RSS Feed

Author Archives: eng112h

Jabarah Harley

Posted on

Jabarah Harley

College Writing 112H

Christine Crutchfield

18 November 2011

Light Skin vs. Dark Skin

 Most people over look the images of African Americans in the media. The media tends to portray lighter skinned African Americans more often than darker skinned African Americans. This has caused an issue of light skin vs. dark skin in the African American community. The way the media portrays lighter skinned African Americans has impacted darker skinned African Americans in a negative way. It has led darker skinned African Americans to feel inferior and some of them go as far as to bleach their skin because of it. The issue of light skin vs. dark skin can be fixed and it needs to start with changes in the media.

In the book, An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income and Occupation, author Ronald Hall mentions how the issue of light skinned vs. dark skinned blacks dates back to 1620, when the first cargo ship of Africans was brought to Jamestown, Virginia. This began a history of slavery in the British colonies and what became the United States. By the end of the slave trade in 1808, around 12,000,000 Africans had been taken from their homeland and forced to become slaves (6). Eventually, there became mixing of Black and White, especially between the masters and the females slaves. This became a new population of mulattos (half black/half white). In the book, The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans, author Kathy Russell mentions how a color caste system was established placing dark skinned persons at the bottom, mulattos in the middle, and whites at the top. Also, on slave plantations mulattoes were usually assigned indoor activities such as housekeeper, cook, and seamstress because mulattos were considered more intelligent and capable than dark skinned slaves. On the other hand, dark skinned slaves had to work in the hot sun because masters thought they would be able to tolerate the sun better (18). Many field workers envied and resented the house servants. Already we see tension between light skinned and dark skinned African Americans.  Even though the institution of slavery was ended with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the effects of slavery are still seen today.

In the novel, The Fire Next Time, author James Baldwin discusses the self-perception that many African Americans have about themselves. He states: “Negroes in this country…are taught really to despise themselves from the moment their eyes open on the world. This world is white and they are black. White people hold the power, which means they are superior to blacks” (25). This relates to the 1939 doll experiment performed by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark. In this experiment, they gave a group of black kids between ages three and seven a white and a black doll that were identical except for their skin color. The children were asked questions to determine racial perception and preference. They also had the children color in outlined drawings of a boy and a girl the same color as themselves. Many of the children with darker skin complexions colored the figures with white or yellow crayons. The Clarks concluded that segregation, discrimination, and prejudice caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred (Brown v. Board). Blacks were-and still are-born into a world where their race is an important factor in success. For years, the White race has made blacks feel inferior. Even in the media they do the same thing by portraying light skinned African Americans more often. The media is not helping darker skinned African Americas feel better about themselves.

The book The Color Complex also talks about the issue of images of blacks in the media. It discusses how lighter skinned blacks are displayed more in the media then darker skinned blacks. It states how black women who play romantic leads in films nearly always have light skin and long hair. Also, lighter skinned black women with classic European features usually predominate in beauty pageants, music videos, and the world of modeling (Russell, 135). If you think about it, most famous African American actors and musicians, especially women, have light skin.  This is because the media thinks that lighter skinned women with long synthetic hair are more attractive than darker skinned women with natural hair. Think about the singer Beyoncé, actress Halle Berry, and model Tyra Banks. Take Beyoncé,-she has light skin, and she is often seen with a long blond hair. The book also mentions darker skinned black figures that are well known and successful, such as the model Iman and Naomi Cambel. This book was written in 1992, and today when I think of darker skinned blacks that were famous, I still think of those two. This demonstrates how lighter skinned blacks still dominate the media. In his article,  Light Skinned with Good Hair: The Role of the Media and Christianity in the Maintenance of Self-Hatred in African Americans, author Akintunde Omowale explains how the racism in the media leads to African Americans to have low self-perceptions of themselves. According to Omowale, since the media thinks that natural hair and darker African American skin complexion is unattractive, the result is a psychological perception that African Americans are unattractive, and since light skin and straight hair are considered to be attractive attributes, the resulting attitude is that being white is attractive. This is sad, but it’s still true today.

The way the media portrays African Americans relates to the problem of skin bleaching in the black community. The book An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income and Occupation, also brings up the issue of skin bleaching. The author states “The effort on the part of African-Americans to assimilate and simultaneously bring about a reduction in psychological pain is made possible by their obsession with a ‘bleached ideal’ ” (Hall, 178). I first heard about this problem a few years ago on the Tyra Banks show. On the show, women of darker skinned complexions were ashamed of their skin color and applied skin bleaching cream to their face in order to become lighter. Some of them even put lightening cream on the faces of their kids. One woman was so desperate that she once put actual bleach on her skin. According to the article Skin Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, and the Politics of the Colour Line by Amina Mire, skin bleaching is “an attempt to gain respectability and social mobility within the white supremacist capitalist social and political order.”  I agree with this idea because the women on the Tyra show thought lighter skinned African Americans were more attractive, more likely to be successful, and overall had a better life. Today, people continue to bleach their skin. It’s sad that as I typed this topic into Google, the majority of the results had to do with ads for buying skin lightning products. Many of these creams contain the drug called hydroquinone. It inhibits the production of melanin, and has been researched to cause cancer in rodents, as well as being linked to a skin-disfiguring condition called ochronosis that results in darkening and thickening of the skin. The US FDA stated that products containing hydroquinone should be restricted to prescription use under medical supervision (Harmful Effects). In the media light skin has always been superior and more successful, so some people strive to be that way no matter what it takes. Skin bleaching is dangerous and needs to be put to an end. Skin bleaching also demonstrates the negative effects that the media is having on darker skinned African Americans.

