Cassie Rodenberg: Electron-ic Bonds

‘Bedtime stories’ lead to nightmares
December 21, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: climate change, Education, Science

“Some places could even disappear under the sea, and it was the children of the land who’d have to live with the consequences,” a father said, reading a bedtime story about climate change to his young daughter.

This sentence paints a jarring portrait of a future world, one of many found in the “Act on CO2” TV ad launched by the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the fall. The ad, entitled “Change How the Story Ends” was meant to cause the public to rethink carbon dioxide emissions, but instead of raising concern for the environment, it raised anger.

Though I haven’t been among the angry, I’ve been among the puzzled. I assumed outcry would stop the ad, but instead of its demise, 4 more ad campaigns appeared, much like the Greek serpent-beast Hydra’s multiplying heads.

As of October 21, the country’s Advertising Standards Authority received 357 complaints about the campaign. Some complaints said there’s no scientific evidence for climate change, while others said the ad is “upsetting and scaremongering.”

Before and since Copenhagen, crazed and misguided warnings against climate change have cropped up, based on commercials and other “propaganda” that extremists say elicit fear for no reason at all.

Still, the DECC defended its campaign against critics, saying they chose a harsh message because half of UK citizens don’t think climate change will affect them.

Even the climate change activist in me says there has to be a middle ground. While well-intended, it’s hard to focus on global warming when you’re looking at a moving storybook filled with crying farm animals and drowning family pets. On the other hand, climate change needs to be on the public’s agenda. Though we need climate change education, television commercial cult science hardly seems like the solution. For now, its the DECC that needs to change the story and not just the ending.


doubt ≤ certainty
January 13, 2009, 11:32 am
Filed under: Education, Musings

It happened again this morning. I realized that I’m a misfit in the college world. I hear my name called on the role, I say my major and am graced with a concerned or confused look, carefully constructed so as to remain inoffensive. Then an inevitable question follows:

Why are you here?

The question is simple, meant to validate the professor’s preconceived notions as to the type of student usually found in the class. I don’t fit the mold. I’m not a graduate student in psychology, a budding art historian, a future database manager. Perhaps I just changed majors or am double-majoring. Perhaps he/she heard my answer incorrectly. Regardless, when that question arises, all of my metaphorical buttons are simultaneously pressed. Pride for being the “lone reed.” Dismay at being looked at as an alien by fellow students all semester. Disgust at the single-mindedness of the professor. Isolated.

In response, I usually shrug, say the subject is an interest. In extreme cases I rattle off my experience with the subject, GPA, grade averages, extra curricular activities, jobs. You name it, I try it.

Like an ant farm, the college system shoves students into tunnels to learn. Upon entering college, a student tentatively proclaims an interest in web design, then bam! They fall kicking and screaming on the way down, given set instructions on how to navigate out of the tunnel to graduation. Sure, they can change tunnels, turn around, but tunnels are never allowed to intersect. Tunnels may graze during general education requirements: general philosophy, intro to biology, art history (prehistory to Renaissance) but not so much as to take a real interest in anything else. True, some tracts require a minor, simple enough, but rarely are students allowed to take an upper level course of  any specificity without a major or written permission of three deans and a vice president. 

Why? Can’t you have separate interests without declaring them? Trying to do something without an agenda – without it being a graduation requirement is shocking and inspires awe.

The same goes with science – you’re expected to have evidence, reasons for doing what you do. A good rule of thumb. However, science also appreciates going in a separate direction, being a “maverick.”(Look the McCain/Palin tribe does relate to science! Who would have thought?)

 It’s good to file people, place them between “L” and “M” in the cabinet. It’s better to “figure people out,” categorize them. By sweeping students into piles, the education system fails them. With a lot of persuasion, you can be allowed certain privileges, opportunities. But there is still doubt of your reasoning by others, even if you have certainty of purpose. Can’t you have multiple “raison d’etres”? Ahem, Darwin?