Friday, November 21, 2014

Does Harvard discriminate against Asians?

It looks as if there are so many well-qualified Asian students who are applying to Harvard that many are being rejected just because they are Asian.  It's hard to say for sure, however, since every private school has it's own way of choosing students, and diversity might be an important goal for a private school and it might be possible to reach the goal of 'racial' diversity without breaking US law. 

I don't think the Asian students who are suing Harvard are going to win their legal case. Harvard takes a look at each applicant (supposedly) and chooses whom they want.  This seems to be legal.  The students don't seem to realize that SAT scores are not the biggest deal for an Ivy League admission.  They are, basically, trying to 'hijack' Harvard's admissions process and make it work in their favor. (to hijack an airplane is to take control of the airplane away from its pilots)

{By the way, the SAT is a test which measures reading, vocabulary, writing and math skills. Many US universities require that students take this exam. This is because many American high schools differ in their levels of difficulty.  Some high-schools are incredibly easy, so if a student presents good grades from this easy school while another student presents less good grades from a more difficult school, the SAT results should reveal a student's basic academic ability.}

What was shocking to me, however, was the fact that an acceptable SAT score for 'white' students at Harvard was only 1320.  This comes out to (theoretically) 660 on the verbal and 660 on the math. Frankly, those are not elite numbers.  After reading this article and seeing the numbers, I am not sure that Harvard really lives up to its reputation.

It could be that Harvard accepts many relatively stupid rich kids or accepts many 'legacy' admissions (students who had parents who went to Harvard) - perhaps this is why the SAT scores can be so low. I think the big question should be whether such 'legacy' admissions are legal.  If my dad and his grand-dad went to Harvard, I can automatically get in?  What? 

So, coming from the 'working class', I attended a state university for my BA and then an Ivy university for my MA.  To be candid (honest) with you, I feel the University of Wisconsin at Madison was better than Columbia University.  I saw a lot of cheating, ignorance, hypocrisy and worse at Columbia.  Students regularly received high grades for handing in mediocre (average) work because they were paying such a high amount for tuition.  I think the Ivy League is over-rated.

Furthermore, there was a study of American Nobel Prize winners done awhile ago and most Nobel winners hadn't even gone to schools like Harvard or MIT - they went to 'good' schools and worked hard.  So the goal should be getting into a good school where you can learn and work hard.

You can read the full article below. So what do you think? Do you think Harvard is discriminating against Asians?  Are the Asian students over-reacting and trying to force Harvard to accept them?

Here's the article:


rejected - not accepted

to sue - to claim that someone or some place did something wrong to you and to take them to court to receive money from them as a punishment

minorities - anyone who is not 'white' is considered a minority in the USA

affirmative action policies - policies meant to make sure there is a diversity of students, by diversity they mean students of all races.  Affirmative means positive - so affirmative action means positive action to make campuses diverse

vaunted - highly regarded, highly esteemed, well-thought of, well-respected

to discriminate against - to treat someone unfairly because of his/her race; prejudice is a feeling or attitude, discrimination is action

A GPA - Grade Point Average For example, if a student gets an A in a class, he/she earns a 4, for a B - 3, for a C - 2 for a D - 1.  So the GPA of a student is his/her average after all his her classes were taken.  Funny thing, my GPA at Wisconsin and Columbia was 3.65.

filed the suit - he initiated or brought about the suit (the law case)

a quota - a certain number of a type of people who should be included in an activity.  For instance, I might set a quota - we want 40% white students, 20% black, 20% Latino and 20% Asian.

remanded it with orders - gave it orders or forced it to make sure it did not look at a student's race before determining the admission of the student

pending - we are waiting for it (this is confusing because previously it seems a decision was made)

disproportionately high - too high compared to other groups.  If Harvard accepted Asians based on their SAT scores compared to other groups, Harvard might have a student population of 80% Asians - that would be disproportionately high

a plaintiff - someone who is suing someone else. The person being sued is the defendant

holistic - looking at the whole picture

vibrant - exciting

aspirations - hopes

elite - the 'best'

to give a leg up to someone - to assist, to help

explicit - openly stated, openly revealed

unambiguously - there can be no ambiguity or doubt or mistakes

invidious - sneaky, not honest, undercover, hidden

My book, please consider buying it:

Should this stripper receive any money from H & M?

I like presenting stories from the news that can generate interesting discussions. This next story generated some interesting discussions among my private students and me.

