Fourth quarter blog post

Here is my fourth quarter blog post

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Alcohol vs. Tobacco: According To US Law, One Is Worse Than The Other

Recently in class, we discussed the banning of tobacco advertisements to prevent the consumption of this product by US citizens. I think that smoking is truly a threat to public health, which therefore makes this measure justified. But what about alcohol, which also is a threat to public health? Why are alcohol advertisements allowed but not smoking advertisements?

Advertisement for alcohol is not even close to banned; in fact, I see commercials on TV for alcoholic beverages all the time. Many commercials for alcoholic drinks glorify the consumption of these beverages. For example, I have seen plenty of beer commercials implying that drinking a specific type of beer will attract women or make you a "cooler" person. This is encouraging people to use this alcoholic product in large amounts and frequently, as who would not want to be "cool" all the time? One would think that even if alcohol advertisement was allowed, it would be regulated heavily as to not to encourage the over-consumption of this substance, but according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, "The Federal Alcohol Administration Act does not require alcohol beverage advertisements to be approved prior to appearing in print or broadcast". Without advertisements being "approved", alcohol companies can encourage the over-consumption and abuse of alcohol as much as they please, which, based on the ads I have seen such as the beer commercials, is quite a lot.

This allowance of any type of advertisement for alcohol sharply contrasts with the ban on tobacco advertising that we discussed in class. What does not make sense is that both of these products and result in horrible health issues for the consumer: alcohol, for example, can cause liver cancer, and tobacco can cause lung cancer. Also, they both pose a threat to people around the consumer; smoking can hurt others through secondhand smoke, and drinking can do the same through dangerous practices by the drinker such as drunk driving.

In my opinion, these strange inequalities in the advertising laws of these products could be related to differences in attitudes people have towards the abuse of these products. Today, overuse of tobacco products is commonly viewed as disgusting, but abuse of alcohol seems to be viewed as the norm, as I have heard people talk about their overuse of alcohol in common conversation and are never judged for it. I believe that the ban on tobacco advertisement caused society to have a negative attitude towards it. In the past, when there were no regulations on tobacco advertisement, many people smoked and it seemed to be viewed as normal, which can be seen in The Great Gatsby: "'Aren't we going to let anyone smoke a cigarette first?' 'Everybody smoked all through lunch'". Daisy and Tom, of upper class, speak of smoking as something "anyone" and "everyone" does, so it was obviously the norm back then. Now that there is a ban on tobacco advertisement, smoking is generally viewed in a much more negative way because tobacco is no longer being glorified in advertisements like alcohol is.

I think that alcohol advertisement should have the same ban that tobacco advertisement does. The health and safety of its citizens should be the primary concerns of a government, and this obviously is not the case with the US government if they continue to allow the glorification of alcoholic products through advertisements. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Racism and Downward Classism in the ACT and SAT

With the last SATs and ACTs of the year coming up, a lot of juniors have been thinking a lot about these tests and hoping to get the score they want so they will not have to continue taking them into senior year. The whole idea of a number being a huge factor in whether or not one gets into a certain college has always been puzzling to me. To me, the tests have always seemed to be unfair ways to judge someone's intelligence, but the extent of it is much greater than I had originally thought. Standardized tests favor certain races over others, certain classes over others, and because of this can and are used for the purposes of segregation in colleges.

Standardized tests favor white and Asian-American students over black and Latino students. According to Noliwe Rooks of Time Magazine, "black and Latino students in New York score below whites and Asians on standardized tests so consistently that although they are almost 70% of the overall student body, they are only 11% of students enrolled at elite public schools.". If the whole admissions process into "elite public schools", which heavily relies on standardized testing, was fair, there would be "almost 70%" of blacks and Latinos in elite public schools. The percentage of blacks and Latinos actually at these schools is significantly less than this, meaning that there is inequality in the admissions process, including the standardized tests. 

Not only do standardized tests have bias against blacks and Latinos, they also have a huge bias against lower class people, as we have discussed in class. For example, here are SAT scores in 2009 by family income:

This almost perfectly linear graph shows a clear relationship between class and test scores: the higher class you are, the higher test score you receive. As we have talked about in class, a possible reason for this is that higher class people can afford more resources, such as tutors, test preparation materials, and classes. I also believe this pattern could be caused by the fact that higher class people can afford to take the test more times, and that since there is more funding for schools in higher class areas, these schools better prepare their students for the ACT and SAT compared to lower class schools. Whatever the reason, standardized tests clearly favor higher class people, and therefore the reliance of colleges on test scores for admission creates inequality in the admission of lower class people versus higher class people to colleges. 

