The Texas State Senate

Knowing about who represents you in the Texas Legislature is important, as without such information, it is difficult to be a voice for your community. As responsible citizens, being aware of the decisions made by our representatives is an important key to political involvement. In order to advocate for yourself and others, you must possess basic knowledge of your representative’s standpoints and political reach. In this assignment, I researched my Senate and House representatives. Through collected data about my districts I determined the effectiveness of my local representatives. District demographics were gathered directly from state websites and interpretations of the data is my own. Caution was employed to minimize political bias within this work, however, opinions included stand to be representative of myself only. Districts The map to the left displays both my Senate and House districts. As noted in yellow, you can establish that my House district forms an incredibly insignificant portion of my Senate district. In fact, the majority of my House district falls into an entirely different Senate district. This variance is beneficial due to the fact that my House demographics are not vastly representative of myself or my community but my Senate is much more fitting. House Representative My state representative is Representative Rick Miller, Republican. Based on the demographics of my neighborhood, I was stunned that we are represented by the Republican party. Hence, this proves that it is highly likely that my community has an exceedingly low voter turnout in local elections. Furthermore, I have given a blind eye to local representatives and the current situation of my community now renders more sense. Regularly, I have argued that government doesn’t care about us and ignores necessary issues yet it would appear that part of that has to do with the public’s participation in electing officials who formulate these decisions. The population that Representative Rick Miller represents is predominantly Anglo and over the age of 18. From the data provided, the majority of District 26 consists of an elite population of individuals. A large majority come from two-parent homes and have attained at least a Bachelor’s degree. 48 percent have an annual household income of $100,000 or higher, upper middle class or more. Such information indicates a higher population likely to vote for the Republican party. Shockingly, 23 percent of the population work in educational services, health care and social assistance. Occupational fields such as these, tend to the public and assist those in need consequently it is quite interesting that they would support a party that wants to limit public assistance. Fascinatingly, however, that my zip code and neighborhood comprises only 2.6% of the population. Therefore, my community is extremely underrepresented in our area. Senate Representative My senate representative is Joan Huffman. While she is also a Republican, she is more qualified for the district she represents. When compared to my district House representative, she has a more applicable background. Given her education and experience in the field, I would anticipate her election. Contrary to the House, Senator Huffman represents a near equal community of Anglos and minorities. Only 37 percent have an annual household income of $100,000 or higher. This indicates a district more representative to those with a lower to median income. Furthermore, though the percent of the population’s income is lower than the House district, the educational attainment is slightly higher at 47.3% with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. District 17’s lines are well drawn to represent communities of various backgrounds. Occupational and educational backgrounds of Senate District 17 mirror those of House district 26. In addition, my county consists of 4.3% of the population, meaning we have a larger voice in the Senate than the House. According to this data, it appears synonymous that a republican would also be elected to the Senate. House Representative Background Representative Rick Miller is a 73-year-old business owner serving his 5th year in the legislature. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy and later worked with several corporations as a senior consultant, VP and Senior VP focused on organization and individual improvement and development. Eventually, he became a delegate in Senatorial and State Conventions, a Precinct Chair, and Chairman of the Fort Bend County Republican Party. After stepping down from the Chairman’s position he prepared to run for Texas State House District 26 in 2012. However, though Miller has indulged himself in politics, he does not possess a strong occupational or educational background in the field. House Rep Committees Shockingly, Miller was selected to serve on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Human Services when the community he serves is upper middle class or higher. The appropriations committee is one of the most powerful committees in the House. Upon review of several proposed bills that were heard by this committee relating to Health and Human Services, many died and no action was ever taken. Disregard for these bills suggests that funding state benefit programs is largely ignored. Representative Miller himself stated, "This years' budget will be a lean one and I plan to fight for conservative solutions to the challenges that Texas faces. I will also continue to work smart and I look forward to continuing to best serve House District 26 in the days ahead.” Based on this statement, my representative does not believe funding public assistance programs to be beneficial to those in need as he plans to reduce the budget. Given such information and the economic status of Fort Bend county these committee assignments were inappropriate for my district. Senator Background In the district that I live in, my current state Senator is Joan Huffman of District 17. She is a 61-year-old attorney from Houston, Texas. Senator Huffman is a Republican who has experience with a diverse community. Having served as a prosecutor and a twice elected judge to the 183rd Criminal District Court she has the legal background to construct logical governmental decisions. Furthermore, Senator Huffman appears to be a hard worker considering she worked as a legal secretary and took night classes in order to obtain her law degree. This is Huffman’s 8th year in the Senate. Senator Committees Currently, Huffman serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on State Affairs, Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, and is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Legislative Budget Board. Additionally, she serves on the Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security and Senate Select Committee on Election Security. According to Senator Huffman’s occupational background, these committees are fitting. She is a great asset to both the State Affairs and Criminal Justice Committees. District 17 covers Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris counties. This district tends to vote Republican in most elections and while two of the counties in the district are relatively undersized, one of the counties is quite vast. The crime rate in Harris County alone allows Senator Huffman to be a fitting candidate for the district given her committee assignments. Conclusions It is apparent that Texas is a red state. However, given the population demographics and percent of individuals at or below the poverty line, it is clear that there needs to be more political involvement by Texas citizens. Furthermore, I noticed that my community constitutes only a slight portion of the districts it is located in. This is a great example of the role political gerrymandering plays. Due to this, individuals who do vote play a miniscule part in the overall result of our local elections. If only those struggling turned out at local elections more, perhaps there would be an entire turnaround in our local government. These transformations could even affect national elections. During this assignment, I was able to analyze the role that local representatives play in government. Through this research I realized that our Representative and Senators should be closely watched and if more individuals participated in the local elections, perhaps our communities would have better outcomes. Based on the data organized, our politics are much more than some presidential election every four years. We as, Americans and Texans need to take responsibility for our participation, or lack thereof, in our elections. Our duty as citizens is to look out for our communities. Works Cited Who Represents Me–Home, fyi.capitol.texas.gov/. Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). “Results.” American FactFinder, 5 Oct. 2010, factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF. Hewitt, George, and Texas House of Representatives. “Texas House of Representatives.” Press Conference Broadcasts, www.house.state.tx.us/news/press-releases/?id=6079. “Overview of State Senate District 17, Texas (State Senate District).” Race and Ethnicity in North Carolina (State) – Statistical Atlas, statisticalatlas.com/state-upper-legislative-district/Texas/District-17/Overview. “Rick Miller.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, www.texastribune.org/directory/rick-miller/. “State Senate.” Texas Redistricting, tlc.texas.gov/redist/districts/senate.html. Team, DPS Web. “Texas Department of Public Safety – Courtesy, Service, Protection.” TxDPS – Crime in Texas Reports, www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/. “Texas House of Representatives District 26.” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/Texas_House_of_Representatives_District_26. Texas Legislative Council. “TLO.” Texas Legislature Online – 85(R) Authors for HB 4090, capitol.texas.gov/. “The Texas State Senate – Committees of the Texas Senate.” The Texas State Senate – HOME, senate.texas.gov/committees.php.