   

The issue of light skinned vs. dark skinned blacks in the media can be resolved. In 2010, there was a study on advertising called Skin color shades in advertising to ethnic audiences: the case of African Americans. In the study, 299 African American males and females were given print advertisements of light skinned and dark skinned African American models. They had to rate their attitude towards the model’s attractiveness, toward the ad, and the attitude toward the brand. In the results, the males evaluated the ads and the brand more favorably when they featured light skinned models. However, although the males rated the light skinned females better, it wasn’t by much, so therefore the males still evaluated the ads that featured dark skinned females favorably. For the females the attitude toward the brand and ad were roughly the same. Also, they found dark skinned models to be more attractive (Watson). This demonstrates that even though lighter skinned blacks are portrayed more in the media, it doesn’t mean that everyone finds them to be more attractive, which is something the media needs to understand. I think that the media should feature darker skinned blacks in order to reverse the damage that it has cause by only featuring lighter skinned blacks. There are people trying to fix this issue. A movie called Dark Girls is going to be released sometime this winter. The movie aims to uncover and expose the true life of darker skinned African American women and the struggles they go through. The movie also wants darker skinned women to feel better about themselves, instead of having a low self-perception. This seems to be a good idea that could work. It relates to the late eighties when psychologist Michael Barnes replicated the original doll experiment done by Clark, and discovered that almost two-thirds of black preschool children preferred white dolls over black doll. However, he also discovered that self-hatred can be unlearned. Him and his researchers spent several hours with the children discussing the positive aspects of being Black and then retested them. This time around two thirds chose the black doll over the white (Russell, 64). This same situation can be applied to entertainment and the media. If darker skinned blacks are shown more, then darker skinned African Americas will start to higher their self-perception.

In order for the media to make a change, the supporters of this issue have to come together. They have to promote awareness of the issue by protesting studios, products, merchandise etc. The media has to understand that light skin vs. dark skin in the media is an issue and the negative effects it has on darker skinned African Americans. Imagine what the African American community would be like if this issue was resolved. Darker skinned African Americans, especially girls, would feel less inferior and feel beautiful in their own skin. They would have more hope for themselves and the future.

In conclusion, light skinned African Americans are shown more in the media than darker skinned African Americans. This has led to darker skinned African Americans to have low self-perception of themselves. Darker skinned African Americans have done dangerous things, such as skin bleaching, in order to become light skinned because they think that will give them a better life. This problem needs to be resolved, and it needs to begin with the media. Nowadays, the media shape, reflect, reinforce, and define the world in which we live in. Once the media starts making a change, people’s thoughts about darker skinned African Americans in the media will change.  The process would obviously be a slow one, but it will be worth it in the end.

Works Cited

Akintude, Omowale. Light Skinned with Good Hair: The Role of the Media and Christianity

        in the Maintenance of Self-Hatred in African Americans. Educational Resource center.

January 1997. October 27, 2011. PDF file.

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York, The Dial Press, 1963. Print.

Brown vs. Board of Topeka Kansas. The Library of Congress. July 23, 2010. October 27,

2011.  Web.

Hall, Ronald E. An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American

            Education, Income, and Occupation. Lewiston, N.Y: E. Mellen Press, 2005. Print

The Harmful Effects of Lightening Skin Creams. Word Press. September 26, 2006.  October 27,

2011. Web.

Mire, Amina. “Skin-Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, Power, and the Politics of the Colour Line.” Resources

for Feminist Research/Documentation sur la Recherche Feministe 28.3-4 (2001): 13-38. Sociological Abstracts. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.

Russell, Kathy, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall. The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color

            Among African Americans. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. Print.

Tyra Banks Show: Black Women Caught Bleacher Her and Her Children’s skin. YouTube.

 Posted 2011.

Watson, Stevie, Corliss G. Thornton, and Brian T. Engelland. “Skin Color Shades In Advertising To

Ethnic Audiences: The Case Of African Americans.” Journal Of Marketing Communications

16.4 (2010): 185-201. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.

Stop Killing Our Planet! by Alex Edwards

Posted on
Stop Killing Our Planet! by Alex Edwards

          Global Warming is an issue most teenagers talk about but don’t really consider in their everyday adventures. An issue that gets more detrimental as the clock ticks but we’re more concerned on what outfit we should wear today. Is this global problem really something that you and I should stop our daily activities and consider or is just something we can overlook that will eventually take care of itself?

          Merriam-Webster defines global warming as an increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution. During the past century, the Earth’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Now less than 2 degrees doesn’t seem like much of an increase but the temperature only increased about .5 degrees Fahrenheit just a century before – That’s a triple increase in just 100 years. The interesting statistic that scientist currently predict is that by the end of this century the earth’s surface will be between 35.6 and 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today! (National Wildfire Federation) But, how does this affect me? Why should I care?

            Some see the fight against global warming as needless. The 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, narrated by Al Gore educated Americans and foreign nations about the drastic effects of global warming and its future harmful effects on the world. Yet some critics were skeptical. Some saw the film as “misleading”, “exaggerated”, “one-sided”, and blatantly “wrong.” Mario Lewis Jr., stated Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth never “acknowledges the environmental and health benefits of climatic warmth and ongoing rise in the air’s carbon dioxide content.” Has Mr. Lewis forgotten that humans breathe in oxygen and not carbon dioxide? With increased CO2 levels in the air, that creates decreased O2 levels and makes every breath just that much more important. Mr. Lewis also said that Gore exaggerates when he mentions that polar bears “have been drowning in significant numbers” when in actuality it has only been “four bears that have drown in one month of one year, following an abrupt storm” (Lewis). Four polar bears may have drowned in that year but number will skyrocket in the next few years. According to an article by the journal of applied ecology, “The three main threats to polar bear populations over the next 50 years were viewed as climate change, hunting and pollution…..by the year 2050 less than half of the arctic ice covering the arctic sea will be melted and the polar bear population will decrease by at least 30%, possibly 70% all due to climatic change” (Watkinson). At least a 30 – 70 percent decrease in the polar bear population? I don’t think Al Gore was exaggerating one bit. (Gore’s documentary was taken to court with accusations of having falsified information. The judge ruled that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”)

             The burning of fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal, whether by factories or the car in our garages, leads to increased pollution in the environment. This air pollution, called smog creates a layer of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases included nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, acid and dust particles. This layer of gases creates a blanket over the Earth’s atmosphere, which warms up the planet by stopping the heat from the sun to escape. Think of it like a car. If you go outside on a hot day in a car with the windows rolled up, the air will soon become stifling and the seats will quickly become hot. That’s what greenhouse gases do to the earth and we are the primary factor. On December 12, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) said global warming was responsible for the deaths of 150,000 people in 2000 (Reuters). They fear that this total could double within the next thirty years. Now this is an outstanding figure here. More than a tenth of a million of people, killed in one year, due to a problem where the blame finger is pointed at us. And some say there is “no such thing as global warming.” Global warming kills people in indirect ways, ways that are overlooked by a typical teen. For example, over 3000 deaths were due to people who had diarrhea due to increased heat which caused food to become contaminated faster. Global warming caused increased rainfall in third world countries which increased the habitats of mosquitos, which carry malaria (Malaria causes one million deaths per year). If we don’t look for ways to stop or slow down global warming, then 150,000 deaths will inevitably reach millions.

