Monday, December 31, 2012

Liberal Arts Colleges in America Are Dying

America has a slightly different system, in regard to higher education choices, than other countries.  Students may go to a "college" or a "university."  Also, there are a huge number of colleges and universities in the USA.

What's the difference between a college and a university?

Basically, a college provides Bachelors and Masters degrees but a student may receive a Bachelors, Masters and a PhD from a university.

America also has community colleges for students who may not be sure what they want to study or who struggled as students in high school. These community colleges only provide two years of study, at the most, but allow a student to transfer to a college or university.

Also (!) there are "liberal arts colleges" in America.  These are usually small colleges in rural (non-city) areas where the "liberal arts" are emphasized.  Students who go to a liberal arts college usually major in literature, philosophy, history, sociology etc.  In this article, it is pointed out that liberal arts colleges in America are dying because more students are becoming more practical - they want to study business-related subjects instead of subjects which might enrich their inner-lives.

1)  How do you feel about the trend mentioned in the article?  Do you feel that students are neglecting
important subjects (like the arts) in order to make money?

2)  Do you think these schools should be compromising, or should they hold to the strong tradition of purely liberal arts classes?

3)  How do you feel about the emphasis on sports at American universities?  Many universities make a huge amount of money through (American) football and basketball programs.  Yet, football is a dangerous sport that causes physical harm and even brain damage to those who play it for too long.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Should Parents Give Children Toy Guns?

According to the following article, many parents are refusing to buy toy guns for their children, or are hiding or throwing away the toy guns that children already have, in the wake of (following) the Newtown, Connecticut shooting massacre.

Yet, I think that most children who play with guns like to imagine themselves as defending their country or fighting "bad guys."

1)  If you were a parent (or if you are a parent), would/should you take toy guns away from your child?

2)  Which is worse: toy guns or violent video games? Or are both of these harmless?

3)  There are movie posters all throughout the NY City subway system for a movie called Final Stand.  On the poster one actor is shooting a machine gun and another actor is smiling.  How harmful do you think this type of poster/movie is?  Should this type of poster be featured after this recent shooting spree?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Los Angeles Police "Buy Back" Guns

Many American big cities have "buy back" days for guns.

This means that people can hand over any type of gun they have to the police, and the police will give them money or a gift card.  In the case of Los Angeles, the police gave away giftcards to people willing to hand in guns that they own. The guns may be legal or illegal.

This is allowed anonymously - the police do not ask any questions. They just take the gun and hand out the money or cards.

1)  Why do you think people are willing to hand in their guns even though they might not get the full value of money for the gun back?

2)  Some people criticize this program and say that "criminals" are being rewarded by being given money for their illegal guns.  Others say this is a good way to get guns out of the hands of more people.  What do you think?

3)  An opponent of gun control said that in gun buy-backs, criminals do not hand in their guns, but honest law-abiding people do.  Do you think this argument makes sense or do you think this person has an innacurate perception of the situation?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The UN Wants To Ban Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutiliation is a practice in which the "clitoris" of a girl is cut out from her vagina in order to ensure that she cannot enjoy sex as a pleasurable activity.  The clitoris is a small area in the vagina which can provide pleasure to a woman when it is stimulated. 

The goal of female genital mutilation is to make the woman more passive sexually.  Her husband is to enjoy sex, she is to serve his needs to reproduce a child and to give him pleasure.

This is often done in some Muslim countries, although there is nothing in the Koran about so-called "female circumcision."  Most progressive Muslims consider female genital mutilation to be morally wrong and unsupported by the Islamic religion.

1)  Why do you think this practice persists, even though most countries and most people think it is a terrible practice?

2)  Some people say that female genital mutilation is a part of their cultural heritage.  How would you respond to this claim?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby Mithras? Jesus? What????!!

Is Christmas really Christmas?  No. 

Here's the guy who was really born on December 25th, the day after the third day that the sun seems to hover moribund on the horizon.

In the early history of the Catholic Church, Christianity struggled against a religion called Mithraism. A huge number of Romans were followers of Mithras at the time when the Christian religion was developing.