Little Spy

It was eerily quiet in the workspace the following morning as everyone moved around sluggishly. Alan Turing and his teammates had been able to crack various Nazi codes during the second World War, but just a few days ago, they had the beaten the Enigma, something many cryptonists believed to be absolutely unbreakable. Still, overcoming this feat served to feel much worse rather than victorious as anticipated, for hindrances began to ensue. Everything came crashing down on the gang as the realization of secrecy had sparked between them. Not only could they not tell others about this grand success, they were left in charge of a heart wrenching task that would allow them to either stop or ignore a German attack. People like Peter Hilton, tried to argue saying that they could now end the war with this newfound information. They could save lives and bring an end to all Nazi attacks by alerting the British army. Unfortunately, in a reality that did not always seem to have a happy ending, that would not be so feasible. If, per se, Alan and the others were to reveal to their higher-ups, or anyone for that matter, what they have accomplished, the group would be risking the possibility of the enemies finding out about Enigma, causing them to come up with a whole new system in a matter of days. Similarly, by jumping in and stopping the Nazi’s every single time they tried to attack would only grow suspicions, increasing the chances of their enemies finding out about the truth. The harsh cognizance of it all really took a toll out of the five. Everybody except for Peter was present in the office today. He had been more or less on edge since the cracking of Enigma, mostly due to their inability to stop the German attack on British convoys, specifically, the HMS Carlisle, resulting in the passing of Peter’s big brother, Phillip. Everyone felt utterly horrid about this and did their best to comfort Peter, but he wanted none of it and refused to listen to reason. He felt it was him against the world and the only people that he had considered to be a family — a dysfunctional family — had turned their backs on him. This left a somber aura in their workplace as they sat around translating what they could. It was nearly noon when Peter decided to finally make an appearance. His chestnut hair was slightly disheveled and the buttons on his vest did not completely close at the top, resembling precisely how he felt internally. The others continued about their business, not even sparing so much of a glance at the youngest as he shuffled some papers that lay atop of his desk. The only one to show a bit of sympathy was Joan Clarke, as she flashed him a genuine smile. “You sleep well last night,” she questioned him, “You look like you could use a cup of tea this morning.” She wove through the cluttered space until she approached his area with a newly brewed Earl Grey. He nodded his head to show that he acknowledged her presence and she just sat it down gently before walking, the slightest sigh passing between her chapped lips. The day dragged on just as this, barely any means of communication made unless one needed something from another. By the time they were supposed to lock everything up, Peter looked at his comrades apologetically. “I’m sorry, especially to you Alan.”, he started with. Alan turned to face the younger as he continued on. “I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like I did the other night. It wasn’t my place and I know you were only doing your best. I’m sorry that my selfishness got in the way of our job and that I took it out on you all.” A brief moment of silence swept through the bleak room, allowing them to process their thoughts a second longer. “I understand,” Aland spoke, his voice cracking ever so slightly, “It was cruel of me to have said what I did, that much I can admit. You have every right to be upset with me. I am the reason your brother died anyhow…” “But you’re not!”, Peter cut him off, taking Alan and the others aback, “It was those damned Germans. You did nothing wrong, Alan. You constantly blame yourself for things that are completely out of your control.” A dark shadow cast across Alan’s face as he looked down at his feet, “It wasn’t completely out of my control though.” He rose his head to make eye contact with Peter once more. “While I do confess that the given circumstances of it all were overwhelming, I do believe we could have been able to do something about it all without gaining any unwanted attention. For that, I am sorry I didn’t do anything to help you… I know how hard it is to lose someone so close to you…” Joan reached over to grasp Alan’s hand, only for him to slightly jerk it away, signaling to her that now was not the time for any of this. He was not used to opening up about himself in any manner whatsoever, particularly in larger groups of people such as this. Due to such an intimate disclosure from the person they would least expect it from, everyone waited a moment before John declared that he would be retiring for the night and left the premise. Eventually, everyone had filed out except for two, Hugh and Alan standing next to each in the chill enclosure. They stood in this tranquility for some time, the pair just relishing in the other’s existence before Hugh decided to ask a question. “Christopher…”, he said, causing Alan’s throat to constrict, “… is that who you were talking about earlier?” When Alan did not respond, Hugh decided to continue on. “Was he your brother?” Silence. “Friend?” Silence again. “Lover?” Alan nearly choked at the speculation and Hugh’s eyes widen. “Wait, really now? This Christopher… and you…?”, he trailed off before Alan growled out in defence. “What exactly are you getting at, Hugh? What is it that you want to know and why does it matter so much to you?” He spoke through gritted teeth, his clenched fists so tight that his knuckles began to turn white. Hugh only took in this state in which he had never witnessed before. It astounded him that the stoic Alan Turing could lose his composure over a frank question. Though, it did lead to some other assumptions that he wished to know the truth to as well. “Alan, are you,” Hugh cleared his throat as he shifted to face Alan directly, “a homosexual?” When Alan never gave a response, Hugh merely exhaled and leant as far as he could onto the nearby desk, his hands resting on its surface. “I’ve always had my hunches, in fact, it was one of my first impressions of you.” Alan slowly started to look up at this. “Though, legally it is a crime, I don’t think it’s wrong for you to be who you are.” Alan rose his eyebrows as he looked at Hugh fully on this time before giving him a comment. “That sounds uncharacteristically like you.” Hugh only shrugged in response. “Why are you defending me over this?” Hugh’s expression softened as he took on Alan’s distressed demeanor. “Because I care about you.” Alan swallowed hard and his grip remained tense. “I’ve been working alongside you for some time now and I consider you to be family at this point. Though, I must admit, I had a strong disliking for you in the beginning.” Both parties chuckled at the mention of this. “Yeah,” Alan began, “I could tell. I just find this hard to take in, I mean, just last week you punched me square in the face.” “To be fair you were being kind of a dick.” At this they both laughed. Alan had not felt this relieved in a long time. The last time he was able to let go and laugh like this was back in school with Christopher. Christopher. As soon as his name passed through his brain, Alan’s mood turned a full one-eighty. Hugh picked up on this and he slowly made his way closer to Alan. “What’s wrong? Alan, what’s bothering you?” Alan did not know when it started, but he began to cry. Hot tears streamed down his face as his knees felt weak and he found himself slowly sliding down onto the cool red tiles. Hugh immediately reached out to grab at his coworker, but at this point Alan had turned into a nervous wreck. He mumbled to himself about being left behind and that he was so alone in this world now. Hugh did not know what to do, he had never been in a scenario like this. Not to mention, neither male knew how to properly handle their emotions. Hugh bent down and sat next to Alan as he sobbed and held his face in his calloused hands. Hesitantly, he put his arm around Alan and began to pat his shoulder in an endeavour to try and calm him down. It took some time, but Alan began to come down from his high. Still emotionally distressed and worn, he leaned into the body next to his as his breathing began to regulate once more. Hugh just let him do his thing as he was not sure what else he really was supposed to do. He looked down at the man beside him. Alan was all flustered it was clearly evident that the lack of sleep was starting to wear him out. They stayed like that for a couple of minutes before Alan slowly began to lift his upper half up from his companion. Looking over to make sure he was alright the two locked eyes, blue interlocking with green. Confused and in a daze, they stayed like that more maybe half a minute before Alan began to speak. “I’m sorry. This must have been quite uncomfortable for you. It’s not like me to lose my composure like that.” Hugh only shook his head at him as a means to tell him not to worry about. “I’ve had my fair share of distressed partners. I just wasn’t expecting it to come from you… Are you alright? Do you want to talk about it?” Hugh never dropped his gaze from Alan, for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to and he was frustratingly confused by this. “You don’t have to, though. I figure it’s most likely something personal about that guy…” “No, it’s alright. You’ve essentially seen more of me than anyone else has, even Joan hasn’t seen me in such a pathetic state.” “You’re not pathetic. You’re mourning and that is perfectly normal. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be in your position.” Alan muttered a meek “thank you” as he leaned back and laid his head on the end of the desk above him. After a bit, he decided that he was alright with Hugh knowing this intimate part of his past. To be fair, they were both acting out of character enough at this point and he had already been exposed so much. After what felt like the entire night, Alan had concluded his depressing tale, draining him even more so than before. Hugh had no idea on what to say. He figured that sometimes there were just things that you cannot find an answer to, but when it came to Alan, it felt a whole lot more complicated due to his complex personality. Instead, Hugh reached out to Alan and offered him a hand as they both rose from the cramped space below. Alan stumbled forward a bit, causing him to lean into Hugh just slightly. Discombobulated and in a haze, the two kept their positions, until Alan began to lean in slowly. Hugh did not retract, even when he processed what was about to happen. He just stayed frozen in his spot as his breathing began to grow heavier and more rapid. Hugh felt Alan’s arms wrap around his waist, pulling him closer and breathing him in. Alan’s eyes fluttered closed as he tilted his head, cupping the back of Hugh’s neck, tangling his fingers in the bottom of his dark styled locks, holding them together as their lips meshed. Alan pulled back slowly, re-adjusting his arms so that both of his hands resided on Hugh’s waist. Surprisingly, Hugh did not find himself reacting in a negative manner. Not once had he ever envisioned himself with another man, mainly Alan for that matter. It was all surreal to him and he was too fixated on Alan to do anything about it. They leaned back into one another and just before their lips could touch once more, Hugh’s back bumped into a desk, causing a Bible to fall onto the floor in the process. Both men jumped away from one another at the sudden sound, but looked around in confusion when they could not find the source. Upon looking down, Hugh discovered its worn green leather cover and decidedly picked it up for further observation. Alan came and crept over his shoulder to take in what exactly Hugh had his eyes fixated on. Hugh opened the holy book and turned to a page with a folded corner, reading it’s contents aloud. Alan’s eyes doubled at the realization of what they were reading, meanwhile Hugh remained in the dark. Alan quickly snatched the book out of Hugh’s grasp, earning a quick “Hey!” as a rebuttal. Alan murmured the passage once more before looking straight back at Hugh, who still did not quite understand what was going on. Upon making eye contact yet again, Hugh’s face lit up and he averted his gaze straight back down to the book. “What’s your deal with this Bible? Afraid God’s going to punish us?” Hugh joked, only to see that Alan was quite serious. “Okay, that was a bit insensitive. I’m sorry, but seriously. What has gotten into you?” Alan only let out an exasperated sound as he closed the book and thrust it into Hugh’s broad chest. He turned around to face the desk from which it dropped and ran his pointer finger along the wooden edge. “Whose desk is this?” Hugh gave Alan a quizzical glance before offering a shrug of his shoulders. Alan tsked his tongue at him before lifting his finger and bringing it up to his sea-blue irises. After examining the slight dust particles upon the pad of poiner, he rubbed it together with thumb and a slight grin spread across his face. “I know exactly who our little spy is.”

