in order to pay the inflated contracts of the players. The fans also worship the athletes enough to buy any product with their favorite player’s name painted or embroidered all over it. The enticement of these huge contracts and massive endorsement deals also leads the athletes to leave college early or skip college entirely in order to become a professional much more quickly than otherwise. Without a degree, it becomes more difficult for athletes to begin a second career after retiring from sports. Also, without the college experience athletes do not develop the social skills necessary to landing a normal nine-to-five job.

The media is also to blame for many of the emotional difficulties that retired superstar-athletes face. They go from seeing their names in headlines almost everyday to receiving little or no attention. They go from the “pinnacle of adulation, excitation and the confirmation of worth to nothing." However, this can also be blamed on the ridiculous fanaticism of many sports buffs. Newspaper editors write their articles to sell to these same fans. If they know that the fans do not want to read about an old, washed-out player than they will not include that player in their publication. It can be depressing for an admirer to see his or her favorite sport star go from billboards and trading cards to rehab and CourtTV, but it is the fans who are at fault and it is the fans who can correct this endemic. If fans stop raising top-performing athletes to the highest pedestals and stop filling their bank accounts with seven, eight, and nine figure balances, then maybe athletes will grow up more humble and modest. Maybe then athletes will be willing and able to work blue-collar jobs after they reach the inevitable end to their careers in the respected world of sports.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Racism-Filled Justice System: Innocent People Behind Bars

Every year more and more innocent individuals are sentenced to serve time behind bars adding to a tremendous problem lingering in the court system. According to a massive amount of research gathered by Dr. Edmund Higgins, there have been 360 “wrongfully incarcerated people who have been arrested and/or convicted of a crime and later proven innocent” from 1997 to 2003. A number of these instances involve difficult cases that are very complicated to judge, such as those when false confessions or racism, while others are just outright obvious and unfortunate. These situations put a huge question mark on the validity of the court system and make many wonder what other factors come into light that influence the wrongful decisions. The case of Genarlow Wilson, a teenager from Georgia, is an example of an imperfect judicial system. Genarlow Wilson, honor student, homecoming king, and football star, was sentenced to ten years in prison for child molestation. He was 17 at the time of the incident. In 2004 during a hotel party, Wilson received oral sex from a 15 year old girl. According to Georgia’s law it was a misdemeanor because the girl was a year younger than the consented age. The minimum penalty was ten years and when the judge pronounced the case closed, that was exactly what Wilson faced. A much promising life took a turn for the worst.

The judicial system really went over the line with this case. A crime of child molestation is committed only if the encounter was not consensual. During the trial, both the girl “victim” and the prosecutor admitted to the individuals in the courtroom that she was the one that initiated the act. She even stated that she did not want Wilson to be incarcerated. With that said, the jury and the judge should have taken both into consideration and deem him innocent. Individuals who engage in sexual relations without their partners’ consent are criminals. Individuals who are considered adults and engage in sexual relations with a child or teenager are criminals. To convict a teenager, who consensually received oral sex from another teenager, to ten years in prison is absurd. Both Wilson and the “victim” knew what they were doing and were both in agreement. Where is the crime in that?

During 2004, at around the same time of Wilson’s trial, a female high school teacher was found guilty of having sexual relations with one of her students as stated in an ESPN the Magazine article. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail. This case, which truly defines a child molestation crime, was handled very lightly. It just does not make sense. Why is it that the judicial system is so inconsistent? Well the real shocker is this: the teacher was white. This was only the beginning to this heartbreaking ordeal. As time went on, various attempts were made to get Wilson’s case to the Georgia Supreme Court but his attorney received constant letters of denial. The first time the Supreme Court in Georgia voted on the case, the vote was four-to-three. It was no surprise that the four judges that voted against Wilson were white and the three that voted for him were black. Coincidence?

The system in this nation has many flaws that can be attributed to various important factors, one being racism. This world is overflowing with racism due in part to the fact that every single person alive has come across at least one negative thought about a person from another race or another race in general. Racism will never end. It has been around since the beginning and will never diminish. One possible way of attempting to clean up the racism issue in the justice system is to bring in psychologists as a screening method to expel the chances of a verdict being decided based on racist mind-sets. It would be the psychologists’ job to interview possible members of the jury to try and detect racist attitudes before they make their way into the court of law. The psychologists can also conduct psychological tests such as the “Implicit Association Test, a psychological test developed at Harvard University in which subjects hit computer keys to link black and white facial images to positive and negative words.” This type of test uncovers potential underlying stereotypes that individuals may have deep within them. If these procedures were mandatory in choosing who steps into the courthouse, it would save the judicial system the embarrassment and criticism that emerges in cases like the Wilson trial.

In an ESPN article on the story, Wilson states that he believes 2007 is the year of freedom. As the number of people introduced to this story increases, more help is offered. There are even websites such as Even though the case first emerged in 2004, an array of coverage has been presented to the nation to try and put an end to a young man’s suffering. For example, just a few weeks ago the New York Times released an article stating that because the charges were dropped against the lacrosse players in the recent Duke University scandal, there is a signal of hope for the Wilson case. Not one person in their right mind would agree that Wilson deserves to be incarcerated for ten years. The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution was devised to provide citizens with inalienable rights and it serves as the basis of the democratic ideals this country upholds. The Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” This case violates the Constitutional rights given to every citizen of this country. This young man was cheated and was given an unjust trial. There needs to be stop to this unconstitutional mêlée going on in the court system because individuals do not deserve getting treated unfairly. Innocent people should not be serving hard time in prison because of the imperfections of the justice system.