            Let’s look at this issue from our perspective. Although teenagers are frequently exposed to issues related to global warming, their conceptions regarding the scope and nature of this problematic phenomenon are often lacunae with scientific understandings. A study done by the Journal of Baltic Science Education, questioned a group of students, between the ages of seventeen and eighteen and taking Environmental Science, about general Global Warming and Ozone Depletion issues. The results showed that fifty-two percent of the respondents were unaware of the depletion of our ozone. In addition, fifty-one percent of the students were unaware that the ground ozone level is harming our environment; sixty-two percent did not know that it was toxic (Grima, Walter and Paul). So why do these numbers and statistics matter? People our age look towards the older and wiser to do something about things like global warming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a part of the passive statistic. Why should I have to do something, if there’s someone with more experience and knowledge on the subject? Why not just let them take care of it? I think Michael Pollan in his essay, “Why Bother,” said it best: “Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another like the care for the environment to the environmentalists” (Pollan, 213). The problem with this passive nature is that in thirty to forty years from now, this won’t be the environmentalists’ world; it will be our world. It will be us that will suffer the consequences of our current actions; not our professors, our parents, nor our coaches but us.

             So the question is what should we do? How do we save the Earth? The U.S. acquires 38% of its energy from petroleum but petroleum creates a large amount of air pollution and increases greenhouse gas emissions. If the government continues to increase our electricity production via renewable energy such as wind and hydropower and reduce the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal, then we will be moving in the right direction. But what can the common folk, like you and I, do? Well for starters, you can turn off all the lights that you’re not currently using, carpool when all your friends want to go to mall instead of each of you showing off your driving skills, or even just planting a tree in your backyard. All of these things and more can help reduce our carbon emissions, which will reduce greenhouse gases emissions and ultimately “cool down” the Earth. Seems simple doesn’t it but it doesn’t take one or two people to recognize the larger issue at hand; we need a global response. In thirty years, the earth will be warmer, more ice will melt, more animal habitats will be lost, sea levels will rise and our land will be drench and houses will be become boats. Al Gore successfully put the world on edge with An Inconvenient Truth and made us aware of climate change. However, only five years after its release, Gore’s documentary seems more like an afterthought then an increased fight to save our planet. I think people need to be reeducated and reinforced with modern statistics; I’ll call it “An Inconvenient Truth: Rebirth.” Like Obama said during his 2008 campaign run, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time,” and that time is now.

Work Cited

Cook, John. “Is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth accurate?” Skeptical Science. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.

Environment 911.”The Melting of the Polar Ice Caps and Global Warming.” Environment 911 Organization. Web. 3 Nov. 2011

“Global Warming.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011. Web. 2 Nov. 2011

Grima, Joanne, Walter Leal Filho, and Paul Pace. “Perceived Frameworks of Young People on Global Warming and Ozone Depletion.” Journal of Baltic Science Education 9.1 (2010): 35-49. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Lewis, Marlo. (2007) “A Skeptic’s Guide to an Inconvenient Truth.” Competitive Enterprise Institute. Print. 4 Nov. 2011

“Malaria.” E-Med-TV. Clinaero, Incorporated, 2006-2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Osborn, Liz. “History of Changes in the Earth’s Temperature.” Current Results Nexus. Current Results. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.

Novi Meadows Elementary. (2002) “Protecting the Home We Live In: Environmental Issues.” Think Quest. Web. 4 Nov. 2011

Pollan, Michael. “Why Bother?” Other Words: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. David Fleming. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2009. 211-216. Print.

National Wildfire Federation. “What is Global Warming?” National Wildfire Federation. Web. 4 Nov. 2011

Reuters. “Global Warming Killing Thousands.” 11 Dec. 2003. Wired. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Riebeek, Holli. “Global Warming.” Earth Observatory 3 Jun. 2010. NASA. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Watkinson, Andrew R. “Using Expert Knowledge to Assess Uncertainties in Future Polar Bear Populations under Climate Change.” Journal of Applied Ecology 45.6 (2008): 1649-1659. Academic Search Premier. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.

Too Much Construction?

Posted on

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research university in Amherst Massachusetts and is the flagship school of the University of Massachusetts system. With more than 27,000 students, it is the largest public university in New England. I’ve attended UMass Amherst for the past two years, and there has never been a time when I have not seen the campus plagued with construction. Whether it’s changing a light into a rotary or building a new research lab, it seems that the campus is constantly under construction.

UMass Amherst has a reputation of being repeatedly voted as one of the ugliest University campuses (20 Ugliest…). The constant construction might be a contributing factor, as well as being a traffic nuisance. Tuition costs have been steadily rising in recent years. Believing that the University was raising the cost of tuition simply to pay for their new buildings, I was irritated.

While researching what the University was spending its fund on, I uncovered a major flaw in the system. The money that the University spends on construction projects come from alumni donations, as well as loans from the UMass Building Authority, while tuition is completely separate. As a result, the University raises tuition as well as splurge on hundred-million dollar buildings. Recently, UMass Amherst was ranked 94th on ‘Best National Universities’, and 42nd among public universities (U.S. News). Alumni donations flooded the University. With this influx of money, the University adopted an aggressive expansionist policy.

A center for recreation opened in 2009, serving as a state-of-the-art fitness and activity area for students and faculty. The total cost was $50 million (“New Recreation Center”…), a relatively small price tag, comparing it with other recent buildings. Two years after it opened, the ‘Rec Center’ is a major highlight of the UMass Amherst campus. Adding to the Recreation Center’s appeal was a suitably sized parking lot; giving Parking Services an ideal source of revenue, while allowing off-campus students convenient parking after 5 p.m. for their workout. Yet only two years later, the parking lot was closed and construction on new dorms started.

The Commonwealth Honors College is the honors college at UMass, although it hardly seems it. Open to anyone interested in intensifying their curriculum and who can maintain a high enough GPA, many are originally attracted to the program. Unfortunately, most are met with disappointment after the realization that there is no special housing, and no sense of community (Shore).

With the Honors College building, the appeal of the honors program and UMass Amherst greatly increases. With a building specifically for the Honors program, the program becomes more attractive to prospective students, being surrounded by their Honor program peer. Perhaps UMass will shed some of its ZooMass and ‘bro’ reputation, and instead become more of a beacon of education.

