Opinions Vary

This blog will discuss social, cultural, political and economic issues. Generally, I will express my opinion and/or that of a correspondent to initiate discussion of a certain issue, but the interesting points and counterpoints will most likely be made in the comments sections. Many of the comments will probably come from people I know in "real life," but reasoned comments from surfers at large are welcome. I reserve the right to delete any comment that I consider to be derogatory or spam-like.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Media: Is it Good or Bad?

We are living in a world of media over-exposure; indeed, the media informs us everyday about what’s going worldwide without almost any effort, always by pushing a button on our television or on the radio or with a simple click on Internet.

This side of media sounds good, but if we look at it more closely, we rapidly observe that the media can encourage risky behaviors and can manipulate our spirit if we are not a critical. Indeed, this dangerous side will affect the weakest, so precisely children, who build their thoughts and creativity everyday.

That’s why many intellectuals but also teachers and parents were made activists and militate for an awakening of the influence of the media.

So our aim in this topic is to make the pro and against concerning the role of the media and show where is the good and the bad part on its influence.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Provide links please

This form of media is popular because you can back up your statements with easily verifiable "links." Your posts need to provide more links. Cite evidence to support your arguments, and provide links to that evidence. Feel free to refer to others who have written about these issues by linking to their writing. Links allow us to judge for ourselves and think in a critical way. Expressing your opinion is fine, but it won't carry much weight if we can't see where you are coming from.

A comment on Media

I would like to talk about media, but more precisely about the influence of media on people. More specifically, I will take the example of the Iraq war because of the documentary we watched last time. Therefore, I will focus on the impact and drawbacks of TV.

At first, I was deeply against the war. I also demonstrated in Paris, such as millions of people throughout the world, just before the war finally started (against the UN agreement).

After that, we can simply watch at the news to know what is going on in Iraq. That is where we have to trust media…

I mean by media, any kind of source of information available: TV, radio, newspapers, internet...

To be honest, I first realized the real power of media during that war, and more precisely the power and huge influence of TV. Why TV? Because everybody watches TV, let alone 99% of people.
In my opinion, you have to compare lots of sources of information to be able to say, “Now, I am informed”. Unfortunately, nobody really has the time to do so. That is why TV is the main source of information because it is the easiest way to get the information. It is maybe the easiest, but certainly not the more accurate way to get it.

During that war, and even nowadays in 2006, I am still amazed to see so many differences and so many points of view, so much ignorance about that war. The reason is TV channel did not give the same and not always the good information.

Because I was very concerned about that war, I watched the news, of course on French TV, but I was also following the US news on FOX, CNN and on others public channels. I wanted to have a wide panel of channels to be able to compare the information efficiently.
My point of view is that the information has to be given in a very neutral way, without any change from the original version or without any personal point of view (of the channel). I was very disappointed to observe that information on TV quickly became misinformation, and even manipulation. I really think of FOX while I am making that point. That is not the only example, but to me, it represents the most obvious. Moreover, I really think it helped, and continues helping the government to hold on during that war because they were using the information at their advantage. I especially think of the randomly shootout in Iraqi villages (to help liberalizing the Iraqi people?), the “effort” made to hide the daily act of torture toward Iraqi prisoners or also minimizing American human losses. I was really choked to see so much misinformation. As I said just above, this is manipulation.
So how can we trust those kinds of TV channels? Personally, I simply decided to stop watching at FOX for instance (which is not the only one). I really think it is disgusting to manipulate million of people at will, just to be credible and not to lose the following election…

[I repeat myself: "If you want to discuss issues about America with Americans, at least get your facts straight before telling us how everything we do is wrong. Making statements that are blatantly false is just embarrassing; if you just make stuff up because it “feels” right, then the person on the other side of the discussion will discount your opinions and quickly lose interest." At least provide the source for your information particularly when making a statement of fact. By the way, this is torture (en français). The people who did the panties on the head thing at Abu Grahib are in jail where they belong. That is the difference - if an American does it, he/she is punished. If a terrorist does it, he's rewarded. Every major newspaper and television news source headlined the Abu Grahib story and pictures for no less than three months. How is this hiding anything? They don't hide it, they dwell on it and intensify it! (If you want a good example of suppressed news, see this story. I'm pretty sure it happened because hundreds of people have written about it online, but it has not been reported by any major news sourse.) "Daily torture" as you say is what "al Qaeda in Iraq" does, not to mention decapitation, driving car-bombs into crowds of childred, booby-trapping toys, booby-trapping bodies, etc, etc. Also, I am wondering... can you even watch FoxNews in France? On what specifically are you basing your opinion? -Wagner]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Does the UN still have a legitimate role?

