Welcome to the Solution Across Borders blog. Not only for members, this blog is a a Baruch-wide initiative to keep our campus involved in global affairs. Feel free to comment and participate in our discussions here or to come to our meetings on Tuesdays in at VC11-160.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

History Reflected in Horror Films

    On April 5, 2011, Professor Wollman, from the Fine and Performing Arts Department, led a discussion about horror movies and its relation to U.S. history. As horror films developed throughout the decades, it corresponded with drastic events that sparked fear in the American people. For example in the 1950s, the idea of conformity and McCarthyism led directors, producers and writers to create movies such as The Blob
     Today’s horror movies are about torture and inflicting wounds on someone’s body. This type of horror could be linked to the United States fighting wars as well as potential terrorists and/or prisoners who are being physically tortured. It is the fear of being in an unknown place and kept barely alive while suffering under the wrath of a torturer. As a result, one of the subliminal messages behind these horror movies is that if anyone does something wrong, he or she will be punished for their mistakes. Therefore, it is best to be cautious and follow the rules of society and not venture out to do something out of the norm.  Overall, this was an eye opening experience because it shows how our fear of stepping outside the box can be translated into horror films for mass media.

-Arunna Raj

Multiculturalism and Diversity in New York City Classrooms

       There is no need to look further than New York State when identifying the effects immigration has on public education and the integral part multicultarism plays in the classroom. It is estimated that nearly one third of the total student poulation of New York City schools are immigratnts, and this proportion is rising. These students enroll in schools with the same hopes of equal access to opportunities and success. However, there are others who do not engage in the school environment with the same enthusiasm. The lack of financial security and English skills are just a few examples acting as stumbling blocks for these immigrant children.

        The lack of English skills makes the transition process very difficult for these students, this also directly effects their performance on comprehension exams. Many children today can afford to enroll in language courses outside of school, but in the late 90's, the poor socio-economic status of these immigrants did not make this possible. Parents were not able to financially support their children, or provide academic assistance at home. Parent involvement in a child's academic process is very important, the lack of involvement due to their helplessness effected the way these children performed in school as well. More educated parents on the other hand are more likely to help their children with their homework or prepare for exams. This aid helps to design a plan for academic success, which is also very helpful and important.

       The results of impoverishment is negative. Similarly, immigrant students in general have higher dropout rates than the native-born. But then again, it is also important to identify the different types of immigrant groups which exist. Newer immigrant children perform differently in school in comparison to acculturated immigrants. Research shows that the offspring of immigrants have the higher dropout rates and the newer immigrant children are highly motivated to attend and succeed in schools instead. A possible reasoning for this may be because newer immigrant children use their good performance in school to serve as a tool in influencing upward mobility.

        The challenge for many public school teachers today has become how to teach immigrant students who are from completely different backgrounds and barely speak any English. This is increasingly becoming the situation inside many schools because school are required to enroll students regardless of their immigration status and are prohibited from even asking about it.

        In today's economic situation and while keeping in mind the changing accepting nature of America as a nation of many worlds, it is important to educate immigrants. Except for the indigenous people, everyone in the United States descended from immigrants, and what America is today is because of immigrants. When keeping this in mind, it becomes increasingly important to encourage tolerance of diversity within the classrooms and welcome those wanting to enter with open arms. The education of immigrant students is a smart investment, and also a way for the U.S. to uphold its image as a nation who has transitioned out of an era of intolerance.

        Multiculturalism and diversity in classrooms has also been increasing at the same rate as immigration. As interdependence among nations is limiting cultural barriers, the movement between countries is also becoming more fluid. Competition for talented global workers is increasing the demand of immigrants to migrate with their families. This mass migration is becoming the reason of largening classrooms with children from all different backgrounds. It is interesting to see the change in the way large companies work today as well. Many companies are noticing the importance of cross cultural training, as it is becoming an integral part of employee training to better equip them with skills that will help in building successful business relationships. Now the bigger question is why wait till a child reaches that level to make them globally aware? If they grow up in diverse classrooms, should it not be the responsibility of teachers and the schools to educate these kids about the multiple different cultures before them?

        Many teachers today are becoming away of the increasingly diverse classrooms, and finding it difficult to reach out to these children who speak little or no English. Changing times and conditions, make it more important than ever to be attentice about how student's family cultures can be very different from the dominant culture which once existed in schools. This is not an easy task, it will in fact take time and effort to learn about unfamiliar cultures. The role of teachers extends outside of the classroom as they have to excel in the realm of creativity in order to adjust to teaching practices to fully include children of different cultures. The only way to approach students who come from these different backgrounds would be to build bridges to non-mainstream cultures and make sure to include teaching technique which include traditions and contributions of all cultures. This will help a child grow both socially and academically, because he or she will be comfortable in this new environment.