Also in the plans is a new academic building, slated to be built on the north side of the campus pond. The choice of location is somewhat unpleasant, as a new classroom would take away from the aesthetics of the campus pond in the warmer months. Not only visually infringing, a local preservationist group contend that “plans to construct a new classroom building near Campus Pond at UMass will ruin an iconic landmark and its surrounding landscape” (Cain). Both sides are currently fighting over the matter, slowing production of this building down considerably.

Goessman Laboratory was built in 1922, and it shows. Hazardously out-of-date, renovations are desperately needed. It turns out renovations are already in the plans and are expected to be completed by January 2013.  Renovation is expected to be complete in January 2013. The renovations include lab renovations, new ventilation, new heating and air conditioning, new lab waste and neutralization systems, sprinkler system, generator, and wireless internet (Facilities…). It’s about time; these renovations have been needed for years.

Joyce M. Hatch is the retiring vice chancellor for administration and finance. It was her job to decide which projects to give the green light to, and has stated that “every single one of these buildings is needed”(Lederman). After researching exactly how the University was spending its money, I am inclined to agree with her. Each new building and renovation is badly needed and come at a time when other colleges don’t have the money to invest in new facilities. While the sheer volume of money that is being invested into UMass Amherst is staggering, there is no need to worry that this money isn’t being put toward necessary causes.

 

 

Work Cited

Blaguszewski, Ed. “New Recreation Center Officially Opened at UMass Amherst, Creating New Era of Health and Fitness Opportunities for Students.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Office of News and Media Relations, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Cain, Chad. “Preservationists Aim to save UMass Campus Pond from New Building.”GazetteNET | News and Information from Northampton, MA by the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

“Facilities Planning Construction News, Schedules & Calendars.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Lederman, Diane. “Construction Begins on New UMass Honors College Dorm | Masslive.com.” Western Massachusetts Local News, Breaking News, Sports and Weather – MassLive.com. 28 May 2011. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Shores, Chris. “Commonwealth Honors College: Myth or Reality?” The Massachusetts Daily Collegian [Amherst] 21 Nov. 2010. Print.

“The 20 Ugliest College Campuses in the USA – A List of All Ugly Colleges.” Think Student Loans | Private Student Loans & College Loans From Think Financial. 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.

“Top Public Schools | Rankings | Top National Universities | US News.” Review. U.S News & World Report. Print.

Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

Posted on

­Andrew Tarbox

Are All Men Created Equal? : The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

 

            Growing up, there is one thing all people seem to focus on: the future.  As children we dream about our lives, having illustrious careers and perfect homes.  Into adolescence, we think about our first kiss and falling in love.  With early adulthood comes the pressure of the real world, wondering if we will receive a stable job in the career we choose and whom we will eventually marry.  Regardless of race, cultural background, or sexual orientation, these thoughts have crossed the minds of all citizens in the United States, but some may not always have the same opportunities as others.

            My peers have surely possessed these thoughts many times.  With most of us being eighteen, we have begun the progression into young adulthood and begun to think much about the future.  Since arriving at college, I myself have been somewhat obsessed with the idea of my forthcoming years and what is to come from them.  I hope to finish school, receive a job, and that there will be a man in my life somewhere down the road whom I will one day marry and adopt children with.

            That idea had never worried me until I started to think about it recently.  It has never bothered me because, for seven years now, same-sex couples have had the ability to obtain marriage licenses in Massachusetts. The first state in the United States to do so, Massachusetts thus granted these couples legal recognition and the ability to receive equal benefits to those of heterosexual couples. But what if I moved and wanted to get married in another state or moved after my marriage? Would it still be considered legal? Would my husband and I still receive the benefits provided to us previously? There are only six states in the United States, along with the District of Columbia, that have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage.  Although there is much progress being made in the realm of equal marriage rights, there is still much that needs to be accomplished in the foreseeable future. With this being such a hot topic, the public is being bombarded by countless pieces of information.  My ultimate goal is to streamline this information and bring some clarity to what the people behind these issues are saying.

            As of right now, the battle for equal marriage rights centers around the Defense of Marriage Act.  Passed in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act defined a marriage explicitly in federal law as a union of one man and one woman.  More than one thousand rights and protections given to couples upon marriage by the federal government are thus denied to same-sex couples, including Social Security benefits, health insurance, hospital visitation, and pensions.  Thankfully, the state government controls many aspects of day-to-day life in the terms of marriage law, not allowing the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent individual states from defining marriage in their own terms (“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle”).  This means that even though certain states are allowed to give homosexual couples the legal right to marry, they are still denied the countless federal benefits given to heterosexual couples by the United States government.

            Those that are currently fighting in favor of equal marriage rights make a case for it in terms of both human and Constitutional rights.  In Manuel Lopez’s essay The Case Against Gay Marriage, he quotes a gay conservative Andrew Sullivan.  Sullivan doesn’t look to outlaw private disapproval or discrimination, but simply wants homosexuals to receive equal treatment under the state, including the right to a civilly recognized marriage.  He views marriage as a “social and public recognition of private commitment”,  and as a contract which constitutes “an emotional, financial, and psychological bond between two people.” Sullivan’s opinion is that, in this aspect, “heterosexuals and homosexuals are identical,” so there is no reason to prevent people of the same sex from marrying (Lopez 1).  This is the view that most contemporary homosexuals share.  They feel that being homosexual is as much a part of them as their hair or eye color and thusly their sexuality shouldn’t separate them from heterosexual couples in terms of rights.  If the federal government were to deny all hazel-eyed persons the right to vote even though that’s merely part of who they are as a being, would they not retaliate?  They would.  Being denied a federal right under the premise of something out of one’s own control is purely unconstitutional.  The view of marriage as a right is shared by all of those whom are backing the fight, including organizations like the Human Rights Campaign. 

            Those on the other end of the spectrum view marriage in a more religious light.  They believe that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman should stay intact based on the biblical idea of homosexuality being a sin.  Thus, certain values were created in terms of ‘marriage’ and the belief that if anything brought change to it, it would weaken both the definition and respect for the institution of marriage and further weaken any traditional family values (Messerli).  In this light, it there seems to be a strict hypocrisy between heterosexual and homosexual couples.  Heterosexual celebrities who have marriages that last a few days or months only to follow in divorce are doing nothing wrong, but if a homosexual couple who have loved and stayed by one another for years get married, they are responsible for ruining the sanctity and values of marriage.   At thirty-one years of age, Kim Kardashian has been married twice now: once at twenty for four years and again at thirty for a mere seventy-two days.  There are accusations that she didn’t even want to get married and merely did so to boost her own business.  On a personal note, my mother has a close gay friend that lives in Louisiana with his partner and they have been happily together and in love for fifteen years.  However, these two men have not been given the opportunity to get married because of both the federal and state ban of same-sex marriage there in the state.

