Although titled “student” conferences, I truly wasn’t expecting the speakers to be students, undergraduate students nonetheless. I attended Session D of the General Education Student Conferences called Selling You “You”: The Impact of Advertisements on American Culture. The two presenters in my panel were both sophomores who were presenting their essays that they had written in their GWRIT classes last year, and it was strange thinking about how next year I could possibly see one of my classmates from this year or up there, or even myself.
The first speaker, Shannon Collins, presented on advertising’s effect on one’s body image. I was hoping for a new approach to this topic, but yet again it was the same spiel about the negative aspects of advertising, the unrealistic body images that it spits out at people, how it’s a possible cause of eating disorders, etc. Some of her statistics were interesting in the downfall of our society over the years: 25 years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average American, but now that has increased to 23%. Collins also briefly touched on the outrageous proportions of Barbie and G.I. Joe. If Barbie were life-size, she would be 5”9, weigh 110 pounds, and would have a 39” bust, an 18” waist, and 33” hips. G.I. Joe would have a 55” chest and a 27” bicep, making his bicep the same size as his waist! Collins said that advertisements should feature normal Americans, and during the discussion period, someone raised the point that 2/3 of Americans are obese. That raised the question of whether featuring people who are drastically overweight than those who are drastically underweight would be a better solution. This member of the audience noted that obese people in advertisements wouldn’t help the problem of self-image. However, I think that if people walking around viewed ads depicting obese people, those images would be with those viewers all day. Wouldn’t people try to avoid things that could result in those images, such as fast food? However, this could backfire and totally terrify people of looking like that, which could result in eating disorders.
On to the second speaker, Samuel Uanserume, who presented on junk food advertisements aimed at children. He spoke of a term called “purchase power” where most junk food ads are targeted at kids because they can persuade their parents to buy them those things. I never realized this concept had a name, even though I’ve seen it numerous times. I remember when I used to go grocery shopping with my mom and my sister. Every single bag of candy or cookies or chips my sister would beg for. I clearly remember silently slipping out of the aisle while she screamed for that one box of gushers or fruit roll-ups or Count Chocula cereal or whatever crap she then desired. Ah, the power of “purchase power.”
The statistics Uanserume presented were frightening. 1 out of 5 kids in America are obese or overweight. The only people I can truly get mad at are the parents. Uanserume advised that the government should take a bigger step in monitoring ads, but I think parents are the true ones to blame. Most of these kids are too young to leave the house themselves and make their own purchases. It’s the parents who by wanting to make their kids happy, put up with their complaining, purchase unhealthy food, and therefore put their kids in danger of becoming obese or acquiring unhealthy eating habits.
What I really found ironic was that the girl presenting about advertisements being linked with eating disorders was unnaturally thin for her height. Of course this doesn’t mean she allows advertisements to influence her in such a way that she’ll resort to starving herself, it only sparked a memory of this girl back in high school. She was one of the editors of this trashy overpriced magazine, and in one of the issues, she wrote an article about anorexia nervosa. It shocked me because she herself was anorexic. Maybe it was her method for warning people about the disorder in hopes of preventing people from experiencing what she was going through, I don’t really know. Simultaneously, the guy presenting on junk food advertising was slightly overweight. Again, I’m not pinpointing the fact that the guy just sits in front of his T.V. all day watching food ads and then goes out and buys that food, but it’s just something that caught my attention.
After reading Rebekah Nathan’s The Art of College Management: Cheating, I realized that I’ve done all those things. I’ve signed a friend’s name on an attendance sheet and have had someone do it for me. I’ve collaborated on homework assignments. I’ve written papers without citations, and if it was at the last minute (which too frequently it was), I even took the liberty to invent sources on my bibliography just so the amount of research I had done looked extensive.
In my 7th grade biology class, my friend (who was conveniently seated next to me) and I devised this strategy during tests on how to cheat off of the two guys across from us. My friend and I would both lean over slightly to get a peek of the papers across, wait a few seconds, and then my friend would dramatically sigh as if the answer had just flown in through the window and smacked into her head. She would then proceed to fill in the bubble. I was always too embarrassed to make such phony sound effects so we would just compare notes. In the same class, our teacher would give us these pop quizzes of only two questions, meaning that if you answered one wrong, you had already failed it. How could you not whisper to the person next to you to be reassured your answer was right or to quickly scratch out the lousy guess you had made and quickly right the correct answer down? Even though it was only middle school, I can sincerely say that cheating in that class saved my grade.