A stripper is a person, usually a woman, who removes her clothing in a sexually provocative way (a way that will arouse or excite men) in order to make money.  To 'sue' someone is to take a person (or company) to court and try to get money from that person because that person did something wrong.  The money awarded is a type of punishment. The type of court you can sue people in, in America, is called a 'civil' court. In a 'criminal' court a person can be punished by being thrown in jail.

So in the following story you will read that a stripper was at H & M (a department store) and changing clothes in a dressing room.  Apparently an employee of H & M opened the dressing room door twice to try to force the woman (the stripper) to leave that particular room. The stripper seems to claim in the article that she was naked (totally without clothing) when the employee tried to chase her out.  It's my understanding that you are never supposed to be totally naked in a dressing room - aren't you supposed to keep your bra and panties on while you try on clothing?

So the stripper is claiming she has suffered psychologically because this employee looked at her twice and that other people saw her naked.  Yet, the newspaper writer seems to be saying, "Hey - she's a stripper!  How can she be embarrassed by having people see her naked?"

My students tended to disagree. They felt that stripping is her job while she deserved her privacy in the H & M dressing room.  However, many of my students did not seem to think she deserved any or much money from H & M.  They seemed to think that the employee should be punished and that this would be justice enough.

So what do you think? Do you think that this stripper is making a big deal out of nothing?  Do you feel she should be awarded money for being psychologically harmed?

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a clerk - this is a general term for a person who works at a department store. Most clerks work behind counters where things are scanned and paid for.  There are also sales clerks.

Scores - a place to go in Manhattan to watch strippers

horny men - you hear the word 'horny' alot in the USA.  If a guy is a horny guy, he thinks about and wants sex a lot.  A horny guy is always thinking of sex or looking at women sexually.

violated her privacy - she had a right to her privacy but he broke a rule or law guaranteeing her privacy

to yank something - pull something very hard

garments - pieces of clothing

to burst into - to enter a place forcefully

ushered - guided

buxom - having large breasts/boobs

brunette - having brown hair

scrambled - quickly took action

belligerent - forceful, warlike, aggressive

imminent - soon (the stripper seems to be claiming that she was afraid she was going to be hit by the employee)

commotion - noise due to some type of argument or disagreement

to kick someone out of some place - to force a person to leave some place immediately

tantric masseuse - from what I have been able to determine, tantric massage is massage in which the masseuse (the person giving the massage) touches and rubs and strokes a male's penis.  What's a penis?  It's the thing that makes a guy a guy - you know, it's the thingee down there under his pants and underwear.  OK, so a cynical person (a person who always sees the negative side of things) might say, "Oh my God! She was a stripper and touches men's penises for a living...but she is so sensitive that she was psychologically harmed by being seen naked, when she probably shouldn't have been naked in a dressing room in the first place!"  I don't know, I wasn't there so I can't judge. 

an undisclosed amount of money - it is not known how much money she wants to get from H & M

a real estate magnate - a powerful real estate business owner

a scuffle - a small fight

his advances - his attempts to get her to go out with him

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Chinese baby was killed in NY City - and there was NO justice

This story made me both depressed and angry. 

A driver who had been drinking (wine) ran over a 3 year old Chinese baby in Flushing - a neighborhood in New York City.

The police did NOT arrest him. (When the police 'arrest' someone they formally accuse him of a crime and force him to go to court and he can be thrown in jail.) Instead, the police gave him 2 tickets (you get a ticket when you drive too fast or go through a red light etc.). When the driver went to traffic court, the judge told him that he had not done anything wrong and let him go with no punishment.

So in New York City it is OK for drivers to kill 3 year old Chinese babies with their cars. Many people feel this shows that there is a lot of anti-Asian prejudice and discrimination in New York City. ('anti' means 'against', 'prejudice' is when a person is hated because of his/her skin color or race, 'discrimination' is when people are treated badly just because of their race) 

Here is an article about this:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a toddler - a baby

a ticket - if a person breaks some type of traffic law, a police officer will give him/her a ticket and the person will go to traffic court or just pay the fine (the amount of money for breaking the law) through the mail.  In this case, the driver should have been arrested (the police should have taken him to the police station and charged him with a serious crime).

to drop a ticket - to eliminate a ticket, to indicate the person will not have to pay some type of fine.