We plan to engage our audience in a lively debate over this very question by splitting into two groups:

Younnès and Erwan : agree that the UN has a legitimate role. Their task is to convince us of the positive aspects of the UN and advocate ways in which the organization ought to be strengthened.

Michael and Cédric : argue against the legitimacy of the UN. This group is out to convince the public that the UN is wasteful, corrupt, ineffective, and should perhaps be abolished.

Arguments are to focus on two essential UN goals :
- To maintain peace and international security.
- To promote international cooperation in areas useful to world progress.

In our debate we plan to address whether:

-to grant the UN an independent, career military force and the means to sustain such a force.
-voting power at the UN should be a function of economic might rather than population or WWII alignment.
-the UN's legitimacy has changed due to specific events over the past 60 years.

Because the anti-UN group took the time to post this, we'd like to get our audience interested with the following bit of polling data on American attitudes from a Luntz Maslansky survey which concluded on Sept. 5th 2006.

http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/HudsonPoll_UNfinal.pdf :

France has not been a world power for almost a century. They shouldn’t be a permanent member of the Security Council – holding a powerful veto over world and American interests.


Monday, November 06, 2006


We will be discussing immigration policy using four general possible points of view. Each of us will pick one point of view and argue both for and against that policy.

I will be looking at the "open-borders" view, which essentially argues that human beings should be allowed to move freely between countries without restrictions. In my analysis I will also be looking at the effect of social welfare programs on this sort of policy, as well as the different motivations that drive people to immigrate (to work vs. to collect welfare).

The second type of policy would be one where the government delineates a set of standard minimum requirements and anyone who meets those requirements would be allowed to immigrate. Requirements may include things like a minimum education level, clean criminal background, etc.

The third type of policy would be one where the government actually selects those who it wants to immigrate. For example the government may decide that it only wants to let in people with graduate degrees, or perhaps only those from a particular field, such as medicine.

The fourth type of policy is one that allows no immigration whatsoever. A current example of a country with this type of policy is North Korea. The analysis of this view will probably include a discussion of the type of government that prefers this sort of immigration policy.

That's what we have so far, but we will update with our four analyses shortly!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Update on Education