 Is a virus a form of life?

When it comes to the argument, “ is a virus a life form?” there are many debates and opinions but I have found reasons why a virus wouldn't be considered a living thing. Viruses depend on a host cell, without this it cannot reproduce. It lacks key components to be a form of life, while it can be a deadly thing it still needs the help of cells to grow and spread. There are said to be seven characteristics of life, to be considered living which a virus fails when it comes to the test. For these reasons, and to the best of my knowledge a virus is not a form of life. Geggel explains that it takes seven things to be alive “According to the seven characteristics of life, all living beings must be able to respond to stimuli; grow over time; produce offspring; maintain a stable body temperature; metabolize energy; consist of one or more cells; and adapt to their environment.” which a virus does not. She goes on to talk about how viruses are not a form of life because they depend on other things to grow and be active such as cells. If a virus doesn’t have these key components then it is not able to be considered living, a virus is a dependent. Port explains the key things one needs to be considered a living thing and how when it comes to a virus, it would fail to be thought of as a form of life. “In order to replicate, viruses must first hijack the reproductive equipment of a host cell, redirecting it to ‘photocopy’ the genetic code of the virus and seal it inside a newly formed container, known as the capsid.” For these reasons, a virus would not be a form of life. In order for a virus to be a form of life, it would need to reproduce which it is unable to do on its own. A virus cannot work its way and make its course without needing to rely on a cell host. Hogan explains why viruses are considered “on the edge of life” they can perform many processes found in similar organisms but lack one key component to a genuine organism, replication. Viruses depend upon a host organism for this process of replication. Understanding the reasons behind why viruses are in a grey area in the scientific field is crucial because they can be very harmful. Another example would be that viruses do not need to consume energy to survive. For these reasons and examples, a virus would not be considered a form of life. Based on the fact that it lacks key components to be living and being dependant on hosts to grow. While not being a form of life they’re harmful and need to be taken care of so that while taking its course you’re prepared. When I began research for this essay I first thought that yes, it is a form of life how not, but then I realized my hypothesis was wrong. For something to be living or a form of life; it needs to fall under a certain category which in this case, the argument “ is a virus a form of life” falls under the bus. Cited sources: C Michael Hogan (Lead Author); Sidney Draggan Ph.D. (Topic Editor) "Virus". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth May 12, 2010; Last revised Date December 30, 2010; Retrieved September 28, 2012. Encyclopedia of Earth geggel, laura. “Are Viruses Alive?” Https://Www.livescience.com/58018-Are-Viruses-Alive.html, 2017, www.livescience.com/58018-are-viruses-alive.html. Port, Jake. “Why Are Viruses Considered to Be Non-Living?” Cosmos, 13 Sept. 2017, cosmosmagazine.com/biology/why-are-viruses-considered-to-be-non-living.