Margaret A. Somerville wrote that marriage is “the societal institution that represents, symbolizes and protects the inherently reproductive human relationship” (3).  Manuel Lopez wrote that “marriage is part of the natural order, an order bigger than ourselves and our desires,” in the sense that marriage is a result of the desire to be a parent (4).  In this sense, it seems that some people merely see marriage as an embodiment of the evolutionary process of reproduction.  Marriage has become so much more than this idea.  Marriage is the idea of committing one’s heart, mind, and soul to another person in eternal unity.  This idea that marriage is merely evolutionary is negated in Cynthia Wagner’s “Homosexuality and Family Formation, where she writes that parenting may be as strong an urge in homosexual individuals as it is among heterosexuals, despite it being seemingly counterintuitive from an evolutionary point of view. In a recent study of Samoan gay men, evolutionary psychologists found a strong willingness for the caretaking and teaching of nieces and nephews, offering the uncles a boost for their family lineage and a way to “earn their evolutionary keep” (Wagner 6-7).  Many of those opposed to equal marriage rights see the homosexual lifestyle as something that shouldn’t be endorsed, categorized by unstable relationships and excess promiscuity, thus incapable of a stable marriage and the ability to create a stable familial environment.  Nevertheless, according to a 2007 study of adoption trends by the UCLA School of Law and the Urban Institute, more than half of gay men said they desired to be a parent, compared with forty-one percent of lesbians surveyed.  More than a third of lesbians had given birth, while seventeen percent of men had the ability to father or adopt a child (Wagner 7).  This leads me to believe that homosexual marriage has all the potential to be as stable and loving as a heterosexual marriage is.  While homosexual couples may not have the ability to actually create children, the need for adoption is stronger than ever, and their ability to create a family environment conducive to the raising of children is just as strong as that of a heterosexual couple.

            The American Psychological Association has openly expressed their support in the fight for equal marriage rights.  Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson of the APA write that “traditional ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ discussions of same-sex marriage are headed for the history books where they belong, along with debates about the merits and demerits of ‘inter-racial” marriage’” (Kitzinger 174).  The fight for interracial marriage follows a scarily similar path to that of the battle for equal marriage rights.  Many believe that as long as the fight stays strong, people will soon realize that marriage between people of the same sex is no different from marriage between people of two races.  A person’s skin color and sexuality are part of themselves and thus it is inhumane to deny them a human right on the basis of something they cannot control.  In reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kitzinger and Wilkinson wrote out that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind.”  They feel that as long as marriage is a foundational social institution in the United States, based on our on Constitution, equal access to said institution should be a fundamental principle of equality (Kitzinger 176).

            All in all, those that are looking for equal marriage rights in the United States are merely asking for marriage to be seen in a term of democracy, of human rights, and that certain unalienable rights like those written in the Constitution should be given to all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  They see the denial of equal marriage rights as discrimination and denying of countless rights.  The actual ability to have marriages, in their eyes, reduces the potential of promiscuity and high-risk sexual lifestyles for a greater focus on familial lifestyles.  Equal marriage in the land of the free where all men are created equal doesn’t seem like a difficult concept, yet it is still a daily struggle.  With twelve percent (six states) of the nation in favor of gay marriage currently, those fighting for equal marriage rights have still got a long struggle ahead.  Hopefully there will be a day in the near future where we, and our children, possess the ability to love and marry whomever we so choose, because ultimately the idea of marriage today leads me to believe that’s what it should be about: love.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“The Current Status of the Same-sex Marriage Battle.” The United Families   International Blog. United Families International, 9 July 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

Kitzinger, Celia, and Sue Wilkinson. “Social Advocacy for Equal Marriage: The

Politics of ‘Rights’ and the Psychology of ‘Mental Health’.” Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy 4.1 (2004): 173-194. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Lopez, Manuel A. “The Case Against Gay Marriage.” Good Society Journal 14.1/2

(2005): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Messerli, Joseph. “BalancedPolitics.org – Same Sex Marriages (Pros & Cons, Arguments For and Against, Advantages & Disadvantages).” Balanced Politics. 30 July 2011. Web. 29 Oct. 2011.

 

Schaff, Kory. “Equal Protection and Same-Sex Marriage.” Journal of Social Philosophy

35.1 (2004): 133-147. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

 

Shah, Dayna K. “Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report.” U.S. General Accounting Office. United States General Accounting Office, 23 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Somerville, Margaret A. “The Case Against ‘Same-Sex Marriage’” Marriage Institute. Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law, and Culture, 29 Apr. 2003. Web. 30 Oct. 2011.

 

Wagner, Cynthia G. “Homosexuality and Family Formation.” Futurist 44.3 (2010): 6-

7. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.

Somnambulism

Posted on

 

Somnambulism

Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is a common sleeping disorder among children. Not much is known about somnambulism, only that it causes people to move in their sleep. Many theories about somnambulism have been created, a lot of doctors used to think that it was a person acting out his or her dream. Recent studies have shown that sleepwalking does not occur during dreams. No one knows yet what exactly causes somnambulism.

A hereditary predisposition to somnambulism was investigated by researching sleepwalking in twins. Both monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins were used. The study showed that both monozygotic twins sleepwalked 6 times more often than both dizygotic twins. It also showed that thumb sucking and nail biting was more prevalent in sleepwalkers than non sleepwalkers. (Abe)(Bawkin)

Sleepwalking and other sleep related disorders can be a sign of an underlying mental disorder. A recent study showed that sleepwalkers were more likely to have other mental disorders such as, hallucinations or bipolar disorder. Factors found to be associated with sleepwalking were age of 15 to 24 years, a sense of choking or breathlessness at night, sleeptalking and a road accident in the last year. The conclusion found was that sleepwalking and other sleep related disorders are the result of an underlying mental disorder. (Narasimha Pai)

