Growing Up in the Digital Age: The Value of Play

As promised in last week’s post, this will not be another discussion of post-secondary education; instead, I’m going to be focusing on a bit of a younger demographic. To be specific, today’s post will address how our ever-evolving technological society is changing the way we raise our children.

In recent decades, the rate of technological advancement and proliferation has been absolutely staggering. The processing power of computers has doubled approximately every two years since 1975. Concepts that were once the stuff of science fiction — 3D printing, for example — are on the verge of widespread household integration. Internet access is increasingly being viewed as a fundamental human right.

These developments are sparking incredible innovations in basically every field you can imagine, but not everyone is happy with the increasing role that technology plays in our lives. In a surprisingly blunt attempt at fearmongering, Nature Valley released an ad this summer that plays off the parental fear that children are spending too much time cooped up with their phones, computers, and video games.

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Trigger Warnings and the University Classroom

[Just as a heads-up, this post contains brief descriptions of violent acts that take place in the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, as well as a link to a video from the game. The descriptions are as neutral as possible and the link in question is clearly identified in the text to prevent confusion.]

I realize that this will be my third post in a row focusing on aspects of post-secondary education. Even though the posts in question all address different specific subjects, I still don’t like the feeling that I’m getting repetitive, so I promise that next week’s post will be on a new topic. Video games, brass instruments, global warming, I don’t know. Something like that.

Anyway, now that I’ve hopefully gotten you all amped up for some mysterious hypothetical topic I’m not even discussing until next week, let’s talk about trigger warnings.

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Post-Secondary Education and Standardized Testing

After last week’s brief shift in tone, I’ll be switching back to my usual format for this post. To help ease the transition and avoid any stylistic whiplash, there will be some thematic similarity between last week’s post and this one. In this case, I’ll be discussing the value given to standardized testing when it comes to post-secondary education — more to the point, I’ll be assessing whether that value is higher than it should be.

That’s a bit of an abstract prompt for a discussion, so I’ll begin with a recent anecdote about perhaps the most infamous standardized test of all: the SAT.

A student has recently started considering post-secondary education and has applied at a number of institutions. This student has performed quite well in prior studies, regularly getting straight As, and has an amazing cavalcade of achievements outside the classroom: community involvement, activism, and a number of prestigious awards and accolades. The student expresses interest in a well-known American university. The university looks over the impressive list of qualifications, and says that the student will have to complete the SAT in order to be considered for admission.

The school? Stanford University. The student? Malala Yousafzai.

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The End of Summer: Student Life and Anxiety for the Future

This post will be published at 10:00am Atlantic Time on Monday, September 7th. That means that exactly 24 hours after its release, I will be starting the first class of my third year at Mount Allison University. And as much as it pains me to admit, I’m a little worried.

I should say right off the bat that this post probably won’t follow my usual style and format. I’m not going to focus on making a case for a particular viewpoint or even presenting any evidence from outside sources.

Instead, I’ll be focusing on my personal experiences, though I might try and broaden the subject a little so that the post can be more accessible and applicable, because everyone obviously has a different background on this sort of issue. If this doesn’t sound like something you’re really interested in reading, that’s quite alright. I’ll be back to the regular format next Monday.

For now, though, I want to talk about the anxiety of getting back to school at a post-secondary institution, when graduation is closer than orientation and the future is more intimidating than the past.

Sounds cheerful, doesn’t it?

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Social Media, Politics, and Making Mistakes

Last week’s post sort of got me thinking about the election coming up and some general issues with politics in general, so I figured I should capitalize on that interest and talk about something that’s been on my mind for a while. We live in the era of social media and internet documentation, in which any stupid thing that gets posted online could be archived and retrieved years or potentially even decades later. Related, the list of politicians and other public figures caught up in scandals because of something they said online is only growing longer.

The question is this: in such a cultural and political climate, could anyone who grew up with social media ever be considered remotely electable?

Setting aside the obvious conclusion that, yes, they’ll have to be (those pre-social media old fogeys can’t stay in power forever, though goodness knows they’ll try), this is a surprisingly complicated issue that will require us to think about just what constitutes a scandal and how the criteria for controversy can change over time.

So maybe close that Facebook tab for now. You can post something afterward…depending on whether or not you have any interest in going into politics.

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Racism, Equality, and Public Policy

What follows will be a sort of “spiritual successor” to this post from two weeks ago. Namely, I’ll use this post to explore the applications of the relatively abstract ideas I proposed therein, specifically addressing their implications on public policy. After all, it’s one thing to suggest a potentially different approach to such a serious issue as racism, but it’s another thing altogether to actually discuss the impact such an approach could have on society and its institutions if adopted.