Because of the bias of the ACT and SAT tests that leads to inequality in college admissions, I believe that colleges should rely heavily on a more fair and equal measure of academic achievement, such as high school grades, and less on standardized tests in the admissions process. Unfortunately, the ACT and SAT are so huge a part of many colleges' admissions processes that I believe a change like this will not happen for a long time. The reason colleges are so reliant on test scores right now may be that racism and classism are very prevalent ideas in American society, and standardized tests act on these ideas by keeping people of racial minorities and lower classes away from higher education. Whatever the reason, colleges' reliance of ACT and SAT scores needs to end. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Driving While Black

A few days ago in class, we had a brief discussion on the behavior of traffic police. We specifically discussed what types of cars were more likely to be pulled over in the North Shore, and concluded that old, beaten up cars are more likely to be pulled over by the police because they look as if they belong to someone who is of lower class than the average person in the North Shore. This is a perfect example of downward classism; it seems that the police believe that since the driver could possibly not be of upper class like most in the North Shore, they must be committing some type of crime. Being a criminal is a common stereotype of lower classes. Unfortunately, not only are police classist, but they are racist as well.

We've all heard about the extreme cases of police racism on the news. Black people are getting murdered by police for no justifiable reason over and over again. What many may not know about is the racism that happens on a daily basis, in the context of minor traffic crimes. According to the Washington Post, black drivers are actually 31% more likely to be pulled over than white drivers for small traffic crimes. Obviously, police officers are consciously or subconsciously picking and choosing who they pull over based on race. If they were not, one race would not be more likely than another to be pulled over. 

Further inequality in stops for traffic crime can be seen in the fact that black drivers are more than twice as likely to be subject to a search than white drivers, and almost twice as likely to not be given any reason as to why they were pulled over. Both of these statistics show the breach of civil liberties from black drivers by police. It seems impossible that police have reasonable suspicion to search twice as many blacks than whites, meaning police do not have probable cause to search many of these people and therefore are stripping blacks of their right to privacy. Also, blacks are stripped of their right to haebeus corpus when they are not told why they were pulled over. Furthermore, it is likely that police refuse to tell so many blacks why they pulled them over because the only reason may have been that the driver was "driving while black", a phrase used to describe the "crime" of being black that seems to be the only reason many black drivers are pulled over.
This police officer seems to be measuring "how black" the driver in the car ahead is with a device that looks like it would normally measure speed, implying that being black is a crime just like speeding is. The cartoon is showing how the policeman has no true reason to be pulling this car over besides the fact that the driver is "driving while black".

It is clear that racism is an American trend. Perhaps one reason it remains so prevalent in our society is that people in power, specifically law-enforcement officers, in general are racist and act on it by discriminating and stripping blacks of their civil liberties. This breach of civil liberties makes blacks unequal to whites in America, which only continues to fuel racism in this country. I believe there needs to be stricter laws and regulations to prevent racial discrimination by the police. If police are monitored closely as well as the traffic stops and arrests they make, racist cops can be identified and either fired or ordered to change how they are doing things. This can lead to a decrease in both extreme and smaller cases of police racism and discrimination, and is greatly needed right now in America. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Does Money Buy Happiness, Or The Opposite?

With the end of Junior Theme and the start of our unit on social class, I realized that social class is actually highly related to my general topic for Junior Theme: depression in young people. The more obvious connection of these two topics is that depression is more prevalent among the young people of the lower classes, and the reason that this seems so obvious to Americans like me is because of the American belief that money buys happiness. As has been mentioned before in class, depression being more common in lower classes is actually the exact opposite of the truth. Affluent teens, which are defined by the American Psychological Association as teens raised in suburban homes with their family income being $120,000 or higher, "report higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse than any other socioeconomic group of young Americans today". So why, when it comes to teenagers of high classes, does money do the opposite of buy happiness?