Scientists used electroencephalographic recorders to monitors subjects brainwaves while sleeping. The apparatus used to record the subjects allowed for complete mobility so the subject would not be restricted from walking while sleeping. All subjects were known sleepwalkers, and all recordings were made on nights where sleepwalking occurred. The studies showed that sleepwalking is not related temporally to dreaming, and it does not affect the amount of time a person spends sleepwalking. Dreams occur during REM sleep, but all incidents of somnambulism occurred during slow wave sleep. The subjects reported that their average dream time each night and that time did not change from sleepwalking nights to regular nights. The incidents usually began during stage 3 or 4 of sleep. Typically the EEG showed that brain waves in a sleepwalker were the same as in a normal child, but then the brainwaves displayed a lower amplitude for about 10 to 30 seconds. In almost all the incidents the subjects brain waves after sleepwalking were the same as normal brain waves in a person waking up. During somnambulism incidents the subjects seemed aware of their surroundings but indifferent towards it. Their eyes were open and they had a blank expression on their faces. Activity ranged from sitting up to running or jumping around. Some subjects responded when spoken to, although they typically used one syllable words and they seemed annoyed. When subjects did not return to their bed spontaneously they could be led there easily. Subjects never remembered the incidents the morning after. (Jacobson)

Somnambulism has been studied by many people. Many factors such as genetics, mental disorders, and more may be the cause of sleepwalking. Sleepwalking has been found to be unrelated to dreaming. Not much is known about somnambulism, but scientists are constantly discovering. A cure may be found, but like most other ailments, that will take time and research.

 

 

Works Cited

Jacobson, A. Kales, D. Lehmann, J.R. Zweizig. “Somnambulism All-Night Electroencephalographic Studies” Science. n.p. 14 May 1965. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

Abe, M. Shimakawa. “Predisposition to Sleepwalking” European Neurology. Psychiatria et Neurologia. 1966. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

Narasimha Pai. “Sleep-Walking and Sleep Activities” BJPsych. n.p. 1946. 17 Nov. 2011.

 

H. Bawkin. “Sleep-Walking in Twins” The Lancet. n.p. 29 Aug. 1970. 17 Nov. 2011.


Easing Away From Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

Posted on

Easing Away From Animal Testing in the Cosmetics Industry

Anita Palanukorn

People naturally use cosmetics in their everyday lives. Whether it be applying deodorant or rubbing lotion onto dry skin, both men and women spend a minute or two of their days enhancing their exterior appearances. But have you ever wondered how these products came to be? How did companies create these products so that they were guaranteed to be safe for human use? One such method of testing for the safety of chemicals in human cosmetic items is the general use of animal experimentation. Animal testing is simply the use of non-human animals in experiments. While animal experimentation has been extremely effective in ensuring the safe usage of chemicals in cosmetics, the tests that the animals are forced to endure often involve the suffering of the animals being tested. The use of inhumane animal testing methods begs the question of whether it is necessary for companies to employ such procedures despite the moral questions surrounding the experiments. Do cosmetic corporations have a means of bypassing animals in the chemical testing process so as to make the production of cosmetics as morally acceptable as possible? And if so, how effective are these alternative, cruelty-free procedures?

According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, most animal testing in cosmetics involves the testing of irritancy of chemicals and the potential harm they might cause if these chemicals were eaten, inhaled, or came in contact with a living body (145). In particular, the Draize tests are the most frequently-used tests for irritancy in substances used when producing cosmetics. They involve the placement of potentially corrosive chemicals on either the skin or the eyes of live animals. In the Draize eye test, “various concentrations of products are applied directly into the animals’ eyes, which can cause intense burning, itching and pain” (145). Alison Abbott, a senior European correspondent for Nature magazine, states that these chemicals are often directly applied into the eyes of live rabbits, whose eyes are then assessed for possible damage and overall reaction to the irritants (144). The National Anti-Vivisection Society further explains how certain substances are “applied to shaved and abraded skin, which is then covered with plastic sheeting” when testing for chemical irritancy on the skin (145). As in the Draize eye test, the skin would then be evaluated to see how it did or did not react to the chemical placed upon it.

With the knowledge of these tests in mind, why is it that companies still consider using animal testing on their products? The United States Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for making sure the cosmetics are safe for people to use, neither requires the use of animal experimentation to test a product nor subjects cosmetics to FDA “premarket” approval (“Animal Testing”). Yet, most companies that have continued to use animal testing argue that they wish to experiment on animals because it has been effective in determining the safety of chemicals on humans in the past. Andrew Knight, an Australian bioethicist and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, writes that there have been claims that animal research is vital to the understanding and curing of human diseases. He further states how many cosmetic manufacturers believe that animal testing is essential for the “greatest achievements” in the medicinal industry, and how the “complexity of laboratory animals” provides a sufficient model for research pertaining to the “complexity of humans” (39).

Another reason companies continue to test cosmetic chemicals on animals is because of the convenience of maintaining the traditional use of animal testing in their procedures. The National Anti-Vivisection Society claims that cosmetic producers view animal testing as a “legal safety net” to ensure that they have “appropriate” safety data in case they are ever sued for defective products (147). In addition, the FDA does not even have a definition for the term “cruelty-free.” Cosmetic producers can easily label their products as such without restriction according to their definition of what may be considered “animal testing” (“Cruelty-Free/Not Tested On Animals”). For example, if a company does not test their final products on animals but uses other substances in their products that have been tested on animals, they may still be able to label their products as “Not Tested On Animals” because their claim only pertains to the final product.

There are still many ethical issues that arise from using animals as test subjects in research. First, the commonly-used tests like the Draize tests are possibly painful and damaging for the animals. If a chemical is indeed corrosive, then naturally an animal would be subject to significant amounts of pain from these procedures. Irritancy tests are also a cause of great distress, which is defined as “an aversive state in which an animal is unable to adapt completely to stressors and the resulting stress and shows maladaptive behaviors” (qtd. in Knight 29), often due to the environment the animals are kept in (32). According to a 2004 study by scientist J. Balcombe and associates, general human contact (i.e. handling, cage cleaning, and restraining during procedures) distorted homeostasis, or the maintenance of biological equilibrium, within most of the common laboratory animal species (i.e. rats and mice) (31-2). These results indicate the presence of stress and potentially fear in laboratory animals (32). Such tests not only bring up ethical questions but reveal a certain hypocrisy as well. As Roman Kolar of the Animal Welfare Society says, “…it seems unacceptable that we, as humans, put sentient beings into states of suffering that we would never accept for ourselves” (112). Animals used in cosmetic testing are almost certainly sentient creatures (like rabbits, rats, and mice); they may not have the ability of higher-level perception like humans, but they are still capable of receiving and perceiving pain stimuli. People are definitely aware of the unpleasantness of such chemical testing methods; for what other reason would we choose to test human products on animals instead of on fellow people? But since the animals used in these experiments are also sentient creatures, it is simply not fair to subject them to cruel tests, especially when we ourselves would probably never willingly endure such unnecessary pain.