Since I’m revisiting the topic, I’ll begin with more or less the same preface. It is not my intent to offend, nor do I claim to offer the only perspective on this issue. Furthermore, I do not pretend to know all of the intricacies of government, legislation, and public policy. However, I believe that I’ve accumulated a decent understanding of the subject through general education and personal research. Should you wish to discuss this topic for one reason or another and if you are willing to do so in a calm and non-hostile manner, I again encourage you to send me an email at mitchell.s.gunn@gmail.com.

I’ll begin with a very brief summary of the central argument of my previous post: anyone and everyone can have a legitimate and valid perspective on the broad issues of racism, regardless of their own race, so long as said perspective is not rooted in hatred or pure reactionary emotion, is supported by rationality and evidence, and is expressed with politeness rather than aggression. One does not have to agree with all such perspectives, but they still invite discussion rather than simplistic summary rejection on the basis of their proponents’ identities.

So how does this fit with public policy?

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Stuck at the Kids Table: Banning Children from Restaurants

Last week’s post has generated some really good discussion, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I have a bit of a followup post planned, specifically looking at the practical implications of the subject, but I want to let the idea breathe a little bit before I really start writing it. Besides, I’m in Alberta visiting family at the moment, and my experience on the flight over really highlighted a topic that I’ve wanted to make a post about for a while now.

Children — especially young children and infants — can be incredibly disruptive creatures, and not just to their parents. Anyone who has shared an airplane with a crying baby (as I recently did) will be familiar with the frustration and annoyance they can cause, and it isn’t limited to air travel. Bawling children can also play havoc with restaurant patrons, moviegoers, and basically anyone in a confined space where there might happen to be an unhappy child or two.

You can try to tune it out, obviously, but a crying baby can actually make a somewhat impressive amount of noise. Plus, the sound of a baby crying is psychologically harder to ignore than other sounds of comparable volume, so it’s not just a matter of turning up your music a little. So what’s the solution?

Well, following the example of an Australian restaurant owner, we might just have to ban children altogether.

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Reverse Racism: A Crisis of Definitions

After last week’s relatively innocuous post, I feel like it’s time for something a little deeper. There’s only so much we can get out of an exploration of celebrity culture, after all, and I’m itching to take on a big topic. Today, we’re going to be talking about the concept of “reverse racism.”

Okay, yeah, that’s definitely a big enough topic. It’s certainly big enough to cause a bit of controversy at the very least. So before I jump into the analysis proper, I’d like to offer a short preface. While I accept that the subject I’m about to discuss may be disputatious, my earnest intention is to start a thoughtful conversation, not to offend anyone. Furthermore, as you will see, I do not pretend to offer the only perspective on this matter, nor the best one. Still, I believe that my perspective may be valuable and, despite not being a person of colour, I believe that it can still be considered largely valid.

As always, I welcome any criticism or disagreement as long as it doesn’t delve into outright aggression or hostility. If you wish to discuss this topic with me in a private forum, I invite you to send me an email at mitchell.s.gunn@gmail.com.

Alright, now that I’ve covered my bases, let’s begin.

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Celebrities and the Public Persona

I’m going to be doing something a little different this time. The last two weeks have focused on some pretty big topics, so the corresponding posts have ended up being pretty long and a little dry. To switch things up a bit, this post probably won’t reach the same philosophical depths, nor will it likely run over a thousand words.

It’s still an interesting topic — at least in my opinion — but don’t expect any life-changing revelations. Actually, don’t expect those from anything I post, because that’s setting the bar ridiculously high.

Today, I’ll be discussing how a “public persona” is part of a celebrity’s job description. For some background knowledge, take a few minutes to watch this video of Cara Delevingne (star of the upcoming movie Paper Towns) giving an interview with Good Day Sacramento.

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Medicated Identity: The Philosophical Psychology of Drugs

How do the substances we put in our bodies fit with our self-perception of who we are?

It’s a big question, and it raises a number of smaller questions. What do I mean by “substances?” What do I mean by “who we are?” What on earth am I talking about in general?

Maybe I’m jumping into things too quickly. I’ll start with some basic setup and then we can tackle these questions as they arise. Let’s begin by considering one incredibly succinct (if somewhat unsettling) definition, which states that human beings are just “sacks of chemicals which stay alive by finding other chemicals and putting them inside us.”

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