Humans as their own enemies

In a world filled with ecological and geographical diversity, humans have many enemies. While the debate over which foe is the most formidable, one can make the argument that mankind’s worst enemy is not a different species at all, but themselves. When talking about humans as their own enemies, an individual’s character traits have detrimental effects on said individual and those around them. A few traits capable of having this effect include ambition, pettiness, and one’s ability to be influenced by others. Works of literature highlighting these traits and their effect on the characters include Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Antigone by Sophocles, and Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The way authors incorporate the mentioned traits to characters in each text provides support for the claim that humans are their worst enemies. In a world filled with diversity, humans are their own worst enemy by being over-ambitious, petty, and being easily influenced by others. While ambition is generally a good thing, being too ambitious can be disastrous. In Macbeth, Macbeth hears a prophecy claiming Macbeth will be King of Scotland. Fearing the prophecy will not come true, Macbeth plots to murder the current King Duncan in order to claim the throne. Macbeth thinks to himself, “Let not light see my black and deep desires./ The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be/ which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.” (1.4.58-60). Affirming Macbeth’s ambition and want to become King by any means necessary. After Macbeth kills Duncan, no one suspects Macbeth until his best friend Banquo begins to become suspicious of Macbeth. In order to preserve his status as King, Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance as the prophecy states Banquo’s children will be King. When discussing her fear of Banquo, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth “There’s comfort yet; they are assailable./ Then be thou jocund. Ere the bat hath flown.” (3.2.44-45). Referring to an event due to happen in the near future; Banquo’s murder and showing Macbeth’s desire to preserve his status as King, even if it means having his best friend murdered. When Antigone is sentenced to death for burying her brother Polyneices when Creon declared his burial illegal, Creon remarks to Antigone, “Go then and love your fill in the underworld./ No woman will dictate the law to me.” (Sophocles 34) exemplifying Creon’s ambition to keep his image as a strong ruler who will not be made an example of by anybody. Whether we like it or not, pettiness is a trait everyone possesses. Whether the pettiness is out of revenge, envy, or another reason, being petty has the possibility of backfiring horribly. In A Separate Peace, Gene and Finny are inseparable best friends, until their friendship slowly begins to deteriorate due to their differences athletically and academically. When talking about the possibility of Gene winding up as head of their class, Gene and Finny agree Gene has no chance to beat Chet Douglas. But while sitting at his desk, Gene realizes, “Finny had deliberately set out to wreck my studies. That explained blitzball, that explained the nightly meetings of the Super Suicide Society.” (Knowles 53). When Finny tells Gene their friend Leper plans to jump from the tree, he decides to go along with Finny. The two get to the tree and Finny proposes the idea of a double jump, Gene accepts, and when the two get on the limb, “I jounced the limb. Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around to look at me for an instant with extreme interest, and then he tumbled sideways.” (Knowles 60). Displaying Gene’s pettiness in response to his idea of Finny setting out to sabotage his grades. Petty actions have a negative effect on the characters in Antigone as well. When Creon, King of Thebes orders the burial of Polyneices, a soldier who led a rebel army against Creon and Thebes, Polyneices’ sister Antigone is defiant against Creon and buries Polyneices. When arguing with Creon over her actions, Antigone asks, ANTIGONE: “Will it be enough for you/ to see me executed?” CREON: “More than enough” (Sophocles 31) Exhibiting the pettiness from Creon to send Antigone to her death for disobeying his laws. Creon’s son Haemon, engaged to Antigone, confronts Creon about Antigone and after insulting him, storms off. After Creon decided to free Antigone, he discovers Haemon hunched over her dead body and after failing to kill Creon, Haemon kills himself. As Creon makes his way back with Haemon’s body, he remarks, “Why doesn’t somebody take/ a two-edged sword to me?/ the dark is on me too./ I’m at bay in guilt and grief.” (Sophocles 72) highlighting the regret and guilt Creon has after making a decision out of pettiness. Being able to make your own decisions is a crucial ability any person must possess. When people constantly rely on others for help, not only does it show weakness and indecisiveness, but the constant reliance on others overwhelms one’s own decisions, leading to undesired outcomes. In Fahrenheit 451, Montag meets Clarisse while walking home from work. The two converse and and after asking about his job and life, Clarisse asks, “Are you happy?” (Bradbury 10) to which Montag replies he is perfectly happy with his current life. However, after getting home and nearly losing his wife due to an overdose, Montag lays in bed and realizes, “I don’t know anything anymore” (Bradbury 18). Before meeting Clarisse, Montag thought his life was perfect, he had a great job and a wonderful marriage, or so he thought. Being exposed to someone different like Clarisse called his entire life into question by one simple question. Thinking about the question too much caused every action afterwards to be linked to Clarisse’s question and eventually led to Montag’s life turning upside down. Macbeth’s inability to follow through on plans without the influence of Lady Macbeth proves to be disastrous. When Lady Macbeth confronts Macbeth about not following through on their plan to kill Duncan, she asks, “What cannot you and I perform upon/ th’unguarded Duncan? What not put upon/ his spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt/ of our great quell?” (1.7.79-82). Demonstrating Lady Macbeth’s influence on Macbeth, if Macbeth had enough power to make his own decisions instead of listening to his wife, none of the events following the murder would happen. The world is filled with diversity, this diversity provides many enemies for humans to face. But the greatest enemy humans matchup against is not a different species at all, but themselves. Humans being over-ambitious, petty, and the inability to make their own decisions in Macbeth, Antigone, Fahrenheit 451, and A Separate Peace show how these traits can lead to tragic turns of events. In a world filled with diversity, humans are their own worst enemy by being over-ambitious, petty, and being easily influenced by others.

School night in the seventh grade

It was just another school night in the seventh grade. Our recreational tackle football team had a practice at 7:30 pm until 9. The grass was damp and the dirt felt very moist, as I was walking across the field to meet my teammates for practice. I was a backup running back for the team. I was always left on the sidelines facing the chills of the cold wind during games. I typically didn’t get to see much playing time on the field, but that night I got my opportunity. I was receiving kicks during a punting audition and all I was doing was catching the ball and throwing it back, nothing unique. One throw after another, my coach began to praise my arm strength. Seeing me pass the ball was a true eye-opener. That night, I went from a backup running back, to the starting quarterback of my rec team. This “ordinary” night ended up being the night changing my entire football career. It was my first time ever playing this position. It felt as I was learning to walk for the first time. I felt so unsteady. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how high my standards were going to be. My first game to start was arguably my worst football game ever played. Over and over, I snapped the ball, threw it to my intended target, and I saw the other team come down with it. Every throw I began trembling. I had anxiety, questioning my future career. This was expected, I had no proper coaching, no fundamental technique, and my genuine mechanics were nonexistent. After those few unforgettable games, I had learned from my mistakes and started my development as a quarterback. Everyday I would find myself outside working on my technique in order to perfect it. This to me was exceedingly important, I dedicated myself to becoming the best quarterback that I could. I threw in the cold snow, worked long hours and endorsed so much pain, knowing that this off-season preparation would be the measure my future success. It was a struggle for me to keep up with my school work while also preparing for the next season. I stayed up late nights doing homework because I didn't get home until five o’clock every night. Yes, I was always tired, I always wanted to take a nap, play video games, watch television, or hang out with my friends. But I couldn’t find the time with all of this going on. I threw the football a million times a day, which was a painful process for building arm strength and consistency. My body was sore and head was full. One day passed, then the next. And within a blink of an eye, my sophomore season commenced. My sophomore season in high school was the first time I played at a varsity level. Because there was already a quarterback, I was not able to start at that position, rather I got to start as a safety on defense. Although I was the starting strong safety, I managed to get some reps under center, running the offense. I had gotten my first chance to play varsity quarterback. Game 3: Millburn vs. Caldwell. It was a scorching hot day, and we crumbled as a team, losing by nearly forty points. But towards the end of the game, coach pushed me onto the field. I wasn’t the starting quarterback, but this moment was the one that haunted yet animated me. The first snap goes five feet above my head. I had to chase for the ball, pick it up and scramble, and somehow escape and run or make the throw. I was in honest disbelief, unsure of my capabilities. Reconnecting with my past mistakes I decided to tuck the ball and run. I sprinted to the nearest sideline, passing multiple defenders, getting a brief rush of exhilaration. I ran for 18 yards and my first touchdown, my elation increased at the sight of my teammates rushing towards me to celebrate. I was able to emerge as an important asset to our football team that year, expanding my knowledge and learning from all the other upperclassmen. This was a journey for me that had not only satisfied me, but it had also just began my varsity career as a quarterback. I was able to present all of the fundamentals I had learned from my off-season training and past experiences. Being able to triumph from my past truly showed I was capable of achieving my goals. I went from standing on the sideline and watching my friends play, to starting at the most challenging positions on the varsity football team.

