Assignment 5c. Cheating in School: My Personal Story


Cheating in school (Image credit: Please claim this if it’s yours.)

Cheating in school varies from copying off your best friend’s test to full-blown copying and pasting in your school final project. But it doesn’t stop there. We all have friends who cheated or cheated ourselves- maybe not in final exams but copying off your friend’s homework for some participation marks is nothing unheard of. What’s troubling is if we cheat, we don’t learn.

But what would lead someone to cheat?

Some possible scenarios (Personally experienced the first three myself):

  • After spending HOURS on the work, it’s accidentally deleted minutes before it’s due
  • You forget your homework at home & and the teacher doesn’t believe you
  • Half the class is cheating- why should you get lower marks than the cheaters when you worked hard
  • I have to get into the university of my choice
  • Parental pressure- ‘My parents will kill me if I fail another exam.’
  • Plain laziness

The list goes on and on and on.

My Personal Story

Note: The names of the people involved are changed to protect their identities. 

I grab two pens from my pencil case, my palms cold. My palms always get cold before tests. Mr. Stone, the grade 10 Hospitality and Cooking teacher hastily hands out the midterm test papers.

“Don’t cheat,” he mumbles, staring into space. He hurries out the door.

Wow. It’s almost as if he’s encouraging everyone to cheat. Shalini and Katrina openly exchange answers. I scan the room. I see three girls copying from the textbook across the room, giggling. The two guys in the corner are practically writing each other’s papers. It’s team work all the way.

Shalini taps my shoulder, “Want some answers?”

“No, I’m good. I’d feel way too guilty if I did.” I stare at my paper, “Besides, I actually studied.”

Shalini shrugs, “You’re pretty strong to say no.” she smiles encouragingly.

She asks me some of the answers- Of course I help her. She’s one of my best friends. How can I say no?

“Katrina, the answer to number five is braising, not boiling.” Shalini murmurs.

Katrina swiftly jots down. Shit. I wrote down boiling. I scratch out my answer, correcting it to ‘braising’. So much for feeling “way too guilty.”

I gaze across the room at the clock. 5 minutes left. I glimpse at Shalini and Katrina. They noisily scribble down answers. I sit back in my seat, contemplating my moral dilemma.

I wrestle with the two voices inside my head. It’s an inner-monologue of an overly tense teenager in test taking anxiety.

It’s just a cooking test! Just ask the answer for the last question. Screw honesty! It’s not like  you’re Ms. Perfect.

Maybe, but cheating is cheating. Your parents would be ashamed if they knew. Is this the kind of person you want to be?

No… But is it fair for the cheaters to have an upper hand? You’ll get lower marks than the cheaters. That’s NOT fair!

I grumble, staring blankly at my paper. My writing looks like chicken scratch. There’s so many words crossed out, it looks like some kind of crazy, intentional pattern. I flip my paper over and rest my head on the wooden desk.

cheating school kids

To Cheat or Not to Cheat…

A funny video about cheating.

Okay, so in the end I did technically cheat in that cooking test since I crossed out my answer from ‘boiling’ to ‘braising’. By some miracle, I still ended up with a better grade than Shalini and Katrina in that test. Will I ever cheat now? No. There’s no need. I  feel proud when I’m honest with myself. Everyone is capable of achieving  greatness without cheating, so why cheat? Just reach your potential! Besides, failing a test makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. Maintaining your honesty and character does. I finally know something now I didn’t back then.

cheating in school, homework

Education should NOT be only about grades. It’s about knowledge. It’s about applying what we learned, even outside the class room. The brightest person doesn’t always get the best grades. Sometimes, your memory fails you. Sometimes, you have a shitty day and can’t focus. I think school and college education is there to shape us into critical thinkers. There are classes where I felt I learnt nothing where I got 80s. There are also classes where I got 60s (Math) but learned a whole lot, though I struggled. Our education is to teach us to think critically and to question and challenge common assumptions. Even if you don’t get the best grades in class, you can still achieve great things. Just look at Bill Gates! He was a college dropout, just like Steve Jobs. But their inner drive to succeed and innovative thinking is probably what made them into some of the richest billionaires.