The central figure of Mithraism was Mithras, a sun god, and he was born on December 25th. He promised eternal life. His followers ate bread and drank wine in their services. Every reputable scholar points out that, yes, Mithras' birthday was December 25th, well before the Church declared Jesus's birthday to be December 25th. 

Why December 25th? December 22,23,24 are the shortest days of the year with the sun just hovering weakly over the horizon, looking dead. On December 25th, it is as if the sun is born again as the days begin to lengthen and the sun seems to move higher in the sky each day.

Apparently the Church declared that Jesus's birthday was on December 25th in order to effectively compete with Mithraism.  This sounds strange?  Yes!  It is strange, but it is supported by scholarship.

It turns out that every major Christian holiday - especially Easter and Christmas - was established on a big "pagan" or pre-Christian holiday.  Scholars believe this was a deliberate act by the Church to compete with the non-Christian religions and to replace those religions.  Merry Mithramas.

Don't believe me?  Here is the ground-breaking research by an amazing scholar:

Merry Mithrasmas!!!!!!!!  Happy Birthday Baby Mithras!!!!!
Check out the short video:


Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Friday, December 21, 2012

Should Each US School Have An Armed Guard?

The NRA is the National Rifle Association.  This is the chief or primary "lobbying" group for the freedom to own guns in the USA.  A "lobbying" group is an organized group that meets with politicians in the US Congress to try to persuade them to vote in certain ways on certain issues.

The NRA donates a great amount of money to many politicians and has a great amount of influence in Congress.  This is quite a powerful organization.  Indeed, it seems that even Obama does not want to offend the NRA - Obama does not support banning handguns in the USA.

In response to the murder of 26 innocent people at an American school, the NRA is blaming video games, television, Hollywood and rock music for the "culture of violence" in America. They are not admitting that the easy accessibility of guns made this "massacre" (a massacre is when a large number of innocent people are killed at one time) possible.

The NRA is also recommending that every American school should have an armed guard (a guard with a gun).

1)  Is there a culture of violence in the USA?  If so, how did this culture of violence develop in the USA and not in other countries?

2)  Do you believe that video games, television etc. are helping to make children more violent?

3)  What do you think about the suggestion that every school should have a guard with a gun?

4)  The Vice President of the NRA states, "The only way you can stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun."  What do you think of this attitude?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Polio Workers Killed In Pakistan

Polio is called the "plague of development."  Ironically, in "under-developed" countries very young children are often exposed to the virus at very early ages and develop immunity for the rest of their lives.  In "developed" countries, in the past, very young children were not exposed naturally to the virus and often contracted the disease later in life.  A US president, Franklin Roosevelt, had polio.  Now, however, immunization can help to eradicate the disease in every country.

The big problem in Pakistan is that the United States is no longer trusted in that country and the vaccinations are suspected to be a part of a plot by America to harm the people there.

1)  Given the fact that the US military has been in that part of the world for too long, can you understand why some Pakistani people are rejecting the vaccines from America?

2) What can be done to help immunize the children of Pakistan, even though the USA is no longer trusted in that country?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Torture Does Not Work

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States used various torture techniques to extract information from terrorist suspects.  All of these techniques were illegal and, according to experts on intelligence extraction, ineffective.

For instance, Khalil Sheik Mohammed, the "mastermind" behind the 9/11 attacks, was captured and tortured using a technique called "water-boarding."  According to this technique, a person is made to feel as if he is drowning until he reveals information.  The CIA did this to him over 180 times.

Did they obtain useful information?  No.  KSM admitted to having committed every act of terrorism from the past 20 years to try to avoid further torture.  Obviously, he could not have done everything he admitted to, but he freely admitted to doing everything under torture.  Therefore, torture always seems to provide "misinformation." 

In the American newspapers it was (ridiculously) reported that he had been involved in virtually every major terrorist action of his generation.

Furthermore, because he had been tortured, he could not be brought to trial in the United States - where a judge might have dismissed his case (eliminated his case) because of the barbaric treatment shown toward him.  He has been given a "military" trial, which is, basically, an unfair type of trial where there is no doubt that the defendant will be found guilty.

Now there is a movie called Zero Dark Thirty which plans to profit from the attack on Osama bin Laden's compound and the killing of bin Laden by US Navy Seals.  The only problem is that, according to Senator John McCain (a man who had been tortured), the scene in the film where the CIA gets useful information due to torture is inaccurate.