Essay about Satyajit Ray’s adaption of Premchand’s “Chess Players”

Narrative threads can be transformed and presented differently between an adaption and the original text. Each medium can elude separately to the various layers of the significant historical background, characters, and themes of the same story, and still make unique storylines. Satyajit Ray’s adaption of Premchand’s “Chess Players” attempts to delineate the historical scene in nineteenth-century Lucknow, a city distinguished for its aristocratic style. Ray shows the diminishing regal and doomed lifestyle of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who has an obsessive indulgence in art and literature, and two unmotivated aristocrats, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, who are likewise immersed in chess to the point of being oblivious to their duties, and the present domestic, political and historical landscape of their time. On the other hand, Premchand’s text, ‘The Chess Players’, articulates upon the declining Mughal feudal tendencies and weakening Mughal feudal lords who represent the customs, traditions, and crafts from a previous era they have so willingly and deliberately tried to preserve. In both the text and the film, there runs a separate but parallel study of the decaying noble class and the decline of their social values. The point is to show a comparison between the independent rulers and the elite class of colonial India, and how they are led to their demise by luxurious pursuits. There is a differentiation between the film and the text marked by the manner and mood of how similar narrative threads run within the two mediums of representation because each chooses to emphasize and pursue portions of the storyline differently. Ray’s film emphasizes the correspondence between the grand British political game, that permutes the order of colonial Indian society from feudalism towards its decline, and Mir and Mirza’s much smaller game of chess, that performs a slow robbery of their social values and sense of domestic responsibility. Whereas Premchand’s text draws attention to how overindulgence of the Nawabi style creates decadent, undutiful and incompetent beings in the noble class, and makes Nawab Wajid Ali Shah inept and cowardly. However, neither the text and the film satisfactorily depicts the memory of the whole gestalt of 19th century Lucknow because each one gives importance to some and not all of the characters in the story. 2 Premchand’s text chronicles an acute parallel between two aristocrats and the Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah. It draws attention to how Mir and Mirza’s chess mania makes them decadent, undutiful and incompetent beings, and the Nawab’s idée fixe of the arts makes him inept and cowardly. Ultimately, these negative obsessive indulgences build to the demise of the two nobles and the king with the eventful collapse of Wajid Ali Shah by the British annexation of his kingdom and the climax: the last quarrel and death of the two elite friends. Premchand begins his narrative by silhouetting an in-depth setting of the story within the courteous and flamboyant nineteenth-century city of Lucknow, then reminiscing the reign of the last of its Mughal rulers, Wajid Ali Shah. During the introduction, Premchand sets the tone of the milieu in 19th century Lucknow by describing firmly the norms of the time. From enjoying “the drowsy ecstasy of opium” to “steep[ing] in gross sensuality”, aristocrats seem to lack no luxury and comfort in the world (Premchand 182). Here, Premchand generalizes broadly by equating various luxurious pursuits, like poetry, cuisine, games, music and dance, to the elite class whose lifestyles contained obscenity, sensuality, enjoyment and pleasure as if trademarks of that higher class. When Premchand introduces the two jagirdars, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, he immediately elicits the topic of their substantial wealth and social position to stress the irony in how seemingly approbate their passion of chess is. Premchand mocks the two nobles for dedicating an extended amount of their time to what he calls is a terrible “battle” (Premchand 190). The utility of the term, "battle" here is a deliberate hyperbole signifying not how grand the game is but rather trivial. Many other characters in the story also react according to Premchand’s negative priming of the game. Often, while the two players stage their daily "battle" at Mirza’s house, Mirza’s neighbors and servants make malicious remarks about their game. Even Mirza’s wife scolds her husband because every day he starts playing early and continues till so late that little time is left for them to spend time together. In this way, it shows how Mirza abstains from being a dutiful husband. When finally Mirza’s wife claims to have a headache, demands his attention, creates a scene, upsets the chessboard, and flings the pieces away, the game is still not stopped but instead it is moved to Mir’s house (Premchand 183-185). At Mir’s house, there are also servants who show strong disapproval and resentment to chess, possibly because of the extra work they get by having to cater to the hospitality of their masters. Neighbors too discuss their disregards to the game. Then, like Mirza, Mir is shown to be an irresponsible husband because Mir’s wife has become unfaithful to him. She would rather meet her lover than have Mir at their home and spend more time with him (Premchand 188). Additionally, Premchand reiterates characterizations of selfindulgence and decadence of the elite various times within his story. The fact that Mir and Mirza hide from the cavalry officer, one moment in the text, represents strongly their lack of motivation for 3 serving civic duties if at all such an instance were real. As the story moves on, the state of the society worsens and there is state peril arising from the consistent rumors of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s capture. While political troubles persist, Mir and Mirza also start experiencing hardship and their games take a deadly turn. From restless battles to petty quarrels, there emerge rising rivalries between the two players, almost as if forewarning of an approaching conflict which will lead to the demise of Mir and Mirza as there is such for their king (Premchand 186-187). Themes of political decadence and self-indulgence grow from one scene in the story to the next. One day as Mir and Mirza are playing, they see British troops march into Lucknow. Mir who is losing expresses some concern at the sight of the troops while Mirza, who is winning, rightly suspects Mir of just attempting to distract his mind from the game. Finally, the two players dismiss their present situation, and they deny that an imminent jeopardy will fall upon their state. Nothing has changed since the British troops arrived. Mir and Mirza’s chess games proceed as usual (Premchand 189). A mood of bitterest and most passionate spite generates then when Premchand shifts to reflect upon the state of society where he openly renounces the Lucknowi people for caring more about themselves than the British capturing their king. Finally, the daring and most historically crucial British seizure of the Nawab remains rather uneventful (Pritchett). The public is quiet and no civic resistance applies. Even the death of Mir and Mirza is as undignified as the silent dethronement of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. With the death of the two protagonists, once again Premchand denounces the Lucknow elites of that time for cowardice and “political decadence” (192). The use of “darkness… coming on” is the metaphorical closure for the two aristocrats who will never see the reality of the grave crime they have committed in self-indulging and refraining from civil duty and other responsibilities, despite times of political upheaval. In contrary, Ray’s film adaption of Premchand’s original text doesn’t pass Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s seizure from his reign to a simple non-event. Nor, like the text, does the film show that it is only due to the king’s own cowardice and poor ruling that he was so dishonorably dethroned. Rather a manipulative political game frames the narrative of the film, and Ray contrives to sympathize its viewers to the character of Wajid Ali Shah, unlike Premchand who bears no such compassion for the ruling and elite class in his text. In the film, Ray acknowledges that the Nawab may not have been an appropriate ruler for his kingdom but also gives him the freedom of being a much more complex figure at hand. Such transformation of representation and emphasis on Wajid Ali Shah serves him well because it redeems him for his flawed ruling by acclaiming his artistic and musical talents. By portraying the Nawab as artist worthy of respect, Ray’s film begs the question of whether the audience should see Wajid Ali Shah as a creature failed by the circumstances of his time or not. 4 Because otherwise, it shows that Ray’s film fails at attempting to upset and oppose Premchand’s historical interrogation and revival of the period of the last independent rulers in colonial India. This paper argues that Ray’s adaptation is an alternate perspective to Premchand’s view of political decadence in society and the weakening feudal lords of the ruling class to elaborate upon the practical-critical activity of his story. To achieve this, Ray includes the separate but related larger political chess game played by the British in nineteenth century Lucknow in parallel to Mir and Mirza’s own smaller chess game. Like the text, the film presents themes of conflict between the two players of the elite class and the game that rids them over with ignorance and decadence. Firstly, in laying the foundations for the story’s historical background, Ray’s film begins with an animated storytelling of previous annexations of independent rulers in colonial India to premise Awadh as the last of the remaining kingdoms, in a lineage of annihilated states, awaiting the dethronement of its king. It appears to be a time when aristocrats used to get regular annual revenue from the British who deceived and manipulated to have all-pervasive control over Indian land from these jagirdars. The result of which was that the British brought colonialism and racism into the existing cultures of India in process of their increasing power (Paul). A mental and systematic shift in Indian society from feudalism to a great British colonization of Indian territory was occurring. This abatement of feudal mentality is enacted by a British functionary in the film. When General Outran harshly stereotypes Nawab Wajid Ali Shah based on the king’s activities, even calling him effeminate, he performs a deliberate degradation of the Nawab’s character to deem the Wajid Ali Shah as an inept ruler and mocks feudalism in general. From popular view (one that Premchand represents), it gives endorsement to the people who blame the Nawab for letting an artistic passion distract him from his rightful duties even if it suffices that actually feudal tendencies were already expiring at that period in time–as illustrated in the film. When Abdul Halim Sharar, a contemporary historian, speaks about the political conditions of 19th century Lucknow, Sharar reasons that already at that time, “National powers throughout India were breaking up and their rulers and governments, both good and bad, were disappearing” (61). So while Wajid Ali Shah may not have been an ideal king, it cannot be forgotten that he was also unfortunate to reign at a time where the Mughal dynasty was already on the verge of its collapse. The film displays political decadence of its people as a tool to representing the gradual disappearance of the belief of the Lucknowi people in the feudal system. Ray reveals the complexity of the Nawab’s situation by expressing the ongoing British political maneuvers and plots, and the changing social and political conditions of the milieu in Awadh at the time. Satyajit Ray’s film openly expresses Wajid Ali Shah and his incompetence as a ruler in court, despite its purpose to sympathize the audience with his character. In the film, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah openly speaks about 5 his dilemma at being so largely attracted to the classical culture, art and traditions that even during courtly matters his mind would wander to those matters as opposed to his royal duties. Thus, of what appears to be the collapse of Awadh by the hands of its ineptitude king in the text becomes a more multiplex issue in the film. One turning point of the film occurs when Wajid Ali Shah hands over his crown to General Outram. At this moment, Ray celebrates the Nawab’s alterity because Wajid Ali Shah’s silent retirement of his reign is viewed in the film more as a dignified choice of the King rather than as his failure to defend his kingdom, like in Premchand’s text. Though there is a difference in the mood and emphasis between Premchand’s original “Chess Players” and Ray’s adaption of the text, each medium stages a comparison between the last of the independent rulers in colonial India and the concurrently existing elite class that are led to their demise by luxurious pursuits. Premchand’s text emphasizes how overindulgence of the Nawabi style makes the nobles decadent, undutiful, and incompetent, and leads the Nawab of 19th century Awadh to become an inept and cowardly king. Contrarily, the film not only depicts the social and political conditions of the milieu in Awadh during Wajid Ali Shah’s reign but also opens up space for engaging with the more complex historical context of Lucknow in that period. By dedicating larger, more substantial proportions of his film to Wajid Ali Shah’s character, Ray’s film expands on the larger role of the British political game, in addition to Wajid Ali Shah’s poor ruling, that worked towards the extinction of feudal culture in India. The film also presents the story of the two aristocrats and their much smaller chess game to mirror the political decadence of Lucknowi people in society which added to the Awadh collapse. Interestingly, neither the film or text is able to effectively balance the portrayal of the decadent elite and decaying ruling class despite having the same storyline. While the film performs a better historical interrogation to the political scene in the story, the text dedicates more substantial portions of its story in mocking Mir and Mirza of the elite class. Henceforth each medium creates their own parallel between the two narrative threads of the story, ‘The Chess Players’, by choosing separate primary plots, and adding portions of the other. The result of which is both failing to satisfactorily depict the memory of the whole gestalt in nineteenth century Lucknow because each one gives importance to some and not all of the characters in the story.