On a side note, Steve Jobs gives credit to what he learnt in his college calligraphy class for helping him form the typography for Mac computers. It just goes to show it’s what you make of your education that truly counts!

dad doing child's homeworkHave you ever cheated in school? Why? Why is there such a overwhelming emphasis on only grades in our education system? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and ideas!

education Assessment Comic - Climb tree

Assignment 4d. Bill 78, The Anti-Protest Bill: Oppressing Freedom


What if the women’s suffrage movement never occurred? What if Gandhi’s nonviolent protests against the British rule never happened? Or Rosa Parks’ Montgomery Bus Boycott? These are examples of great positive change that only occurred because of peaceful protesting. What if our very right to protest was taken away? The right to protest and assemble ensures our freedom. If we lose our right to oppose, we’re inevitably living like puppets with no control over what’s most important to us

About Bill 78, Quebec’s Anti-Protest Bill

518 people arrested by police during the protest against Bill 78

On March 18, 2011, students learned about the Quebec provincial government’s plan to raise university fees by 75% (a staggering $1,625 tuition hike). Students opposed the LARGEST tuition increase in Quebec’s history. On April 27, 2012, the Quebec government offered to expand the tuition hike over a span of 7 years, though the tuition amount still remains unchanged. The student groups rejected the dissatisfying offer. The protests continued.

In an attempt to stop the growing number of student protesters, the Quebec government officially passed Bill 78 on May 18, 2012. They were hoping it would be the end of the student protests. It wasn’t.

As a university student, I support anyone protesting against tuition hikes, anywhere. Everyone knows educations is a RIGHT- but when only the rich can afford it, what the hell is the rest of the world supposed to do?  It’s bad enough balancing school and work, living on minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet and drowning in debt by the end of your university education.  When Canada can spend $1.1 billion on the G20 Summit, why can’t it reduce tuition prices? Or at least stop the tuition hikes.

Bill 78 forbids more than 50 people from assembling, picketing and protesting near University grounds, or the rest of Quebec, without notifying police about all the details prior to the day of the protest.

The fines for disobeying bill 78 include:

  • $1,000-$5,000 for individuals
  • $7,000-$35,000 for student or union leaders
  • $25,000-$125,000 per day for student or labor organizations
  • Fines doubled for second/subsequent offenses

 Bill 78 is nothing but another way to shut people up– Last time I checked, Canada is supposed to be a free country

Even if tuition hikes doesn’t effect the older generations, Bill 78 certainly does. People are not sheep to blindly follow any new law. Everyone should have a voice and a role in shaping the law. After all, the law is meant to protect the people, not oppress them. 

250,000+ Against the Anti-Protest Law in Quebec

Visit therealnews.com for the video transcript.

The passing of Bill 78 resulted in Quebec’s largest illegal protest. More than a quarter million people participated in the protest against Bill 78. The protesters were not only students, but from all walks of life. 

While I was browsing through some comments on a Youtube video about Bill 78, someone mentioned this famous poem (poem originally in relation to the Holocaust). I think it speaks volumes about the whole issue surrounding Bill 78.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller, a pastor who opposed Hitler and  the Nazi regime

If we don’t stand up for others’ rights, who’ll be there to stand up for us? Maybe that’s the logic behind Quebec’s largest illegal protest- it’s to protest against oppression itself.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments are always welcome!

Assignment 3c.The Stigma Against Mental Illnesses


Misconceptions About Mental Illnesses

What if we treated every illness like we treat a mental illness?

We’ve been taught to fear the other since birth. The ‘other’ being anything different from the norm. The media has been relentless in its portrayal of the mentally ill. It’s important to know these depictions can be so subtle, we may not even realize the stereotyping. But just because the media might be faulty, it doesn’t mean it shapes our beliefs, right?