1)  Do you think that torture works?

2)  Can torture ever be ethical?

3)  Do you think the CIA was "right" in using torture so frequently?

4)  Why do you think these filmmakers used a scene in the movie in which torture "worked," when, in reality, torture did not work?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Harlem Is Dying: Gentrification

Gentrification is a term for the process whereby a relatively "poor" neighborhood is slowly but surely changed into a relatively "affluent" neighborhood.

Basically, rent values increase, poor people move out and wealthy people move in.

This is currently happening to Harlem, New York City.  15 years ago, when I came here to NY, Harlem was overwhelmingly African American.  Things are changing quickly as you see more and more "White" people moving in and pushing "Black" people out.

One result is that "black" businesses and entertainment venues are suffering.  Lenox Lounge is one of the oldest jazz clubs in the city, and because of gentrification, it may close down.

1)  How do you feel about a club like this suddenly closing after 70 years?

2)  What can be done to stop gentrification?  Do you think New York City wants to stop gentrification?

3)  When I tell my students about  gentrification, they ask me where the poor people go.  I don't know.  Where do you think the poor people go?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book:  New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrity Hacker Will Go To Jail For 10 Years

Almost everyone has had the experience of being "hacked."  Some hackers try to obtain information which will allow them to steal money, some hackers invade another person's privacy in order to use his/her email for spam and other hackers want to harm innocent people.

In the following story we see that a hacker who broke into the email accounts of various celebrities will go to jail for 10 years.

1)  If this had happened to a non-celebrity, do you think this hacker would be going to jail?
2)  Do you believe there should be severe penalties for hacking?

3)  Why do you think this penalty was so severe? Do you think the judge was trying to deter others from hacking?
4)  What type of person do you think the typical hacker is?

5)  Some comments on some sites containing this story blamed the women for having naked photos on their computers.  Do you think this is na legitimate argument or do you think these people are blaming the victims?
6)  Why do you think people become hackers?
7)  Do you think that hackers will learn a lesson fron this and stop hacking, or will it be necessary for more hackers to be thrown in jail?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Does America Need To Ban Handguns?

The whole truth as to why a 20 year old man shot so many children has not yet come out.  Nobody is quite sure what his motives were, although some are suggesting that he suffered from some form of mental illness.

Nevertheless, many are hoping this shooting will finally persuade most Americans that allowing guns to be bought easily is a huge mistake.

1)  The right to own guns is in the US Constitution, and this right cannot be eliminated easily (many individual states would have to vote to change the Constitution).   The 2nd Amendment allows the ownership of guns as a means for individuals to protect themselves in their own homes.  Do you believe that this is a necessary right?

2)  Many parents are now worried about school safety and security.  If you were the principal of a school, what would you do to ensure the safety of your students?

3)  There are 325 million Americans and guns are easy to obtain.  Do you think that as long as guns are legal we are going to see such horrible massacres?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

U.S. Students Performed Badly in Relation to Other Students from Other Countries

There is a new report showing that US students performed badly in relation to other students of the same age around the world in regard to science and math.  Some people are alarmed by this, while others point out that US students have never done well compared to other countries on this type of test, but that the US still dominates the world economy and produces the best universities.

1)  Should this test be taken seriously?

2)  If US students are so poor in math and science, why does the US have the strongest economy?

3)  Do you think this test actually measures anything of consequence?  Or does this test just measure good test-taking skills?

4)  Is the Asian educational system "better" than the American system?  Some Asian students who come to America say that in the American system there is more active learning and participation in class.  Can both systems learn from each other?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Controversial Michigan "Right-to-Work" Law

Labor unions have played an important role in American history and have helped to ensure that workers are treated fairly and receive adequate wages.  However, there has recently been a backlash (a negative reaction) against labor unions in various US states.  It is often felt that unions have received too many benefits for their workers and that the high wages unions expect for their workers are actually harming the businesses that employ the workers.

In Michigan a law was just passed to ensure that workers are not "forced" to join unions.  Basically, as part of many union agreements with businesses, once a worker is hired, money is auotmatically taken from the worker's paycheck and sent to the union as the worker's union dues or union fees.  So workers automatically become union members when they are hired at some companies.