Dear Mr. Langin & Miss Stump

Dear Mr. Langin & Miss Stump, This year I learned how vile and cruel the world is. This is not a world where the “normal” is the correct choice. I’ve learned that majority of the world is evil; that does not pardon anyone who falls into the traps of the world. First, I’ve learned that the moral standards of my peers and adults are significantly lower (if moral standards even exist at all), than those of mine. Impure acts and conducts are supported through all types of media. Homosexuality and lesbian behavior, the idea of transgender (or even the idea of more than two genders), sexual conduct before marriage, profane and crude language, and the viewing of pornographic and nude images, are endorsed by music, images, videos, social media, the news, artwork, and even literature. Even by faculty members at this school, I have found supporting these ideas and concepts that stop the flow of light and good influence in the world. Both of you have endorsed such behaviors, examples of which include using profane language, the offending of other religions, and forcing students to listen to and read impure, and entirely inappropriate, messages. Both of you, in addition to other teachers, have sworn in class. Students lower the amount of profane language significantly when in the presence of adults. The kind of behavior you’ve both had, influences children and adolescents to use profane and cruel language. After just one conversation with a person, I can usually tell where they stand politically. I have high reason to believe that both of you are feminists, and believe in treating all people equally. I apologize if this is false information, and I have assumed falsely your political views. However, I doubt that either of you realizes how you have both offended almost every religion there is. You have both used, and not chastised those that use, God’s name in vanity. Such conducts are offensive to all religions, even though in different religions, there are sometimes different ideas on the characteristics of God, and who he is. With the exception of Atheism (which I believe to be less a religion, and more the lack of religion), you have both offended all religions. Our literature has no lack of evil. Most books/novels you’ve read to us (because I don’t believe there has been a book/novel this year that we’ve read by ourselves), are inappropriate. In The Giver, the author allows the readers to have an inside view on the effects of puberty on a male. Though one might argue that this is a natural occurrence, one should not be reading these graphic details (adult or child). These are just a small amount of examples you have both spread wicked influence on the world. I have learned much from one of you, and acknowledge that one is an exceptional teacher. I am not stating that that teacher is a bad human being, I’m just saying that those small disturbances in the peace can almost ruin a genuinely good year of learning. Please do not take this as a complaint letter, please take this as advice, that you may be the best teacher you can be. When I read a book, sometimes the bad language may be present, that book may still be a good book. But just think of how much better than the book could be, if it had left out that bad language. I hope you change your ways, so the incoming students may be spared the unnecessary actions that detract from one’s learning experience.