Queens - one of the 5 boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn , Queens, Staten Island)

an SUV - sports utility vehicle (a very large car)

to plow into someone or something - to hit something with extreme force; a plow is used by farmers to turn dirt over in a field and a snow plow is used on city streets to push snow to the side of a street

tossed - the tickets were tossed: they were thrown out

"Just found out today that the DMV drop the two tickets..." - he meant to write: dropped

failure to yield - when a driver does not slow down to let someone pass him/her

failure to show due care - the driver wasn't careful enough

I'm pissed - I'm very angry.

to void tickets - to get rid of them, eliminate them

to testify - to make statements in a court room

a civil suit - so the father of the baby is suing the driver. This is a civil case - the driver can lose money but cannot be thrown in jail. There are two types of courts in America - civil and criminal.

crossing with the light - she had a green light, she was obeying the law

barreled into them - drove into them forcefully

a breathalyzer test - a test to see whether a person is drunk or not

a meager amount - hardly anything, a small amount

dismissed the summonses - got rid of the tickets

a hearing - like a trial

to be outraged - to be extremely angry

remorse - a feeling of sorrow or sadness for something wrong someone has done

Queens DA - this is the government office which is supposed to throw people in jail for committing crimes. DA stands for District Attorney

insufficient evidence - not enough proof to show a crime occurred (this is not true since there was a videotape).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do you think a person has the 'right' to die? (A recent case of 'euthanasia')

Euthanasia is a word taken from the ancient Greek language. 'eu' means 'good' and 'thanatos' means death. So euthanasia is the term for a 'good death' or when doctors will help a person to die if the person is suffering greatly and if the person has a terminal illness (an illness for which there is no cure). Euthanasia is also sometimes called 'mercy killing' - in this case mercy would mean you are showing kindness or compassion to the person to end his/her suffering.

In the photo above you see a woman who was diagnosed with a terminal case of brain cancer and who traveled from California to Oregon in order to 'legally' and painlessly die.  She was in extreme pain and suffered from seizures (when you can't control your body and the muscles tighten very hard over and over again).  Oregon is one of 5 US states that offer euthanasia.

This woman actually became a bit famous because she announced several weeks ago that she intended to die on November 1st.  Many people believe she made this announcement to make people aware that only 5 states offer euthanasia and that it is too cruel to allow people to die painfully. Most opponents (people who are against euthanasia) are against it for religious reasons. They believe that a person should live as long as his/her body holds out and that this is God's 'will' or choice.

Do you believe a person has the right to die if he/she has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and if that person is in horrible pain?  (If a person has the 'right' to do something this means the government should not stop a person from doing something - the person should have the ability to do something.)

Here is an interesting article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

terminally ill - a bus terminal is the last stop on a bus line, so a terminal represents something final; therefore a terminal illness is an illness which represents the end of a person's life

death with dignity - dignity is a difficult word to define. If you treat a person with dignity, you treat the person well - you act in a respectful manner toward the person.  So if a person wants to die with 'dignity' this person wants to be respected as he/she dies, the person does not want people to see him/her suffer or crying etc.  Personally, I don't think this term should be used in regard to euthanasia because it implies that people who do suffer as they die do not have 'dignity', which is not true.

an advocate - someone who speaks out for something, someone who tries to convince or influence others in regard to something. So this woman was trying to convince others that euthanasia is a good thing.

renewed a national debate - she caused people in the USA to discuss this topic of euthanasia again

lethal - deadly

to delay - to put off, to wait a bit longer

a stroke - this is when blood can't get to the brain and a person often dies from it or can no longer use part of his/her body

a symptom - something that indicates a person has a disease. Symptoms of the flu are a headache, runny nose, fever etc.

abbreviate - shorten

a bucket list - there is an expression in English: to kick the bucket.  This means: to die.  So a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die.

in the spotlight - famous, well known, the center of attention

publicizing - using newspapers and the internet to let people know of something

prescribed by - if a doctor gives you medicine, he usually writes out a prescription

vitality - liveliness, being energetic

a controversy - an issue that causes people to disagree

to be opposed to something - against something, not in favor of s/t

an objection - if you have an objection to something you feel that thing is wrong and you say so

to contemplate - to think about

hastened - made to happen faster

invading - coming into forcefully

of sound mind - not crazy

to administer it - to give it

median age - the age right in the middle; so if we see this list of numbers 3,5,7,8,9, 7 would be the median number.

to track - to follow, to keep records of, to keep track of