The "right-to-work" law states that workers can no longer automatically be registered as union workers once they are hired for a job.  Workers must actively "choose" to join a union.

1)  Whose side are you on?  The union side or the business side?

2)  What do you think of this law?

3)  If you were hired as a worker and automatically enrolled in a union, with money taken from your check to pay for the union fees, how would you feel?

4)  What role do unions play in your home country?

5)  Do you think that unions are now "out of control" and harming business more than helping it?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Monday, December 10, 2012

Argentine Mother Crusades Against Sexual Slavery

I am posting this story primarily because it affected me so deeply.  This Argentine mother has been looking for her own daughter, was was kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery, and, in the process, has been rescuing other young women from a terrible life of forced prostitution.

1)  Do you feel this woman deserves the Nobel Peace Prize?

2)  What do you think of the Argentine government after reading this story?

3)  In Argentina prostitution is legal.  Do you think this allows for such kidnappings to occur?
Is the problem of forced sexual slavery a possibility in any country that has legalized prostitution?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Virgin Mobile U.S. Ad (Stupidly) Seems to Joke About Rape

Even in the 21st century, in America, where women have made huge achievements and are approaching full equality of opportunity, rights, power and income with men, we still see absolutely STUPID instances of sexism and the hatred of women in advertising.

Virgin Mobile USA was running an ad which seemed to joke about the issue of rape.  Virgin Mobile is owned by Sprint/Nextel.   

Basically, in the ad, a man is considering whether he should buy "chloroform" (a chemical that causes a person to lose his/her consciousness) to use on a woman he knows.  The implication is clearly that by chloroforming this woman, he will be able to rape her easily.

1)  Virgin Mobile claims they did not know about this ad.  Do you believe them?

2)  Does seeing an ad like this make you angry?  How angry? 

3)  After seeing an ad like this, how influenced are you to change your judgment of a company?  Would you consider not buying a Virgin Mobile product because of such a terrible ad?  Honestly, why WOULD a woman ever buy a Virgin Mobile product again?  It seems that Sprint/Nextel owns Virgin Mobile.  If you are a woman, would you be inclined to buy a Sprint/Nextel product when they joke about an issue like rape?

4)  Many people immediately went online to protest this ad.  Does this seem to indicate to you that normal people, in general, are fed up with sexism and will not tolerate this type of joke?  Should we be proud of ourselves, so to speak, that ordinary people forced this company to take down this disgusting ad?

5)  Should executives at Virgin Mobile be held accountable (punished) for this attack against women?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

US Supreme Court Examines "Gay Marriage Ban"

More than half of the states in the US have banned gay marriage.  Other states, including New York, have made gay marriage legal.  Interestingly, California, which is known as a liberal state, has banned gay marriage.

Even in states where gay marriage is legal, however, same-sex couples do not receive the types of benefits from the US government which heterosexual couples receive.  Therefore the US Supreme Court will determine whether states can ban same-sex marriages and whether or not homosexual couples should receive the same types of benefits as heterosexual couples.

1)  How do you feel about the issue of gay marriage?

2)  If a state has banned gay marriage, do you think the Supreme Court should have a right to overturn their laws?

3)  How are gay people generally treated in your country?

4)  If gay people are hesitant to 'come out' in your home country, do you think that laws are necessary to protect their rights?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Obama To Be In Psy's Audience Despite "Anti-American" Performance

It has been revealed that the Korean performer "Psy" once participated in anti-American performances in which he advocated that American military personnel, as well as their families, be killed.

Many Americans are, therefore, quite upset that Psy has been invited to perform at a concert which the president of the United States will attend.

1)  At the time of the anti-American performance, two Korean teenagers had been accidentally killed by US military personnel and there were reports of American soldiers torturing prisoners in Iraq.  Do you feel he was justified in singing the lyrics he sang at that time?

2)  Do you feel that Psy was hypocritical in that he came to make money in a country he had previously attacked? (In the past he seems to have protested the presence of American soldiers in South Korea.)

3)  Do you think that Psy is a hypocrite for apologizing to Americans for the song?  Why didn't he just say, "Yes, I said what I said and I meant it at the time.  There is no need for an apology."