One child psychologist by the name of Madeline Levine has written a whole book attempting to answer this question, called The Price of Privilege. In the book, Levine writes: "When [parents] coerce, intrude on or take over for [their] children unnecessarily [they] may be 'spoiling' them, but the far more significant consequence is that [they] are interfering with their [children's] ability to construct a sense of self". This "taking over" or "spoiling" of one's children seems to be a part of the culture of the higher classes. As we have discussed in class, low class parents tend to only be concerned that their children stay out of trouble, whereas high class parents want to shower their children with resources to help them succeed. And according to Levine, this "spoiling" by parents can lead to them flat-out "taking over" their children's lives, which inhibits children fro"m developing a "sense of self", causing emotional issues such as depression. 

This saddening trend of mental illness in adolescents of high class is proof that the cultures of the high and low classes in America are very different, particularly in how parents in these classes raise their children. I find it extremely upsetting that this aspect of the culture of the higher classes is actually causing children to develop illnesses like depression. Perhaps if more people researched this topic and published their findings like Levine did, this issue would be something that was almost common knowledge, and parents of high classes would know not to make the mistake of taking over their children's lives,. No matter how it is done, parents of higher classes need to be made aware that what they believe would help their children could possibly do the exact opposite. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stigma: An American Trend For Over Two Centuries

This past week I have continued researching depression in young people in great depth for my Junior Theme. One very interesting aspect of this topic that I researched just this weekend was the history of depression, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before beginning my research, I believed that my "why question" (Why are so many young people with depression not seeking treatment?) would be even more relevant in the past than it is today (and it is extremely relevant today, with over half of young people with depression not getting treatment), and after some research it appears that this was correct. According to Dr. Ellen Holtzman, in the late-19th century, "Patients at public [mental] hospitals were usually involuntarily committed, and they typically displayed...suicidal behavior before their hospitalization". The fact that patients were "usually involuntarily committed" means that typically people with mental disorders like depression were not seeking treatment at this time in history, and "suicidal behavior" is a tragic symptom of untreated depression, meaning that many people specifically suffering with depression were going untreated until their illness advanced to this point. A probable cause to people not seeking treatment for their depression in the past was how depression was viewed at that time, and some of this seems to have carried over into American society today. 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a horrible stigma against depression. For example, in the beginning of the Enlightenment period "it was thought that depression was an inherited, unchangeable weakness of temperament, which lead to the common thought that affected people should be shunned or locked up". This attitude toward depression in the past matches up perfectly with the definition of stigma: "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person". In this case, the "mark of disgrace" was associated with depression, and specifically was that people suffering with this disorder had a "weakness". Certainly this attitude towards depression barred many people from seeking treatment, as nobody wants to be viewed as having a "weakness" and be "shunned" by society because of a medical condition they are suffering from.

Although the attitude towards depression in our society today may not be as extreme as it was three hundred years ago, some of it still remains and affects people suffering with depression. Right now I am reading an autobiography called Monochrome Days about a woman named Cait Irwin who suffered with depression when she was a teenager. When she was suffering with this disorder, she felt that it was a flaw to her character, or a "weakness of temperament". For example, she compared herself to her brother, stating that: "there was no possible way he would ever let a dark cloud settle upon his brain" (Irwin 5). The fact that "his" is italicized and that she says that there was "no possible way" he could develop depression both show that she believed her depression was her fault, a weakness of hers, even though depression can happen to anyone. This is highly reflective of the stigma against depression that existed over two-hundred years ago and appears to still exist today that keeps young people like Irwin from seeking treatment.

This made me wonder, why does stigma still exist in American society today after all of this time? I believe it is because our society can never seem to accept people who do not fit into the majority, who are "different", even when it comes to health issues. This is similar with racism, which has existed in American society since its birth, as well as many other forms of discrimination and hatred that have done nothing but hurt the people that they have targeted. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

For Depression, Poor Treatment Leads To No Treatment

Over this past week, I have refined my topic for Junior Theme and began more extensive research on this topic. After finding a shocking statistic--that in 2013 only 38.1% of adolescents who had an episode of major depression in the past year were receiving treatment for it--I knew that I wanted my why question to be: Why are so many young people with depression not receiving the treatment they need? One answer to this question that I have found especially interesting and saddening is that poor quality of depression treatment is deterring people from getting themselves or their kids treated.