Novel To Kill a Mockingbird

Throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Scout Finch, the main character, and the narrator has gone through many moral growths to help create her path. Throughout the novel, Scout and her brother Jem are both growing up with each other’s mistakes. Scout has to deal with different obstacles, like witnessing first-grade students, negros, and manslaughter, all of this right in front of her face. Atticus Scout’s father teaches Scout about blacks like Maggot Stern’s Mother did with her. Scout’s intellectual growth expanded from pivotal moments in her life, to help shape her moral decisions throughout the novel. Scout is able to understand more about life from just a small snippet of experiencing school and her father, Atticus. On the first day of school Scout hated it and said “… Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school anymore if it was all right with him.” (Lee.39) Scout and Atticus have many fights about Scout going to school, for example this is a fight they had one night after school. Atticus and Scouts fights usually consist of Scout not wanting to go to school anymore, Scout would use Atticus as an example. Atticus didn’t have to public school, the fights would also consist of her classmates and what they say or do. Scout has been still hung up on how much she hates school, she starts yelling at Atticus “I don’t have to go to school! I was bursting with a sudden thought. Burris Ewell, remember? He just goes to school the first day.” (Lee.40) Scout is having a fight with Atticus about how the Ewells bend the rules to fit around their work and needs. The Ewells bend the rules in a way like the finches did when Atticus was a little boy, the Finches would homeschool their kids, unlike the Ewells who will have many first days of first grade. When it comes to teaching Scout about the blacks Atticus is almost like the mother of Margot Stern “The mother who taught me what I know of tenderness and love and compassion taught me also the break rituals of keeping Negroes in their place.” (Stern.0.24-0.31) Atticus teaches Scout that it is not ok for her to use the n-word just like Margot Stern’s mother.“Of course I do. Don’t say n[***]er, Scout. That’s common.” (Lee.99) Atticus is trying to explain to Scout that even though he is protecting a black man it is not ok for her to say the n-word. Scout tried to fight back by saying that everyone in her school says the n-word so it is ok that she says the word. As Scout learns more about how racist Maycomb actually is, she will finally see how the blacks feel about segregation. Scout sees how the negros think of the whites and this helps her moral development as she sees how their church congregation reacts to seeing the Finch kids at church. Calpernia was getting the kids ready for church on Sunday; Scout is confused as to what she is wearing. “It is like we are going to Mardi gras,” (Lee.157) Scout is experiencing first hand what the negros wear to religious gatherings. When Scout finds out that she is going to the negro church she then realizes why Cal is so stressed out; Cal wants to make sure that the kids are put together so that she will not be made fun of for taking Atticus Finch’s kids to the Negro church. When Cal and the kids arrived at the church the blacks talking we in complete shock until one lady decided she needed to stand up for her non-existent rights. “Standing in the path behind us was a tall woman.” (Lee.158) Seeing how the Lulu reacted helped Scout understand how the blacks feel about the whites. The blacks are accepted in some ways, but when it comes to religious gatherings, they are not very keen on the intrusion. “Brethren and sisters, we are particularly glad to have company with us this morning. Mister and Miss Finch.” (Lee.160) What the priest said shows Scout that even if the blacks are not particularly happy that they are in their church, they are still acknowledging that they are present. This also proves to Scout that blacks are more accepting than at first glance and first thought. After visiting Calpurnia’s church Scout’s morals have increased since learning how the blacks think of the whites giving Scout a new perspective. Seeing someone look after you are a blessing, especially someone you least expect. Scout was always curious about Boo so every time she and Jem walk by “I still looked for him each time I went by. Maybe someday we would see him.” (Lee.325) This shows that Scout wondered about Boo. This is also a foreshadow to the end of the novel where Scout finally meets Boo. Scout was in a pickle seeing her brother about to be flat on the floor and freaking out, but Jem too the matters into his own hands. “Anyway, Jem hollard and I did not hear him any more an’ the next thing- Mr. Ewell was tryin’ to squeeze me to death, I reckon… then somebody yanked Mr. Ewell down. (Lee.361) This proves to Scout that Boo is always watching out no matter what the circumstances are. This also can prove to the town that even though Boo did kill a man with a knife, he is always willing to step in and help a townie in need. Boo has been watching Jem and Scout grow up through the seasons “It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk (,…) winter, and his children shivered at the front gate (,..) Summer, and he watched his children’s heartbreak.”(Lee.374) Boo’s observations show that he knows a lot more about the town than the town thinks he knows. This proves that he can know someone without really knowing who they are. Scout seeing Boo yank Bob Ewell down shows her that she will always have someone looking out for her. Scouts growth helped lead her to develop her childhood through events in her life. Scout learned a lot about how much school was important from Atticus even if she never liked school. Calpernia taking the Finch kids to the black church was a significant shock and turn of events in the novel but helped Scout realize that the blacks are not as bad as they are said to be. At the end of the story, Scout gained a small relationship with Boo, even if she had just met him for a little snippet of the end she knows that she can trust him to save her. Scout learned more from the experiences in her life to helping shape her in moral ways throughout the novel.

Essex County

I was on the starting line with all of the other runners, eagerly waiting for the gun to go off so the one mile race can start. There were runners from different towns around Essex County because this meet was Counties. I knew some of the runners from past races, so I knew that there would be a lot of competition, and that I would have people to run with, but I was still scared out of my mind, like the first time I ever ran a race. The top six runners place, but I knew that I had it in me to win the race, but at the same time I was scared that I was going to have a bad race. I was still standing on the starting line with butterflies flying in my stomach, like the time a person is going in for a big job interview, and it felt like it has been hours, but it was really five minutes. When the official came over to check to see if everyone on the starting line was in the right place, I was so nervous that I felt like I couldn’t even move, but I kept thinking to myself “you’re gonna have the best race of your life”, which pushed me to stay in that race. The official walked over to where he shoots off the gun for the race to start, and that’s when I thought to myself “here we go”. The nervousness that was going through my body at this time was unthinkable, and it was the worst feeling ever. The official said “on your marks”, which means that the runners get into their running positions to start, and then the official said “go”, and that’s when I fell into racing mode. The start is the worst part of the race because since you’re so crammed up at the starting line, right when the race starts you have to be strong to get out infront of all the other runners. This worked out for me, and I was able to make my way out to the front early in the race. The first lap was pretty chill. I was sitting in the middle of the pack at this time to let the other runners take it out, hoping they would get tired, which indicates that I should make my move. The second lap started to hit me, but I moved pushed to move up to around fifth place out of twenty runners. I knew that if I wanted to win this race I would have to make a move soon. The third lap hit me really hard, and the burning sensation in my legs kicked in, but I still kept pushing, and by the time that lap was over I was in third place. Now, I knew to keep my place or move up to first or second, I would have to start my kick to the finish because the fourth lap of the one mile race is always the fastest, and I knew that the other kids would also start, and if I didn’t I would get passed by other runners. So, going into the fourth lap I thought to myself “you can do this, this is your race”, and that’s when I started to kick, and I sped up a lot. A quarter of the way through the fourth lap I moved into second place, with a very little gap between the first place kid and I. With about half the lap left, I went all out because there was nothing to lose, and when I caught up to the runner in first, he also started to speed up. So, with about one hundred meters left in the race, I was head to head with another runner, fighting for first place. Until about when there was fifty meters left in the race we were still head to head, but then I pushed with everything I had left, and before I knew it, I was the one running through the first place tape at the line, and it was the greatest chaos ever. It was a good and close race, but I took the win at Counties with a one mile time of four thirty two, and a two second personal best.

