For a long time now, maybe since middle school, I have always taken an interest in SEPTA and public transit in general, but especially public transit in Philadelphia. It is for this that I chose to do my project on the concept of establishing another SEPTA line, similar to the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines that already exist here in Philadelphia.
Since about 7th or 8th grade thereabouts, I have taken an interest in the concept of public transportation, for various reasons. From the various ways in which it can make for so much more efficiency, to how it moves through cities and what parts of the cities, to the various different types of it, there is really a lot more to it than we think about. We take for granted a lot of these systems. People don’t know, or really think about this for that matter, but there is a lot to deal with, and a lot of planning and maintenance that goes into these “major arteries and veins” of sorts.
For my project, I came up with and designed a fictional SEPTA metro rail line that would connect some of the major inner suburbs, such as Upper Darby, to South Philadelphia and Penn’s Landing and the Delaware waterfront of Center City. The line was created with the goal of connecting areas that are not well connected at all by the current public transit system. These newly connected areas, of course, include rather important locations, notably the stadiums. This line is the Suburban Hook Line.
The Line follows a “hook” shape, giving it its name. Looking at the map, the line has three services. The First one is the local, which stops at every stop between Upper Darby and the Stadiums. The Second, is the express which stops at a few stops between Upper Darby and the Stadiums. The third is the Penn’s Landing Special, which stops at a few stops between UD and the Stadiums and then goes local to Penn’s Landing. I had decided that this would be the best schematic when creating this. To determine all of this, I did a lot of research. I did research on where the tracks would be, what kind of vehicle would be best, and how the system could run the best.
For what I learned, well, I’m really not quite sure what to say. I learned about old train right-of-ways that I did not previously know existed. When I went in to this though, I already kind of knew a lot of this stuff. I suppose you could say I learned more about certain transportation connections and suburban areas that I previously did not know much about. I also learned about a few new SEPTA plans and projects, including the “Direct” BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Line.
I am honestly, as of now, not sure what the future holds for this idea. I may drop it due to coming up with an even more efficient improvement on it. Or, I may go big with it and one day take it to SEPTA as a legitimate proposal, who knows. Where I stand now though, I am not sure what I am going to do in the future with this idea, but I will likely still hold onto it.
Bibliography/Sources can be found here.
Why Do Kids Join Gangs?
Many youngsters who grow up in environments where gang violence is common often end up as members of gangs, especially boys. But why is this? Why is this activity hard to avoid and escape? More importantly, from a wider perspective, why is it hard to break the tendency for communities to foster gang development? Gangs are known to be stressful and dangerous, for members and for those in the wider community--and yet they persist. Former members, such as Cordozar Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg, and other hip-hop legends, have described how they grew up in gangs such as the notorious Rollin’ 20s Crips. It was a life of selling cocaine and making glamorous riches at the expense of others, but also a life of fear. Many gang members die young, and incarceration ultimately claims many. The risks heavily outweigh the riches, and yet...
There are several motivating factors for the persistence of gangs. Personality has something to do with it, for example. Those who find excitement in risky and high-stakes social activity would naturally take part in the gang experience. But that does not really explain the prevalence and persistence of gangs, which bring in young people with all kinds of personalities. Sociologists attribute one big motivator to the survival of gang life, and that is the continuing tendency of fatherlessness in some economically fragile communities. This is a problem for young people, especially boys, because they lack necessary male role models on which to pattern their own lives, values, and behavior. Without enough men to model a mature approach to managing the challenges of life, boys will naturally turn towards the older male gang members as models of behavior and as sources of approval. Older gang members have authority, street knowledge, and seem to have self-confidence, which kids look up to in a confusing world. On top of that, the gangs also provide a sort of “family” experience that feels good. It has a structure and authority figures, which are important sources of order. Kids can feel a sense of belonging to an orderly organization. Because gang life is a cycle that keeps recreating itself, the male role models are involved in the gangs and don’t break out of gang organizations to form traditional family units and begin parenting their own children, which means their own children may turn to gang life later on.