Thank you all for your input, I would like to add my pesonal comments about the eduactional system here in the United States. I may not know a lot about the school system in France, but I have a little knowledge about the system here in America. Yes, it is true that most American students are heavily into sports. Students are interested in sport because it is fun and very athletic. Sport is also a game of leisure. Athletes in America who play professionally are paid large sums of money and are not required to have a college degree. I think a year or two ago, the NBA decided to set an age limit on the drafting procss of students into the NBA. The minimum age limit was 19 years old, or the person had to be in his last year of high school. That is, this person should at least have a high school diploma before joining the NBA. Teams in the NBA do draft players out of high schools. Here are examples to back up my claim: “When the NBA and the players’ association hit on a new collective bargaining agreement Tuesday, part of the deal was setting a minimum-age limit for the draft which ends the exodus of prep players directly to the NBA. Before, players were eligible when their high school class graduated. Now players must be at least 19 by draft night and they must wait at least one year until after their high school class graduates (so, technically, some players could be in the NBA at 18 if they graduated high school at 17).” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8305294/ ; & “When NBA owners and the NBA Players Association meet this summer to hammer out a new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, NBA commissioner David Stern is expected to push through a new age limit on players looking to enter the NBA. That limit is anticipated to be 20 years and older OR two years since the player's class graduated high school -- whichever comes first. The current agreement allows American players to declare themselves for the NBA Draft in the year that their high school class graduates and allows International players to declare provided they turn 18 by the night of that year's Draft.” http://probasketball.about.com/od/nbadraft/i/nbaagelimit.htm
Can you imagine making millions right out of high school, just by playing sports? Is there anything better or easier then that? Is the purpose of going to school not to make money? I believe that could be one of the many reasons American students do concentrate strongly on sports. It is an easy way out!! However, there are some professional athletes who do earn college degrees while playing in the NBA, or playing other professional sports. An example of such person is Scottie Pippen. He earned his bachelor's degree from University of Central Arkansas in the field of kinesiology. Therefore, I believe going to college or attending Universities is a personal and family choice. It is true there are no guarantees that when a student graduates from college, he or she would get a job. Neither are there guarantees that if a student plays sports, he or she would get drafted. But, it is true, that if and when a student graduates, he or she would definitely pay back the loan taken to attend college or the university (unless the student had a scholarship, or, his or her parents could afford to send him or her to school). On the other hand, from what I have gathered, education in France is free to all? In that case isn’t it expected that all students do go to high school, and continue on with higher educations? Here in America, it is mandatory that students go to school from first grade to high school. This form of education is free. Some parents who can afford to, send their children to private school. Private schools have access to some of the best educational systems and trainings available. Sadly, majority of the public school systems do not have access to such information. This does not mean public school teacher are not trying their best to teach their students; it only means the public school teachers may not have access to the best information possible to help their students achieve better grades. An example backing this claim comes from an episode taken from the Oprah Winfrey’s show earlier this year. Student from a private school in Chicago swapped school for a day with students from a public school in Chicago. The experiences were entirely different for both sets of students. Here is a clip from the Oprah show: “When they arrived at Harper, the students from Neuqua Valley were shocked immediately by the difference between Harper and their own school. For starters, students have to enter Harper through a metal detector. They have a pool at Neuqua Valley, but the Harper pool hasn't been filled with water in a decade. The Neuqua Valley students have an award-winning music department, while Harper doesn't have enough instruments for a music class and relies on improvised instruments—like banging on desks.”
Another example is from Jonathan Kozol, an advocate for education for children, “Education is taken for granted in modern American society. If a child cannot afford to attend a private or parochial school, which are generally seen as better than the alternative, then they go to public school. The assumption is made, because of compulsory attendance laws, and the societal emphasis on childhood learning, no matter what, a child is getting an education.”
I think this is why the school voucher system came into place. Even though the voucher system is very controversial, it allows parents to choose which school (public or private) system or neighborhood school they want their children to attend. There are others who disagree with the voucher system. These people, including me, feel that the school system should be fixed across the board. Every student should have equal opportunity to all educational information available. Certain school should not be privileged to certain information, while others are not. Children should not be taken from the poor neighborhoods into rich neighborhoods to attend school. All educational system should be the same across the board regardless of the geographical locations. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all school systems in America.
Some students who attend public schools do not have access to grants or scholarship information for colleges or universities. Unlike students in private schools who have wealth of information at their fingertip. Therefore, the “easy way out” becomes the only solution. The decision for students to play sports, become a singer, a rapper or even decide to go, or not to go to school, again, I believe is a person, or family choice. Thank you,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Use spell-check!

These are not email notes to your friends back home. Other students and faculty will see this. Please, click on the little blue check-mark icon in your edit window from now on, edit your text using a program like Word and use the grammar-check feature.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Our topic is Education : We have started discussed it ! I hope everyone will contribute with its own ideas!
here are our first ideas!