I have to agree with some of the situations brought up in Nathan’s observations on when students believed it was appropriate to cheat. Occasionally, there are those loony professors who test you on totally irrelevant information to the material covered in class. And what if you truly just didn’t have time to study or complete that homework assignment? Nathan made the assumption, “Students nationwide cheat less as they move up in year, suggesting to me that as they become more skilled in manipulating the other elements of the system, their need to cheat dissipates.” I don’t think it has to do with manipulation but rather as students get older, especially in college, the more in tune their classes are with their major. In response to Nathan’s question of when it’s ok to cheat, a couple of students commented, “If you don’t give a shit about the class but are required to take it,” and “When it’s a liberal studies class that has no relevance to your major.” When students are learning something that they’re passionate about, cheating on tests or papers is only cheating themselves out of thoroughly understanding the material, which they won’t want to do.
I do understand, however, the unfairness of someone putting a lot of effort into an assignment and receiving the grade that they rightfully deserved and someone who received the same grade from cheating off of someone else. In my cheating experience, I’ve been both the recipient and the provider. I remember near sleepless nights of trying to finish an assignment and then the next day someone asking me if he or she could copy it. I didn’t know the person’s situation or what could have prevented him or her from doing it, but then again that person didn’t know mine. There I was, drained, after staying up those extra hours that I could have had had I decided to copy off of someone.
Overall, I think it honestly depends on the situation to say whether cheating is harmful or not. As Nathan proves in her argument, cheating is a vital part of university life and I don’t think it will diminish anytime soon.
The beginning of a written piece is essential to its success. The writer has that one chance to embrace and enrapture the reader so that he or she will not only refuse to put it down and walk away, but will continue holding it and will take pleasure in its characters, mysteries, and language. I, on the other hand, have difficulty starting papers (such as this one), and am doing the opposite of embracing and enrapturing the reader. For anyone who has made it thus far, feel free to reward yourself with a pat on the back. Maybe I’ll try another approach.
I once held the belief that I was destined to be a writer. At ten years old, I had decided that after first accomplishing my primary goal of becoming a veterinarian (because who doesn’t love animals?), I would fulfill my true passion and be a novelist on the side. Publish a book here and there, attend a few readings and signings, see the titles of my books on the New York Times Bestseller list, the usual. According to my 5th grade mindset at the time, being a writer was a luxurious profession. It meant that I would gain inspiration from all the exotic countries that I was constantly traveling to. My circle of friends would include pretentious intellectuals who only used obscenely lengthy words in conversation and who would have heated debates on the meaning of life. On some nights, we would hear poetry readings or grace people with our presence at art gallery openings. Being a writer just seemed like a convenient outlet for having an impressive and enjoyable lifestyle. There was no time to waste.
My first story was titled J.T.’s Pet Rat (I was obviously still into animals). The protagonist was a ten-year-old girl (the same age I was when I wrote it) named J.T. It was a simple and childish story-she took her pet rat, Whiskers, everywhere and he would always get loose and cause trouble. In the supermarket he toppled over food displays, sent women screaming, and had the manager chase J.T. out with a broom. At the movie theater, Whiskers escaped J.T.’s clutches and ended up getting tangled in the projector, ruining the movie, infuriating the audience, and giving the manager a reason to banish J.T. from the theater. After that, J.T. and her nuisance of a pet vanished from existence because I became bored with where the story was going, which was nowhere. The binder holding the mere three chapters was set on my bookcase to accumulate dust.
After entering the 6th grade and deeming myself more mature and sophisticated (I had upgraded to the middle school), I made a second attempt. In accordance with the animal theme, Escape From the Cage featured a talking hamster named Oreo. After a boy purchases Oreo from the pet shop, the hamster befriends the other pets dwelling in his new home, battles the evil cat, has a nasty run-in with the cook, and the rest is history because Oreo’s story was never finished. After the 7th chapter, my mind was already thinking about the characters for my next story.
My next two efforts failed more miserably than the previous ones. Zinny the Alien reached two pages before I ended it, and the story after that didn’t even have a title. I had written about half a page before I threw the paper out. From there, I would get as far as brainstorming for my next story before giving up on it.
Despite the spiraling downfall of my career as a novelist, I still enjoy creative writing and know that it’s in store in my future. Anyone can put words onto paper, but writers are able to do so in a way that they provoke thought in others. Hopefully I’ll reach this point.
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