Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virgina Tech Shooting

Alright, I'll go into scholar mode in a second. First, I'd like to my support to those who have lost life, loved-ones, or faced the resulting racism from the Virginia Tech shooting. I've never been able to tell if people who are afraid become prejudiced, or if prejudiced people use fear as an excuse to expose their hatred. Regardless, nobody should live in fear of death threats.

I read some of the articles on the shooting. Some were very troubling. Others were very touching... especially the one about the professor who never made it out of the room because he was holding the door so his students could escape. We've suffered a tragic loss, as all needless loss of life is, but I suppose it hit me because I deal with academic community development. Along with beatings in libraries and whatnot, our higher educational institutions are no longer world-class places of freedom and safety.

I've begun to question my stance on gun control because of this incident. While I'm a firm believer in expanding citizen rights, we risk other rights by allowing such loose gun control in this country. I'm at a bit of a quandary. With crime, I think the solution is fair distribution of resources. With cold-blooded murder, besides creating good communities where people feel they have social support and environmental control... what else can you do besides take away ways they can hurt more people?

I'll go back to my community development and hope that it makes a difference... keep people in healthy social networks and teach others to create them. However, one person's efforts can only go so far.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Science Outeach

Recently, I've been reading a lot about science outreach programs, especially towards socio-economically disadvantaged groups. I'm exposed to a lot of collegiate-level science education research through my job, which I don't mind at all. Every once in a while, I read articles on K-12 education as well because the articles often come in the same journals.

One article talked about science outreach and the benefits of higher education to visiting local K-12 classes. Grad students were trained on presenting hands-on science experiments to youth, then they would travel to different communities to give workshops to little kids. The workshops are often well-received by both teacher and students.

This brought back quite a few memories for me. While in elementary school, some university students came to visit us. They spoke about what they studied and why. I remember that I really liked the engineering guy. I went so far as to write him a letter asking more about college.

He wrote back explaining what it was like to be in college and what a great time he was having. That same week, I had "sex ed" where my teacher told me that women, during puberty, grew breasts. I pointed out that men also "grew breasts," of which I got snickers and disapproval from the teacher. I had to get out a book on hormonal regulation to show that men also grew breasts, but that they were simply anatomically different than men. I don't think that the teacher understood, but he conceded anyway. I was in desperate need for someone to talk with about science. The letter was a blessing in many ways.

I don't remember much more about the university student's reply, except one thing: the return note was written in all capital letters. Ever since that day, my handwriting is done in all capital letters, mainly due to the influence of that one student.

I suppose the visit had much more influence on me than I thought. I wonder if Madison has a program for visiting university students.

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