There are also legitimate scientific reasons as to why animal testing methods should be re-evaluated and reformed. The leading scientific argument against animal testing would be whether or not test results done on lower level mammals like mice and rabbits can accurately be “extrapolated” to humans (“Cosmetic Testing: Facts”). Abbott claims that “Most animal tests over or underestimate toxicity, or simply don’t mirror toxicity in humans very well” (145). Seeing as humans and, for instance, mice are different organisms, it makes sense that the reactions of both species have a higher chance of being different. Studies dating back to 1971 even show how multiple Draize tests performed in different labs turned out to be irreproducible and unreliable (145).

So what are the possible alternatives to animal testing? In a general statement, the non-profit organization “In Defense of Animals” states that cosmetic companies should start using “cell and skin tissue cultures, corneas from eye banks, and sophisticated computer and mathematical models” instead of using live animal test subjects that may not even give accurate results on the health hazards of chemicals on humans (“Cosmetic Testing: Facts”). In place of skin irritant testing, the National Anti-Vivisection Society suggests that companies use procedures such as Corroxitex®, which evaluates the corrosiveness of acids, bases, and acid derivatives, instead (149). This is done using a biomembrane and chemical detection system that uses color change to show when a substance is corrosive (“Testing Alternatives”). Another possible test would be EpiDerm, which is a “layered model of human-derived epidermal keratinocytes” that functions as artificial human skin (“Testing Alternatives”). This method too can be used to test chemical irritancy with skin.

But as with all things, even the alternative testing methods have yet to be perfected (or as perfected as it can be in this constantly changing realm of science). Even with Corroxitex® and EpiDerm, which are two methods validated by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, or ICCVAM, scientists are sometimes advised to test the final product on live animals to once again confirm the irritancy or corrosiveness of the tested chemical (“Testing Alternatives”). Among cosmetic companies (and any other company using animals experimentation), there is a general apprehension about the effectiveness of alternative animal testing. According to Thomas Hartung, the former head of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, people feel “uneasy about taking risks where stakes are so high and issues so emotive. We all want to be sure that there is real evidence that alternative tests are predictive of human toxicity” (qtd. in Abbott 146).

Nevertheless, it is still important to try and ease away from the prevalent and inhumane use of animals in the laboratory setting. While current validated alternative testing methods may not exclude animals entirely, they are at least reducing the use of live animals in cosmetics testing. Abbott believes that the long-term benefits of reducing animal suffering while still progressing in the area of science and cosmetics are preferable to the current inhumane usage of animal testing in science (146). The science of cosmetics is as constantly changing as any other realm of science; the continuous process of researching and learning new techniques still has the potential to someday leave the cosmetics industry free of cruel animal testing methods.

Works Cited

Abbott, Alison. “Animal testing: more than a cosmetic change.” Nature 438 (2005): 144-146. Print.

“Animal Testing.” Cosmetics. United States Food and Drug Administration, 1999. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

“Cosmetic Testing: Facts.” In Defense of Animals. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.

“Cruelty-Free/Not Tested On Animals.” Cosmetics. United States Food and Drug Administration, 1995. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Knight, Andrew. The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2011. Print.

Kolar, Roman. “Animal Experimentation.” Science and Engineering Ethics 12.1 (2006): 111-122. Print.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society. Personal Care for People Who Care. The National Anti-Vivisection Society, 2007. Print.

“Testing Alternatives.” American Anti-Vivisection Society, 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.

Jonathan Murray

Posted on

Student Loans: The Most Oppressive Kind Of Debt and Why We Have It

               The culture of education in the United States is one that is unique and competitive.  Students are groomed to be good college students and become productive members of society.  In recent history, there has been a shift in demographics and types of students attending colleges.  More and more students, with assistance from the government or other educational institutions, are attending college.  The surge in college students has resulted in even more money being loaned to pay for these educations.  Few however fail to realize the oppressive nature of this debt but incur it because they see it as a necessary asset in the job market.  The student loan industry is not favorable towards students and prospective applicants.  Those who find themselves in these positions must have a firm understanding of its history and the consequences of their decisions.

Education in the United States has only recently become accessible to most people.  Before the 1940s, “the only education legislation was the Morrill Act, which created land-grant colleges and vocational education for disabled veterans” (Strach 65).  A majority of the population in this country would finish high school and move into an industry or vocation immediately after.  The first major piece of legislation that changed this culture was the GI Bill of 1944.  The GI Bill provided among other things loan guarantees for homes and travel expensive.  It also “covered college tuition…up to five hundred dollars per year and paid [veterans] monthly living allowances while they pursued their studies” (Collinge 2).  This was the first instance in our nation’s history that the federal government provided aid for people who wanted to go to school.  “By 1974, nearly 50 percent of all new college students were returning military personnel, and by the time the original GI Bill expired, in 1956, a remarkable 7.6 million Americans had utilized the program” (2).

Servicemen and women following the GI Bill had a greater opportunity to gain an education.  However, demographics including low and middle-income families were still struggling.  Doors would not open up for these groups until the Higher Education Act of 1965, specifically the work-study provision.  Under the work-study program, “the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs [of part-time student employment], and the colleges and universities would pick up the remaining 10 percent” (Strach 66).  Realizing that most support for families came in multiple forms, the work-study program gave struggling students another avenue to not only pay for school but also to support themselves with a small income.  Although work-study gave students a small cash flow, families could not guarantee they would get financial assistance.  This would change with the Basic Educational Opportunity Grants/Pell Grants of 1972.  These grants “guaranteed [students] an amount based on their college costs minus their expected family contribution” and were described “on a scale second only to the GI Bill” (Strach 67).  With greater opportunity, lower and middle-income people now found it somewhat affordable to get an education, resulting in a great surge of college students in America.

Although government programs made it somewhat easier to afford university, some students were not prepared for this type of education.  Community colleges in recent history have begun to take overflow from universities and colleges as an inexpensive education route.  Community colleges have existed in the United States since the early 1900s, but “recently, community colleges have had [a] workforce training aspect…” (EduExec).  With more and more industries looking for people with higher degrees, some community colleges have even started offering bachelor’s degrees.  The upward trends in community college applications is a growing sign of a society that values education, and these institutions are trying to meet the public need.  With the growing rate of students and the lack of employment, community colleges are turning away more and more hopeful applicants each year.  To fill the growing demand, for-profit institutions have been gaining market share and capital.

