Friday, August 23, 2013

Public Education: The Rotting Foundation

          I came across this speech yesterday and couldn't help but share it. While this is (hopefully) on it's way to going viral, I thought I'd shed some light on this video which hits so close to home. Elijah Miles, a recent product of the Baltimore City Public School System, talks about his experience growing up in Baltimore, and how his views of the future have changed due to Teach for America. Miles couldn't have said it better. He speaks of his experiences of growing up in a rough neighborhood, and his view on obtaining a better life.
          We are living in a world where we discourage educators. In 2010, the average starting salary for a teacher with a Master's degree in Baltimore City was under $44,000/yr. With the increasing cost of living, how can you afford to be a teacher? And even as a teacher, with bills, taxes, and other various expenses, how can you walk in to a dingy, outdated, and dilapidated school building with high enough morale to inspire the youth. And not just any youth; I'm talking about the youth of the country where in 2007, 1.7 million kids under the age of 18 had incarcerated parents. The youth who have nothing to turn to other than "the corner" as Miles puts it.
          Elijah Miles touches on an idea that many think is positive, but may in fact have negative consequences. This notion of a diploma being "a ticket out of the hood" makes people want to do better, but only for themselves. Not that you can blame them, but this "ticket" is only a one-way ticket. Not in the sense that you should go back to your old neighborhood, and get caught up in the life you used to live, but in the way that you never go back to bring positivity to all the kids who you were once like. The next generation of kids, who are all just trying to make it out of their neighborhoods alive, are the ones that need to see the success stories the most.
          America, where are our priorities? In 2014, The US is projected to spend $618 billion dollars in military defense, while budget cuts roar through cities, tearing much needed teachers and facilities away from public education. What is the point of this defense spending if we are not even putting proper money into educating the generations that will eventually need it? We're setting ourselves up for failure. When you attempt to build a society up, but ignore it's fundamental foundation of education, you're bound to encounter a major collapse from the ground floor.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Machu Picchu: The Incan Trail

Exactly one year ago, I traveled down to Cuzco, Peru to the Incan trail to hike Machu Picchu. I'm sitting here planning my next big adventure to South America and it made me feel nostalgic. Words cannot describe the trip, so I'll let the pictures speak.

 Salcantay at sunrise.
 The journey begins.

 Our first view of the lost city of Machu Picchu.

The end of day 3, our last camping spot before getting to Machu Picchu.
Las Salinas: Families own a pool of salt that they then sell. This was taken in the Sacred Valley.

Friday, June 21, 2013

longwood gardens

I finally got around to getting an old roll of color film developed. Not too much came of it other than this photograph I took at Longwood Gardens, PA in December of 2012. The film got a little exposed, but oh well, it adds some character.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

the little things

There are so many thoughts going on in my head and I don’t even know how to organize any of them, so a stream of consciousness is going to be the best way of expression. Being a college student, a board member for my fraternity, and a young man barely into his 20s, I am always concerned with how people interact with each other.The juxtaposition between taking care of yourself and dealing with other’s wants and needs is separated by a very fine line. Why do we sometimes make decisions that disregard our own mentality yet in other circumstances we take a completely selfish approach.
    I don’t have any definitive answers to how we can make this world a better place, nor does anyone. But there is something we can all do to help pick each other up in times of need. This week has been one of the most emotionally riveting weeks America has ever experienced. The Boston incidents, followed by the explosion in Waco, along with all the other atrocities America experiences on a daily basis. Although it’s the big things that make the news, whether good or bad, we can start on a small scale. In this world, drastic change does not happen overnight. The culture we have been raised in is that of striving for something more. We are always trying to be better than we were yesterday, and we are always looking for ways we can be better tomorrow. The paradigm goes as follows: we look back, and we look forward. These are extremely important in growing and learning, but we are forgetting one very important aspect, and that’s the “now”. What are we doing right this second as you’re reading this? Are we stressing about how we fucked up the other day when you didn’t get your work done on time? Or are you worried about pulling off an event you have planned next week? Maybe you are extremely happy and proud of something that has come up in your life. Whatever the emotion is, we must realize we are feeling it. Recently I have been studying Buddhism. I’ve been reading this book entitled “The Untethered Soul” and I have also been going to Mindfulness Club meetings at work, as well as doing a little yoga. Both the book and the group help to teach how to be mindful of your emotions. They talk about how to step away from a situation and address the feelings you experience as pure emotions, not as a part of who you are. Buddha said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Maybe it sounds ridiculous to some, or impossible to others, but being mindful of what I am feeling at a given point has completely saved me and changed my views on so many things. I’m 20 years old, I have plenty of things on my plate as I try to grow up into an adult of this society. My head is always all over the place. But there is nothing wrong about that because I’ve come to the realization that I’m allowed to be confused, curious, annoyed, happy, angry, nervous, ready, or excited. We feel these for a reason; they are responses to the things we deal with in life. You aren’t a bad person because you get mad at someone for doing something you don’t agree with. The key is to not let that anger define you. Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Address the feeling, let it run through you, and then shake it off.
    As I said, I have no answer on how to ultimately make this a better world, but these past months have been filled with realization. Starting my first real job, going through a tough break up, taking the most amount of classes I’ve ever taken, there have been so many struggles that I’ve had to push through. Hardships will always be there, and they will always either make or break you. I’ve always loved the quote by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Although maybe it’s not perfectly relevant, I think it does apply in some sense. Without adversity, we don’t have the opportunity to grow stronger as people. If we don’t “take shots” at things that could potentially be hard, we just remain static. One of two things happen when you shoot the puck; You’ll either make it or miss it, and neither is a bad thing. Whether it’s trying out a relationship, taking a new class, starting a new project, or picking up a new job, you’re going to come out on the other end with the experience. If you miss the shot, you’ve learned just as much as you would have from making the shot.
    One piece of advice I want to try to spread unto my family members, my brothers, and my friends is to make the small, insignificant sacrifices that will put a smile on another person’s face. Donating 1,000 dollars to your favorite charity, or putting in 100s of community service hours is a great way to give back, but like I said, change is gradual and it starts with the little things. I’m going to have to quote Buddha again when he says that “A jug fills drop by drop.” I’m here to talk about doing the smallest of things. Compliment that woman on the subway who’s wearing a cool pair of shoes. Smile at a guy who looks like he’s had a long day at work, Say good morning and thank you to the person in front of you who stood and waited until you got to the door to hold if for you. When i say little sacrifices, I mean things that legitimately cost you nothing. All it takes is courage. Unfortunately, at first people find these types of things abnormal. This is because strangers aren’t used to random acts of friendliness. As i said before, we’re so caught up in both the past and the future, any act in the present catches us off guard. So many times I’ve had a random person do something really nice for me, (whether it was smiling at me or striking up a nice conversation on a plane) and think to myself “Hmm, this is kind of strange.” But then when you look back on it, it makes you happy; It makes you glad you had the experience that you could have otherwise missed out on. This world is full of infinite opportunities. Naturally, we tend to focus on the things that end up happening to us rather than the things that could happen to us. If we can remove judgments and open up to do a small thing to make someone's day just a little better, then in my honest opinion we’re doing our jobs. If you must look to the past, learn from your experiences and be grateful you had them. If you must look to the future, set realistic goals for yourself yet enjoy the exciting, spontaneous mystery. Otherwise, live in the present and enjoy what you have right at this moment. Or just read Buddha quotes, that works too.