Monday, March 28, 2016

The Issues With Homeschool Parenting By Sydney Quanz

Before I begin this article I would like to make a couple of statements clear, as to avoid accidentally offending the few people who actually read this blog.

First, I am not a homeschool parent, or a parent of any kind. I do not pretend to understand the struggles and balance of parenting, or the emotional battles that parents fight with in themselves. However, I have been a homeschool child my entire life. I have been parented by the people who birthed me, and I have observed the different parenting styles found among my friends, fellow students and even my enemies. I trust that if you are a parent reading this you will understand that because of these things,  I don't know exactly what I am talking about. But, I do have years of experience being an objective observer. That is all this is. Some observations. And some song opinions, but we will get to those.

Secondly, this is not an incredibly generally targeted article. I fully acknowledge that not all homeschool families parent this way. By no means do I mean to generalize or stereotype the demographic and make it seem like EVERY HOMESCHOOLER PARENT IS LIKE THIS. I know that each of you are unique, beautifully formed snowflakes in a diverse storm of parenting methods. By no means do I intend to offend you, or unintentionally point out the flaws in your parenting. However, I am a teenage homeschooler, thus I assume you can avoid being offended for the duration of this article. If you do get offended stop reading. Or reread what has become an insanely long intro to make sure you don't get offended.

Thirdly, this is not directed at specific people. I mean, yes it is. I can think of several families I have encountered over the course of the past couples years who were inspirational to the writing of this article. But none of those specific people, are you. You are perfect, and intelligent and beautiful. (I only say that because I know the only two people who might read this are Caleb and Mrs. Yarbrough. and maybe not even them).

Now that I am done disclaiming, I feel like I should be done. Except, that I have essentially said nothing. Back to to the point.

Let's start with my parents.

I was parented by my mother and father (as most people are). I think they have for the most part excelled at the balance between providing boundaries and independence. As a child, I would say they were on stricter side of parenting. My parents were gods. If Dad says "No", then the answer is no. By speaking, my parents could establish laws and punishments and boundaries. It didn't take me long to figure out the way it worked. Simply put, it was to much work to argue with them, so I just did what I was told. I say this to establish that my parents did raise me on concrete boundaries, and I from them I learned respect, obedience, common sense and a sense of right and wrong.

However, as I got older and began to drift into my teenage years, things began to shift. I started having friends who could listen to secular music, wear brand name clothes and watch PG-13 movies unsupervised. I began to want to want to do more interesting things; gain a little bit of independence from my parents. And through a long and arduous process my parents evolved to the new set parents I now have.

In the past four years, my parents have been incredibly chill. Instead of holding me back from doing things they aren't comfortable with they walked me through how deal with issues independently instead of relying on the crutch of an adult supervisor. For example, the first dance I ever organized was my junior year of high school. My mother was involved enough to assist with covering the logistics and issues that come up when you try to throw a Formal dance from scratch. But for my next two dances, now equipped with the sills I needed, I was able to succeed independently.

I bring all this up to highlight the issue I see with Homeschool parenting. Parents don't allow their children enough freedom to conquer issues on their own, therefore they never get the opportunity to build their own set of principles. Let me explain.

Most homeschool students are born among parents who immediately impress upon them the importance of the Bible on their lives. They want to instill in their child good, godly principles that create well rounded, God-serving human beings. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that. Having grounded principles is the first step to understanding yourself and the world around you. However, most parents fail to recognize the difference between a Concrete and Choice principle.

A concrete principle is one that is universally acknowledged, grounded unarguably by scripture and vital to the emotional, physical or spiritual well being of your child. Things like "Do Not Murder", "Do Not Lie",  "Do Not Light Your Friend on Fire". These are things that should be established in your child early on and continue to be enforced until they leave the home.

On the other hand we have choice principles. These principles are things that can only be really believed and achieved through personal understanding and discussion making. I see so many homeschool parents, and even homeschool co-ops who try to make stands for modesty. Modesty, is of course an important things, but not a concrete one. By measuring shorts, pointing out "immodest clothing" and shaming girls for what they wear, parents and school boards accomplish little to nothing. Telling a girl she should be modest isn't effective. Telling a teenage they shouldn't drink alcohol, date, or do drugs.

In my extensive research, I have found that while all homeschool parents vary, there is a very consistent trend. By impressing both choice and concrete principles on their children, they rob their students of a very important skill set: independent thinking. When parents choose not to let their children make their own moral decision in the house, they pretty much ensure that their children won't know how to make moral decisions outside of the house.

The logic behind this parenting is that it is important to install in your children a "moral compass".  By depriving them of moral decisions, you are essentially handing them a moral compass and then not allowing them to navigate. Here is my beautiful analogy.

You give birth to a child on a canoe, because you live in a tribe of native americans who live strictly on Canoes. At a young age, you instill in your child the important, unarguable elements of canoeing: which side to paddle on, how not to flip the canoe, how to avoid alligators and various hazards. These are the concrete principles. Then you let them know the more arguable tips, such as "Usually I avoid this part of the river because their are alligators, but if you do go into that creek, beware of the alligators." These are the choice principles, such as instead of saying "If you are alone with a boy bad things will happen" you say "When you're alone with a boy there are more opportunities to screw up, but I trust that if you choose to be alone with a boy you an be smart about it." See?

Finally, this Native American Canoe child is old enough to try to navigate the river and operate the canoe using the tools you have given him. Common sense dictates that you would allow the child to try and "drive" the canoe while you are still in the canoe. Then when they wonder up creeks and encounter alligators you can assist them and guide them through dealing with alligators. It doesn't seem right to send them out into the river having never dealt with an alligator before.

If you want to guide your children instead of stunting their adulthood, then you should choose to walk with them without holding their hands. Let Bob Jr. go on a date. It won't kill him, and then when his girlfriend ends up being crazy and tries to force Bob Jr. to join her cult, you can say "No Bob Junior" and he will learn a lesson. Also, he will learn basic skills for dating in the future.

If Bob Jr. goes on his first date when his is twenty-five, he will have no skills. He won't know how to treat a girl in a way that is neither creepy nor awkward, he won't know how to tell if a girl is just committed or crazy, he won't know when to or how to kiss her (And if you are 25 and don;t know how to do these things then that is very sad." At this point, the parents are old and actually want their children o have love so they can have grandchildren, so by guiding your children through this earlier, you are making an investment in your future grandchildren.

Thus, I end my rant. I hope you learned something.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Who Gets in to America's Most Selective Universities? By David Durairaj

My Rice interview was coming to a close when the Interviewer mentioned something about when I would hear back from their office of admissions. She stated that no regular decision applicants would hear back from Rice till first week of April. Then she looked at me, and proceeded to state that I “might hear back earlier as a minority student”. I simply smiled, thanked her for the interview, and left. Her ending statement was interesting; not because it was the first time I had been referred to as a minority student (though it was), or because it implied that my decision would be affected in some way because of my ethnicity. It was interesting because I realized, to a fuller extent, that selectivity based on factors other than academics was not only practiced by a majority of private schools, but was also, to a certain degree, widely accepted.

We all know that most private universities and many public institutions use multiple factors when considering an applicant for admission. But what does a “holistic review” really entail? The most competitive private universities (and liberal arts colleges in general) tailor their admissions program to include the “fit” of the student into their college, while trying to maintain diversity. The following graph represents data collected by Rachel B. Rubin, doctoral student in education at Harvard University, as she examines the admissions process of America’s most selective institutions:  

Most Important Variables in Determining Institutional Fit (for Those Who Start With Focus on Fit):

% Viewing as Most Important
Underrepresented race/ethnicity
Exceptional talent
Recruited athlete status
Likelihood of enrolling
Fund-raising potential

"When an applicant has an exceptional talent (e.g. music, athletics) or is part of a severely underrepresented group at the institution, the applicant may not compete for admission against the larger applicant pool. Instead, he/she may compete only among those with the same talent or within the same group. In these circumstances, sets of applications are considered separately based on a university’s institutional needs. As a result, disparities may arise between the levels of academic merit of certain subgroups of students." 

In 2003, Supreme Court Justice Sandra O’Conner stated "To be narrowly tailored, a race-conscious admissions program cannot use a quota system – it cannot 'insulat[e] each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants.' Bakke, supra, at 315 (opinion of Powell, J.). Instead, a university may consider race or ethnicity only as a 'plus in a particular applicant's file,' without 'insulat[ing] the individual from comparison with all other candidates for the available seats.' Id., at 317.” While it may appear that many competitive universities are in direct violation of this ruling, the real question becomes whether there is any benefit in allowing underrepresented ethnic groups, first-generation college students, and economically disadvantaged students to compete at a different level than other applicants.

There is no definite answer to this question, especially when it comes to the highly selective private universities. Some would argue that socio-economic status and race are important factors in maintaining an elite standing as a college, as well as giving under-privileged (not undeserving) students an opportunity to receive a top-tier education. Proponents would also point to the current education system in the U.S. as insufficient in giving these kinds of students an opportunity to rise above their circumstances and succeed in a ranked school. Opponents, however, argue that taking any factors other than academics into consideration is both biased and unfair to all students. Is it right for private universities to favor students who can pay the full tuition, then use their finances to pay for a less fortunate candidate? What happens to the “average” student who can pay a little of the tuition, has a good academic record, but does not get picked to compete in a specific interest group (such as race, talent, diversity etc.)? What about students who have an exceptional application but are considered as “undesired” because of race, faith, or finances?

As it turns out, every selective university has a different method of selecting candidates. This means that there will be major disparities between universities. And it goes without saying that whatever your opinion is, it doesn’t look like much will change for the next decade. However, with everything said and done, I think the time is coming when paying extravagant prices for a top-tier/ivy-league school (or any private school for that matter) will be both less desirable and nonessential to having a successful career. With online learning and advances in technology, the playing field is becoming more leveled for those who wish to pursue higher education, and taking a $100 grand student loan to finance a bachelors degree (or any degree for that matter) won't be necessary.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

MLB Spring Training by Clayton Davis

For baseball fans, February and March are exciting months. After nearly 5 months since the last MLB game in October, the World Series, the MLB pre-season is beginning. Spring Training marks the date in which MLB teams begin working out on the field again, pitchers throwing bullpens, position players taking batting practice and ground balls, and eventually training games occur.
            For some teams, this even can include working out with new players that the managerial staff signed during the offseason. When a player’s contract ends, the teams all get a chance to offer that player a new contract. Some of the big free agent signings this year were SP (Starting pitcher) David Price by the Red Sox, SP Zack Greinke by the Diamondbacks, SP Johnny Cueto by the Giants, OF (Outfielder) Jason Heyward by the Cubs, SS (Shortstop) Ian Desmond by the Rangers (Who they have said will play outfield), and the resigning (The player signed with the same team he had just been with) of OF Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets.
Now, back to the actual training aspect of it all. When Spring Training begins, players do not go directly to playing games against each other. First, they do some team practices to loosen up and work on getting back into the proper form. The first players to report back to the diamond are the pitchers and catchers. On February 18th, the first of the pitchers and catchers reported to their team’s respective training facilities. From February 18th to 22nd, the pitching and catching staffs from all 30 teams across the MLB reported to their team’s location to begin gearing up for the season. Shortly after the pitchers and catchers begin practicing, the full teams begin working out as well. February 22nd marked the first day this year where a full team practiced on the field, this team was the Miami Marlins. Teams continued to begin working on the field until the Minnesota Twins had their first full team practice of the year on February 27th.
            After the squads have about a week of practicing under their belts, they can begin to play practice games against each other. MLB Spring Training games have a schedule much like the regular season games, however they do not count for anything during the regular season. A team can go undefeated in Spring Training, and it will not count for anything during the actual season. March 1st marked the first day of Spring Training games, and featured the Blue Jays, Braves, Indians, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Reds, and Tigers. The last teams to play their first Spring Training games of the year were the A's, Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, and White Sox. These teams all had their first games on March 3rd. The teams will continue to play games against each other and work on getting their skills as advanced for the season as they possibly can through April 3rd. Directly after Spring Training ends, the teams get to show off how hard they worked during the offseason and preseason with regular season games. And eventually, 162 games later, the teams that have worked the hardest throughout the entire year may get a chance to win it all in the World Series. Then the cycle repeats and the teams start all over.

Are Genetically Modified Organisms Worth It? by Anita Durairaj

For many years, humans have been enhancing organisms through selective breeding, like the seedless watermelons you get at the grocery store or the purebred dog in your neighbor's backyard. However, we have now moved a step further to a type of genetic modification, in plants for example, that have raised concerns. 

Genetically modified food is defined as: "foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering".*

For example, say you are a tomato farmer whose crops are threatened by a persistent species of beetle. Each year, you spend large sums of money for pesticides to protect your crops. A biotechnology company introduces a new strain of tomato plant that produces a natural pesticide, making it resistant to the beetle. By switching to this new strain, you could avoid both the beetle and the chemical pesticides traditionally needed to fight it. 

Technology now allows us to transfer genes between organisms. This process is basically a sophisticated version of a cut-and-paste operation. Once a desired gene is found in the native organism's DNA it can be cut out and pasted into the DNA of the target plant. Once the new gene has been introduced, the plant can be bred to create a new strain that passes the gene from generation to generation. Simple, right? Simple, but risky.

The potential of genetically modified food is obvious, as described in the tomato example. There are many advantages to having a beetle-resistant tomato, or vitamin A-infused rice or Ice-minus strawberries. However, one primary concern of this process is cross-breeding with wild populations. What would happen if the genetically modified version mixed with the natural, wild population? We need to learn more about this since scientists don't know the full effects yet. After all, it would be very difficult to prevent natural versions of a plant from breeding with modified versions in the wild, since it would be impossible to stop the transfer of pollen. Still, we definitely don't want to start mass-producing genetically modified plants until we figure out what kind of long term dangers this would pose. 

Secondly, there is potential for allergic reactions to occur. Many humans suffer from various food allergies. There is concern that the protein products of introduced genes may be toxic or allergenic to certain individuals. As a recent recipient of food allergies, I wouldn't want to find out that a new, modified of variety of some food would cause me to have an allergic reaction because that preciously harmless food now contains something I'm allergic to. As we lose the old, natural varieties of food to the modified versions, we also lose their useful genes.

Lastly, let us forget about science for a moment. I personally think that genetic experimentation on plants and animals produces several genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that are unnecessary and, quite frankly, disgustingly unnatural. Here are pictures and descriptions of a two examples:

Umbuku lizard: As describes it: "This GMO was designed to simply prove that it could be done. Genetic Engineers in Zimbabwe managed to unlock a dormant 'flying' strand in the DNA of the Umbuku lizard, a very small and rare lizard native to Africa. It is believed that the lizard is a descendent of the Pterodactyl, which lost its ability to fly some [years] ago. To date, only 6 of these flying Umbuku have been produced and they are kept separate from the natural Umbuku due the risk of cross breeding". 

Fern Spider: According to listverse com: "This is the only animal that has successfully combined a plant and an animal. It is a cross between an Italian wolf spider and the conga fern, and was done to study the survival rates of spiders with built in camouflage versus those without in a series of studies on Natural Selection at Massey University in New Zealand. The results of that study have not yet been released".

So, do the benefits of GMOs outweigh the cons? That's something that we have to decide, based on both scientific and nonscientific factors. Share your opinion in the comments section below! 

*Sources: definition from Wikipedia, images from, scientific description from learn, 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Joys of Group Projects by Amy Yarbrough

  What is the best part about group projects? Is it the fact that your grade depends on the work of other people? Is it that kid who refuses to do anything? Is it that overwhelming urge to drown all your partners in a vat of their own tears? All good things, yes? 
  There’s nothing like a good group project to reveal who your true friends are. In some cases, no one. No one is your friend. 

  If you're in the middle of enjoying a group project, you may be experiencing these things plus a hundred other strong feelings. Unlike most class assignments, group projects teach you a few things you didn't know about the people you silently judge every day.



1. That person you thought was totally cool is actually a project leech. And you will spend so much time worrying about what the project leech is or isn't doing, that you realize that you have barely started your own part of the project. What is a project leech you ask? A project leech is the lovely person who won't do any of the work, and thus sucks every last living drop of your will to get a good grade, and then fuels a new anger you didn't know was living inside of you like a dormant volcano. But y’know, he’s there to learn your teacher said. It’ll be fun she said.

2. That one friend who actually got put in the same group is now your best friend and your only tie to sanity. He or she will do what they said they would, and the two of you will keep the other people in check. Hold on to them like the precious little cauliflowers they are.

3. That lazy dude who seems like he doesn't pay attention might come through. Some people just procrastinate. The fun part about these guys is trying to figure out whether or not they're a project leech.

4. That one weird know-it-all who seems like they'll be cool with the assignments is actually whining about it every chance they can get. It’s just so hard to be the nerd. Such inconvenience. Much abuse. Wow. They may or may not be writing about it on social media.

5. That one rare person who actually seems like they know what they're doing is hard to get a hold of. Are they writing they're presentation? Are they watching TV? Are they robbing a bank? Who knows? You don’t. But either way, they show up with their work done!

6. The teacher is laughing at your pain. They knew this would happen. They knew what it would do to you. They knew you'd end up in the corner in the fetal position. They know you're internally screaming. It’s music to them.

  Group projects are a great way to make…er…friends… You will definitely remember these people for a while. Have fun.