For-profit institutions are different than regular educational institutions in regards to their ability to raise funds.  Unlike traditional institutions whose cash flow comes from alumni donations and governments, for-profits sell shares of their school to raise capital.  In essence, for-profit schools are businesses that sell degrees as products.  For-profit education is the fastest growing sector in the industry, averaging 25 percent growth a year and totaling over 2.8 million students (Durrance).  The reason for such an upsurge in for-profit schools comes from abundant aide and an easy application process.  For-profit institutions collect 25 percent of the federal student aide funds but only have 10 percent of the nation’s student body.  In actuality, most of the profit comes from federal aide.  The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit in the country, reports that 86 percent of its revenues come from federal aide (Durrance).  These new types of educational institutions create easy opportunities for people to get an education.  The downside of easy access education is the amount of people who want it.  With a lackluster economy, the rise in higher education attendance has gone through the roof and saturated the market with degree-holding individuals.  As a result, there are too many degree holders who go on to get jobs that do not require a degree at all.

More and more people feel as though it is necessary to have a college degree.  There is a degree if truth to this statement because many employers look for degrees as a necessary component for hiring.  As a result, students who wouldn’t normally go to college have flooded traditional, community, and for-profit colleges looking for a way to get a better job.  In addition, a majority of these people can’t afford the tuition bill. As a result, taking out student loans and acquiring massive amounts of student debt has become a “necessary evil.”  Without the debt, there is no way to get an education, and without an education, it is extremely difficult to get a job.  The culture of student debt has become that many don’t weigh the options when taking out loans.  Many do not do research and few realize the oppressive nature of the debt.

With the downturn in the economy, many people who have student debt have realized the significance of their decision.  People are drowning in debt and there are very few consumer protection laws to shield them.  Some claim the reason behind the lack of consumer protection comes from favorable legislation from Congress to benefit loan givers, specifically Sallie Mae.  The federal government in 1972 created Sallie Mae as a government sponsored enterprise (similar to the Postal Service).  Its main purpose was to create, service, and collect on federal student loans.  In 1997 Sallie Mae began to privatize and eventually broke all connection with the government in 2004 (Collinge 5-14).  Sallie Mae is now a privately owned bank that offers federally backed loans for a profit.  Many people are unaware of its status with the government and feel that their loans are safer because they think Sallie Mae is a part of the government. In actuality, the laws regarding student debt allow Sallie Mae and other private loan givers to employ “draconian methods of collection” (Collinge 6).

The two biggest injustices done to loan holders are laws regarding consolidation and bankruptcy.  Congress and private lenders like Sallie Mae have made the process so favorable for them that one can never be relieved of student debts.  Most debts, including credit cards, are dischargeable in bankruptcy court.  That means that the debt is forgiven or reduced to a more reasonable level for the individual.  “[The] 1998 Higher Education Act reauthorization abolished [a dischargeable] provision…[which makes] student loans…the only type of loan in U.S. history to be nondischargeable in bankruptcy” (Coolinge 14).  One debt holder who went to bankruptcy court said: “The judge told me not to come back unless I was in a wheelchair” (qtd. in Collinge 14).  Student debt is also one of the only debts that can be consolidated once.  “Once a student graduated and consolidated his or her loans, he or she could never leave that lender, even if there were other lenders who were willing to offer better terms (15).  Students are bound to one lender and if they are unable to pay the rates, the company can garnish wages, lower credit scores, and affect your ability to get a mortgage or other loans.  “The freedom to change lenders in order to find better terms for a loan is a consumer protection that is taken for granted in every other lending industry, but is nonexistent for student loans” (15).  Without essential consumer protections in place, students are subjugated to the harsh policies of the lenders and government.

The fight over student loan programs in the United States has been one that is both partisan and emotional.  Many times, true and effective legislation is defeated in Congress because of the strong legislative ties big banks have with Congressmen.  A sign of hope came last March with the Health Care Overhaul bill.  Written into the legislation were significant education reforms including dramatic changes to Sallie Mae’s federal subsidies.  With this new legislation, Sallie Mae “will no longer be able to make student loans with federal money” (Herszenhorn).  That money will now go towards endowing more Pell Grants and tie them to the national inflation rate.  Although the amount a student can receive is only about one-third of the cost of public university for a year, it is a significant step in the right direction (Herszenhorn).

The problem of student debt is one with an extensive history that revolves around political and economic factors.  The government, in an attempt to provide opportunity to returning veterans, created a culture that valued higher education.  As time progressed, more and more people were able to afford a higher education. Because of the downturn in the economy, more and more people feel it necessary to get a higher education.  Many of these people take out significant student loans without regard to their consequences.  They soon discover the oppressive policies towards student loan holders and realize the difficulty there is in repayment.  This problem is not an easy fix.  The average student in America has over $26,000 in student debt after graduation (Herszenhorn). The mix between students, banks, governments, and educational institutions creates a situation where there are many agendas trying to be satisfied.   The best way to fight the problem is for people considering higher education to understand the entire process and consequences associated with the system.  Education is a good and necessary part of life, but not if it requires substantial loans that will linger for decades after graduation.

Works Cited

Beaver, William. “For-Profit Higher Education: A Historical and Historical Analysis.”

Sociological Viewpoints 25 (2009): 53-73. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27

Oct. 2011.

Clark, Jane B. “The Dark Side of Student Debt.” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance 65.6

(2011): 65-66. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.

Clark, Kim. “The Loan Without the Regret.” U.S. News & World Report 2010:

71-72. Web. 24 Oct. 2011

College, Inc. Prod. Chris Durrance. WGBH- Frontline PBS, 2010. PBS. PBS_Frontline, 4

May 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.

Collinge, Alan. The Student Loan Scam: the Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History, and

How We Can Fight Back. Boston, MA: Beacon, 2009. Print.

Herszenhorn, David M., and Tamar Lewin. “Overhaul of Student Loans Passes Congress

– NYTimes.com.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Mar. 2010.   Web. 13 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/us/politics/26loans.html&gt;.

“History Marched Forward: Community Colleges Change Face of Higher Education with

Introduction of Bachelor’s Degrees.” EduExec 24.8 (2005): 1+. Academic Search

Premier. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.

Strach, Patricia. “Making Higher Education Affordable: Policy Design in Postwar

America.” Journey of Policy History 21.1 (2009): 61-88. Academic Search

Premier. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.