Suffering From Depression?

Well you’re in good company: many of the world’s most talented and accomplished figures, past and present, have struggled with depression. They include Abraham Lincoln, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Mark Twain, Thom Yorke, Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Jim Carrey, Buzz Aldrin, and Princess Diana – among many, many others.

I’d like to believe that depression is the price we pay for brilliance. Almost every depressed person I’ve ever known as been exceptionally skilled or intelligent in one way or another. Ernest Hemingway, another sufferer, once called it the “artist’s reward.”

Would we rather embrace our uniqueness, at the cost of this mental burden, or lose what makes us extraordinary so as to be mentally “normal”? I know it’s not always one or the other – I’m sure you could be unique and still be happy – but it’s just something I’ve been thinking about.


Universal Healthcare vs. Freedom?

There is a widespread notion that providing universal healthcare, or something closer to it, comes at great cost to economic and political freedom. However, empirical evidence suggests otherwise: most of the countries that are ranked high in both economic and political freedom – many of them above even the US – offer universal healthcare systems, among other “big government” policies.

The conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, bear this out in its Index of Economic Freedom, as does the libertarian Fraser Institute. And Freedom House consistently ranks “socialistic” countries at the top of political and press freedom in its reports.

There are certainly problems with this healthcare act, but state-sanctioned oppression is not one of them. Expanding healthcare, in and of itself, is not mutually exclusively with overall liberty and well-being. One could argue whether what works for other societies works for America, but that’s a different discussion compared to the idea that healthcare is, in principle, a detriment to liberty and well-being.

Daily News Wire – 6/28/12


Daily News Wire – 6/27/12

Before I Met You

You know what’s strange? Looking back on the period of your life before you knew your current friends or lovers, while keeping in mind that they were still around out there. Before I knew any of you, we were each going about our own independent lives completely unaware of each other’s existence. Then all of a sudden, on some fateful day, our lives intersected. Your presence became known, and our lives were no longer totally separate. From my perspective, your history doesn’t begin until I meet you.

Furthermore, you were a very different person before I got to know you, and visa versa: with time, I began to forget what it was like not to know or love you; it starts to feel like you were always there in my life. Even if we lose touch, our lives will remain irreversibly influenced or impacted in some way. You’ll be a part of my narrative in some way or another until my story ends.

Daily News Wire – 6/26/12

  • With all this talk about the affordable healthcare act – and whether, as of this post, it’ll be wholly or partly struck down by the Supreme Court – has me wondering about the finer details. Read the Washington Post’s list of 11 facts about the controversial healthcare law, which in spite of all the hubbub, doesn’t seem to be very well known. Be warned: a lot of commentators are challenging the methodology and claims. 
  • Also from the Post comes the “billionaire’s list,” which analyzes the number of billions per developing country (plus the US) and their net worth relative to the size of their nation’s economy. Essentially, the more wealth concentrated at the top, the more troubling the economic prospects. It’s interesting to note the differences in how billionaires get wealthy, and are subsequently treated, from country to country. 
  • The irreverent website Jezebel  lists 25 “kick ass” women who are pioneers, activists, community leaders, and all-around game changers. Give it a look. 
  • A Pew survey makes some interesting, if not disquieting, finds concerning the rate of polarization and partisanship in America. This doesn’t bode well for addressing the mounting social and economic problems that are bedeviling this country, issues that we can’t even agree on acknowledging let alone hammer out a solution for. 

Daily News Wire

  • Apparently, Vermont’s newly established single-payer healthcare system will actually save the state more money than the status quo. While what works for this state may not necessarily work for all others (let alone the whole US), it gives us something to consider as far as the feasibility of this kind of arrangement. Our healthcare system is already the most expensive in the world despite giving us one of the lowest returns on investment.
  • One study finds that sharing posts on Facebook and other social media sites is as pleasurable to one’s mind as sex or good food. It certainly makes sense, given how much most people seek out the attention of others. I imagine  that receiving “likes” elicits the same reaction too. I think that would say a lot about how important social stimulation is to human beings. 
  • Senators are beginning to question whether solitary confinement is unethical. Some may go so far as to view it as a violation of the eighth amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. What say you all?
  • Is Sudan enduring it’s own long-awaited Arab Spring? The government denies as much, go figure, but protests have been persisting for several days now. 
  • One article challenges the notion that big government is always a bad thing. Granted, the Nordic model that is analyzed isn’t entirely translatable to the US (consider, for example, the cultural and ethnic homogeneity of the Scandinavian countries).  But it still dispels the idea that big government in principle is always bad. Could it be that it all depends on how that government is run and formulated, not so much it’s size?

The Problem With Grading

This article from Everyday Sociology blog should be required reading for teachers, students, parents, and, well, everybody actually. It  gets at the heart of the problem with our education system, which beyond administrative and financial problems, is woefully inadequate win capturing the overall aptitude of students – even colleges and universities, despite their better quality, fail in this regard:

Many people would probably say that grades measure how smart you are. The problem with this assumption is that in most educational contexts grades only measure two types of intelligence: linguistic and logical-mathematical. According Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences there are at least five other types of intelligence: musical, bodily (kinesthetic), spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. As we all know, most of these other forms of intelligence will not get you a place on the honor roll.

Basing grades on just two types of intelligence becomes especially problematic when we consider some of the other things that people think grades measure, such as self worth and potential. In our culture, the power and persuasion of grades is so strong that many students are socialized to believe that their grades in school reflect who they are and what they will become. How many times have you heard someone define a young person defined by their grades: “She’s an A student. We expect great things from her.” “He’s not that smart. He’s barely getting C’s.”

Indeed, and how many times have we heard of creative or eccentric students, who don’t conform to the standard curriculum, end up barely passing school, thus being condemned as troubled or unintelligent? Standardization is necessary to some degree, but the one-size-fits-all measurement of grades is unsuitable for encouraging the sort of independence and individuality on which true intelligence (and success) thrives.

It is also helpful to not define your learning by your grades. Just because you got a “bad grade” does not necessarily mean that you did not learn anything in a class. Too often, students may feel like all they get out of a course is the grade. As an alternative, try to leave each class and reflect on what intellectual, social, or personal insights you gained from the class regardless of the number or letter that was assigned to you.

Lastly, I would suggest that you not structure your entire educational experience around grades. Despite the prevailing sentiment that you may hear from peers, parents, and society, your sole purpose in school should not be to get a high GPA. In fact, a few years ago a study was conducted to determine what college students did to have the most enjoyable and intellectually fulfilling college experience. The book, Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds, lists a number of recommendations and none of them mention anything about focusing on grades.

Being in it for the grades does not promote real intelligence or dedication. That is a perversity of the education system.

Daily News Wire

  • There seems to be some debate as to whether New York City’s controversial soda ban, and similar “sin laws” like proposed soda taxes, may be beneficial. Read the article and decide for yourself. 
  • Arctic sea ice is shrinking even faster than the previously dangerous low. More evidence that we’re approaching the point of no return as far as climate change?
  • The Times offers an interesting look at the nature of addiction, namely the age-old debate about whether it’s a disease or a matter of choice. 
  • Is Greece and the rest of Eurozone a lost cause? According to one analyst, things may only get worse from here. 
  • A state legislator is Michigan is banned from the house floor for daring to use the word “vagina”– somewhat old news, but still worth noting due to what it says about the immaturity and aloofness of segments of our political class.
  • A rare bit of good news from Afghanistan – the fertility rate is dropping, albeit from high enough a threshold that it’s still far and above most countries. However small an achievement, this will go some way in helping to alleviate some of the social, economic, and environmental issues that plague the country.