Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dark Continent

I have been thinking about my education a lot lately. While I feel my pre-college education was excellent in most aspects, there is one area in particular that I feel was left out.


This “dark continent” was almost entirely left out from my elementary education. By the time I got to junior high, I had learned in school that Africa was a continent. I knew that black people lived there. I had heard the terms starving children, AIDS and third-world but I didn’t really understand what those meant. I thought that Africans were not civilized and lived in huts. I had learned a little bit about ancient Egypt and The Lion King taught me what types of animals lived there.

Through junior high I didn’t receive much more information. In 9th grade geography I learned the names of all of the countries in Africa.

High school was different. I was a member of the debate team and as we debated UN Peacekeeping Operations I learned about Rwanda and about the genocide in the Darfur. I had learned about the Holocaust at least eight times in my education, but I had never learned about the genocide in Rwanda that occurred when I was in elementary school. Additionally, I had no idea there was an ongoing genocide in Sudan.

It was through my own personal research that I learned about these tragedies.

My senior year, my English teacher required that we read Cry, The Beloved Country. This novel by Alan Paton was about poverty and crime and South Africa. The novel really opened my eyes to a situation I had never really heard about. I knew who Nelson Mandella was, I knew what the word apartheid meant, but I really had no concept of what happened there.

I think it is deplorable that my education essentially left Africa out. I studied World War II nearly every year beginning in 5th grade. I read Anne Frank’s Diary several times for various classes. I can tell you all about Auschwitz, Nazis, and D-Day. But it wasn’t until this year that I could really tell you about the estimated 800,000 Tutsi people who were slaughtered in just three months in Rwanda.

That’s not to say that I don’t think we should study the Holocaust. I think it is one of the most important events in 20th century history. However, I do think we need to teach it with a purpose. We said we would never again allow genocide after the Holocaust, but we continue to see genocide and acts of genocide in places like the Darfur.

My big question is why? Why do we leave Africa in the “dark”? One of my goals is to help increase education about Africa. I truly believe that if people learned about Africa from early ages and if we talked about it on the same level we talk about other world conflicts, then maybe we would see change. We study the past and often think “I wish I could help” or “If I was there, I would have helped”. Well there is a lot to be done now; there is still a lot of conflict in the world.

We shouldn’t have to wait for a celebrity to wear a t-shirt before we hear about a crisis in Africa.

Friday, February 1, 2008

presidential candidates

Well, it's that time again. The time for great American late night talk shows to focus all their attention on the few people who are left vying for the spot as Mr. or Mrs. President.

With the writers strike still underway the talk show hosts are milking the campaigns for all they are worth. Leno had John McCain on last night with surprise guest Rudy Giuliani. Colbert and Stewart are picking out the candidates "best lines" from the debates and mocking them to death.

Meanwhile Letterman sticks to his classic top ten list with guests like Barack Obama "promising to appoint Mitt Romney Secretary of Lookin' Good."

While the writer-less comedians are enjoying the ridiculousness of politics, one of these mocked individuals is going to become the President of the U.S.

I consider myself a person who is well informed and who has sound political opinions, and yet I am having a very difficult time finding a candidate worth giving my vote. The Democrats are down to just two candidates and while the GOP has a few more, there are only two front-runners.

So let's look at our options. In the left's corner we've got Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama is young and brings a fresh look at politics. Clinton repeatedly tells us she has 30 years experience. Unfortunately, it is in their "strengths" that I find their weaknesses.

Obama is young and has very little experience. His senate record shows that he votes straight party. I have no idea what he'll do as President. His track record is too short to get a feel for what his direction would be. He's a self admitted drug user and while many brush this off, I think it is worth noting.

Clinton does have a great deal of experience, but it's not all good experiences. As first lady in the 9o's, Clinton was given control over health care reform. Her plan was rejected by the American people and by congress. I find it humorous that health care is now such a big part of her platform. Of course the GOP wants Hillary to get the democratic nomination, they have stockpiles of scandals to pull up. They are keeping it quiet now, but as soon as she gets the nomination all hell will break loose.

On the Republican side I don't know if there is a better option. Mitt Romney answers nearly every question with the response that he would "consult" others and decide on the best action from there. While this sounds great, a president willing to consult others, I'd like to know who he is planning to consult. Once I have a list and can look at their political ideologies, then I might have an idea of where Romney stand on the issues, until then who knows what we'll get. With his history of flip-flopping it's really hard to tell.

John McCain has a long and consistent history. While I disagree with him on many of his policies, I like that I know what he'll do in office, which is more than I can say for other candidates. The biggest concern with McCain though, is his age. If he wins the presidency he will be 72 when he reached office. While many are concerned with him dying or going senile, my bigger concern is that he won't focus on issues relevant to my generation.

Most likely, one of these four candidates will become the President of the United States. It's hard to believe that we are this far in the process and these are the options with which we are left. I guess when it comes to my vote, eenie-meenie-minie-moe will be the best option.