4)  Why do you think he apologized?

5)  Does it seem to you, as it seems to me, that Psy will sing or say anything to benefit himself at any time?

6)  Does this situation change your attitude or feelings toward this performer? 

7) Psy is a so-called "K-pop" performer.  Although his production company (YG) does not have a bad reputation, K-pop entertainment companies generally have a terrible reputation around Asia.  (You can google:  K-pop slave contracts,  K-pop plagiarism, K-pop sexualization of teens etc.)

Indeed, I used to teach English to K-pop performers based in New York and I quit because I became disgusted with their entertainment company on so many levels.

Do you think this latest revelation about Psy is going to hurt other K-pop performers as they try to make money in America?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Illegal Immigrant Numbers Drop in The USA

There are currently 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA.  About 80% of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico and other Latin American countries.  Yet, for various reasons, it looks as if illegal immigration is dropping and may continue to drop.  Indeed, Asians supplanted Latinos as the number one immigrant group (legal immigrants) for this past year.

1)  What do you believe should be done in regard to the 11 million illegal immigrants who are currently in the USA?  Should they be offered citizenship?  Under which terms?

2)  Illegal immigrants who are very young and who wish to attend US colleges and universities have been allowed to stay in the USA.  What do you think of this "Dream Act"?

3)  In general, do you have any opinion about the current US immigration policy?  How might it be changed for the better of people in general and the country?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

In many American states, marijuana can be used for medical purposes.  Two American states recently held a vote about whether or not to legalize marijuana so that anyone over a certain age could smoke it for non-medical reasons, and the voters seemed to indicate that this would be acceptable.

Here is a brief article about the movement, in America, to legalize marijuana:

1)  How do you feel about the legalization of marijuana?

2)  Do you foresee any problems if marijuana is legalized?

3)  What is the attitude in your home country about marijuana?

4)  Would you ever try any, or have you ever tried any?

5)  Some people argue that if they are willing to use this drug individually and in their
own homes, there should not be a problem.  How do you feel about this?

Be A Human Being First, A Photographer Second

Yesterday I posted a link to an article about a man who was pushed onto subway tracks by another man in New York City, and especially about the New York Post's decision to publish a photo of a man (the man who had been pushed) just as he was about to be killed.

Today much of America is talking about the person who took the photograph.  Most people are condemning his actions, although he has been given the opportunity to try to explain why he did what he did. 

Many times, when I see a photo of someone suffering or people suffering in a remote part of the world, I wonder about the motives of the photographer to take the photo and my own motives to look at it.

1) How do you feel about this photographer?

2) Do you think that "news" photographers around the world serve an important purpose or do you feel they are making a living from other people's suffering?

3)  Do you believe the photographer's excuse, in the above story, that he was too far away from the person to help him, so all he could do was take a photo?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The New York Post: Disgraceful Photo

Today the New York Post did something that the world is condemning it for.  The NY Post published a photo of a man who was about to die.

In NY City, you have to be careful when you ride the subway.  There are many crazy people here and in the past some crazy people have pushed other people onto the subway tracks as a subway train was approaching.  This happened yesterday.

Unbelievably, a person took a picture of the man who was about to be hit by the train.  Instead of this photographer trying to help the man, he took a photo.  The New York Post printed this photo on its front page.

I do not even want to post the link to this photo, but here it is.

Nobody could have offered this guy a helping hand?  Someone had to take a photo instead?

1) What is your general response to what the NY Post did?

2)  What is your opinion of the photographer?

3)  If you had been at the platform, and you saw the man being pushed over the side onto the tracks, what would you have done?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Newark New Jersey Mayor Living on "Food Stamps"

"Food stamps" are not really "stamps."  They used to be stamps but now a person who receives "food stamps" receives a type of debit card which he/she can use at a super market or grocery store to get free food.

The Mayor of Newark, New Jersey wants people to focus on the issue of food stamps, so he is going to try to survive for one week by just using the average amount of money that an average food stamp user uses.  That comes to about $5 per day.  By the way, this does not necessarily mean that people are expected to live on $5 per day for food.  Many food stamp users have a source of income, but it is quite low, so they are often able to add to this small sum or other people in the family also receive food stamps so they can "pool" their resources.  Very poor people also often take advantage of free food give-aways at local churches and social services programs.  Nevertheless, the Mayor will be living on about $5 a day (for food) for one week.

