Sunday, October 21, 2012

Direct Popular Vote and the Flaws of the Electoral College

We are currently in the midst of a close, and heated election to determine our next President.  I recently read an article in the Huffington Post about the close votes within “swing-states”, and the importance of these electoral votes. The article by Professor Jackman from Stanford University can be found here
America often boasts our democratic ideals yet; we have a system for electing our President that many, including myself, consider un-democratic. Candidates focus on swing-states [states that could go either way with their electoral votes] more than other states. For example: Mitt Romney is not going to spend much of his campaign’s money in Illinois, because his campaign strategists realize that it is certain for the electoral votes in Illinois to favor President Obama. Is that fair for Romney voters in Illinois?

Even as a liberal, I still believe it’s unfair for Romney supporters. No one should feel like his or her vote doesn’t matter. I truly believe that a direct popular vote should replace electoral votes. Not only are American’s powers to influence our Government hindered by the Electoral College, but also the college hurts voter turnout. On March 14, 2004 the New York Times said that The Electoral College discourages turnout because voters in two-thirds of the nation know well before Election Day who will win their states. The answer to this problem is direct election of the president. Voters are not going to want to vote for their candidate of choice if they already know the Electoral College will choose another candidate. Please comment below your thoughts on the issue. I look forward to getting a good debate going! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Low Income Areas and Obesity

Last week on Mr. Bolos' blog post regarding mental and physical health, there was much discussion about America's growing problem with obesity.  The post titled: Sunday "Service" in Waukegan, IL can be found here, if you would like to jump in on our previous discussion regarding what our society can do to address physical and mental health. It is no question that obesity is a huge issue as over two-thirds of our nation is overweight. Researchers from the Brookings Institute have concluded that  " 
Estimated medical costs of obesity are as 
high as $147 billion a year for 2008." Not only are the costs of obesity insurmountable, but it also has devastating effects on a person's overall health and life expectancy. Oxford University research found that "moderate obesity, which is now common, reduces life expectancy by about 3 years, and that severe obesity, which is still uncommon, can shorten a person’s life by 10 years. This 10 year loss is equal to the effects of lifelong smoking." The effects of obesity are detrimental and hit low income families and areas much harder. In low income areas especially, obesity is an epidemic. Many researchers contend that the reasons include the lacking of full-service grocery stores and farmers' markets in poorer areas, and many cheap foods are high-calorie and high-fat products. 

I made it a special mention, in Bolos' post to mention the vital importance of exercise in a healthy community, and  country. Another huge problem with obesity, especially in low-income areas is there are fewer opportunities for physical activity. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) did a study which you can read here, and determined that low income neighborhoods have fewer resources for physical activity such as parks, bike paths, etc. and that low income children are less likely to both participate in organized sports, and have less time being active in PE class.  I really do think our country has a obligation to address the issues of obesity, especially in these low income areas. This is where we see the highest percentages of obesity, and instituting plans to reduce obesity would really benefit both our economy down the road, and the health of our citizens, starting with those who may need it most in low income areas. Do you think our government has an obligation to help fund low-income areas to better  resources to combat obesity? Please comment your thoughts below.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tiny Schools, Massive Sports

Williams College in Williamstown, MA 
As Fall roles along, there is much talk about colleges, and the early stages of the application process. Being only a junior, my parents thought this long weekend would be a great opportunity to look at some schools out east. Both my parents, and my older sister attended small liberal arts colleges, in New England so I looked at similar schools. Both my parents and I were surprised to find these schools, with no more than 2,500 undergraduate students, to have incredibly large and expensive athletic facilities.

Bill Pennington from the New York Times wrote an article in 2007, regarding the change of trends and priorities to these small, Division III schools. As DIII schools still prohibit full athletic scholarships, schools find there ways around this by offering merit scholarships, and coaches will help students get through the admissions process by helping them get into many of these highly selective, and prestigious schools.

The issue, as Pennington points out, regarding the recent surge in athletic funding is that "Any real or perceived de-emphasis of sports could diminish applicant pools or cause prospective students to decline admission offers — major factors used in the powerful U.S. News and World Report rankings." 

Small colleges with reputations of academic rigor and success turn to athletics to not draw in more prospective students and to diversify their campus, by accepting many minorities to each of their respective athletic programs. It has brought in much speculation, whether highly regarded institutions should be shifting their focus away from the academics by which these schools are most reputable. Especially as U.S education system is falling behind to some of our foreign competitors such as China, and Japan. There is a huge cultural difference when it comes to athletics in college. Why is it that many teens in the U.S go to college, and prioritize athletics over the academics? Isn't the purpose of college not to attain a higher education and prepare for the adult-working world? Please comment below your thoughts on the topic. For a deeper inside on the changing trends for small colleges please also read this link.

Bowdoin College's athletic center ranks higher than many Divison 1 athletic powerhouses, yet  boasts DIII athletics and a student body of  only 1,700 students.