 Research has shown that a large number of people learned about mental illnesses from the mass media. This is problematic, especially when the 1% of the violent mentally ill characters are supposed to represent everyone who’s mentally ill. The media only shows the most extreme, violent cases for ratingsWe’ve seen countless movies and shows of psychotic killers who go on a rampage. They’re deadly. They’re relentless. They’re unpredictable. And they will get you.

 Cheryl K. Olson,co-director at Massachusetts General Hospital explains, “Studies have found that dangerousness/crime is the most common theme of stories on mental illness,

Olson adds,“research suggests that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.” 

It’s easy to see why most people can’t see the stigma sufferers of mental illness face. But what exactly is mental illness? What is Stigma?

What is Mental Illness?

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) explains mental illness refers to various mental disorders that are diagnosed. Mental disorders are health conditions. Mental disorders involve alternations in a person’s mood, behavior and thinking  (or some combination of the three). This results in distress and/or impaired functioning. Mental disorders can be categorized under organic brain disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and psychotic disorders. 

What is Stigma?

stigma

The Oxford Dictionaries defined stigma as ‘A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person: “the stigma of mental disorder”‘. Stigma is strongly disapproving of someone because they differ from the norm in some aspect. Erving Goffman, a well-known writer and sociologist explains stigma in three ways:

  1.  Having a mental illness (or even receiving such a diagnosis).
  2. A physical deformity or undesired differences from the norm.
  3. An association with any particular religion, belief, race,etc.

How Common is Mental Illness in Canada?

CMHA explains, ‘mental illness is increasingly recognized as a serious and growing problem. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will develop a mental illness at some time in their lives.’  Family, friends and colleagues of those suffering from a mental illness are also impacted. It’s important that people who need help and treatment seek it.

Fighting the Stigma: Why it’s Important

Stigma

Stigma

Despite the growing number of mental illness sufferers across the world, the stigma still persists. CMHA explains that the stigma involved with mental illnesses is a significant obstacle that prevents sufferers from the seeking the help they need. This can be detrimental to their mental health and well being. Why should someone be ashamed to seek the help they need?

Golden Globe and Emmy award winning actress, Glenn Close stated ‘The stigma is toxic. And, like millions of others who live with mental illness in their families, I’ve seen what they endure: the struggle of just getting through the day, and the hurt caused every time someone casually describes someone as “crazy,” “nuts,” or “psycho”.’

I asked two people about their mental illness and stigma online; a recent college graduate who suffered from depression and another woman from an anxiety disorder. They were kind enough to share:

‘The stigma is not necessarily created by people who don’t understand but by those who choose to be ignorant. I think people who tell someone suffering from depression to “cheer up” are just horrible. I think openness is the most important thing. I mean when you hear of people who have everything to live for and some of the things many other strive for suffering from depression it should open people’s eyes.’ –Anonymous.

‘I do remember at times being a little embarrassed by the stigma but I was in too much of a state to really care so it didn’t deter me from getting treatment. I don’t really know how to abolish the stigma. It’s a tough one because people are always going to judge. I think the more people that come out and say hey, I’m a normal person just like you, but I live with this disorder or illness, the better.’ –Michelle, 38. 

What We Can Do

  • Encourage those suffering from any kind of mental illness to seek treatment
  • Acknowledge that mental illnesses can impact anyone, regardless of age, race, class or culture
  • Raise awareness that the mentally ill are NOT dangerous
  • Discourage others from labeling the mentally ill as ‘psychos’ or other hurtful, demeaning words
  • Provide care and support; show them your love
  • Educate others about the stigma

Anonymous (interviewee) explained he odd random conversation here and there helps. Sometimes it makes me feel better. Seeing someone smile. Lifting someone’s spirits is always good to lift morale. Just to know that you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life as opposed to your death being completely unnoticed.’

Any ideas on what we can do to fight the stigma? Feel free to comment and share your ideas! 

