Review Category : Opinion

Edumacation with Calvin and Hobbes: Testing Bad

Through policy and culture, the way we test students in the United States has begun to show that we do not assess students on knowledge and understanding as much as we do on memory. The consequences are both economic and personal and relate to problems concerning critical thinking. In the strip above, Calvin demonstrates the predicament. He finds fault in the “system” and the way it values information. Many students would relate to his caustic sarcasm. To understand the problem of testing, we should understand its function. One part serves to gauge how much a student has learned. The other part allows for categorization — testing is an effective tool with which we can compile rankings, establish grade-point averages and help get a visual standing of a student’s academic progress. These are fair reasons to test. Nevertheless, testing has its limits, especially in the job market. In a recent New York Times article, Kevin Carey explains two studies conducted by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roska. The first, “Academically Adrift,”... ...

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Tunespoon: The devil’s pitchfork

Music criticism ruined music for me. When I was younger I sought the best music out there. Google led me to Pitchfork.com, which offered its bright, shiny opinions. I trusted them. As uncomfortable as Animal Collective’s obnoxious yelps and screams made me, Pitchfork told me that this was the best new thing to happen to music at the time. My opinion assimilated to theirs. I listened to pop through their cynical headphones. “Fireflies” by Owl City? Psh, that’s a cliched, emasculated moan of a Postal Service rip-off (I was in sixth grade). I looked back at my old playlists. KT Tunstall? Norah Jones? No, not anymore. I was a new kind of music consumer — a smart one, getting the most value for my allowance dollar — and my impressionable brain would only seek out the best. However, I soon found out that music criticism’s criteria of best and worst are subjective. One of the most unbearably written and produced records I’ve ever heard, How to Dress Well’s Love Remains,... ...

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(Re)Fashioning Gender: The Beauty/Gender Myth

Pick up any fashion magazine, and you’re bound to be presented with page upon page of perfect-looking humans flaunting the latest trends. In many advertisements, you may find yourself faced with a very particular type of image (i.e. white, thin, young and beautiful), and the clothing that’s being advertised seems to be only secondary to the narrow sets of beauty standards that are promoted. While it’s easy to skim past these images without giving them a second thought, it’s important to be aware and critical of the images that we’re exposed to day after day. Whether we’re skimming through a magazine, watching television or simply driving past a bus stop, beauty myths become normalized every time we are exposed to them. Advertisements perpetuating an ideal type of beauty have been around for decades. These images, which are virtually everywhere, are bound to have some effect on our psyches, whether we’re conscious of it or not. In fact, studies have shown that advertisements, which are quick and to the point, have... ...

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Crafting Gemeinschaft: Making stranger danger obsolete

What if I told you to hop into a random stranger’s car and take a drive to Washington so you could see all of your favorite bands play while overlooking the Columbia River? What if I told you to spend the night in a stranger’s extra room so you can enjoy the city while saving enough money to actually eat? See, this would sound pretty strange 10 years ago, but today it’s all becoming more normal. Social institutions that have been around forever like car dependency and hotels are being challenged by social media, and I think it is great. I just think it’s ironic that we are willing to take risks in certain aspects of our lives, such as sleeping in near proximity to strangers and trusting their driving skills, when we remain so distrustful in other aspects. Hotels are facing competition from the website Airbnb, where individuals can offer up a room in their home to strangers who might be looking for something more comfortable and cheaper than... ...

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Science is Serendipitous: University behind Costco

“Let there be light” When you see the logo of any University of California, you always see that phrase, “Let there be light.” The phrase lets the world know exactly what the purpose of the UC is — to shine a light on what’s possible in the world of education and research. In the midst of cutthroat private universities, we should be proud to know that UC is a world-class public research institution, dedicated to the needs of California and the world. I myself am marveled by the research, both scientific and general, that comes out of the system of schools under the UC umbrella. Being a UC Davis student and a science major, you might expect me to get my drive for research from what the UC system has done, but that’s not true. I had the opportunity to conduct real research at the community college level, something I did not think was possible before I did it. I would love to see community college students all over California... ...

