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China's Media vs. America's Media

Most Americans take it for granted that they have a variety of freedoms that are guaranteed to them by the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. One of the most basic freedoms is the freedom of speech and expression. In the current time of social media, Americans can essentially post what they want without fear of being persecuted or punishment. However, that is not the case with a lot of foreign countries.

While western countries generally guarantee some kind of freedom of speech, many others either provide limited freedom or even none at all. One such country that I will be getting into more detail with is China.

According to the Chinese Constitution, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Ironically, that is not the case at all. In fact, China is very strict in what is being printed and said in the media.

Since China is a communist nation, many leaders there believe that freedom of speech should be exercised if the whole of society benefits and not just the individual. This contributes to the fact that the Chinese government, unlike the U.S., strictly controls what is being published and said in the media.

The first way that the Chinese government regulates the media is that it has a Central Propaganda Department, and its job is to monitor all forms of media. According to a Freedom House Special Report called “Speak No Evil-Mass Media Control in Contemporary China, “The Chinese Communist Party exerts near complete control over the country’s 358 television stations and 2,119 newspapers—the primary media available to more than one billion Chinese citizens.”

Along with that, journalists and reporters are often required to attend so-called “ideological training sessions” where they have to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist Party and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the Party’s ideals and nation’s current laws. Many times, the heads of newspapers, magazines, or TV programs are often appointed by Communist politicians in power. This way, the government can stringently control the information that is circulating in the media and prevent any anti-government or anti-Communist ideas from spreading.

Considering that China’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, it is interesting to see how completely opposite China’s policies are in reality. However, the immense use of the internet and social media has created a new challenge for the government since it is hard to regulate such a vast source of information.

In response to the internet, China has blocked some websites that are often tied to uprisings or opposition to the government. More recently, according to the International Herald Tribune, “The Great Firewall of China” has blocked access to popular sites, like Youtube Twitter, and Facebook, as well as blocking searches of “politically sensitive” words.

These stringent policies have caused many riots and protests. In fact, in an article in the Voice of America, there was a free speech protest in southern China this past January, where many people, including journalists, criticized the government’s censorship of the media. However, despite such demonstrations, the Chinese government is not going to consider changing its censorship policies right now, but as more and more protests hit the streets and the internet, they might have to rethink their thoughts on free speech.

Clearly, seeing China’s strict policies may make you reevaluate how important all the basic freedoms are in the U.S.A. Because of the freedom of speech, expression, and press, we can essentially speak our minds and voice our opinions.

While many people do not have the right to say what they want in their respective countries, you do in this country. This should also make you more responsible to how and what you voice your opinion on. Just saying anything and everything that’s on your mind isn’t useful to yourself or to American society. I encourage all you teenagers to be vocal on important issues, and use the freedom of speech to raise awareness on certain problems and try to incite change.

Visual: CBS. “Fight for Free Speech in China.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.

Esarey, Ashley. Freedom at Issue. Rep. Freedom House, Feb. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2013. .

"China Free Speech Protests Spread Online." Voice of America. Voice of America, 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .

Chu, Ruven. "Communism and Computer Ethics." Communism: Censorship and Freedom of S Speech. N.p., 2009. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .

McDonald, Mark. "Adding More Bricks to the Great Firewall of China." International Herald Tribune. New York Times, 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 07 Feb. 2013. .

YouTube Video: 

Standardized Testing

SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP, NMSQT, and the list goes on. This just seems like a good old alphabet soup, but these letters represent something much more important to students everywhere. Before anyone, including myself, can criticize the rising costs of colleges, I have to be admitted to a college first. And those letters are the most important factors in determining which colleges you can get accepted to.

I’m sure most of you are know what I am referring about, and that is standardized testing. All these tests are meant to determine how successful students will be in colleges. I still remember taking the ACT and hoping that I got a great score. Kids around me were very stressed about the ACT, and many of them were enrolled in classes that charged $400 or $500 to prepare students to take this test. However, the real question is that are these standardized tests accurate in predicting future success of students?

And not only are the tests used by colleges , but the government uses those scores to determine which schools are failing schools. In turn, teachers are evaluated based on the scores of their students. All this is part of a program started by former President George Bush called the No Child Left Behind. Clearly, these standardized scores have serious implications.

Of course there are two sides to this issue just like any other. Some support standardized testing while others criticize it. So let’s take a look at both views.

Proponents of this kind of testing say that it provides a good and fair measure of students’ performance. In fact, Herbert Wahlberg, a professor at UIC, gives the metaphor, “Student performance is a crucial element of a metaphorical three-legged stool that also includes standards and learning. When one leg is weak or missing, educational programs may be faulty, but if all three are strong, the programs can be strong. Standardized tests are used to measure the student performance leg of this stool.”

Others say that when students know that they have to take a test to get into a good college, they are more motivated to work hard in school and actually learn rather than someone who does not have to try to get into a college. In fact, one research study by Richard Phelps that 93% of cases had a positive effect from standardized testing.

However, the people who oppose it say that such testing do not reflect students’ learning abilities. Many students who may be intelligent can receive bad scores just from being stressed out about something unrelated to the test or are bad test takers. Also, some kids possess more creative intelligence than reading and math knowledge which is not measured by tests.

Another criticism of tests is that they are not fair. According to a Time article, “the gap for achievement test scores between rich and poor have grown by almost 60% since the 1960s.” Many critics say that the tests are worded for white students. Also, many say that teachers should not be judged by these scores because standardized tests only cover a small portion of everything that is taught in the classroom.

With all these conflicting viewpoints from adults, it is important that all you teens start discussing this issue as well especially since it affects your future. Of course it does not seem right that one number can determine what college you are going to, but these tests do seem to measure how well student can perform basic skills like comprehension.

This is why I encourage you to look at the following website that presents most arguments for and against standardized testing: http://standardizedtests.procon.org/#pro_con

By looking at both viewpoints side-by-side, you may be able to better formulate your own opinions on whether these tests are good or not and maybe even think of some other alternatives. Not only will this make you exercise those critical thinking skills, but it will make you more involved in important issues that affect many people.

"Pro & Con Arguments: "Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America?""Procon.org. Procon.org, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. .

Walberg, Herbert J. "Stop the War Against Standardized Tests | Hoover Institution." Stop the War Against Standardized Tests | Hoover Institution. Defining Ideas, 20 May 2011. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

Rooks, Noliwe M. "Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Standardized Tests." Ideas: Why Its Time to Get Rid of Standardized Tests Comments. Time, 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. .

"Is Standardized Testing Fair?" Is Standardized Testing Fair? Campus Explorer, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

"Do You Enjoy Discussing Controversial Topics?" The Three S Group LLC. The Three S Group LLC, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

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Illegal Immigration

Since 2012 Presidential Election, the topic of illegal immigration has been brought right up to the forefront. Due to the immense turnout of Latino and Hispanic voters, which helped contribute to President Obama’s victory, it has become clear that developing a plan for comprehensive illegal immigration reform needs to be on the priority list of both the President and Congress.

In fact, more and more Americans are becoming interested in this issue of whether existing illegal immigrants should be allowed to obtain legal permanent residence. According to the Associated Press-Gfk poll, “more than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens.” That is an increase from recent years, and even Republicans have learned from the 2013 election that something needs to be done about illegal immigration especially if they seek to gain Latino votes.

However, the poll only surveyed about 1,004 adults, and it is quite possible that a much larger representative sample may have had a different statistics of Americans. Being the critical thinkers that you are, you can take a closer look on the poll at the following link:

http://ap-gfkpoll.com/uncategorized/our-latest-poll-findings-21

Again, like in the previous blog on this topic, this issue concerns teens because there are illegal immigrant teens who are your peers. Many of them arrived in this country when they were young, and so should they be allowed to stay here? Should they be allowed to obtain financial aid? Or should they all be deported because they “broke the law”?

To help show one perspective of the issue, I had the opportunity to interview an illegal immigrant college student who wished to remain anonymous. The following is a part of the interview:

1. When did you immigrate to the U.S.A.?

A: I came to this country with my parents, who wanted to provide me with a better life, when I was about five months old. So I basically grew up here.

2. Do you consider yourself an American?

A: I definitely do. I grew up, and I have come to appreciate all the American values. In high school when the pledge of allegiance was being recited, half the students of my class didn’t stand up and continued their conversations. But I made sure to stand up and say the pledge because this country means a lot to me. It has provided me with an opportunity to obtain an education, which is so important to me. Plus, I never felt like an “illegal alien.” I have always felt American.

3. When did it hit you that being an illegal immigrant has major consequences in this country?

A: That fact hit me when I was applying for colleges. I was Valedictorian of my class, and I was receiving letters from Stanford, MIT, Yale, Princeton, and countless other elite schools that encouraged me to apply there. However, my only dream was to go to Northwestern University, and I was accepted early decision. I still remember to this day how excited I was because this school meant a lot to me. It was a door to my future, and I wanted to do great things in my life. Unfortunately when it came time to qualify for financial aid, I realized I had to prove that I was a citizen. Of course, I couldn’t do that. When I read the notification saying that, my heart just sank because I knew right then and there that I could never attend the school of my dreams. I can’t afford to pay such a large tuition. Thankfully, I was able to enroll in a state school, but paying tuition is getting harder and harder with each passing semester since my family does not have much money.

4. Did you apply for President Obama’s Work Authorization Plan?

A: I would have because being able to work would help fund my education and help my family tremendously. However, the application fee is close to $500, and I just don’t have that kind of money. The recent recession forced my dad to close his small business, and so we are experiencing a tough financial period.

5. What would you say to the critics of the Dream Act and other plans for individuals like you to become legal permanent residence?