Another motivational factor to consider here is poverty. Poverty means not many people in a given community have jobs or income or wealth, and of those who do, earnings are low, jobs are demanding with little flexibility or sick time, and almost no one owns property or wealth of any kind. Many of these specific poor people collect welfare and other forms of government assistance, which allows them to survive, but does not necessarily foster skills for meaningful work that pays well or help with the development of wealth. There is stress and suffering in these communities, and gangs can seem like a way out of that. For example, many of the gangs that formed in the early 1980s in some cities did so where it was extremely hard for teens to get summer jobs, so the teens turned to the sale of drugs and created gangs as business structures to obtain wholesale drugs and distribute them. Gangs often form around the sale of drugs. After all, some people crave the high that, say, cocaine, offers, and while a one-man drug seller seems like a good source of money, a whole gang is a solid business, with workers to obtain and sell drugs, provide lookout and protection, and manage and distribute income. This business structure makes gang life an attractive source of income in an already poor environment.
There is a third element that also negatively affects some children and can cause them to turn toward gangs, and that is a lack of involvement in education. A good education usually depends on a stable home with parents holding children up to high expectations and reinforcing what the teachers are teaching. In poorer communities, families are not always able to do this. There can be crises resulting in illness in the family, drug addiction, and homelessness. Some families move frequently, and the children change schools a lot, causing disruptions in their education. All of this contributes over time to struggles in school. School can become frustrating, and students stop attending and drop out. Gang life can provide something for them to do that involves their peers, and because gangs can be run like a business, gang life provides an education of its own. It is not a good or ideal one, but it teaches business skills, money management, problem solving, social interaction with superiors and others, community history, and strategic thinking, and so it fills the education gap. Young people don’t have to keep feeling lost or frustrated at school, but still there’s the experience of gaining knowledge, which is important to all human beings..
In conclusion, it is the lack of proper support from healthy institutions such as family, schools, and the local economy that help cause young people to turn to gang life. They look for the good that these institutions offer, but they find it in criminal organizations such as gangs. Most likely, if the youth had access to the positive institutions, most likely they would not join gangs. One such example is the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates currently works at The Atlantic as a journalist and has received praise for his writings such as “The Case for Reparations.” Although he is very successful, Coates grew up in a rough part of Baltimore during the 1980s, a part that was controlled by small rival gangs that dealt drugs such as crack. Despite this, Coates had a father who was fair to him, yet at the same time was very firm. He even at one point apparently had to “beat” Coates, but afterwards he said “It’s better I do it once than the gangs or police do it possibly multiple times.” With that guidance and caring, Coates did not become lost in gang life but found his way to success and a better living situation. If communities can figure out a way to provide loving authority figures, economic opportunity, and supportive education to young people who are disadvantaged, communities may find a way to end gang life.
Chicago Gangland - Children at War! CBS, 1989.
Chicago Violence: SMILE Documentary. Directed by Marquis Daisy. --.
Deep Inside the Gangster Disciples Street Gang.
Planet Rock: The Story Of Hip Hop And The Crack Generation.
Over this last quarter, my writing process has improved significantly. I do think, though, that the main field in which it has improved is the way I phrase the ideas. For example, I have had problems with repetition, but those have significantly lessened. I think this is certainly a sign of growth in my writing - and although it is one that I have always been doing - I have happened to notice it during this quarter.
Assimilation is not Colonialist
Over the past few decades there has developed an emphasis, primarily on the part of left-leaning thinkers, on “setting the dominant culture back” for those who immigrate to a new country. While we should not force immigrants and their children in our schools to give up their culture entirely (which was once done with Native American children in U.S. government-run boarding schools), no host country should suppress its own culture either. Proponents of this left-leaning thinking seem to want to discourage immigrants from learning, engaging with, and practicing the language and culture of the host country as a gesture of respect for and sensitivity to their origins.
Personally, I believe this view is incredibly weak, and when I say weak, I mean a source of weakness for the host nation--and for the immigrant, too. As far as the immigrant is concerned, non-assimilation could lead to isolation and even poverty. Even if the immigrant has a community of other immigrants to help him or her, non-engagement with the larger surrounding culture shuts down opportunities for work, education, and travel. I do want to make it clear that assimilation to the larger culture does not have to mean the immigrant groups totally give up their original culture. It simply means they are fluent in both--and it means the dominant culture of the new country continues to thrive. It is not turned into something else.