Apparently he wants people in America to be more aware of how little the government is providing to poor people for food.  Many people attack the "food stamps" program as being wasteful or too generous.  This mayor wants to show that people can buy very little with what they receive.

1)  How do you feel about this gesture?

2)  Do you think that more money should be provided to poor people for food?  This will, of course, mean higher taxes for everyone else.

3)  The Mayor of Newark will be running for Governor soon.  Do you think he is trying to generate positive publicity for himself, or based on the article, do you think he truly cares about the poor?

4)  Do you think there should be a limit of time that a person may use food stamps, or should there be a requirement that the person looks for or obtains work?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Longer School Days Will Mean Better Test Scores?

It's no secret that the American school system is underperforming.  This is especially true for students in America's inner-cities, where Black and Latino students do not perform as well on standardized exams as White and Asian students.

There have been a number of proposed solutions to the inequality and underperformance of the American educational system.  One big trend is "teacher accountability."  According to proponents of this trend, better teachers and lower class sizes will mean better academic performance for all students.

There are others, however, who point to the Coleman Report of 1964, which indicated that students tend to underperform when they come from areas of poverty, violence and broken homes.  Proponents of this approach suggest that if the government can create anti-poverty programs (similar to those which were created in the 1960s) this would also help students perform better in school. If students come from very poor and violent environments, this adversely affects their ability to do well in school.  Fix this social and economic problem and you'll find that the schools work afterall.

Now there's a new approach.  In five states students will be kept in school longer.  It is felt this will improve academic performance (without having to create an anti-poverty program).

1)  Which of the three aproaches do you think will work best?  Teacher accountability, anti-poverty programs or longer school days?

2)  Do you believe that longer school days will work? For how long can students focus on academic work?  Shouldn't students have time to pursue recreational and sports activities and socialize? 

3)  Do you feel that there is a significant problem with US schools? After all, almost everyone in the world wants to attend a US university?

4)  Why do you feel that Blacks and Latinos are far underperforming White and Asian students?  What do you think should be done?

Fake Homeless Man "Scams" NY Police Officer for Free Boots

There was a story that was in many newspapers around the world last week, concerning a NY City police officer who saw a man lying on a sidewalk with no shoes on his feet.  When this happened it was freezing cold outside and the officer went into a shoe store and bought shoes for the homeless man.

Yet, there seemed to be something strange about the story to me.  The apparently homeless man was deliberately lying in front of a shoe store in Times Square with no shoes.  To me, it seemed as if he was trying to make tourists feel sorry enough for him so that they might actually go in the store and buy him a pair of shoes or at least give him some money.  The fact that this "homeless" guy was deliberately sitting on the ground without shoes seemed a deliberate ploy (scheme, plan) to make people feel sorry enough for him that they might give him something.

This is what the cop did.

Now, there is a new story that the "homeless" man has been seen around the city without shoes again!  Therefore, it seems that the "homeless" man really does not need shoes, but merely takes his shoes off to trick or fool cops and tourists into giving him money and shoes.

This is called a "scam."  This is when someone tricks another person into giving him/her money.  On the subways there are lots of these scams.  Women will sometimes even bring children onto the subway and claim they are homeless and hungry to get people to give them money.

What is shocking to me is that the City of New York actively warns people NOT to give any money to any beggars.  There are about 100 free food programs in New York City and many free clothing programs.  There are also homeless shelters where the homeless may go.  The City of New York points out that if a beggar is asking for money, he/she probably wants it for drugs or alcohol.  Help is available in New York to anyone who wants it.

So basically, the cop wanted to be a good samaritan, but became a scam victim instead.  He did not follow the advice his own government bosses give to people about giving things to beggars.

New Story!!!!  The "homeless" guy is not even homeless.  Basically, and I am sorry to say this, this news makes the NY police officer really seem ridiculous.  He totally got scammed. Even though the city warns people not to give money to beggars, he did so.

1)  Do you agree with my theory?

2)  Does this make the cop look foolish to you, or is he still a hero?