Resources & Related Links

*The media’s damaging depictions of mental illness

*Glenn Close’s article about the stigma and mental illness

*A great resource for teens looking for help

*Official website of the Canadian Mental Health Association

Assignment 2d. Through His Eyes: My Interview with a Homeless Man


A young homeless man

A young homeless man. Click photo for photo source.

Searching

I spot several homeless men within meters of each other as I walk down University Avenue in Toronto. Most homeless men I see hold signs made out of cardboard. One reads ‘Homeless and Hungry, every bit helps’ next to a sleeping man with his hat held out from his arm.

A typical homeless street sign.

A typical homeless street sign. Click photo for photo source.

I see a homeless man with a long, scraggly beard alone on a wooden bench. We glance at each other. I take a deep breath. I cross the street, only to sit down again to mentally prepare myself. I glimpse at him again. He lies down on the wooden bench.

The Interview

I get up and walk over; “Hi…Can I ask you a few questions?” I pause, “You don’t have to answer them if you don’t want to.”

His light blue eyes glance up at me, “Uh, yeah, sure I guess.” He gets up.

I sit next to him and  he shakes my hand, “Hi, I’m Helmut,” he says.

What are some of your daily struggles?

He softly laughs, commenting how my very first question is so forward. He answers anyway.

Bad weather and winter are Helmut’s biggest obstacles, though he adds this winter wasn’t too bad. He braves the nights in his sleeping bag. He doesn’t like sleeping at the homeless shelters because there are always fights erupting, usually because of drug-addicted homeless men. Helmut doesn’t do drugs or even smoke but he enjoys an occasional drink. One of his main daily struggles is loneliness.

What led you to homelessness? 

Depressed man

Depression

“Depression,” he says.

Helmut, 25 years old, has been homeless only for a year now. Helmut explains how everything fell apart at once, avoiding going into detail as I am still a stranger to him. Trying to battle his depression, he went to a doctor who prescribed him experimental drugs. The experimental drugs only worsened his condition.

“I had nightmares” he adds.

Helmut lived at his parent’s house for a while (and he had his own place and a well-paying carpenting job before his depression) but it got “awkward” after a while, he admits as his parents mentioned how bills were adding up.

“If you approached me a few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have talked to you.” Helmut admits.

“So you’ve been battling your depression all on your own?”

Helmut explains he has gotten a lot better now. He is planning to start working again soon, as he is working it all out. He doesn’t want his life to pass him by.

Are you usually able to have three meals a day?

“Yeah, three, sometimes even more.” Helmut answers. At first, he used to eat whatever came his way but now he can make healthy choices as he knows the streets more. Helmut shares how Toronto has “amazing resources” for the homeless, stating how food is not a problem. Helmut gives me a paper outlining places that provide food for those in need. Originally from Burlington, Helmut feels there are a lot more resources available in Toronto than other cities.

Do people treat you rudely?

“No,” Helmut says, adding how he doesn’t beg which could be why he hasn’t had any bad experiences involving passerbys. Helmut explains how he has been approached by strangers before, mentioning the time two strangers asked him if he wanted a job.

What do you think is the cause of homelessness?

Helmut gives three main reasons:

  • Divorce
  • Addiction
  • Mental Health (In Helmut’s case, it’s depression)

Helmut acknowledges there are other reasons depending on individual circumstances. He mentions the story of a homeless woman who suffered years of abuse as a child by her own family member. She became a prostitute to support herself at one point in her life and resorted to drugs to cope. Helmut adds how he’s lucky, as things can always be worse.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the homeless? 

Helmut elaborates how there are also intelligent homeless people. He explains how the homeless are also regular people. Talking to Helmut, I also felt he was just a normal guy. What I learned from this experience is how anyone can end up homeless- things like depression can easily worsen due to unfortunate circumstances.

Observations

Helmut shares how I am the second person to ever interview him. He was approached before by a Ryerson student. He asks me if it is my first time talking to someone homeless. It is. Our conversation felt natural and easy. I felt silly for being so scared to approach him in the beginning. After the first couple of questions, I put away my notebook and stopped taking notes. I just listened.