This is what happens when too many immigrants go too far to retain the traditions of their culture of origin. The dominant culture in their new country is profoundly affected and ultimately may not survive in its own homeland. An example of this is what is happening now in Germany. There, women generally don’t cover up when running simple errands like, say, going to the market. For some male immigrants from some Islamic countries, this is a problem. Based on the customs of their countries of origin, they see these uncovered women as sex workers, and they make unwanted sexual advances. This creates a climate of fear and discomfort where there had been none. Also in question is the German tradition of Oktoberfest, where people drink beer in outdoor settings. For some immigrants, drinking alcohol is considered haram (unlawful), and some judge the beer drinkers as bad people. If too many people with these views move into Germany without respect for its culture and without a willingness to assimilate somewhat, the traditions of German culture may be lost and the people who practice them threatened.
Why would we want to lose a single rich national culture? In everybody’s native homeland, a culture is just going to be dominant--that is an unavoidable fact. In Somalia, Somali culture is going to be dominant. In Germany, German culture is going to be dominant. This is simply and powerfully the way it is, not an expression of any sort of “bigotry,” and traditionally many immigrants have understood this. No, I would argue that “setting back our cultures” is cultural suicide, and that is not the same as showing tolerance for immigrants. The latter does not require the former.
Some people argue that former colonists have an obligation to host immigrants from former colonial holdings. Because colonial nations controlled and oppressed the native cultures of their colonized peoples, these nations must make amends by offering immigrants the chance to live and express their cultures within the comfort and stability of the former colonists’ borders. For example, they feel strongly that Great Britain should take in migrants from former empire countries because they owe them that.
This does not make sense, though. Does it really help former colonists to stand on their own two feet if they are welcomed into the colonizers’ homelands to live however they want? Britain was wrong to harm the culture of Pakistan, for example, but is rejecting British culture while living in Britain really helpful to former colonists such as those from Pakistan? If the Spaniards and the Portuguese built themselves up after Moorish colonialism, shouldn’t we encourage former colonists in Africa, for example, do the same? Also, this question of owing former colonists the right to enter a colonizer’s country is not consistently applied. Only Europeans and some other Western countries seem to have this asked of them. For example, why isn’t Turkey flooding itself with Southern Slavs, Romanians, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, and Arabs--all formerly colonized by the Ottoman Empire? Unfortunately, colonial guilt has been pushed too strongly in the West, to the detriment of Western cultures and immigrant alike.
Some final thoughts: in one of the sources that I read, it says that “Assimilation efforts have changed over the years, yet they remain colonial, oppressive, and in 2015 these ideas go against the freedoms that are supposed to be at the core of what it means to be ‘American’.” While you can certainly make that argument about America and, say, Canada or Australia, which are countries of immigrants that have been home to people from almost every nation on Earth, you cannot do that with, say, Europe. Europe has no obligation to adjust its cultures to immigrant populations. This is because Europe is and has been indigenously European forever, belonging to the Proto-Indo European people.
I also want to mention the other quote above: “In the United States, approaches to integrating immigrant and refugee children in the educational system focus on getting the children proficient in English as quickly as possible, often at the expense of their native language, which can result in interrupted intellectual development and a break in valuable links to family and community.” This does not ring true. Frequently children of immigrants are bilingual or multilingual and remain so throughout their lives. I believe they would experience greater trouble with intellectual development if they could not access the language or educational system of the dominant culture.
In short, I would argue that immigrants can still practice their native cultures in many settings in their communities, and they should. They don’t need to force themselves to stop speaking their languages or stop being who they are. What they cannot do is ask the larger culture of their adopted country to change its ways to allow them to remain who they were. It is not “colonialist” to protect the culture of an immigrant’s new home; rather it is very much in opposition to that. What we want to avoid is the destruction of the cultures in the host nations--and the actual creation of colonies of ethnic groups in those countries. Think about it: when the Pilgrims came to “The New World,” they were originally settlers. Later, they formed colonies. Those colonies harmed and even destroyed the cultures of the Native peoples. My plea is for respect for the dominant cultures of host nations and a willingness on the part of immigrants to engage with those cultures and to some extent to identify with them.
“Losing Identity During the Refugee Crisis” by Tracy Brown Hamilton, Тhe Atlantic, 2016
“Will Immigrants Today Assimilate Like Those of 100 Years Ago?” by Alexia Fernández Campbell, The Atlantic, 2016
“Germany’s Migrant Rape Crisis Spirals Out of Control” by Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, 2016
How Literacy Has Affected me Over the Years
Literacy is defined as “the ability to read and write.” A literate person is someone who “possesses the ability to read and write fluently.” As for me, I would define literacy as an infinite series of word-doors leading outward to the world around you--and an infinite series of word-doors leading inward to yourself.
Literacy has always had a great effect on my life--it is my life. In fact, one could even say I was born to be literate. My brain was born to decode language. I was able to read when I was just 18 months old (or thereabouts), three or four years before most children begin to read. As a toddler in a stroller, I read the signs I passed on the street and shouted out their meanings. “Parking” and “Exit” were favorites. I read newspaper headlines and memorized children’s poems without trying. These acts came naturally, like breathing.
As a person with Asperger’s, I believe this was a blessing. I have depended on written words to tell me how people think and function socially, because I can’t always make sense of this with my own eyes and ears. How do people know when and what to say to one another (unless they obviously need to speak up to accomplish something immediate)? Social communication, apparently so easy for others, is a mystery to me. Luckily, books and articles on social behavior have helped me learn some of the answers to these questions.
Also, the written and spoken word have communicated to me other rules for functioning that I can’t sense otherwise--wonderful rules about everything from the workings of the universe to how to organize time. This in turn has imposed a certain structure on a world that can seem chaotic at times, too rich in sensory input for me to organize, and this has given me peace of mind. Beyond that, though, literacy has given me ideas to guide my thinking and learning. Knowing how to read has helped me develop a political philosophy, a good sense of humor, and inspiration for my future. From sections of The Communist Manifesto to sections of The Art of the Deal, reading and grasping literary passages has influenced the creation of my own political philosophy, or political system, if you will, which I like to call State National Socialism. Through reading, primarily of documented traditionalist works discovered online, I have pieced together a philosophy that states that nature has a long-standing, ordained, and traditional order that must be preserved. Tradition, Biology, and Environmental health are crucial. My philosophy also states that capitalism is unhealthy because it causes people to turn from compassion for the environment and for one another to the false idol of profit at all costs.
Without the ability to read, not only would I not have crafted my philosophy, I would not have built my sense of humor, which is mostly based around pictorial memes now, but got its start in reading. This sense of humor, which deals with things from politics all the way to lewd humor nowadays, goes as far back as fourth or even third grade, when we had to write funny stories for class, and sometimes even draw pictures for them. I loved how laughter made me feel, and how a simple story with a silly and unexpected twist or ending could bring about a giddy feeling--and totally improve a so-so or even dismal day. This precious sense of humor found expression in memes as I got older, but is fundamentally based in words and is the joyful result of being able to read and write.
And speaking of writing, this aspect of literacy is equally crucial for exploring and defining yourself. You don’t know what you know until you try to write about it. Somebody once observed, “writing is thinking,” and this is true. Sit down to write anything, from an email to a research project, and when you try to explain what you know, you realize you actually have more questions than knowledge. I remember reading an article by the NY Times that said “Writers, especially younger writers, often hear the exhortation ‘write what you know’. This is understandable. Some of the best fiction ever written seems to have followed that advice.” The act of putting thoughts into the structure of words forces you to make sure you really, totally understand those thoughts. This reminds me of another quote I read in that same article. It says “You should write what you really know instead of a slick, bowdlerized version of what you know.” This is how you really take advantage of the situation, so you can really put that knowledge into writing. This is important because writing is a bootcamp for thoughts, forcing them to shape up, and forcing you to deepen and strengthen your grasp of a subject.