        It is also important for teachers as educators to have cultural awarwness of the students' lives and backgrounds to help them connect with their students. Without this awareness, teachers would not be sensitive and have compassion for each child and help them develop. Sometimes understanding anthropological aspects such as elements of child-raising, beliefs, concepts of self and religious rituals help to approach the problem face down. This is a process which on the most part includes the self-reflection of each individual teacher. I think this so called “investigation” may help teachers to realize their core beliefs, hidden biases and religious perspectives. The easiest way to get a better understanding of the best techniques of teaching a diverse student body is to learn about the student's lives outside of the classroom. Yes, this does require an extra step on the teachers part, but this additional step makes the process of educating easier and smooth.

      A student begins to be brainwashed with a very unclear concept, Americanism. Till date I still am unaware of what exactly americanism is, and I have grown up here my whole life. Is standing in the beginning of the school day to say the pledge, being “American?” or is eating hot dogs from the food carts at baseball games a part of the American lifestyle? The answer to these questions most will say is open ended, but the fact of the matter is that children grow up with these ideas being directly associated with being American, American values and American culture. Not for a second do I reject any of these ideas as American, but I do also believe that a part of America are the many other cultures that make up this country and have helped to shape the social makeup of the nation as we know it to be today.

      The increasing amount of diversity in city school's is on the rise, but at the same time it is interesting to come across schools like Stuyvestant High School which is amongst the top city school's and having a constant problem with lack of diversity. Many critics complain that it is the specialized high school admission test that is inadequate, and that this is an unfair means of accepting students for admission. I quote from the New York Times, “the department has tried to increase the number of black and Latino students admitted to the top schools by hosting an intensive test preparation institute, but even the students who participated have shown lackluster results.” Why is it that only the Latino and Black communities are experiencing these problems? Are these programs actually providing these students with adequate aid or is it just a show? These are all questions which only the elites in education have the answers to.

      In order for us to find answers and solutions for ourselves, parents must actively partcipate in their children's educations and invest in the opportunities that will help them in the future. In addition, it is necessary for the government to help students who desire to enroll in these specialized schools receive the aid and preparation in math, verbal and critical thinking in the pre-existing years before the examination.

-Suveen S.

Islam: Victim of Westernization and Secularization?

         Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her book, Infidel reaches a very controversial conclusion about Islam. She considers the religion as it is currently practiced, incompatible with modernity, democracy and western ideals. In order for Muslims to accept their environments in the west they must radically transform Islam. She describes the freedoms given to the people in the west as a gift to both women and children, and those unwilling to accept the gift are corrupting the land by “elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.” Hirsi Ali's sentiments and uneasiness about the way in which many Muslim women were still living in Holland, led to much criticize.

         While Hirsi Ali voice and approach to wanting to change things was loud, many Dutch intellectuals were uneasy about targeting immigrants and enforcing change. Her toleration for the preservation of culture and customs which she saw on the streets of Saudi Arabia deteriorated. She further criticized radical Islam with collaborated on Submission Part 1 with Theo van Gogh. The journey Hirsi Ali takes her readers on is not an easy one, she moves from a world of strong faith in Islam and Allah to a world as she says is of “reason.” Her personal journey strengthens her belief in female equality and criticism for radical customs of the faith being practiced in the west. She believes that the enslavement of women is just one of the many things which lies at the heart of the fanatical/radical interpretation of a religion which preaches backwardness and violations of basic human rights.

       In societies where there are people of different cultures and regions it is not always a big party, in fact, most of the times people fight. In most cases, religion is always the primary cause to any discussion, debate or argument in societies where more than one type of people live. It was mentioned before that tolerance of one another and each others way of living is a possible solution but not always the best and most effective solution. This formula ignores the people who take time to assimilate or become part of the normative culture. Not receiving the same attention, may trigger more and more people to do what it takes to be counted. Westernization and secularization make it harder for communities such as orthodox Muslims to find themselves living comfortably in nations in Europe because religion seems distant from both the government and the people. Religion and God is very much separate from the daily lives of the average citizen. This is something strange and alien to a devoted Muslim, who has accepted Sharia and Islam as the way of life. On the contrary, a country like the United States, was founded on the idea that church is separate from the state but still continues to have more and more people practicing a religion or believing in God. The reasoning offered by the article was because the “American model” promoted work ethic and how to make money. People do not have the time to decide whether to assimilate or not to the native culture because American culture preaches making money is what makes an individual American.