3)  Do you provide money to beggars on the subway?  Why or why not?

4)  Do you provide money to street musicians on the streets?


Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is The US Military Abusing The "WikiLeaks" Soldier?

A while ago a low-ranking US soldier took many secret documents and sent them to the website WikiLeaks to reveal what the US military was doing in its two foreign wars.

This soldier was arrested and is being held in a military prison until his trial.  His attorney claims that this young man is being abused by the US military.  The abuse includes keeping him naked and isolated in a prison cell 23 to 24 hours a day.

Here is an article about this:

1)  Do you think this soldier was a hero or a villain?

2)  Do you feel that he is being abused by the US military?  The military claims that they took away his clothes to keep him from killing himself, but he claims he is being punished for not talking to prison authorities.

3)  Do you think the US government is justified in bringing him to trial for handing over the secrets to Wikileaks?  Do you think this soldier was trying to stop the wars or do you think he had other motives?  What do you think his ulterior (other, hidden) motives might have been?

4)  The United States would also like to put the founder of WikiLeaks on trial.  What do you think of this situation? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Actress Attempts to Remove Hate-Filled Film from Youtube

The movie "Innocence of Muslims" became one of the most controversial films of the year when it caused protests in various Muslim countries.

One of the actresses in the film attempted to have the film removed from youtube because she said that the director lied to her about the nature of the film, and dubbed (replaced) new lines over the lines she spoke.  Therefore, she stated that her life was now in danger because it appears that she makes many statements attacking Islam.

Unfortunately, a judge refused to allow this film to be removed from youtube.

There are, of course, limits to "free speech."  A person cannot make deliberately false statements about another person or use speech to cause violence.  The judge, apparently, however, felt that the film was protected by the 1st Amendment.

Interestingly, President Obama asked that the film be removed from youtube even if it was protected by the right to freedom of speech.  It is up to each web site as to whether it allows "controversial" material, and most web sites will voluntarily remove hate-filled and malicious content for the good of the community.  Google (which owns youtube) refused to do this.

1)  Do you think that Google should have removed this video even if it is protected by the 1st Amendment right to freedom of expression? After all, the film is truly badly written, edited and directed and presents false and hate-filled messages about a religion.

2)  Do you think that Google is "required" somehow to present anything that anyone posts?  For instance, here's an analogy:  Let's say you own a bookstore and an author comes in and tries to encourage you to sell copies of his book which seems to be attacking a religion or religious figure in a hate-filled manner.  He assures you that the book is protected by the First Amendment and that many copies of the book can be sold.  Would you sell that type of book?

3)  Why do you think Google refused to remove the video even though the president of the US asked them to?  Some people feel that Google is more interested in profits than the 1st Amendment and does not want to spend money monitoring or policing or removing negative content from their search engine and youtube. For instance, an argument might be that it  might cost a great deal of money to hire an appropriate staff to remove "objectionable" content from the Google search engine and youtube.  Google may not want to spend this money.

4)  Do you think the actress was right to ask that the film be removed because it makes her seem anti-Islamic?

5)  Do you think the sometimes violent protests against this film were justified?

6)  Did you see the film?  What is your response to this film? If you did not see the film/video, why didn't you watch it?

"Pink" Taxis in Mexico, Just for Women

Many women around the world complain about their treatment by taxi drivers.  Even in NY City many women claim that the drivers flirt with them or hit on them (try to pick them up or take them out on dates).  Many women simply do not feel safe hailing (trying to stop) a taxi cab.

In Mexico, therefore, a couple years ago, they addressed this situation by establishing taxis purely for women.  These taxis are called "Pink" taxis and are driven by women for women.  This is similar to a system in some countries where there are separate subway cars for women.  Here is an article about this phenomenon:

1)  Critics of this policy say it is discriminatory.  Do you think the taxis discriminate against men?

2)  Critics also say that pink taxis do not solve the serious "social problem" of sexual harassment.  How would you respond to this criticism?

3)  Do you think pink taxis are a good idea?

4)  In general, taxi drivers in NY City have acquired a terrible reputation.  They often cheat passengers and are rude.  Do you have any taxi driver "horror stories?"

5)  Do you think separate subway cars should also be established in major cities for women?