So, without literacy I would be a very different person. Certainly I would be very diminished without it. I would not have the knowledge that I possess now about the world around me and how things work, but much more importantly, I would not know what I believe, and love, and value. Ironically, it is literacy, with its window into the the thoughts and beliefs and ideas of others, that somehow opens a door to your own thoughts and beliefs. It shows you what you identify with, from politics, to religion, to personality, to whatever provides a good laugh. Without the written words of others to lend structure, your own personal beliefs would be an unarticulated mass within yourself, an unexplored and poorly defined forest of impulses and seemingly random thoughts. This is why I say literacy has a way of shaping one’s knowledge into a state where it is intellectually beneficiary. So, yes, words can be definite, bossy, and demanding, but ultimately literacy is a kind of magic that conjures up your path and your life.
Why I Left Progressivism (Proud to be an Ex-Progressive)
I used to be a progressive, but I am proud to say that I have left—er, no pun intended. What is progressivism? When I use this term I am talking about the idea of a “progressive stack,” which is the notion that some people are oppressed, some people are the oppressors, and in order to solve this imbalance, the oppressors must “stand down” in the face of the oppressed. I am talking about the belief that in order to move forward, “imbalances” between oppressor and oppressed peoples must be resolved by the oppressors—that those who are “privileged” must correct the “inequalities.” Now, initially I found myself drawn to progressivism through the misguided idea that I was oppressed because of my sexuality; I identify as bisexual. Because of this, by the time I was in 9th grade, I was more-or-less a full-on progressive. But as the school year moved forward, I began to notice fallacies in progressive thinking, and I identified areas of my own thought that I began to believe were wrong.
So what inspired me to change? There were several motivational factors that caused me to leave behind progressivism. They were not necessarily specific events that I can remember off of the top of my head. Nothing emphatically turned me away. Instead there was a series of discussions, questions, and thoughts that slowly wielded influence..
That said, I do recall one specific idea that especially nagged away at me and probably played a big part in pushing me little by little away from progressivism. It was the idea of privilege. At first, I didn’t see anything too crazy about it. I remember reading, for example, those little comic strips that progressives made, many of them originating on Tumblr, that claimed the existence of pernicious “white privilege” and “straight privilege,” etc. But then as I looked at what writings like those were really saying, I realized just how overblown the idea of white and straight privilege is, to the point that it obscures the way many white and straight people live. There are many who struggle economically. Sure, for example, you could look at Philadelphia neighborhoods and compare Fairmount to Strawberry Mansion and argue that this is an example of some sort of “white urban housing privilege” or bring up “all these privileged white people living in the suburbs,” but at some point along the line you would have to acknowledge all the white people who grow up and live in battered trailer parks and rundown sections of small towns, or the fact that Asians and Asian-Americans (especially and specifically those living in urban areas) have just as much privilege economically and socially as whites. Seriously, compare the crime rates of any predominantly Asian neighborhood (with the obvious exception of Native American Reservations) or white neighborhood, and you will see what I mean.
I also remember one specific discussion that challenged my opinion on progressivism. It was a Friday in October in Ms. Jonas’ African-American history class, and we were talking about, well, privilege. I cannot say that I remember how the discussion was going because, to be honest, I was sitting there anticipating the wrap-up, imagining Ms. Jonas uttering a word or phrase in Spanish so that we could be dismissed. (No matter how interesting the talk, it could never be captivating enough to overwhelm that “last period on a Friday” feeling.) As I sat there, the question of privilege was brought up in the context of race. I remember hearing some students make a point about how “all white people shouldn’t be blamed”, a point that, by the way, I believed was correct and still do agree with. In response, one girl (who will remain anonymous for her own privacy’s sake) raised her hand and said, “Nobody is blaming all white people; however they still do benefit from institutional privilege.” While this was not an insane argument or response at all, by any stretch, it did get me thinking about some things. What was “institutional privilege” exactly? How did the institutions decide? Did this mean white privilege was strongly entrenched in society and wielding power—like an institution? How come did this make sense when I saw so many fragile white people? Were they benefitting from white privilege? Many more questions came to my head, and the habit of questioning continued.