Thank you all for your input. But I would like to add, even though there are lots of differences between the France and the American school system, here are some reasons why I feel there is:

I may not have lots of knowledge about the school system in France, but I have a little knowledge of the system here in America. Yes, it is true that most of the students here in the American school system focus on sports then in the French school system. Sport is important because it is fun and very athletic. Also, it is a game of leisure. Plus, the players are paid large sum of money. I think it was years ago when players were even require to at least having a high school diploma before qualifying for the big league or at least before playing pro football or basket ball. But most of the teams do get their players from high schools. [Not true. Besides Tracy McGrady and Lebron James, name one professional athlete who was drafted straight out of an American high school. -Wagner]

Anyway,I really do believe that going to college or attending Universities is a personal and family choice. It is true that there are no guaranteed that when a person graduates from college, he or she would get a job. Neither is it guaranteed that if a student plays sports, he or she world get a contract. But, it is true that if, and when he or she graduates, he or she would definitely pay back the loan taken to attend college or the university. Unless the student had a scholarship or parents could afford to send him or her to school.

On the other hand, from what I have gathered, education in France is free to all? Therefore it is expected that if not all, but most high school graduates continue on with higher educations?

Here in America, it is maandatory that students go to school from 1st to high school. That form of education is free. Some of the parents, who can afford to, send their children to private school. Private school system sometimes means that those boys and girls do have access to some of the best educational systems and training available. That does not mean that public school teacher are not trying their best to teach their students, it only means the teachers may not have access to the best information possible to help their students achieve better grades. That is why the School voucher system came into place. Even though this is very controversial, it allows the parents to choose which school (public or private) system or neighborhood they want to send their kids to. Although others disagree with this, because they think that the system should be fixed and every student should have equal opportunity to all of the information available. They think that kids should not be taken from the poor neighborhood and taken to the rich neighborhood to attend school should be the same across the board. That I agree with, unfortunately, the system is not set that way. Therefore, other kids do not have access to the scholarship information available to those in private schools or rich neighborhood. [Private school teachers here in Turlock make half of what public school teachers make. And no, they do not have better resources at all. There is, however, more parent involvement in school activities in private schools than there is in public schools. - Wagner] The choice is to play sports, or try to become a singer, rapper or even decide to, or not to go to school at all, again is a person choice. [So, you're saying that learning Math or English aren't viable options? - Wagner]
Here is a quote I will leave you all with. “A pure voucher system would only [...give hope to children all over the country currently stuck in failed schools... -Wagner] encourage economic, racial, ethnic, and religious stratification in our society. America’s success has been built on our ability to unify our diverse populations.” http://www.nea.org

I do not know if talking about the differnce in education in France and in the US is enough...Because there are many difference (more than sports! :-))American students can wait later to choose only one field of study Foreign langages are not mandatory and are taught later. There are less hours of course in a week- ...

But the importance of education is also really different! In France whatever you experience you will always say I am graduated from that business school! Even when you are 50, the first thing you say is not your current position but the fact that you are from that school. In the US I think working experience and the way you do your job is more important than the study you have done... In France, it is not the case...

Another point is: What the place of education in the economy of a country? France is really specific in the way that the government spend more for primary and secondary school (per pupils) than it spends per students for university !!But the place of education in government budget is still really high... I do not know which place it occurs in the US budget! I think it is still important to link the education subject to an economic context! And maybe also we can enlarge the subject to other countries...(education in China, in other european countries, in developping countries, /.... ) Is education must be or not a priority for developping countries? How can they do to finance it? On which level must government focus? Another stuff is that in France professional education (to make kind of manual job) is not well seen... Is it the same in the us ??

Thanks rudy for having begun the topic. I agree with you that in the American system, sports tends to take a huge place . All what you have is good, Rudy. I just would like to add that without sports, a significant part of student won't afford to go to good universities (thank you, scholarship). Another problem is that where is the barriers ? Because, firms sponsorized a lot those teams! Here in Turlock they are fast foods or pizerria but think about larger universities like Stanford, UCLA, MIT...I don't think that they are only sponsorised by local businesses but rather by corporations [Why would you think that? -Wagner]...but isn't it the same as playing as a professional? Though it is college sports!
[College athletes are not paid. There are rules against that. If a university paid its atletes, it would be banned from competition. -Wagner]
And also I would like to point out as differences, the fact you don't have to pay a lot to attend French universities. Though there is more and more business school that ask a lot for tuitions .