A: I would tell them one of my favorite quotes from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird where one character, Atticus Finch, says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” It’s easy to say that I’m breaking the law, and I should be deported. But if they just see that America is all I’ve known. This is my home, and I want be able to become a doctor and help the people here. I didn’t ask to be an illegal immigrant, but I can try to show others that I’m not any different from any another teen who has goals, aspirations, and desires.

I would like to thank the student who volunteered to be interviewed. Of course the issue of solving America’s broken immigration is necessary, but in situations like of the student I interviewed, what do you think should be done with her? Should she be able to stay here, continue her education, and eventually obtain a path to citizenship? Or should she be required to go back to her native country? These are critical questions that need to be answered, but a solution will only come through a compromise in Washington D.C.

However, it is important to understand both sides of the argument. So the Youtube video attached depicts an interview between the two contrasting viewpoints on illegal immigration. Enjoy! And hopefully this might get you thinking about this issue.

TheZenoEffect. “Lou Dobbs Destroys Illegal Alien.” Online Video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 23 June. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

Werner, Erica, and Dennis Junius. "AP-GfK Poll: Most Back Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants as Republican Opposition Declines." Associated Press GfK Poll APGfK Poll Most Back Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants as Republican Opposition Declines Comments. Associated Press, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

YouTube Video: 

Media Bias in Gun Control Debate

“Not only does it appear that fact-checking operations are here to stay, but they are growing rapidly. Just [in 2010], at least two dozen media organizations or universities launched or joined fact-checking operations,” wrote a journalist, Cary Spivak, in the American Journalism Review.

Well look at that! Fact-checking resources are increasing every year, and hopefully the number of fact-checkers, including you all, is increasing every day as well. I can’t stress enough to you how important this skill is during a time where there are so many issues that affect teenagers from immigration to the economy to education. To read more about the rise of fact-checking, go to the following link: http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4980

The skill of fact-checking becomes very handy when it comes to trying to navigate through the perceived media bias in order to find out the real truth about an issue.

In fact, I have an example of two different news outlets that have two different headlines concerning a similar topic, which in this case is gun control. The Huffington Post, which many consider to be fairly liberal, has a headline on the front page stating, “Polls Show Nearly 100 Percent Support For Background Checks.” In direct contrast, the Washington Times, known to be more conservative, had a large headline that asserted, “NRA president: Anti-gun advocates threatened to kill my kids.” Below that was a smaller one that said, “NRA head wary on background checks, wants better instant check system.”

In the first case, without even reading the entire article itself, I can infer that the headline seems to describe how more Americans want stricter and universal background checks so that not everyone and anyone can go purchase a gun just because it is their right to own a gun. This coincides with the liberal view of having stricter gun control so that mass shootings like the one in Sandy Hook Elementary School do not occur again.

Then from the two headlines from the Washington Times, the writer wants the audience to sympathize for the National Rifle Association’s president, and he or she makes the anti-gun advocates look dangerous while the NRA president is solely the victim. The other headline pointed out the NRA’s opposition to universal background checks. This specific imagery tries to convince the reader to support the cause of the NRA who does not want stricter gun control. This is something that conservatives favor, and their reasoning stems from the Second Amendment, which states that an individual has a right to own a firearm in the U.S.

So just by looking at two different sources of news, I noticed the bias of each source and how it wanted to convince its audience to favor a certain side by choosing what specific words to say in their headline. That’s why fact-checking is so important. It’s better to go to an objective resource like Factcheck.org or Politifact in order to obtain the concrete facts of an issue.

Although it may take more steps to learn and verify the information that is presented or omitted in the article, it will ultimately help you to avoid falling into the trap of media bias. Many everyday people may not have previously known that the Huffington Post or the Washington Times are respectively liberal and conservative. They might have read the articles and believed it without being able to see the other side of the story.

In order to be knowledgeable and educated voters and citizens, it is always crucial to know the entire story before formulating an opinion. That’s why I want all you teens out there to keep practicing those fact-checking skills not only to improve your skills but to become better consumers of all the news that you are bombarded with.

Also, you can check out the headlines I mentioned on the following websites:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/31/nra-president-anti-gun-a...>.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/31/nra-head-argument-agains...>.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/31/nra-head-argument-agains...>.

Chasmar, Jessica. "NRA President: Anti-gun Advocates Threatened to Kill My Kids."The Washingtion Times. The Washington TImes, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. .

Sherfinski, David. "NRA Head Wary on Background Checks, Wants Better Instant Check System." The Washingtion Times. The Washington Times, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. .

Spivak, Cary. "The Fact-Checking Explosion." The Fact-Checking Explosion | American Journalism Review. American Journalism Review, 2 Dec. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. .

Edwards-Levy, Ariel. "Background Checks Overwhelmingly Supported By Gun Owners In 4 States (UPDATE)." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. .

“Media Bias.” Photo. PoliticalCarnival.net. 26 Jan. 2013. 07 Feb. 2013.

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