Private schools

Kevin Rooney wants to start a fight to ban private schools (1)(2). To give every child an Eton. To storm the Bastilles of private education and appropriate them in the name of social justice. To abolish them, and then invade them. Rooney seems to have a real love-hate relationship with private education. Arguing that all children ‘are born with the potential to achieve great things’ he wants to remove the inequalities of personal wealth that gives only one child in many the educational opportunities they all deserve. While I support the idea that a society can and should strive to provide a truly excellent Eton-standard education for all, I draw back at the idea of banning private schools in particular and, more broadly, at the view that inequalities of wealth are the real problem we face today: especially with respect to education. Firstly, I should put my cards on the table and say that I was privately educated in secondary school. Thanks to the sacrifice of a single mother working for a charity, I got to learn Latin and Greek at school—and go to Oxford to study classics. Supporting an inspiring slogan like ‘Etons for all’, however, should not be couched in terms of arguing for ‘equality of opportunity’ for children with respect to education. Right now, this can have no substance other than effectively calling on the state to intervene to override, to alleviate, to apologise for, the normal operation of the market. At a time when the tendency of the state is towards increasing intervention into our basic freedoms, attacking the limitations of the market may not be as progressive as it sounds. When Rooney argues for putting ‘higher quality of education for the wealthy’ on the table, this can only play out one way: removing it from the wealthy. Which is to deny the right of some people to set up a business (or in many cases a charity) that charges a fee for services—in this case, a high quality education. It means denying other adults the right to spend their money on such services. It is not clear why they should lose the freedom to spend and consume as they see fit. Because they are being selfish? Failing in civic responsibility, is the state to take them over its knee? In the name of ‘equality’, the right to exchange goods freely in the marketplace—the fundamental bedrock of equality in a capitalist society—is to be abolished. So why stop there? Private music teachers? Go whistle. Private language tutors? Au revoir. Private health-care? Join the waiting list. This is the equality politics of ‘that’s not fair’. In a society so anti-consumption, so accepting of the limits to growth, the cry of why cannot I have what he has—aspirational on the face of it—is no sooner uttered than it turns into the envious whine of if ‘I cannot have it, then neither will he.’ This is—beneath the stirring rhetoric—a tacit acceptance of our society’s failure to provide excellent universal education for all. It does not speak to raising up the level of education to the best examples we have on offer. It does not offer us all more Etons. In fact, it serves to undermine our equality before the law. You do not have to believe that private schools are right and good to be opposed to calls for the state to ban them. That is, to dismantle private institutions and remove their freedom to choose which pupils to take. This is to attack fundamental freedoms (of association, or not to associate) which are based on the ability to discriminate: we will only take children who are Catholic or Muslim; or wealthy; or good at rugby; or, indeed, on their merit. These are all legitimate criteria for a private institution. It is that ability to discriminate that makes private schools independent in a powerful sense. One of the good things about private schools is their independence from more than minimal state interference. They are normally free of Ofsted inspections, for example, one of the most destructive elements of contemporary education. They do not have to follow the national curriculum. They are free to educate as they see fit, they are free to exclude pupils as they see fit, they are free to reject worthless qualifications as they see fit. They are judged on their results by the market and trust me that—whatever the limitations and they are many—of the market, they are as nothing compared to those of Ofsted. The market at least reflects in some sense our social relations, and has more humanity in it than the mentality of government box-ticking. We should also be aware that banning private schools would tie in nicely into a lot of policy circle initiatives gaining influence at the moment. When James Purnell MP, director of the Open Left Project, says that ‘Labour has sometimes been too hands off with the market and too hands on with the state’, he is seeking to intervene against market outcomes that he does not like, yes, but he is also giving up on the ability of the market to deliver higher incomes and prosperity for us all—in the context of a complete absence of any alternative to the market. In this context, that means: Labour has poured resources into state education and the only reason it can think of that they are not delivering the results is because some 7% of rich kids are so distorting the playing field that they deserve to be handicapped for a change. As independent institutions, private schools, much like the Catholic Church, are a grave source of concern for those who monitor and graph inequality. They appear as dinosaur bastions, unacceptably elitist throwbacks, who stubbornly insist on old-fashioned teaching instead of child-centered learning. They are seen as exclusive, discriminatory, hierarchical, and old-fashioned. Such language is used to present attacks on independent institutions in the name of the excluded ‘victims’ of their unacceptable prejudice. But we are not made victims by not going to public school. Nor would the Chinese and Indian students who increasingly attend them be better off were they denied entry. Rather, the continued existence of independent schools teaching an elite education is precisely what gives rise to Rooney’s desire to have Etons for all. To ban them would be to remove that possibility, that thing to aspire to, that itch to get in and raise yourself up to the level of those elites. I would have more sympathy with the argument if it were turned on its head. Let us make state schools more independent. Fund them by all means, do stop them from discriminating on entrance, but let the state be hands off. Increase the numbers of teachers. Introduce a high-minded liberal knowledge-centred curriculum. Invade and abolish Ofsted. That would seem more in the right direction than what can only be in reality a cynical effort to paper over real differences in wealth and privilege in our society with the language of ‘equality of opportunity’. Equality of opportunity is not the same thing as equality of condition—having the same level of access to resources—and neither does it target privilege. Rather, it seeks to locate social problems in the socially-excluded who are then given ‘opportunities’ to help themselves. This is what Labour now refers to as “active equality”: giving people “power to shape the outcomes they seek”. That those outcomes may represent inequalities is then justified as a reward for their talent. Thereby entrenching inequalities. Focusing in on the talent and potential of every child is both discriminatory against the privileged children and secondly narrows the definition of equality down to just being a reward for talent. There is a more important argument to be had about education today than trying to reignite a class war against the toffs. The report of the Sutton Trust stating that the children of the poorest families fall behind a full year by the time they are five may not be as sensationalist as the claims of Iain Duncan Smith that the brain sizes of deprived nursery children are “three times smaller than they should be”. Both, however, represent the same set of assumptions so prevalent at the moment, which holds that deprived children are almost irretrievably damaged long before they reach primary school. It is, the implication is, the fault of their parents for not sufficiently aping middle-class behaviour. Not that they are financially deprived so much as they are emotionally deprived: their families are apparently short on cocoa, cuddles, and very hungry caterpillars at bedtime. Being working class these days seems more of a qualitative than a quantitative failing. This is the ground on which we should fight for a better education system. Reject out of hand the idea that parents, or teachers, are failing their children. Argue that we are capable of improving education through building a better system with more resources for all. Reject the idea that quantitative improvements matter less than the tender ministrations of state therapists or behaviour management neuro-psychology gurus. Do not accept the limitations of the way things are now and seek to lessen the impact—that is to shut off the possibility of dreaming great dreams. Game changing goes out the window in favour of making the present more bearable. There is an argument for not settling for what we have. Letting our dissatisfaction look for ways to create the genuinely and radically new. And that would mean really aspiring to a great education for all.