Another experience that got me to rethink progressivism was coming across the idea of “internalized biases.” Now when I say “internalized biases,” I am talking about the idea that people simply have some sort of ingrained notion of who or what is “better” or “worse” and that it can be hard to detect in yourself and hard to change. Anyway, I remember a day during my 9th-grade year while I was lounging about at home, probably in late October or early November, screwing around on YouTube and catching a video entitled something like “Internalized Biases.” (There was probably more to the title, but that is all I can remember.) Halfway through, I thought to myself “Wait. What are they saying? People can be born with biases because of their ethnicity or religion or something like that? Hmm, how can people just be born with biases? Why are they just assuming that some groups of people just naturally carry biases and if so, that those biases are done deals? It’s not like biased beliefs have a genetic basis. Aren’t the people in this video just making a bit of a biased assumption themselves?” I mean, I did understand and do understand the idea of learned implicit biases. However, what the people in the video were saying was just too extreme--that you are born biased because of your gender, ethnicity, etc. I continued to think, and looking at my apparent “oppressor”--heterosexuals, I realized that this did not seem right. Assuming that a group of people all think the same thing--and a negative, damning thing at that--because of their race, religion, sexuality, or whatever, is bigotry, no matter who does it, majority or minority.
In conclusion, I am no longer a progressive, and proud to say so, too. I have realized the fallacies in the progressive belief system, such as the practice of blocking people into categories based on race and gender, for example, are too easy, often represent a kind of bias themselves, and erase the individuality and humanity of others. I feel like I have been enlightened. I now have more of a live-and-let-live view and want to keep an open mind about the beliefs of individual human beings of all backgrounds. I also believe there is room in our culture for people of all backgrounds to work against any disadvantages they face. I am now a believer in personal responsibility. Finally, unlike progressives, I am a bit of a traditionalist in some ways. I support the preservation of traditional values, like the traditional family, involvement in religion of some type, and the preservation of unborn life—and, as for progressivism, I will never be returning.
Somos Aissatou, Zoë, y Gavin. Somos estudiantes de Science Leadership Academy o SLA. Está en centre de Filadelfia. Está cerca de 7 once. Es bastante divertida. Hay 500 estudiantes y 20 profesores. Hay 4 plantas. Tenemos muy inteligentes. Que hacemos muchos proyectos. Ofrecemos fútbol, voleibol, pista y campo, baloncesto, béisbol, club de ajedrez, softbol, y club de debate. Participó en pista y campo porque es interesantes.
Nosotros tenemos inglés, español, historia, bioquímica, matemáticas, tecnología, ingeniería, arte, y teatro en SLA. En esta clase inglés leemos libros y prestar atención. En español, aprendemos y cantamos chévere canciones en español. Es bien divertida. En historia necesito una pluma, un cuaderno, y una computadora. En almuerzo usted comer y descansar. Para tener éxito en bioquímica necesitamos participamos activamente. En matemáticas necesitamos hacemos toda la tarea y trabajamos duro. De conjunto la clases en SLA es muy interesante y chévere.
Los profesores de SLA son muy inteligentes y habladores pero unos son un pocos aburridos. ¡Qué chévere! Nuestras profesoras favoritas son la Srta. Manuel, la Srta. Sessa y la Srta. Giknis porque son interesantes, simpáticas, y divertidas. Nos fascinan sus clases. Los estudiantes de SLA son artísticos, tranquilos, y habladores y unos son bajos (no importa); nuestros estudiantes trabajamos duro!
Nos encanta SLA mucho. Lo que más nos gusta de SLA es libertad. SLA tiene mucha diversidad. SLA tiene muchos deportes y actividades. Todo el mundo es amable. Nuestros voluntarias muchos. Nuestros muy feliz.
Intro: Los Pronombres por Gavin Lane
Slide 1: Yo
Me llamo Gavin Lane.
Tengo 15 años
Slide 2: Él (Hank Hill)
Él es Hank Hill. Su cumpleaños es 4 de abríl, 1957.
Slide 3: Ella (Ariana Grande)
Ella es Ariana Grande. Ella encanta canción.
Slide 4: Ellos (Victor y chicas)
Ellos son Victor y chicas. Los ojos son azul y cafe.
Slide 5: Nosotros (Mi amigo y yo)
Nosotros somos mi amigo (David) y yo. Nosotros atendiendos SLA y String Theory.
Slide 6: FIN. ¡ADIOS!
Here is my video.