The poor quality of treatment for depression is detailed in the memoir Prozac Nation, about Elizabeth Wurtzel's experience with treatment for her depression. Wurtzel describes her psychopharmacologist, who gave her her main form of treatment and who she visited when she was experiencing a bad episode of depression: "all he really does is write prescriptions and hand out pills...He's the pusherman, and it's in his interest to see that I stay loaded" (4-5). According to the Mayo Clinic Website, "[A] primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve depression symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health counselor". If all the treatment Wurtzel was getting was "perscription" and "pills", she was lacking the other part of treatment that many people "benefit from". Especially since she was still experiencing bad episodes of depression while receiving treatment from Dr. Ira and did not want to take one of her medications because she worried about it affecting her health, the other talk therapy aspect of depression treatment should have been referred to her by Dr. Ira. Instead, Ira appeared to be more concerned about his own financial interests than her mental health, as he was the "pusherman" and would make more money if she simply stayed "loaded" on the drugs that did not appear to be enough to fully treat her depression. Wurtzel received very poor quality treatment for her depression by Dr. Ira, and therefore she did not want to continue with treatment and at times even stopped taking her medication, going completely untreated due to the poor quality of the treatment being given to her.

The article "'Many' Teens Struggle With Untreated Mental Illness, But School Screening Still Lacking" by Kelli Kennedy supports this idea of treatment consisting of only medication and no other kind of support, which makes it of poor quality and undesirable. In the article, a woman whose son was perscribed Prozac after being recommended by his school to seek psychiatric treatment states: "It just seems like [the schools] want to medicate rather than provide education support" (Kennedy 3). When schools succeed in identifying children struggling with mental disorders, which is not always the case, they do not go about getting them treatment the correct way. Good quality treatment shoud include various forms of support specific to the individual in need of treatment, such as talk therapy, and in this boy's case, education support, but the treatment given to this boy was simply medication, just like Wurtzel's treatment. People like the mother mentioned above do not want to put the children into treatment after witnessing how bad quality it is. In fact, the mother did pull her son out of treatment due to its poor quality.

If treatment for depression could be bettered in America by including all of the neccessary aspects, than most likely a lot more people would actually seek treatment for their depression. Hopefully someday this will happen and this cycle of poor treatment for depression leading to no treatment for depression will end.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Untreated Mental Illness

When we first started thinking about topics for Junior Theme, one of the general topics I was thinking of doing my paper on was mental illness. I have always found treatments for mental illness in American history, such as histerectomies and ice-pick lobotomies, to be horrifying and wrong, and I knew that if I did a Junior Theme on mental illness I would want my "look back" to include how mental illness was treated in the past. Then I began to wonder why mental illness was treated so horribly in the past. I thought this could be a result of stigma in society against mental illness, or this could be a cause of the stigma. This is what led me to the first topic that I wanted to do: Why is there a stigma against mental illness in American society?

This seemed like the perfect topic for my Junior Theme: I am passionate about it, and already had ideas for a historial look back. The problem with it was that it was too broad and also could not be quantified. It is difficult to find statistics directly dealing with stigma against mental illness; I did find some statistics about if people with mental illness felt that others were "compassionate and understanding" towards mentally ill people (only 25% of mentally ill people felt this). This does show stigma against mental illness, but it seemed too general and subjective to be the basis of my entire paper.

After further research on stigma against mental illness, I found that a huge outcome of stigma is people not seeking treatment for their illness. This effect of stigma seemed like it could be a good topic for my paper, so I continued searching for statistics about people with mental illness that have not been treated for it for whatever reason. I found a few statistics that I thought I could base my "why question" on: in any given year, 20% of mentally ill children are identified and actually receive treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and in 2012 59% of adults with any mental illness were not receiving treatment and 37.1% of people with serious mental illness were not receiving treatment.

These statistics led me to the "why question" that I am currently basing my research on: Why are so many people with mental illness not receiving treatment? I am still working to refine this so it can be more specific, possibly by basing it on serious mental illness, which is defined federally "having, at any time during the past year, a diagnosable mental, behavior, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment, that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities". This includes bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, among others. 

One more way I may refine my topic is by possibly focusing on what happens to people with serious mental illness when they go untreated. Therefore, I may look at if many people with untreated serious mental illness end up in prison or homeless. If after some research I find a trend that I can base my paper on, I may make that my why question instead of what I have now. For now, though, I am basing my research on my current "why question".