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Guest Column: UC Student Regent Welcome

As classes resume and we return to campus, reminders of the diversity of our student body are all around us. Some students have arrived freshly inspired by the beauty and culture of foreign countries, and some emerge from the depths of backbreaking jobs and seemingly endless hours of internships; still others sit in the very same classrooms they frequented during long days of summer school, while some just soaked in the sun and enjoyed the peaceful bliss of doing absolutely nothing.   But while many of its students wandered far from their campuses during the summer months, the wheels of activity continue to turn at the University of California. The governing body of the University, the Board of Regents, continued to hold its bi-monthly meetings at the University of California San Francisco. And in July, we were privileged to take our seats at the table as Student Regent Saifuddin and Student Regent-designate Oved. Allow us to introduce ourselves. The UC Board of Regents can be a distant, removed body of... ...

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Tunespoon: The good old days

If you subscribe to the notion that “music was so much better back then,” then I really don’t blame you. I too have seen a hilariously fallacious comparison between legendary ’60s pop masterpiece “God Only Knows” to Nicki Minaj’s throwaway promo “Stupid Hoe.” So, perhaps the only solution to the dearth of substantial music is a steady diet of Bob Dylan, Beach Boys and The Beatles.   But, I have to confess, I’m not a Beatles fan. They’ve made an indelible mark on the industry, and on many peoples’ lives. I am not one of them. So just because someone grew up with a rotary phone doesn’t mean that they should happily hand over their smartphone for “the good old days.” The times, they are a-changin’.   A discontent Esquire Magazine list aptly titled “Eight Reasons Why Old Music Is Better Than New Music” exemplifies the aggressive stubbornness of its faulty logic. Some items on the list simply are not true, such as the claim that there are “more artists... ...

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Edumacation with Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin isn’t curious

                  When talking about ways to improve the value of education, most debates center on what teachers and institutions can do to improve a student’s experience. Less is said about how students can help themselves. As illustrated above, Calvin seems to be suffering from a lack of intellectual curiosity in the classroom. He vocalizes a certain inevitability in education — that students are ultimately in charge of whether or not they take an interest on a subject.   Engaging students is an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible. Professors can, and often do, interest students in their fields. The best professors are visibly enthusiastic about their fields; they make their teaching inclusive and accessible. This enthusiasm acts as a prerequisite for making a student curious. Without this type of engagement, the entire onus is put on the student.   While students are largely responsible for their own academic interests, some policies and technological trends are making it harder for true engagement. This... ...

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(Re)Fashioning Gender: The history of fashion

I’ve noticed that there is a lot of stigma around people who choose to wear clothes that aren’t made particularly for their assigned genders. Male bodies wearing dresses, or female bodies rocking suits and ties, for example. Despite this stigma, there are individuals who attempt to express themselves in a way that defies the limiting gender binaries that have been set in place.   There is an argument I’ve heard more than once that attempts to justify who gets to wear what, and it’s a big part of why I wanted to write this column in the first place. The argument, which is that “it’s only natural” that boys don’t want to wear dresses and girls do, is ridiculous and, according to history, absolutely not true. Furthermore, if you take a look at the types of clothing that people wear around the world even today, it’s clear that this divide is a learned behavior, not some kind of inherited trait. Nevertheless, this argument gets used often and creates a huge... ...

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Science is serendipitous

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford This may sound weird, but you know when you’re lying in bed too excited or too stressed to sleep, and you just stare at the ceiling and think? I do that almost every night, except I’m not thinking about a project, test or even that pizza I’m going to get tomorrow — I’ve got science on my mind. I get excited thinking about projects that aim to cure diseases or help a poor community gain access to clean water. I once spent an entire night thinking about a research paper that addressed researchers’ hopes to grow back limbs we have lost (search HOX genes and regenerative medicine). During one of these late night sessions, I wondered what kinds of methods were being used to help people who have lost their sight. One scenario that came to mind was the X- Men character Cyclops and the pair of shades he wears on his head to... ...