Helmut’s friendly demeanor and positive outlook masks his depression and loneliness. Beneath the surface, I feel like homeless people are also just like us. Each one has a unique story to share, so why not ask?

What do you think? Are homeless people just like us? Feel free to comment and share!

Assignment 1e. Homelessness: Looking Below the Surface


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7742877@N04/

Wednesday, May 16. I call my sister, expecting to reach her voice mail again.

“Heey! I’m in Toronto right now, wanna hang out?”

“I’m volunteering for something, making sandwiches for the homeless. Wanna join?”

Sandwiches for the homeless? Homelessness? I’ll admit, I don’t know much about homelessness. I guess you can say I’m a middle-class university student who complains about tuition, debt and lack of rewarding student jobs out there. I always wondered how people became homeless though.

“Sure, I’m down.”

The volunteers assemble cheese and ham sandwiches, fruits and juice boxes into brown paper bags. First stop? The Salvation Army.

“Guys, feel free to talk to them and ask questions. If you don’t know what to say, talk about the weather or something.”

I squeeze the brown paper bags in my hands.

“What am I supposed to say though?,” I whisper to my sister. I was never good at small talk. Besides, there’s only so much you can say about the weather.

“Just say hi.” she shrugs.

“And remember guys, don’t say ‘Would you like some food?’ because food means drugs on the streets.”

I walk up the narrow staircase clutching onto my two sandwich bags, following other volunteers. There were two middle-aged men playing chess to the side, a young guy in his 20s playing with his phone and a few men watching TV. I hand out my sandwich bags within a minute.

After leaving the Salvation Army, we split up into groups of twos and threes to pass out the remaining sandwiches. After roaming the streets of Toronto for about an hour, we stop in front of Nathan Phillips Square.

I spot an elderly man sitting on a bench next to a shopping cart, his gray hair disheveled and his clothes ragged. I stroll by with the last sandwich bag in my hand by my sister’s side. He notices my gaze from across. He smiles warmly.

A smiling homeless man.
A smiling homeless man. Click photo for photo source.

“Would you like a sandwich?”

He toothy smile widens, “Juss?”

“Pardon?”

“Jus..Jus.”

Oh. Juice.

“Oh yes, there’s juice. Here you go!”

“I keel her”

“Pardon?” I glance at my sister. She looks just as confused.

“I keel her. She left.” he laughs wildly.

“Okay. Have a nice day.”

We return to the group of volunteers. We don’t exactly feel frightened by the man but rather, a bit frustrated that we couldn’t understand him much. We figure he’s probably mentally ill.

“So what did you guys learn from this experience? Anything from your interactions?” The volunteer co-ordinator smiles.

“This one guy we talked to at the Salvation army had an Ipad!” a girl excitedly exclaims, “I don’t even have an Ipad!”

“Yeah, and this other man used to be a biology professor back in his country…when I asked him some questions about cells and stuff, he even corrected me.”

One of the homeless people we encountered chose to be homeless. They were in a transitory phase in their life. Others didn’t have much of a choice.

I feel a tinge of  disappointment sweep over me. I should have gotten over my nerves and interacted more. All the volunteers had different experiences.

There’s so much I want to know. What challenges do they face everyday? Do they feel lonely? Are they afraid? Rather than just  research on the internet, I wish I received answers from a real person, face-to-face.

A v0lunteer’s question flashes in my mind again; “What do you think is the solution to homelessness?”

I know there can’t be just one answer to this. There’s so many possibilities why someone’s homeless. But why not ask the homeless themselves what the solution might be? Who can understand the struggles better than someone who’s been there? Maybe this is how we can look below the surface of what it is to be homeless. Even if it’s just a little, I want to gain more insight from someone who’s been there.

Keep your coins, I want change. Click photo for photo source.

My plan? Ask the homeless. Any ideas or suggestions how I should approach them? What type of questions should I ask or avoid? Feel free to comment and let me know!