           It is interesting to question whether orthodox Islam and democracy can co-exist. Ayaan being a critic of Islam, would say you can have either or and not both. The incompatibility of both democracy and Islam co-existing would then filter out those people who could not find a balance between their faith and the culture and norms of their land. According to “The Dutch Model,” many people thought of Hirsi Ali to be intolerant of Muslim culture because she was angry and politically incorrect just like almost all other converts. However, her approach was that you can not be nice to your enemy and always make them your friend, she said the problem was within the institution and formation of Islam, for example “ the oppression of women is built into Islam.” If this was truly the case, then would the only solution to the problem be the eradication of all religions? If you were to ask Ayaan, she would probably respond yes. In the specific case of Holland and the dilemma the nation faces in situations where a person like Theo van Gogh is being murdered for expressing his freedoms, does multiculturalism and the “model of tolerance” truly make murder and violence acceptable? If this question was to be answered, Ayaan's view of voluntary assimilation seems to be the only solution. And if a person chooses he or she is not capable of returning the same religious and cultural tolerance given to them, then they should not be able to experience the “freedoms of the west.”

        In an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she mentions that “all humans are equal but not all cultures are equal.” This is a statement which is very true. Cultures are made by religions and people, and cultures are passed down over time. This means that no one culture ever remains the same, because it is always undergoing constant change. Humans however are the same in the sense that all share the capability to adjust themselves to their environments, even if they may want to or not. This is not the same with cultures, therefore cultural tolerance is always more prone to be under attack. The interviewer mentions clash of civilizations, this translates to all the religions and cultures in the West compared to the rest of the world. It is important to recognize how geographic orientation also matters very much in the way people behave and what they practice.

-Suveen S.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizza with President Dr. Mitchel Wallerstein

Emails were sent to invite students to come and speak with President Wallerstein. On Thursday February 24, 2011 during club hours, about sixteen students showed up to have an informal chat with the president.  At first the president asked that we all introduce ourselves and then he introduced himself. He mentioned that CUNY was facing 10% budget cuts. He is hoping to reduce costs so that it would not affect Baruch’s education and faculty. Unfortunately, tuition would have to be increased, but will be increased in increments so that student who are participating in TAP will be covered. Tuition may go up in the near future to compensate for cuts.

Despite this depressing news, there are some exciting changes happening at Baruch.
1) The escalators will be fixed soon! Right now, the contractors are working on the escalators in the basement replacing them with brand new ones. They will make their way up and soon all the escalators in the vertical campus will be working.
2) Renovations will begin shortly to 17 Lex (23rd building). It will be done in phases so that the whole entire building will be redecorated without disturbing classes.
3) Right now, Baruch students are sharing a residence hall with SVA. President Wallerstein is hoping to that Baruch will have a residential hall in the near future so students who commute from a far are able to stay near the school.
4) Remember last semester when USG sent around a proposal for a student center? Students voted to pay extra so that we can have this center which would be used as club rooms or lounging. President Dr. Mitchel Wallerstein is hoping to raise three times the amount so in three to five years, there could be a student center.
5) The President has a dream that the 25th street, between the library building and vertical campus could be shut down and turned into a plaza so students and faculty have an outdoor area to relax and enjoy the weather.

After an update of the school’s progress report, President Wallerstein opened the floor for questions and concerns. One of the major concerns was the condition of the bathrooms. The bathrooms have been filthy and sometimes students are unsure whether or not it is being cleaned often. A second one was not enough lockers around the school. Some students are finding it difficult to carry books around all day and would like a place to leave their things. Two students raised the question of classroom space. One commented that even though in the schedule of classes, the section claims that only certain amount of seats are available; in the actual classroom students are unable to find seats at all. This causes many to rush to class early so that they can get a decent seat. Branching off of this idea, the other student asked if more sections could be added, especially the business classes, because the spaces get filled very fast that students who register later are unable to get the classes.  
The President promised to look into these issues.  
President Dr. Mitchel Wallerstein asked if Baruch should offer a hybrid of online classes with classroom lectures. There was a quite a divide on this issue. Some students felt that it was good for students who work full time, have to travel from afar or have to take care of families. Other students were not in favor because they felt that there would be no student-teacher interaction and it would be hard to contact the professor if there is a question.

Personally, I think this is a rare treat that students should take advantage of. The President, who has a hectic schedule, is actually making time for us, students, to hear our concerns in hopes of improving the college so students can have a worthwhile experience while studying.  

-Arunna Raj

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Will Israel Attack Iran?

Please read this article suggested by Professor Waxman for our event on November 23, 2010

The Point of No Return By Jeffrey Goldberg

IT IS POSSIBLE that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

Read on after the jump...

SAB is Cosponsoring with the Hip Hop Club

The idea behind this event is to expose how hip hop is integrated in many different cultures and religions. It promises to be an amazing experience!!!  Please join us!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Film Screening November 9

The Cove is a documentary film that describes the annual killing of dolphins in a National Park at Taji, Wakayama, in Japan from an ocean conservationists point of view. It won the U.S. Audience Award at Sundance and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.