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Crafting Gemeinschaft

This is my first year living in a house in Davis and I was really excited — not because of the amount of leaves I get to rake, but because of the invitation I found on my door to my neighborhood’s block party. The Ninth Davis Neighbors’ Night Out (DNNO) took place on Sunday, and organizers set the aim of breaking the Guinness World Record for “Most Neighborhood Potlucks On the Same Day.” DNNO is part of the City of Davis’s Good Neighbor Initiative, which was created to promote understanding and effective communication between neighbors. The way DNNO works is that multiple people sign up as “party sponsors” who are in charge of sending out invitations to the event or have the option of getting invitations directly from the city. When I went out to my neighborhood’s block party and met our party sponsor, Susan, she said that it was her second year as a sponsor. The neighbors each pitched in by bringing a dish and their lawn chairs, thereby... ...

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Bacteria talk — you’ll like what they say

As humans, when we need to get things done, we talk. We see our way of communication as special and only available to us. Well, it may be true in some instances, but communication is available to all living things around us, and even living things that are inside of us. Bacteria are present in you and on you in a huge way. According to an Anaerobe science journal study done on our “gut” flora, we have approximately 10 times as many bacterial cells in us or on us compared to human cells at any given time. When someone mentions bacteria, we like to think about the evil (pathogenic) bacteria that harm us. Before you start engulfing yourself with antibacterial spray, these bacteria on us are harmless or even beneficial to our body. Am I telling you that these colonies of bacteria can actually be good for you? In a sense, yes! Bacteria help you digest your food, keep your stomach feeling just right and cover your skin with an extra... ...

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Dress to impress (or, you know, not)

If you’ve ever worn a skirt (or shorts, or a dress, or heels, etc.), chances are you’ve been catcalled by some random dude you never have, and probably never will, meet. It’s also highly probable that after said catcall, you felt exceedingly self-conscious about what you were wearing. Are my shorts too short? Is my top too low? Would creepy strangers leave me alone if I were wearing sweatpants? The answers to these questions are clearly, emphatically, no. But sometimes, when you’re all alone on the street somewhere, it’s easy to question, or even blame yourself, for the offensive choices of others. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who has the guts to call these assholes out on their behavior — in which case, you’re awesome. Keep up the good work. However, this type of self-blame happens far too often and it’s not necessarily just a case of being too intimidated to respond to the aggression of others. In fact, I would argue that this self-blame is the result... ...

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Whoa, man

I heard a song on the radio. I think it goes something like: “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhh!” It’s a really great, sticky melody and the production really makes the track shine. No, it isn’t “Good Time” by Owl City. No, I’m not talking about Sam Smith’s epic melisma showcase in “Stay With Me’s” bridge. No, the riff to “Seven Nation Army” isn’t even actually sung in The White Stripes’ original recording. People do that because, I don’t know, sports make them do it! To be honest, what song it was is a riddle with no answer. Songwriters, from behind-the-scenes, filthy-rich hitmakers to the SoundCloud free music sharer, all have access to the holy grail of catchiness: the much sought-after long “O” sound. I think of it as the monosodium glutamate, or MSG, of the music world; sprinklings of it here and there might make food tasty, but overload will surely kill you. “Ohs,” just like MSG crystals, are shortcuts to adding real substance. Let’s sample American Authors’ hit “The Best Day of My... ...

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Uncritical Calvin

Watterson, Bill. There’s Treasure Everywhere: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1996. Print. One reason Calvin and Hobbes has stayed relevant in our culture is the insight it is able to provide with humor. I started reading the comic when I was in second grade. Almost 11 years later, I still find it as fresh as ever. Similarly, it satirizes themes that have stayed significant for decades. In the comic strip above, we see Calvin arguing for learning by “factoid.” Since the strip’s publication over 20 years ago, the issue of how we learn has become even more relevant. There seems to be a consensus across all disciplines that critical thinking is the best way to understand a given topic. But critical thinking is threatened in modern society by trends in technology. To understand why, we have to first examine exactly what critical thinking is and the process by which we derive knowledge from it. We will see that the rise of factoids creates a cog... ...

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