But in France paying a lot doesn't necessarily mean that you will pay for good education! Here it seems that the higher you pay, the better is the education! It is true that in France we don't have all those activities ( housing, trips, free foods, campus...) that they offer. At the same time, are we willing to pay for them? If the housing price still goes up in Paris, I will!!! Another difference is taht most of the professors in France are professional not teacher so that they take on their take on their free time to teach! Is that a good things? I think yesand no, because we don't only have the theory but sometime some practical example taken from their personal experiences. Though, since teaching is not their first job, thime toey don't often take tudents! Ihe time to talk and know the stt is really impersonal! The professor seems to be inaccessible and sometimes don't even know the name of its student! He delegates a lot to the TA.

Concerning the debate about Education, I propose that we point out the main differences between the educational systems of USA and France, and try to say why we think such aspect is a good think or not …

I personally point out a big difference concerning the place of sport in US education. Indeed, Sport actively takes part of the American student life,with, according to me, all the positive following points:- Concerning the community, it helps to develop the ‘team spirit’ and feeling of membership which is very valuable for students’ success - Concerning the individual, it inculcates values of respect, defeats,challenges …

But of course, some negatives aspects occur:-If Sport has a so important role today in American education, it is partially because of the possibility to raise money easily as compared to the French system: Indeed events in US are often sponsorised by junky food brands with negative impacts on students’ health. In France, advertisement is banned to public education.- Moreover, I recently read a surprising data: less than 1% of thebest sportive students will become professional after university career!That is to say, 99% have sacrificed so much for their passion (at detrimentof ourses) for few things at the end …
[Sarcrificed? They got a college education that they would not have been able to afford without the scholarship, plus they got to do something they enjoy doing. How is this a sacrifice? I've always been jealous of those with athletic scholarships. I wish I had had one! I would have loved to play college football!!!
In general, you all are making way too much out of sports in education. 99% of College students do not play collegiate sports. -Wagner

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Things you should know when doing business in a foreign country

In the comments section, please tell us something that a person would want to know when doing business in a certain country so as not to accidentally offend those you are trying to do business with or embarrass oneself. I had given an example in class, that in Middle Eastern countries it is considered rude to show the sole of your shoe.

I am an American and so I am most familiar with American customs, though most of them I probably follow without even realizing that people in other parts of the world do things differently. So here is my example of an American custom that people from other countries might want to take into account when negotiating business, though most Americans probably haven’t thought about it: When people talk to each other, they have a comfort zone, like a personal space. If you stand too far away, then one might think that you don’t like him or her. If you stand too close, they will feel uncomfortable and instinctively step back. One might even move back a bit without realizing it, and one might feel defensive without realizing it. The American comfort zone, safe talking distance, may be found as follows: Extend your right arm straight out in front of you and give the “thumbs-up” sign. Now turn your thumb so that it points left. Now imagine someone’s head situated just so that your thumb is in that other person’s ear. That is a safe talking distance for most Americans. Other cultures have different comfort zones. Latinos and Asians tend to stand a bit closer to those they are conversing with, for example.

Now it’s your turn. Leave your examples of “things you should know when doing business abroad” in the comments, and feel free to comment and expand upon others’ comments.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Do Daddies Matter?

In general, I and other posters will avoid copying and pasting more than a few lines from quoted articles, but I am making an exception here. The following was shamelessly copied from this article:
According to the CDC, DoJ, DHHS and the Bureau of the Census, the 30 percent of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63 percent of teen suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high-school dropouts, 75 percent of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80 percent of rapists, 85 percent of youths in prison, and 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders. In addition, 90 percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. In fact, children born to unwed mothers are 10 times more likely to live in poverty as children with fathers in the home.

"[The causal link between fatherless children and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime," notes social researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, adds, "[The absence of fathers] from family life is surely the most socially consequential family trend of our era."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Words of Wisdom

  • Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.

  • What's the speed of dark?

  • Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

  • If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

  • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

  • He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

  • Remember, half the people you know are below average.

  • On the other hand, you have different fingers.

  • A day without sunshine is like...night.

  • Just remember - if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.

  • Life isn't like a box of chocolates.... it's more like a jar of Jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow.